Training Versus Working Out…Is There a Difference?

Training versus working out….is there really a difference?

I could venture a guess that you probably had never thought about it. Well, you’re in luck, because I have 🙂

The answer is YES, there is a huge difference between training and working out and it’s an important distinction for anyone who wants to lose fat, tone up and get lean (aka develop some muscle).

Let’s set the scene….you go to a class at a local gym and an instructor who doesn’t know your body, your limitations, your goals or even your name, puts you through a circuit of something like this:

60 seconds of Burpees

Go right into 60 seconds of Bicycle Crunches (your “rest” time)

60 seconds of High Knees

Bicycle Crunches (more “rest” time)

Grab a set of dumbbells (whatever is available) and do 60 seconds of Squats

More Bicycles

60 seconds of Push Ups

You guessed it, more bicycles

Repeat this cycle 4x and then mix in a bunch of jumping in at the end

Finish the class and you’re smoked. You burned a ton of calories, which is kinda cool (I’ll explain in a minute why it’s only “kind of” cool) and you feel like you got a great workout.

Now the question is, did you get any better?

Did 60 seconds of Burpees make you any stronger or did it just make you tired?

How was your form by the 35 second mark?

Don’t worry if you’ve never thought about this, because most people are taught that MORE is BETTER.

Well that depends on what you’re trying to get better at. Are you trying to just burn calories? Get tired?

Great, then you accomplished it.

But, if you’re like most people that I meet, you want to lose some body fat, tone up and get leaner (which means you  need to have some muscle in order to have the appearance of lean).

A class like that is not going to get you there.

Now let’s look at what training might look like. You join a program, maybe a group training session or even a personal trainer. The goal of that trainer or coach, if they are doing their job, is to work backwards based on your goal.

Then they can create a program that allows for something we call progressive overload. This is where muscles are developed and the long and short of it is that every session you are overloading the muscle just enough to stimulate break down and growth.

In order for a muscle to grow and get stronger, it breaks down (the training session) and then during your recovery it rebuilds itself using protein in the body to come back stronger.

You don’t have to progressively overload like a maniac, but it usually means adding a little bit more weight or increasing a few reps each time. Plus this makes you feel like a bad ass when you just keep setting these little records every single week.

That’s the first thing that the body needs in order to develop muscle. Even women who don’t want to get “big” (that’s another post for another day), you have to overload that muscle.

So a class where you’re doing something completely different every single day, never making progress and not tracking your results will not get you very far.

Think about working out as being the now, the present day or that exact workout.

Training is all about the past, the present and the future. What did you do last week, today AND tomorrow to get you closer to your goals?

You have a path and direction, instead of just doing a bunch of random stuff that gets you tired.

I’ll say it again, getting tired and getting better are not the same thing. Is stamina an important part of training? Of course, but are you measuring it or just throwing things against the wall each time you go into the gym? That’s the difference.

An ass-kicking workout is great every once and a while, that’s for sure. You SHOULD feel tired after you train, but you should also feel accomplished, strong, energized and you should know what you want to accomplish the next time, based on that training session that you just finished.

Another example, if you are training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, those training sessions should complement each other. Maybe on Monday you did something like this:

  • Assisted Chin Ups
    Push Ups
    Kettlebell Squats
    Med Ball Twists
    Sled Pushes

Then on Wednesday you could do a full body session that’s very similar but instead of a chin up, which is a vertical pulling exercise, you do a Dumbbell Row which is a horizontal pulling exercise. You still work your back and biceps, but just in a different angle. So Wednesday may look like this:

  • DB 1-Arm Row
    Seated Overhead DB Press
    Walking Lunges
    Valslide Body Saw
    Battling Ropes

Both training sessions engage the full body in the major areas (legs, push, pull, core, conditioning) but the exercises challenge different angles, ranges of motion and you can do different rep ranges based on your goals.

Looks a little different than the smattering of exercises listed in the beginning, right?

I’m not completely bashing group classes (only just a little). My point is that if you are looking to make REAL change in your body, lose fat, tone up and get some lean muscle that you have to have consistency, structure, planning, progressive overload and some way to track your results other than how tired you are.

If you just want to burn some calories and get a workout, then by all means go for it. That’s not my place to judge. My place is to help people who want the things that I listed above and people who want to leave the gym feeling GOOD and strong, not destroyed so they can’t even function. That’s not a recipe for long term results.

In the words of the great coach, Martin Rooney….



If you’re looking to get results, tone up and become a part of a program that takes care of you from A to Z, not just during the workouts, check out our Strong and Sporty 8 Week Spring Challenge.

Click here for all the details and a chance to apply: