5 Signs That You’re Working Out and Not Training

by Matt Weik

People seem to be confused when they use the terms “working out” and “training.” There is a clear difference in the definition of both, yet people seem to use them interchangeably. That’s a problem. If you told a professional athlete or bodybuilder that they are working out, you might possibly walk away from that conversation missing a few teeth.

Training has a clear vision of how someone is going to accomplish a goal. On the other hand, working out is where someone goes to the gym, does some exercises but doesn’t have a plan in place, nor are they training with an end goal in mind. You can think of working out as just “going through the motions.”

That all being said, you clearly want to be training if your goal is to build muscle, lose body fat, or improve your athletic performance for a sport you play. Therefore, I put together five signs you need to watch out for that will tell you if you’re stuck “working out.”

1. You Plan Your Workout When You Arrive at the Gym

Listen buddy, let’s rewind a little bit and take you back to that time you saw a girl across the room, and rather than planning what you wanted to say to her, you said, “Hold my beer,” and decided you’ll wing it. How did that go? Probably not too well, right? You had the awkward pauses, the uncomfortable smiles, and eventually, she gave you the old, “Well, it was nice meeting you,” and off she went. FAIL! That’s what happens when you don’t plan your workouts.

Have your training session all planned out and ready to go before you even leave for the gym if you want to see results.

2. You’re Constantly Changing Things Up (Muscle Confusion)

“Hey, bruh… if you want to see gains, you need to confuse the muscles!” If you’ve told people that you constantly change up your workouts to confuse your muscles… well, you may want to sit this one out.

Too many people are stuck on this theory that your muscles need to be “confused” in order to grow. What your muscle fibers need is progressive overload, where they are being stressed more than the previous workout. If you’re changing up your exercises every week, how do you expect to overload the muscles if you’re constantly changing the weights around?

You’re clearly working out and not training if you fall into this category.

3. Every Workout is the Same

Take what was mentioned in #2 and do the complete opposite. If this is you, again, you’re not training, you’re working out. While progressive overload can be implemented using the same exercises for multiple weeks, that doesn’t mean your workouts should stay the same. You can increase the reps, sets, weight, intensity, utilize longer time-under-tension, or reduce how long you rest between sets.

The last thing you want to do is go into the gym each week and do the same workout, with the same exercises, with the same reps and sets, etc. That would be so boring that I can’t blame people for quitting. I mean, you’re living the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

4. You Work Out So You Can Eat Junk

You wouldn’t believe how many times people use this as a reason why they go to the gym and are working out. “I go to the gym so that I can eat pizza and drink beer.” Ugh, that doesn’t exactly align with any health or fitness goals that I’ve heard of.

If your reason for working out is to eat junk, you’ve already lost. Training is an entirely different mindset. When you’re training, there’s a clear picture in your head of the goal you want to achieve — weight loss, building muscle, improving athletic performance, etc.

You shouldn’t be working out to eat, you should be eating to train. You need to fuel your body so that you can demolish your training sessions. That means eating quality protein sources and healthy carbs and fats.

5. You Focus on What You Did Versus How You Did It

Far too many people walk into the gym, go through the motions, complete a bunch of sets, and walk out feeling like they accomplished something. I don’t care if you did 50 total working sets while at the gym, if not a single one of them challenged you in any way or provided enough stimulus to the muscle fibers, you’re not going to see any results at all.

When in the gym, you need to put your focus on the quality of each set rather than the number of sets completed. You want to feel each rep that you do and really achieve that deep burn by the end of every set. If you’re repping out 50 reps of an exercise, you need to rethink what you’re doing in the gym. That’s not to say you can’t utilize high reps and really burn out a final set of a workout, but if you’re at the gym just to swing the weights around without taxing the muscles, you’re wasting your time.

Now What?

If you are raising your hand that you fall into any of the above categories, you’re working out — not training. If that’s all you want to do is move some weight around and feel like you’ve done something productive, that’s great. But if you want to actually see some results from your time spent in the gym rather than spinning your wheeling and wasting your own time, you need to shift away from working out and start training with purpose.