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What You Can Learn From Different Training Styles and People 

by guest contributor Trevor Mah

The realm of fitness and exercise encapsulates many different modalities. Every time you enter a gym, there are different people working on different things. From the avid runner to the hulking strong man, there are benefits to every style of training. Here is a breakdown of what you can learn and take away from each:


Known for throwing large amounts of weight onto a barbell, the powerlifter excels in finding their perfect body position to lift the weight up with maximal force. The sport of powerlifting is based on three main exercises: back squat, bench press, and deadlift.

What You Can Learn:
One can understand proper body positioning and how to brace their core in order to learn the best way to generate force from the ground. One can also learn how to perform proper maintenance techniques from elite lifters as they focus on weaknesses of their body that may inhibit their lifts. Additionally, powerlifting will teach you how to properly breathe while performing resistance exercises. Excelling in all the classic barbell lifts allow one to branch out into other exercise variations if they choose to do so.

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Watch Out For:
Powerlifting programs are performed at a high intensity and medium to high level of volume. Proper warmups and maintenance are required for the joints as it is taxing on the central nervous system. While you may not feel the “burn” sensation from basic programs, the joints do take quite a beating and lifting maximal loads will take a toll on the body. Because of this, rest periods are often long and may not be suitable to less patient or time constrained lifters. Lastly, powerlifting can be debated as a misnomer. Power is a result of force and speed; however, explosiveness is not usually an area of focus.

Olympic Lifter

The main difference between a powerlifter and an Olympic lifter is the element of speed. In this case, the Olympic lifter is one who excels in the barbell snatch, clean and jerk. These movements require full body cohesiveness in gracefully bringing the weight overhead.

What You Can Learn:
The difficulty level of these Olympic lifts requires one to develop dynamic flexibility and sublime coordination. Achieving Olympic lifting proficiency has the best carryover into any other athletic endeavour as the body learns to best utilize its strongest muscle, the glutes. As a full body movement, novices can still begin with regressed movements for weight loss and developing coordination.

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Watch Out For:
Technique is critical to safely succeed in Olympic lifts. Because of the high degree of precision required, it may be inconvenient for many to find a suitable coach to address ones form and work on limitations. It is definitely not something that can be self-taught through pictures and videos. Persistent use of improper technique will lead to injury.

Bodybuilder/Physique Competitor

The majority of gym folk fall under this category by default. After all, many people exercise for aesthetic reasons either directly or indirectly. The bodybuilder and physique competitor differ mainly in what their respective competitions look for when judging. But for training purposes, they are very similar in their approach at the gym.

What You Can Learn:
Professional and credible aesthetic athletes know how to look their best on stage. Their training style programs usually revolve around split routines where they target specific body parts on different days. Because of this, their routines involve many variations of exercises and hit the muscles in different angles. Volume is the main focus as well to ensure proper muscle breakdown and recovery for them to be sculpted from the countless repetitions. For those looking to add on size, this style of training is exceptional for signalling the body to build muscle in a proper program.

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Watch Out For:
Because these split routines are so common, it is very easy to get caught up on the mix. Fitness media is highly saturated with “get in shape in x amount of days” type of programs. Since muscle gain does not tend to happen overnight, be cautious with changing up with variety too often. Shocking the body too often does not allow it enough time to adapt and see if it actually works for you. Also, with every exercise variation or modification, there is usually a trade-off that will vary with the individual. In some instances, an exercise variation may cause more harm than good. The long term pain and stress on the joints are not worth the effort. Every individual will react differently to exercises based on many factors. Another thing to note is that these competitors look their best when it is time to hit the stage. Sometimes their training methods and lifestyle may mislead someone to think that they can sustain their appearance all year round. It is simply not the case. Once one can acknowledge this reality, they will be able to avoid the constant stress of having to be on point every time. Lastly, although nutrition is paramount towards any training program, it is of the utmost importance if aesthetics are the pure goal. Simply put, no matter how tough it may be to move the next day from a punishing workout, you can never out train a poor diet.

Endurance/Marathon Athlete

What You Can Learn:
Mental discipline is one of the strengths of the adamant endurance athlete. To run for over an hour or for great distances takes a high level of patience and persistence. In doing so, their cardiovascular levels are exceptional when it comes to heart health.

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Watch Out For:
Loss of muscle mass is very common for exclusive endurance athletes. Although some still perform resistance exercises, long, steady state cardio interferes with the ability to break down and develop muscle at the same time. As a result, strength and power gains are also diminished for the marathon runner. It is also worth noting that although their hearts may be conditioned well for steady state exercises, it does not necessary mean it will carry over onto HIIT methods.


Crossfit workouts or “workout of the day” (WOD) involve challenging the athlete to perform exercises across any modality usually under certain time parameters. These people are always working on a HIIT type of workout. The ones who know better and understand their bodies are able to develop all around mental and physical resiliency while enhancing their endurance.

What You Can Learn:
Crossfit workouts can push one beyond their physical limits assuming what they are doing is safe. Essentially, crossfit exercises are just HIIT circuit workouts with a name. As with most circuits, when strung together sensibly it can lead to metabolic adaptations to rev up the metabolism and burn fat. They can be used as a measuring tool for progress with the right type of workout. WODs can normally be scaled to the individual allowing a varying degree of challenge and difficulty. Additionally, those who seek a common bond can normally find a strong community of people who share this same interest and are highly supportive of each other.

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Watch Out For:
The Crossfitters get a lot of flak for their style of training as it sometimes looks like they are just there to abuse and hurt themselves through grueling circuits. Unfortunately, many people who jump into crossfit right away lack proficiency in other aspects of their fitness. This usually involves the ability to do certain complex exercises such as Olympic lifts and gymnastics moves. Because of this, it is fairly common to see poor form just for the sake of completing a WOD. Basically, one must watch out for performing these workouts beyond their skill and physical limitations.

In conclusion, there are many types of people with different goals. This list covers the more common type of gym folk, but it is still incomplete. Regardless, this shows how some styles of training have its advantages over others. In the end it is important to note that fitness is a relative term. Being fit for one person may mean something drastically different for another. To acknowledge all the training styles allows one to develop a better understanding for their fitness peers and opens the doors to try something new if they ever wish to do so.

Like this article? Check out more of personal trainer Trevor’s contributions here and here or visit him at St. Albert Trail World Health.

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