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Programs Vs. Workouts? Which one is best for me?

I think it is very important for anyone new to fitness to know the difference between a "Workout" and a "Program."

That is, if you're actually looking for measurable results that you can see and feel..


A workout is a singular event that has no other focus than trying to complete the given exercises in the sets, reps, and/or time you are doing it.

Many people start out with a great goal of "getting in shape." So they "work out" because, hey, that's what you have to do when you're "trying to get in shape."

So to them a "good workout" is one that leaves your drenched in sweat... makes you breathe hard and heavy both during and after... sore for at least three days... and of course needs to burn at least 1000 calories by the end of it

Sound like you? While there's nothing wrong with that...

If you kept doing the same workout - it would become less of a stress or a stimulus to your body, and so it would have much more less of an impact on your physique or other fitness goals.

Eventually you'd gasp for air less...sweat less sore...and uh oh your calories burned will begin to decline.

The issue with following a singular workout or similar workouts where you just change a workout here and there is that you're not measuring anything other than "getting a good sweat" or "I was able to burn 900 calories that workout"

(Which may or may not be the case as most trackers do a great job of measuring your heart rate. But they are very poor at measuring your actual calories burned. Check out this article HERE that gave me a new perspective when I track workouts on my Apple Watch.)

Which in the long run, may or may not help you reach your weight loss or muscle gain goal. It will be up to you to quantify the amount of motivation and energy you have to get you to the end of your fitness journey. But since you are starting to just "work out" without any substantial measurement of progression you may find yourself stuck with your wheels spinning.

Is this making sense so far?

Let's Be Honest

Most people when they say, "I just want to get in shape". They are usually looking for these 3 things.

1. Look better in the mirror and have their clothes fit better.

They want their waist to be smaller, to stop the jiggle on one or more specific body parts, and usually fit in a pair of jeans or shirt that whey wore when they once considered themselves in shape.

They don't want to feel their stomach hanging over their pants when they sit or their thighs rubbing together when they walk, and they don't want their clothes to feel "too tight."

2. Feel better about themselves.

Many people feel more "attractive" when they're lighter and leaner. We all know how that can boost your self-esteem

3. Have more energy and not feel so tired all the time.

So they can do the things they not only know they should do, but actually want to do - like play with their kids... without running out of breath and needing to rest... And make fun lasting memories that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

How about you? Recognize yourself in any of these?


A Program on the other hand, is totally different. It has ONE measurable goal. ONE specific outcome.

Let's take an example from one of my client's and just for anonymity sakes let's call her Beth. Beth wants to start exercising at home and has a goal of losing fat, creating lean muscle and maintaining general health, strength and cardiovascular fitness.

During our initial conversation I am really able to dial down her goals and time commitment, so I can begin to outline her program.

After a few days I was able to develop a 12 week, five day per week exercise program that includes all the essentials functional training and linear progression that will yield the results she’s looking for, including:

  1. Dynamic warm-up to prep her joints and muscles

  2. A mix of upper body, lower body, and core exercises

  3. A variety of exercise circuits

  4. A mix of pressing and pulling exercises

  5. A mix of single limb and double limb exercises

  6. A gradual progression in exercise difficulty, whether it’s load, speed, less rest, sets, repetitions or movement complexity

Thanks to weekly checks in and her consistency and trust in the program we were able to avoid hitting a plateau and she continually thanks me for helping her get into the best shape of her life.

Some other goal examples from client's who follow my programs are -

"I want to lose 15 pounds in the next 10 weeks without killing myself or starving myself so that I can stay off blood pressure meds..."

Or -

"I want to improve my bench press by 30 pounds in the next 12 weeks..."

With a structured training and nutrition program anyone can accomplish these goals. With the necessary amount of commitment and consistency of course.

If you’re not sure where to start or want the support and motivation that comes with a structured exercise program, don’t sweat it (pun intended), I can help. Hope to talk to you soon!

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