With so many websites and apps posting the “best” workouts known to man, it can get overwhelming. When it comes to figuring out what you really want and need in your next routine, you first need to understand the three basic types of workouts.
Here we’ll examine what they are, how to identify them, and how to figure out the type of workout you really need on any given day.
The Difference Between Workouts & Exercises
Before we delve into the different types of workouts, you first need to understand the difference between a “workout” and an “exercise” (if you’re a fitness professional, you can probably skip this part).
An exercise is a specific movement performed with or without a piece of equipment. While they are typically unidirectional (meaning that they only involve a single plane of motion), they can be combined or manipulated into complex patterns. Examples of simple exercises include Push-Ups, Barbell Deadlifts, Dumbbell Curls, and Pull-Ups. Examples of complex exercises include Kettlebell Cleans & Presses, Turkish Get Ups, and Barbell Axle Bus Drivers.
A workout is essentially an assembly of exercises put together in a meaningful way (ideally). Once the exercises are selected, a set scheme is applied to single exercises or multiple exercises grouped into sets. The number of exercises, chosen set schemes, weights, pace, and rest periods determine how difficult the workout is and what the workout achieves.
What you need to realize is that any exercise could be used for almost any objective. The exercise itself is just a meaningless movement without a set protocol (determined by the workout).
For example, while the Barbell Deadlift is traditionally seen as a strength-builder, it can only be limited to that definition if the following factors are applied to the workout: heavy weight, low reps, and high rest periods. If instead, you used lightweight, high reps, and low rest periods, the Barbell Deadlift would be a conditioning/muscular strength-builder.
Now that you understand a little more about workouts, let’s define the three basic workout types you will probably encounter on your road to enhanced fitness.
Workout Type #1: Strength Workouts
Everyone defines the term “strength” differently. My primary objective has always been to increase the overall health, longevity, and fitness of as many people as possible, so I define it this way:
Strength is the ability to apply the maximum amount of energy against the maximum amount of resistance for a limited amount of time.
Put simply, strength is lifting as much as you can in an ideal environment. That is why strength set schemes typically have lower reps, higher weight, and more rest. If you want to do a strength workout, just incorporate those three aspects into the routine. To get you going, here are three examples of strength set schemes:
5 ROUNDS X 5 REPS WITH HEAVYWEIGHT AND 2-3 MINUTES REST
3 ROUNDS X 3 REPS WITH HEAVYWEIGHT AND 1-2 MINUTES REST
10 REPS, 8 REPS, 5 REPS, 3 REPS, 1 REP WITH ASCENDING WEIGHT AND 1-2 MINUTES REST
Workout Type #2: Conditioning/Endurance Workouts
You may be surprised to learn that your workouts typically fall into the conditioning/endurance category. While many people classify exercises in the “strength” category, most set schemes fall into endurance. Here’s how I define conditioning/endurance:
Conditioning/Endurance is the ability to apply an effective amount of energy against a low to moderate level of resistance for the maximum amount of repetitions.
To simplify, it’s the ability to keep moving for as long as possible. Now you may be saying, “My high-intensity (HIIT) routines don’t take very long and I’m doing lots of reps, where does this routine fit?” The answer is that it still fits here.
While high-intensity training may be done quickly, you’re still completing a high volume of reps. The overall effect is enhanced conditioning/endurance. Whether you choose to apply your ability to lots of reps in a short amount of time (e.g. a Tabata set of burpees) or lots of reps in a long amount of time (running a marathon), you’ve still been training for conditioning/endurance in the end.
Here are three examples of conditioning/endurance set schemes:
3 ROUNDS X 10 REPS WITH LIGHT TO MODERATE WEIGHT AND 30-45 SECONDS REST
10 ROUNDS X 30 SECONDS WITH LIGHT TO MODERATE WEIGHT AND 15 SECONDS REST
10 ROUNDS X 10 REPS EVERY 60 SECONDS WITH LIGHT TO MODERATE WEIGHT
Workout Type #3: Skill Workouts
Skill workouts are a broad category that includes everything that enhances your ability to control your body. This includes balance, flexibility, agility, mobility, and specific athletic skills. While these workouts can enhance your strength and endurance depending on how you use them, the objective is to enhance the control of your body. Here’s how I define skill workouts:
Skill is the ability to efficiently accomplish tasks through precise control of your body.
To simplify, if your body is a car, the horsepower is your strength, the fuel efficiency is your endurance, and how it handles is your skill. Ever wonder why some powerful looking guys are really lame at sports? It’s like giving the keys to your new Shelby Mustang to your 16-year-old nephew. How much strength and endurance you have doesn’t matter unless you could put that power to good use. Here are some examples of skill set schemes:
10 ROUNDS X 15 SECONDS WITH NO WEIGHT OR LIGHTWEIGHT AND 45 SECONDS REST
10 ROUNDS X 1 REP WITH NO WEIGHT OR LIGHTWEIGHT AND AS MUCH REST AS NECESSARY
5 ROUNDS X 3 REPS WITH NO WEIGHT OR LIGHTWEIGHT AND AS MUCH REST AS NECESSARY
Now that you have an understanding of workout types, it’s time to start thinking about workout programs. Workout programs are simply compilations of workouts, again, put together in a meaningful way (hopefully).
Yours in Health,
Mark De Grasse