Why Exercise When You Can Train?
Andrew Lewis, 01-30-2020

Tracking an incremental training regimen by writing it down as shown here can help you achieve your fitness goals.
Andrew Lewis
Andrew Lewis has been coaching strength training since 2011, and here we present his second contribution to the Falls Free Press. He owns Blackmetal Strength Training—a private facility in Cuyahoga Falls where trainees get stronger, lose fat, and live better. He also has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu. He can be reached at BlackmetalStrengthTraining.com.

Exercise is done for the effects it has the day it is performed—you get hot and sweaty, you feel good, and you've done more activity than you've done all day. Exercise makes you feel like you've done something good for your health—and you have—but it is frequently whimsical and unsatisfying long term. How do you know you're getting stronger or more physically fit without measuring the work you've done? How do you know you've gotten stronger if you do different exercises every workout that only repeat once a month? How do you know you've made progress if you exercise based on how hard a given exercise seems or how heavy weights, for instance, feel? The answer is that you really can't.

Training, on the other hand, is the process by which goals are achieved. Training has only three elements: where are you now, where you want to be at some point in the future, and the methodology for advancing from where you are to where you want to be. The fundamentals are no more complicated than that; the training is effective if it takes you from where you are to where you want to go. Training is deliberate and designed, but it doesn't mean the design has to be perfect. Plans rarely go perfectly according to plan, but a plan should still be logically formed and followed.

In the gym, strength training should be a staple of everyone's training, whether young, old, woman, man, weak, strong, thin, or, er, thick. Everyone benefits from being stronger, and goals are more effectively achieved with training than exercise.

Keep Everything the Same, but Add Weight Each Workout

The simplest method of strength training is to incrementally increase the weight you lift. Just like in a scientific experiment, we want to keep as many variables as possible the same, with only one variable change.

Doing the same exercises, repetitions, and sets every workout—but with more weight each time—is the best way to start strength training and get strong reliably. There is a massive range of what this might look like— there are literally hundreds of exercises you could do in the gym, and you could be doing 10 reps per set, three reps per set, 20 reps per set, or anything in between.

Three sets of five repetitions is the best starting place for full-body, compound movements like the barbell squat, press, bench press, and deadlift. These movements are the most effective, but they require proper technique to yield the most results. So, even if you choose not to use these exercises, keep the reps in the four to six rep range for two to four sets. Rest three to five minutes between sets at a minimum, and make sure you're sleeping enough and eating enough protein. You will see progress quickly if you add a little weight each workout for two to three workouts a week. Not only will you know you're making progress because the weight is getting heavier, but your clothes will fit better, you'll feel stronger, and you'll be less prone to fall or get injured.

Also—don't rely on your memory to ensure you're making progress. Instead, take a notebook, and write down the work sets—that is, non-warm up sets. Doing so will allow you to literally go back and see the progress you've made.

Andrew’s Key to Success

The key to getting stronger is that it has to get harder—this might mean more reps or more weight or more sets, but the most effective method in the beginning is just to add more weight each time. It has to be done deliberately and with a plan. Training is the process by which goals are achieved, and I encourage you to take this approach over simply exercising.

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