The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Lone Wolf vs Power in Numbers

The exercises and content expressed in this column are for illustrative purposes only. Consult your physician before trying any physical activity or nutritional plan. RECOIL and its contributors are not responsible for any harm or injuries sustained while attempting these techniques.

Over the last several years, group fitness gyms like Orange Theory and CrossFit have exploded, growing 70 percent between 2012 and 2015. Like many other group exercise facilities, these gyms create workouts intended to train large groups of people at the same time. But how might this type of training compare to working out on your own? There are pros and cons to each, so let’s look at this in some more detail.

What’s the Difference?
It’s a common fitness industry saying that following a mediocre program 100 percent is still better than following a great program 50 percent. There’s a lot of truth to this. Following a program with some sort of intelligent design will yield progress, assuming it’s followed correctly. This concept is different from showing up to a group exercise class. Sure, you might not equate something like CrossFit to a group exercise class like Zumba, but it’s still a class with a group of people exercising.

On the plus side, large group training can be fantastic for building community and camaraderie among participants. If you ask people who exercise at places like CrossFit, one of the first things they’ll mention is the community of people they’ve gotten to know and the friends they’ve made. This is one of the primary draws for large group training facilities. Many of these types of facilities have also been great for getting groups, such as women, to embrace weight training. Historically, lifting weights has been largely male-dominated, but since the inception of these new businesses, more and more women are starting to weight train.

One thing many of these facilities have in common is they’re typically very workout-based. You could look at a workout as a session of physical exercise or training. People complete workouts that are intended to improve some aspect of fitness across a broad array of people. The workouts generally don’t have much relation to each other, and they’re designed to give the participants an intense workout every time.

This differs from following a workout program that you’d complete on your own or perhaps at a personal training facility. This type of program is a series of workouts intended to focus on a goal or several goals (such as strength and flexibility). There’s a very big difference between the two. One is a series of planned workouts, and the other is just a workout. The beauty of a well-made program is that you can plan for fluctuations in volume or intensity in order to get a specified training effect, while minimizing injury and overtraining risk.

For instance, if your goal is strength, perhaps you can plan out a month’s worth of training with four sessions per week. Within that month, you could make week three a little more intense and slightly higher volume in order to overreach and create a stimulus for improvement. In week four, you could lower the volume and intensity below that of the previous three weeks to allow for recovery.

That’s just one common way of doing it, but the idea is that you’re planning for the ability to recover from exercise; it’s actually integrated into the program. This is called periodization, and it’s designed to continually make progress toward a goal while reducing the risk of overtraining and injury. When you make workouts designed to give people a challenge every single time without fluctuations in volume or intensity, you face a higher risk of injury and overtraining.

Woman in class doing dead lift barbell exercise

Consider Coaching
Coaching is another point to consider. If you’re training on your own, it’s critical you know how to perform exercises safely. It goes without saying that the potential for injury is very high if you lift weights with subpar form. These days, it’s difficult to know what information to trust, as anyone can be a YouTube or Instagram trainer with little more than an iPhone. In circumstances like these, it’s a great idea to hire someone to help you, even if it’s just for a short time, to learn what proper form looks like.

Group exercise facilities involve coaching and generally less technical exercises (sometimes), reducing the injury risk assuming the coaches are good and the ratios of coaches to clients is manageable. This can be a great option for people who are newer to exercise and looking to learn the basics.

Designing a fitness program to fit their needs

Training for a Goal
The other aspect of general group exercise programming is that it doesn’t take goals into account. If you want to run a marathon, for instance, you should follow a running (and hopefully strength training) program designed to enable you to do well in that particular activity. In other words, you should follow a program intended to better prepare you for your specific goal.

When you join a group exercise facility where there’s no individualization, it’s likely you won’t progress efficiently toward your own particular goals. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t group exercise classes and facilities designed for specific goals. If your goal is to compete in the CrossFit Games, for instance, it’s probably best that you do CrossFit or something similar. Outside of that, you might mainly just burn calories, and hey, if that’s your goal, go for it.

When training on your own, you’re only limited by your resources. If your knowledge is lacking, designing a program for yourself may be challenging, and you’ll probably end up with suboptimal results. This is when it’d be a great idea to work with someone to create a program for you or train you. Outside of that, there are plenty of resources. From books to online or local coaches and trainers who offer some kind of coaching or program design services for your specific goals, all are potential options.

Healthy food

What About Nutrition?
Besides training, nutrition is key in making or breaking your goals. Nutrition is paramount to your success, and it really should be just as important a consideration as exercise. Proper nutrition for your goals will not only provide you with the fuel and nutrients to perform well in and out of the gym, but it’ll also be responsible for the body composition changes you’ll see as you progress.

For example, good luck trying to lose weight without some kind of calorie reduction. Yes, there are certain foods that are better than others for weight loss, but unless you expend more calories than you take in you won’t lose weight.

Nutrition isn’t typically addressed in many of the group-style training programs. With the exception of CrossFit, which has more or less endorsed The Paleo Diet or The Zone, you typically won’t find much in the way of specific nutrition programs to follow. So, in this case, it’s important to be your own advocate and find the right information to eat in order to support your goals.

Make a Decision
You have many options on how to exercise, where to go, and what to do. At the end of the day, it all depends on what you want to accomplish. Start with your goals, and it’ll be much easier to make a decision as to which options will get you where you need to be.

About the Author
Ryne Gioviano is the owner of Achieve Personal Training & Lifestyle Design located in Aurora, Illinois. He holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology, a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer, and Precision Nutrition Certified Nutritional Coach. Ryne is also an avid firearms enthusiast. For more information, please visit or find him on Instagram and Twitter at @rgioviano.

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