There Is A Difference Between Fitness and Performance

Does practice make perfect? There is a difference between fitness and performance. I could copy-paste that sentence 300 hundred times and I still don’t think people would understand the truth of it. I get that not everyone has a deep understanding of how the human body performs under stress, and how being “in shape” is not the same as being better at a sport. There are MILLIONS of spin instructors, personal trainers, Zumba dancers, boot camp leaders, crossfit coaches and exercise baby sitters who claim to be sports performance specialist – as if being in shape means that you understand the complexity of muscle fiber typing and bioenergetics – and they can make a healthy dollar off of aspiring athletes. After all, as a society we find that fitness and athleticism are synonymous. That’s not true, but that’s just how we see it. I’ve lost clients to friends of friends of who used to teach some kind of aerobics class. I’ve seen kids learn complicated “functional” movements at the expense of time spent improving. I get shown videos of athletes performing complicated ladder exercises and weight lifting movements that sacrifice sports transfer for Instagram “double taps.”

If there is one thing that my professors wanted me to know in college it’s that if the research doesn’t support it don’t do it. I’m not as black and white as that, but I would agree that if the research shows it’s not as great as people thought you shouldn’t do it. As a coach I have to remember not to chastise my peers but to investigate their methods before casting a verdict. Innocent before guilty. Sadly, I’m competing with people I don’t consider peers. In most cases they are specialists in their own areas trying to (perhaps without knowing they're in the wrong) make a quick buck in my area of expertise.

Let’s say that you have this car that you want to ‘muscle’ up. Do you take your car to the guy who changes your oil for 20 bucks or do you take it to a shop who specializes in improving horsepower in cars? Changing the oil keeps your car running smooth and healthy, but it won’t boost your horsepower. You need a professional. The same concept applies to sports performance. Every athlete needs conditioning (that’s were a spin instructor would come in), but when the goal is increased horsepower, I mean performance, you take them to a sports performance center.

Being in shape simply implies increased work capacity (the ability to do more work such as sets or reps overall). Having improved performance is being faster, stronger, quicker reacting, and more powerful during sports play. That’s when you need to ask the coach/trainer what it is they’re doing. You may not know this, but by performing certain exercises an athlete can actually become less explosive, slower, unable to react the way they used too. There are reasons why this can happen. The nerves can adapt to perform submaximal explosions and therefore don’t produce as much power as they used too. There are other reasons, but we don’t need to dig into them. The point is that if an athlete trains just for fitness they can become less athletic. If you can’t tell whether a coach/trainer/physiologist is worth the cost of their sessions Look at their resume. How many successful athletes have they trained, any state titles or championships, what is their education, do they have a blog/website. If you expect someone to invest in your athletes/kids/family members then you should invest time into finding them a professional.

Experience doesn’t make someone an expert either. Don’t get me wrong, you cannot teach experience, but if someone has been doing it wrong for years their experience is mute. You wouldn’t want a doctor who stopped learning medicine 20 years ago would you? Of course not, you want someone who is still learning and improving their craft. The same should go with a sports performance specialist. They should be challenging themselves and learning. Likewise, Doctors know WHY they prescribe particular medicines with certain dosages. A coach should know WHY they perform certain exercises with certain reps, sets, and intensities. Too often are young athletes put through the mill of a workout with no direct purpose.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

Don’t think of a sports specialist as a skeezy car salesman in his suit trying to charge you as much as he can for a truck. Think of us as doctors trying to help the human body adapt to becoming better than it was before. After all, I am technically a physiologist. Exercise physiologist. 


  1. great article.

    and +1 for Sam and Dean.

  2. Dude...I absolutely love Supernatural. I'm completely caught up on Netflix and waiting for October when the new season will be available!


About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.