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Are you working out or training?

This is a topic I talk about with every single person who comes in for an initial assessment with me. That is the difference between working out and training. I began to think about this deeper the more and more I talked about it. What exactly does it mean to be “training”

The base line definition in my eyes and what I give to every athlete walking through my doors is that working out is just showing up to the gym and getting your sweat on, there’s no clear-cut direction that you want to head in, there isn’t a true purpose behind your workout other than working out. Sometime you get a great session in going that route, the intensity on the workout doesn’t determine whether it’s a workout vs a training session.

When you’re training you have a clear-cut direction that you want to head in. You’re training for a purpose and there is a desired outcome that you want to achieve in the short term and the long term. Every exercise has a reason and a purpose and you’re always testing and checking to be sure that your training is heading in the direction in which you want. This is training.

That’s the main difference between working out and training but it goes much deeper than just that. There’s levels of training and factors that need to be accounted for as you mature and develop into a more serious athlete or lifter. If you are not continuously getting better at training then you are not training you’re working out. I see many athletes fall in and out of this category and even though they are following a plan and have a clear direction that they want to head in they’re still not training but only working out. All this said below are some factors that every athlete should consider while training to make their long term outcome is the best possible. Failure to do this will not result in the best results possible. (you will still achieve results but not the best possible results)

1. You track your weights

This means you write all your weights down every workout. You have them noted where you can recall them later in your program and even monthly later when you encounter a similar exercise. This is called journaling your progress. This will allow you to hone in the right weights and intensity during your workouts and to let you know when you’re making progress, regressing or just having an off day. If you’re performing a trap bar deadlift and don’t know what the most weight you’ve done for 5 reps, 3 reps or 1 rep you’re missing the point of training. It’s about progress. If you don’t know where you’ve been how do you know where you’re going.

2. You pay attention to the little details in your program

There’s so many factors in your training that you can change and manipulate. The small details of each exercise, each lift, and many others determine the stimulus and adaptation you get from training. Some example of these would be tempo of lift (eccentric or isometric focus), speed on concentric movement, percentage of max, rest periods, and even technique of the exercise to name a few. Every detail matters the more you can adhere to the exact details of a program will determine not only if you get the desired adaptation you’re looking for but you also will learn what works best for you for the future when you need to autoregulate your training.

3. You take note of where your weaknesses are in an exercise and see if they present in other lifts

This goes hand and hand with paying attention to all the details in your program. Paying attention to all the weak points you have in a lift and if it presents in other exercises as well will help you determine what your weaknesses actually are. An example of this could be falling forward in your squat, this could be either your hips/hamstrings are weak or the quads are weak. If this same issue presents in another lift like lacking strength in a Bulgarian split squat could indicate it’s your quads or note being able to perform a glute ham raise without cramping up or back extension and reverse hyper strength decreasing or lacking indicate it’s your hamstrings and hips. If you don’t pay attention to this your main strength builders will hit a plateau, and you’ll be at a higher risk of injury.

4. You learn what accessory exercises make your main lifts stronger

Just like paying attention to your weaknesses in your main lift, paying attention to what accessory and supplemental exercises help to build your main lift and make you feel stronger. An example of this could be that whenever your barbell RDL improves so does your trap bar deadlift. Another example of this would be the better you get at your box squat your box jump height increases. Understanding how each exercise improves the other will help you hone in what the most effective exercises to perform would be in order to peak your performance. Always try new exercises and keep the ones that work the best in your back pocket for when you need to peak your performance or when the preseason starts leading up to an inseason phase. If you don’t learn what works best for you, your results will be mediocre after 2-3 years and you will forever be an intermediate athlete and never an advanced one.

5. You take your warm up exercises seriously

This seam simple but is one of the most common aspects of the training that gets overlooked and done casually. The warm up is meant to prepare you for the workout, it’s meant to create an environment in the body that will create optimal performance, improve range of motion, and create a window of higher trainability going into your workout. Failure to do this will create a subpar workout and eventually subpar results. This is also a great way to develop work capacity. Make sure every warm up exercise is performed correctly and by the end of the warm up you have a light sweat going.

6. You don’t let your phone distract you

We live in a world full of distractions. The second you walk in the gym none of that should exist. You have an hour to and hour and a half where you leave all of that behind and focus on one thing, putting in the work that you need to in order to achieve your goals. Being distracted between sets will derail your training, you won’t be fully present on every exercise and will not get the adaptation your looking to achieve from your workout. This will 100% happen just by being distracted during your workout for a few sets. We’re all guilty of it, everyone has a phone these days and it’s so easy to become distracted by it. It’s comfortable to be distracted for a moment during your rest period then being alone with the weights and your thoughts but that is exactly what is required to be great. Training is about problem solving just as much as the workout itself, if you’re not present to solve the problem in front of you, you will miss the important details that will tell you what is necessary to be great. If you feel personally attacked by this one.. good get off your phone and train! I’m guilty of this too and I need to call myself out at times to hold myself accountable, you should too!

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