Monday 17 February 2014

Don't Workout - Train!

"How many days a week do you workout?" I'm always tempted to answer that question with, "None, I've never worked out a day in my life - but I train 4 days a week." Now, of course the terms "training" and "working out" can be used interchangeably, but they are two very distinct forms of exercise that I like to refer to as "training and "working out". You of course are free to call them whatever you want, but if you are serious about getting great results, you better exercise in a manner that I affectionately call training. 
Working Out vs. Training
Working out is about appeasing the guilt of not working out. As long as you show up and leave tired and sweaty you are on track.
Training is about your goal. This can be a health, performance (sport, work or daily life) and/or body composition, but it is exercising to achieve your specific goal, not a particular feeling.

People who workout lack specific goals. They have a vague idea of what they hope to get out of exercise. If asked about their goals, they would often say something like: "I want to lose weight and get toned."
When you train you are goal-driven as the whole purpose of your exercise is to achieve a specific goal. If someone was to ask you about your goals, you would say something like: "I'm training to (fill in the blank with a specific goal - e.g. weight x, lift x, measure x, etc.)

Those who workout, make clothing selections based on their appearance. In selecting their clothes, they may ask questions like: will this shirt help my arms look bigger? Do these shorts make by butt look to big?
When you train, you may still thoughtfully select your clothes, but your considerations are based on function. Squatting today? - better make sure those pant allow full hip mobility so I do not tail tuck at the bottom my squat. Pressing today? - better wear long sleeves to keep my elbows warm. Deadlifting today? - better wear pants so my training is not interrupted having to stop and clean blood off the bar. 

Training gear
Depending on your goals, there many helpful and many not-so-helpful things to bring. However, the common mistake most people who workout make is that they fail to bring a training log.
When it comes to training, you may bring some important gear with you. If I was going to a public gym, I would bring the following: training journal, chalk, dip belt, micro plates and (depending on the gym) possibly a high-quality, straight barbell. You may have a slightly different list depending on where and how you train - but be sure a training journal (paper or digital) is include). Yes, an ipod with a great, high-energy playlist can be a fun, helpful addition. However, if you need music to have a great training session, then you need to work on your focus and motivation.

With working out, many people randomly hop from one program to the next. They are always eager to try a new exercise. Or, they enter the gym, turn to their buddy and say, "what do you want to do today?"
With training, you enter the gym the gym with a structured plan (note: there are some exceptions to this at the world-class level). If you find you are feeling better or worse and you need to make adjustments you do so, but you stay with the plan and focus on getting better at the exercises you know will get you to your goals. 

Training Partners
Many people who workout have a friend with them. This person is most accurately referred to as a workout buddy. Often these people will train side by side without really helping each other. Or, during the set, they help too much. For example, it is common to see a guy bench pressing while his partner "spots" him by deadlifting the weight and yelling, "its all you bro!" In addition to not knowing how to spot, another common problem with workout buddies is that they offer flattery instead of constructive feedback. For example after a pathetically high set of squats with knees caving in a workout buddy high-fives the lifter and says, "Dude, that was AWESOME!"
A training partner is someone you team up with to help each other with your training goals. This is a person who sincerely desires to see you succeed. While he/she may cheer you on when you need it, a great training partner will also call you out when needed. A great training partner is not afraid to tell you to rack the bar when your technique is falling apart. A great training partner will let you know if you cut your squat depth high. A great training partner is invaluable. Tip: the best way to find a great training partner is to be a great training partner.

Those who workout often have the wrong focus when it comes to technique. They just try to get the weight up somehow and get your reps in. 
With training, the focus is on reaching the goal. You realize that doing more reps by cutting your range of motion or getting sloppy does not mean that you getting better (which again is the purpose of training). You know that if you do not move properly, you will fail to get the desired benefit from a particular movement or risk injury. With training you strive for bigger weights or more reps but you realize that you must earn the big weights with proper technique and range of motion. Anything else is just ego-stroking false gains.

Exercise Selection
When people workout, they tend to select the exercises that they are good at or the ones that you look good in the mirror while doing (e.g. cable crossovers). 
When you train, you do the exercises you want/need to get good at. You give extra attention to important exercises that you are weak at.

Equipment Selection
People who workout are always looking for the latest new toy to play with at the gym.
When you train, you pick the very best exercise to get you to your goal. Alternative pieces of equipment are only used if they create a superior alternative in a particular situation.
The single greatest training tool - the adjustable barbell

Place in the gym
Those working out inevitably find themselves In front of the mirrors or on the ab mats doing the small "easy" exercises that offer little benefit beyond a nice pump or sore abs.
When training to build muscle, burn fat or improve performance, you find yourself in power racks, on lifting platforms and hanging from chin-up bars. (Note: if your sport is bodybuilding, you obviously will need some of the small, isolation exercises to compliment the big ones). 

This one gets a little tricky. People who workout may work very hard and put in tremendous effort. However, they often workout very hard on very easy exercises and thus their efforts do not produce the desired results. Another common mistake is that they may actually train too hard, too often for long-term success.
When you train, you will work very hard, but also work very smart. You will not keep doing reps if you know you will have to compromise your form or range of motion. Also, you will be smart enough to hold back just enough so you have something left for next time. You know that working hard and smart will yield the best results.

Time between sets
Some people who workout mistaken try to rush their rest times between sets or exercises. As a result, they leave feeling tired, sweaty and out of breath. However, in doing so they severely compromise the weight they can lift. Others take long, unfocused breaks. They use the time between sets to talk with friends, check email/text messages on their phones, uploading a video of their set on YouTube, watch the TV's, pick up a date, etc.
When you are training, your rest time is dictated by your goals - this may be short or long, but always goal-specific. Time between sets is spent in ways that maximize your productivity such as: recording in your training log, watching a video of your set (for technique monitoring), conversing with your training partner about how that set went, spotting your training partner, drinking water, loading/unloading weights, setting up for the next exercise, etc.

Session Evaluation
Those working out will say something like the following after their session: "Wow that was a great workout!" If pressed further as to how they knew it was a great workout, they would talk about how tired and sweaty they are, how much they felt the burn or how sore they will be the next day.
When you train, will notice how you feel, what that means and respond appropriately. However, you look to tangible measures of a great training session. If asked how the session went, you would talk about your technique and performance on their lifts (e.g. "I hit a PR (personal record) on the squat today" or "My form on my deadlift was much tighter today).

Those who workout tend to lose long-term focus. They see the current workout. If it was fun, exciting and left them tired, sore and sweaty they are happy.
When you train, you are focused on the journey. As Mark Rippetoe wisely points out, each training session is one step in the journey, not a life or death battle. This long-term perspective helps with optimal programming, results and longevity. 

If are serious about getting your results in the fastest and most effective way possible, avoid working out and train consistently.

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