Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

‘Training’ vs. ‘Exercise’: What’s the Difference?

Corporate gyms mostly sell “exercise” -- sweat, go home, and pay your membership fee.

by
Mark Rippetoe

Bio

April 11, 2014 - 8:00 am
Page 1 of 4  Next ->   View as Single Page

Starting Strength Seminar

“Physical fitness.” “Physical activity.” “Working out.” “Exercise.” “Training.” These are all terms that get haphazardly applied to the things we do when we intend to make some type of improvement in our body’s physical capacity. They all have separate and very specific meanings, and understanding them is important if you are to make the right choice about which one to apply to your situation.

“Physical activity” is a rather low standard to hold oneself to, since it merely means movement. Physical activity, according to the American Heart Association website, is defined as “anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.” The world is full of unhealthy people, some of whom are sedentary and some who move all day. Mere movement does not correlate with a significant improvement in physical capacity. It may be a step in the right direction, but a look at its specific recommendations indicates that any steps would be tiny ones.

“Physical Fitness” has a more specific definition. By Kilgore and Rippetoe in 2006 in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online [9(1):1-10]:

“Possession of adequate levels of strength, endurance, and mobility to provide for successful participation in occupational effort, recreational pursuits, familial obligation, and that is consistent with a functional phenotypic expression of the human genotype.”

This is a description of what fitness entails, and describes a reason to be fit based on the genetics we possess. But it doesn’t say anything about how to accomplish this task, either the process or the components thereof.

Most people decide that the thing to do to get fit is something called “working out.” A “workout” is a term that refers to the period of time spent exercising — the exercise event. Us guys go to the gym for the purpose of “getting a workout” before we know much about it. To most of us guys, getting a workout means hitting the bag, running a few laps, getting sweaty, tired, and maybe doing arms a little. A few curls.

That makes “working out” the same thing as “exercise.” The term “exercise” best describes a physical activity performed for the sake of the effect it produces on your body today — right now — or immediately following the workout. If you’re just exercising, the workout itself is the point. Yoga, Pilates, cardio on the treadmill, a group class of any kind — basically punching your time card at the gym is “exercise.” For most people, “exercise” probably involves doing the same thing in the gym every time you go, because the effect is predictable. You want to get hot, sweaty, and tired, because it makes you feel that something positive has occurred. And it has. For many people, the acute effect of “exercise” is all that is necessary for an improvement in their physical wellbeing.

The modern fitness industry is built exclusively around the “exercise” model.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I used to go to the gym and do the exact exercise routine every time, including the same weights or time on a cardio machine.

Since I read Starting Strength 3rd edition I completely changed my approach to being fit and health. Including the concept of training.

I’m stronger now in my 40’s than I was in my 20’s by the simple Linear Progression program. My old cardio routine is way easier than before I got strong.

What am I training for? Just life. Life is easier when you are strong and fit.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (14)
All Comments   (14)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Coach Rip
I have a house full of four boys and I want to get them training the big lifts as early as is healthy and feasible, just for their own health and sports success. When I was a kid they wouldn't let us lift heavy until we hot 16, but my oldest just turned 10, my youngest is 4. In your view is 10 too young to start training the major lifts?
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm guessing another component of training vs exercise is "recording". (And I imagine everyone on this thread has a personal view of this.)
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
"recording" meaning recording your progress?
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey Mark! I just hit a minor life strength goal. I applied your strength training principles to weight machine lat pull downs a couple months ago, and went from a pathetic 70 to a weak 3x5x160 lbs, which is just over my lightest adult weight, and a planned intermediate goal to doing that many pull ups.

I'm hoping that success will be enough to get over my utter loathing of the feelings of panicked helpless disaster at the bottom of squats.

Thanks Mark!
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I used to go to the gym and do the exact exercise routine every time, including the same weights or time on a cardio machine.

Since I read Starting Strength 3rd edition I completely changed my approach to being fit and health. Including the concept of training.

I’m stronger now in my 40’s than I was in my 20’s by the simple Linear Progression program. My old cardio routine is way easier than before I got strong.

What am I training for? Just life. Life is easier when you are strong and fit.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the detailed descriptions!! Now I KNOW I need to stop exercising & start "training".
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I understand the theory, but I don't understand why doing antithetical exercises is necessarily a bad thing, particularly for someone who is not a competitive athlete. My goal is to be lean and fit into old age (I am 67 now). I do weight training(with fairly heavy weight for my age) to maintain muscle mass, and I do high mileage walking (5 miles) and swimming 1/2-3/4 miles) on alternative days. I know that these activities counteract each other to a certain extent, and that I could achieve better results in a specific activity by concentrating on only that activity, but, given my goal, why should my routine be considered counterproductive?
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
My only comment would be that your perception of endurance activity as being necessary for longevity and leanness is wrong, and I would argue that leanness is neither absolutely necessary nor a particular advantage for your health. Your muscle mass is far more important to your health than your ability to walk 5 miles every other day. That said, enjoy yourself and have fun with your workouts.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Boxers would agree with you.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Everyone can benefit from strength training - even marathon runners. In fact, most elite marathon runners now incorporate some strength training because it helps prevent injury.

Likewise, everyone can benefit from endurance training.

The article does not state that one should exclusively do one or the other. The article states that one should devote the majority of ones training time and effort on the types of training that help the trainee achieve the goal(s) he/she set for him/herself.

If your goal is general health and fitness (as it is for the majority of us non-elites), splitting your training between strength training and endurance training makes a lot of sense.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
View All