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Training vs Exercising

Are you exercising or training? If you believe those mean the same thing you are not alone, but yet, you are mistaken. This is something that I feel needs addressed more often and people need to be aware of the differences between the two. Exercising is not training and training is not exercising. They are two separate things that most people try to interchange. It is important to realize the differences between the two so that you can decide which path best fits your goals. Before I delve into the differences let me first say that I don’t believe one is better than the other. Whichever one you choose should be based off of your individual goals. Yes, I have my preference but I’ll leave it at that.

Exercising

What is Considered Exercising?

Exercising or “working out” is the category most of the population falls under. The goal of exercising is simply to create a feeling of working out. You exercise for the immediate feedback you get during and immediately following the workout. The sweat, the heavy breathing, the complete exhaustion that follows the workout IS the goal of exercising. There doesn’t need to be any planning involved. One workout does not need to compliment another and because of this no real adaptation is taking place. Your exercise classes, boot-camp style workouts, CrossFit WODS, would fall under this category.

Who Should Exercise?

If you are wondering if simply exercising is what is best for you I hope this section helps clarify some things. Exercising is best for you if you are looking to just get some sort of activity in and relieve some stress during your busy life. Sedentary individuals who have been out of the game for a lengthy period or a person with a desk job looking to get some movement in their life would be examples of someone who are perfect candidates for exercising. Individuals that fall under the exercising heading don’t really have a specific goal other than to get their heart rate up and work up a sweat. Again, absolutely nothing wrong with that and is obviously far better than doing nothing.

Pros of Exercising

The major benefits of exercising versus training is the time and convenience factors. Exercising involves very little to no planning. You simply just have to get to the gym, or wherever you are working out, and do what produces the desired results (i.e. sweating, elevated heart rate, etc.) and then move on with your daily life. The simple act of moving that is involved in exercise is another major benefit. Although exercising involves minimal, if any planning, and no real adaptation towards a specific goal, the movement involved is a major plus in an ever more sedentary world.

Cons of Exercising

If you don’t have any specific goals then there really aren’t any cons to exercising. If you use it as a stress reliever, or to achieve a certain feeling then it will definitely help. The only con that arises with exercising is if you do have a specific goal in which case you are going to want to read on.

Training

What is Considered Training?

Training is quite the opposite of exercising or simply working out. Training involves working towards a very specific goal. That is the major difference between training and exercise. As stated above the goal of exercise is the workout but in training you are working towards a goal. This is a very important distinction between the two. In training you do not care about the “feeling” you have during your workout because that is not the goal. In training, depending on what it is that you are working on, you may not even sweat or be exhausted at the end of the session. At the end of a session your body may not even send back any feedback that you exerted yourself and that’s okay. In training, you are trying to force your body to create some type of specific adaptation to the demands you place on it. As stated above, this is missing from simply exercising. This attempt to create a specific adaptation is why in training the next workout session must build upon the previous one. There needs to be a built in plan to work towards the specific goal that doesn’t need to be there when just exercising.

Side note:

The things stated above is the major complaint most strength and conditioning specialists have with CrossFit. The theory behind CrossFit is “to be ready for anything” and a randomness to most workouts that they call Workout of the Day or a WOD. There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking CrossFit but the randomness of the workouts makes it exercise and not training and that is not up for debate, its simply fact. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t participate in CrossFit and still add in elements of training and I believe that’s what the best CrossFit gyms do. However, whenever randomness and a lack of planning is involved in the sessions that makes it exercise and not training.

Who Should Train?

Individuals with very specific goals should train. These could be individuals training for a marathon, or powerlifting meet, amongst other things. I want to make clear though that you don’t need to enter an actual competition to train like you are. If you have personal goals to bench a certain weight or to run a mile in a certain amount of time you are going to need to train for it with a very specific plan.

Pros of Training

The pros of training is that with a carefully thought out plan, consistent effort and discipline, and patience the specific goals you set for yourself are attainable. With training, you will create a desired adaptation that will help you achieve those goals you set.

Cons of Training

The cons of training, which aren’t really cons if you are serious about your goals, are the time and effort it takes to put together the plan. Training takes much more thinking and planning than exercise. You must have a plan that is carefully thought out and also adaptable to the certain obstacles that you will face during the process. However, the most challenging part of training is more mental than physical. It requires discipline, consistency, and most important of all; patience. Without these traits it will be very difficult to achieve your goals and will make the process take that much longer to complete.

Another con that could take place when compared to exercise is the lack of immediate feedback at times. This will harder for some people more than others. If you have never really trained for a specific goal and are a regular participant in exercise this could be a shock to the system. At certain points in training, you may not even sweat or be exhausted at the end of a workout. Again, this feeling of “working out:” is not the goal in training and thus is not a requirement for a successful session. This will be hard for some people to accept.

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Squat Progression

If you’re one of those guys who skips leg day, you’ll probably be tempted to skip this article because this is definitely not an article “bros” will be interested in reading. However, if you have been trying to talk yourself into training the lower half of your body than this article is certainly worth a read.

Squats are an important exercise for fairly obvious reasons. Squats are a compound lift, meaning that when performing a squat multiple joints are being used. I like to describe compound lifts as getting the most bang for your buck. You will be able to train with the most load (weight) using compound lifts which in turn recruits the most muscle fibers. Being that multiple joints are being used you will also be using different muscle groups during the exercise thus getting the most bang for your buck.

Our legs possess our largest and strongest muscles in our bodies. By neglecting the lower half of your body in training you are leaving an abundance of genetic potential on the table. Yes, when you are training legs your legs will get bigger and stronger, duh, but what people don’t realize is that by training your legs you are also stimulating a ton of biological processes in your body such as a rise in natural human growth hormone levels that affect not just your lower body but your entire musculoskeletal system.

Besides the importance of squatting to avoid looking disproportionate and reaping the benefits of biological processes, it is also important to maintain natural human movement patterns. The squat should be a movement that everyone can do with ease. Note that I did not say every human should be able to back squat four-hundred pounds but yes, every human being should be able to simply squat. Sounds easy on paper but modern lifestyle has made it nearly impossible to come across two people in a row with good squat form. If everyone could squat and did it often enough we wouldn’t see everyday people with tight hips, hamstrings, or lower back pain. Also, squats are not bad for your knees, period.

I am sure people avoid training legs for a number of reasons and even more people avoid squatting because it is difficult for them and they don’t know how to do it. Also, if you are one of those people that say they train legs but they don’t squat well you may need to reevaluate your decision making immediately. Take note that I did not say one thing about back squatting or front squatting in the above sentences. Those are obviously great exercises but there are other ways to squat with weight and that can help you progress to those exercises if you so choose to.

Below I lay out how to find your squat stance followed by a progression of three exercises that I have my clients do in order to learn the squat and progress with weight. You can use these exercises as both a progression and main squatting exercise in your program.

Finding Your Squat Stance
  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder width. I say about because everyone is a little bit different and I want you to be comfortable but shoulder width is a good starting point.
  2. Have your toes pointed slightly outwards. About a 45 degree angle. Nothing crazy.
  3. When you squat, you should drive your knees outwards. Wherever your toes go your knees must follow. Knee valgus (knees coming inwards) is worst thing ever so drive those knees out. This should also make the squat much easier because it opens up your hips.
  4. Squat full range. All the way down. See the picture below. Never squat high. It will get easier the more you do it. Don’t let the wright determine how low you go. Go lighter if need be.


Notice the wrinkle in his shorts at the hip joint. In correct depth the hip joint should be lower than the patella (knee cap).

Landmine Squat


Can’t play video? Click here: Landmine Squat

I start the squat progression with the landmine squat. I have found that this is a good early progression of the squat because it takes away some balance and proprioceptive (body awareness) out of the equation. This allows you to focus on your stance, knee drive outwards, and correct depth. You still have to focus on keeping good posture (shoulders back, upper back tight, “big” chest) but from a technique aspect this squat is relatively simple. Also, be sure that you tuck your elbows so that they fit in between your knees.

Goblet Squat


Can’t play video? Click here: Goblet Squat

Even though the video shows the goblet squat being done with a dumbbell I prefer using a kettlebell. However, both work just fine. The goblet squat can be done in conjunction with the landmine squat or can fall second in the progression. The goblet squat has all the benefits of the landmine squat while also adding in the balance and proprioception that will be needed in any free weight squat going forward. As you become stronger you will learn that one of the toughest things about the goblet squat is holding the weight. Also, because the weight is in front of you it is important to maintain a rigid and tight back not letting the weight pull you forward. As always, make sure to hit full depth and just like the landmine squat your elbows should fit right in between your knees at the bottom of the squat. You can ensure this happens by correctly driving your knees outwards and simply tucking your elbows inwards.

Zercher


Can’t play video? Click here: Zercher

The zercher is the only barbell squat I have in this progression. Some may not see this as a necessary step but I have found it very useful. I like using the zercher as a progression because it allows the athletes to use heavier weight while also not overly worrying about technique like racking the bar in the back and front squats. With the weight in front the zercher also easily teaches how to create abdominal pressure and stay tight. Yes, the racking of the bar in the crease of the elbows is uncomfortable. To counter this I usually use a pad of some sort. I have made pads out of pool noodles that work great. I have also had people wear long sleeve shirts or hoodies to add some cushion. However, feel free to have the bar rest on bare skin as this does provide the most secure feeling. The zercher is also safer for people who are inexperienced handling heavier loads. If you get stuck and have to bail out of a weight you simply drop the weight onto the ground.

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Why Women Should Lift Weights

From the title, you can infer what I will discuss in this article but what you may not realize is that this may very well turn out to be one of the most important articles I ever write on this site. I get asked all the time what is my favorite team to work with. Most assume its football with me being a former football player and the reputation for football player’s love of the weight room. Although my answer can vary depending on the time of year, and personality of the teams, most are shocked when I tell them how much I enjoy the girl teams. As a strength and conditioning coach that works with every sport at one of the biggest high schools in the state and also a personal trainer and online coach, I have the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of females. Women, no matter whether they are training for sport or just to be fit, are a lot of fun to work with. A big reason I love working with females is that whether it’s a shy high school sophomore who has little to no confidence in the weight room or a mom working out for the first time in years, the look on their face when they achieve something they might not be naturally comfortable doing is priceless.

The Misconception

Working with women often comes with obstacles that are not present with men. Of course, this is not true for all women but in my experiences it is a topic that needs to be addressed. A big part of the population has a misconception about weight lifting and its effect on women. Again, not all women but a large number are afraid that lifting weights will make them bulky and masculine looking. I get told “I don’t want to look like you” or “I don’t want to look like a guy” more frequently than I would like to recount. In my experience, most women view cardio or aerobic type classes as the type of training they need to achieve their ideal physique. They split it right down the middle, if you’re a male, you lift weights and if you’re a female you do cardio. In fact, a study in 2014 showed that of the millions of women that belonged to commercial gyms less than one-third picked up a dumbbell. I attribute this to both a lack of readily available information and misinformation thanks to social media and the internet.

Go Hard. It’s Okay. I Promise

Another misconception that I battle on a weekly basis is that resistance training is actually okay for women as long as it is light and low intensity. I can only assume this is why there are classes for women that include dancing with five and three pound dumbbells. Luckily, I did my homework and found another study that was done with college aged females. The study proved over a significant time period that a high resistance weight training program increased lean body mass, decreased fat percentages, and showed no change in body weight. It literally says at the end of the study that the results showed no masculinizing effects meaning they did not start looking like dudes.

We Aren’t the Same

Life isn’t always fair. Not everyone is created with the same genetics, skills, etc. In this case, for women who are afraid of bulking up with resistance training this is a good thing! Because women literally cannot gain muscle the same way a male can. I have told this to some women and it’s like they don’t hear me. It is a scientific fact that women cannot gain muscle like men can because women have significantly lower natural testosterone and significantly higher levels of estrogen. “But, you see those women on line that look like dudes, I don’t want to gain muscle like that.” Notice I said natural testosterone. Those women with insane amounts of muscle mass are not natural. Period.

To Get HOOGE You Have to Eat

“But I don’t want to get muscular, I just want to get tone.” Just slap me please. When someone says they want to tone up what they are really saying is that they want to gain muscle and lose fat. Also, gaining the amount of muscle mass some women are afraid of gaining does not happen overnight or even within a few months. It not only takes a lot of time and hard work to gain a significant amount of muscle but also a surplus in calories. If you aren’t eating more calories than you are expending you will not gain muscle. So for women who resistance train a few days a week and eat healthy but not in excess, you have nothing to worry about in terms of too much muscle mass. It happens all the time, someone will ask me details about my training, they comment on how much time and work I put into the gym, food, etc. to gain the amount of muscle I have, then turn around and are afraid they will gain too much muscle in a week lifting for thirty minutes. I don’t let it upset me too much because one of my favorite lines is “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

More Serious Matter

Although, I have discussed the importance of weight training for helping women achieve their ideal physique, there is a far more beneficial reason women should resistance train especially for the long term. Resistance training strengthens bone. It strengthens the bone density which in turn can fight off osteoporosis which is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. Although both men and women are vulnerable to osteoporosis women are more prone to suffer from it especially postmenopausal. Age-related sarcopenia or muscle loss is also a concern for women. A significant loss of muscle mass as a woman ages can make everyday activities more difficult and can eventually lead to falls, which brings us back to the dangers of osteoporosis and broken bones.
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References:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10671315.1974.10615291
http://jandonline.org/article/s0002-8223(98)00094-7/abstract
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/33/3/190.short
http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/strength-training-for-women
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-s/strenght-training-builds-more-than-muscles
https://www/nwacc.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid+1269b4e5-c398-4e1e-a07e-6700bbceb9a9&groupd=216833&filename=4%20Advantages%200f%20weight%20training%20for%20women%20by%20julie%20%20gabbard-1.pdf

KILLER Tricep Routine YouTube Video

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How to AVOID Cardio YouTube Video

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