We have all heard the terms before in similar context: “I’m going to train”, or “I’m going to work out”, or “I’m going to lift”. But what do they mean and what is the difference? What does is mean to “work out”? What does is mean to “train”? Why when you ask two people who are doing the same thing, you get different responses? Even though both have a formal definition, the difference may not be in the definition, but more in the approach.
We know that exercise or human movement is a necessary part of a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle. Whatever you choose to be your form of exercise is up to you. Your choice of exercise needs to match your personality. If you love to lift weights and be strong, don’t be a distance runner. If you love to look lean and have good endurance, there is no need to have a one-rep max on a squat. When you approach your movement for the day as a “workout” you take the approach that the process you are working is temporary. If you “workout” it is for one workout, one body part, one day. Not that this is a terrible approach, but strength development, hypertrophy or endurance training is not a temporary process. The “workout” approach will lead to overtraining and lack of progress. Let’s say that your lift or muscle group for the day is chest. So you know that you're going to do a bench press, dumbbell bench, inclines, declines and maybe some push ups. Now, that looks like a solid work out, however the poison is in the portion. Who is to say that you’re not over training your chest for that day? If you hit 10,000-12,000 pounds of volume during your bench press, what are you going to do for your chest that the bench press didn’t already do? So you do the entire chest workout and you “killed it”, great. You are sore for the next two days and can barely pick up your arms without it feeling like you're going to rip your chest open. Soreness or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is not a good indicator of a solid workout. The best indicator of a training session is how well are you recovered and how well you perform the next time you perform that movement. If you hit the 12,000 pounds of volume on a bench press and stop then chances are you will be better rested for the next time you bench. If you perform the heavy volume of bench paired with more chest work, chances are you are going to still be sore and slow the next time you bench press. “Working out” is not about one individual training session. The workout approach highlights the importance of one session as opposed the entire program as a whole.
The definition of training is the action of teaching a person a particular skill, behavior, or the action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for an event. There are three main aspects of this definition: skill, preparation and event. When you take a training approach you understand that training in itself is a process. It is not about one day or one session or one week- it is a compound effect of every individual repetition you have performed within a training program. If a football player steps foot into the weight room they are training for their next football game. Why would a football player do anything in the weight room that will not have an effect on them come game time? The same is true for any athlete; they must train for their event. This training must include skill acquisition, preparation and the event itself. If you are not an athlete in the sense that you're not playing a particular sport, your event is your next training session, your skill is human movement and your sport is the weight room itself. You are trying to build upon your skill of moving and preparing for your next training session. The event is up to you. What do you want to achieve? What is your goal? If you have concrete numbers in your head of what your want to hit for a squat, bench or deadlift this will take your training to the next level. If you are prepping for a certain look in a physique competition this will take your training to the next level. If you want to hit a certain number on a scale this will take your training to the next level.
When we breakdown the difference between “training” and “working out” it is a matter of commitment. Are you committed to getting stronger, bigger, leaner, or losing body fat? With a goal in mind that is specific, realistic, measurable and achievable, that is training. Aimlessly walking into the weight room with no goal in mind will not have as much of an effect. Any performance change is a three step process: awareness of weakness, make an action plan, execution and involvement in action plan. Try and set a goal, make a smart training program, and get after the execution. Take a more committed approach to your training and the results will come.