When it comes to an athlete, there IS a difference.
Many athletes today are working out in group classes, usually circuit training, cross fit, “hiit”, or boot camp style classes. If you put in an effort, you will get a good workout and the sweat may be pouring off you. Does this type of exercise make you a better athlete or improve your performance? Maybe. But, probably not.
An exercise class will be helpful if you are overweight. Any exercise that decreases your body mass without sacrificing strength will be helpful. If you are playing sports year round, all week long, and you are still overweight, exercise isn’t your problem, food is. That is another story for another day.
When in a proper strength and conditioning or athletic training program, the order and progression of the exercises are designed to improve your ability to handle the demands of your sport. Some days you may crawl out of the gym, other workouts may not be as strenuous. The point is, there is a focus or goal for the training session. The exercises may be designed to prevent injury. Other goals may be to improve strength, speed, explosiveness, balance, or power, among others. Regardless, there is a plan. That, is the difference.
A good program designs your workout depending on your sport, season, age, training experience, and athleticism. It is not, “one size fits all” or as I like to say “one workout maximizes profit”. If everyone in your group is doing the same exercise, it is not a proper athletic training program. Period. End of story.
So, if you are in middle school or older and serious about improving your performance and preventing injury, you need to train, not just “exercise”. Find a program that is comprehensive and based on science and progressions, not one that is convenient!
Bob Scaccia PT, CSCS is a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is the owner of Complete Athlete Sports Performance Clinics and Scaccia/Dracut Physical Therapy.