Three Approaches to Your Workouts: Train / Practice / Compete

How to approach your workouts (train vs practice vs compete)

How to Approach Your Workout

Every day you come to the gym, the workout changes. On top of that, every workout has a different stimulus. Sometimes the goal is to load up weight with the intention of getting stronger. Sometimes the goal is to use a lighter weight so that we can move faster and create a more aerobic type of workout.

It can be confusing at times, but a good coach will always make sure that you are choosing the right workout for you to reach the desired outcome.

In regards to your mindset and approach to your workouts, there are three main approaches to consider: Training, Practicing and Competing. In the video above, Coach Sebastian breaks down the difference and sheds some light on how you can best prepare yourself for your workouts.


Training makes up the bulk of all your time spent in the gym. This is a moderate to high intensity effort where we are attempting to create some physiological change in the body. For example, getting stronger or increasing our aerobic capacity. We are looking for a challenging effort, but not 100% max effort, so that we allow our body the opportunity to recover as well.

Take the following workout for example:

A) Back Squat

3 Sets of 10 Reps

If our goal is to get stronger, then we want to use our “training” approach. So we’re going to complete all 3 sets at a challenging, but less than our max, weight. Working at submaximal weights allows us the opportunity to recover for our next workout, and to work some intention into our sets as well. For example, making sure that we maintain the correct technique or possibly adding a tempo into our sets.

Since Training is responsible for the majority of our progress in the gym, you should approach your workouts this way the majority of the time as well (50-60% of workouts).


Goal: Get more fit

Effort: Moderate to High

% Time: 50-60%


When we practice, we are working in a low stress environment with the goal of developing a skill or improving our technique. Since these types of improvements are not happening to our body, but instead between our ears, we need to be sharp when we practice. Therefore, the best time to practice your double unders isn’t in the middle of the workout when you are tired and racing the clock.

We should dedicate a moderate amount of our time in the gym to developing skills (think 30-40%). High skill movements like Double Unders, Kipping Pull Ups/Toes to Bar, and Olympic Lifts all require practice to improve technique.

In a class environment, we dedicate time towards practicing these skills occasionally before the workout. If you are currently working towards developing a skill like double unders, you may want to dedicate additional time on your own to practice before the workout or at home, or consider working with a coach!


Goal: Develop Skills/Technique

Effort: Low Intensity

% Time: 30-40%


Competing is simply a test of fitness. Since this is a high intensity, high stress effort – it should be used sparingly. Competing in the gym should only make up 5-10% of your workout days. This is reserved for Benchmark Workouts where the goal is to test our progress.

When you are “competing,” you are giving your 100% effort to get a snapshot of where your fitness is at. This could be finding a new One Rep Max Deadlift or going all out on the Assault Bike for 1 Min, max calories.

These efforts are stressful and difficult to recover from. During max effort, you leave little room to focus on anything but achieving the highest weight, fastest time, etc.

A common mistake, especially in the CrossFit/Funcional Fitness space, is to constantly “compete” on a day in, day out basis. If you approach every workout at max effort, you will eventually burn out, quit making progress, or sustain an injury. This is because your body cannot recover from constantly giving 100% without recovery in between. 

Make sure you don’t take the usual 10 Min AMRAP too literally, and try to get the highest amount of reps every day. Save this for testing days and on a regular basis opt for a 70-80% effort to challenge yourself, but still allow the ability to recover.


Goal: Test fitness

Effort: Max Effort

% Time: 5-10%


These three approaches all have their place in your workout routine. Make sure to use them appropriately to get the most out of your workouts.

If your goal is to get stronger and gain muscle, focus on “Training” and challenging yourself with your weights during the strength portion of class.

If your goal is to learn to tie together Toes to Bar, dedicate some more time to “Practicing” outside of class to develop the Hollow/Arch positions and the timing of the kip swing.

Don’t “Compete” on a daily basis, but when a benchmark workout or testing week comes around – give it your all to test yourself and see what kind of progress you are making in the gym.

Further questions? Your coaches are here to help! Let us know how we can help.