Fitness is not a sport, and sport is not about fitness. The two might seem similar, but they can be very different in their approach.
Performance is all about how you can score in the arena. It’s about how well you can do under a given set of rules and circumstances.
Training to change your body is not about how well you can play, but how much you can impact the tissues and cells of your body.
Much of the time, training for performance is in direct opposition of training for physical development. Performance often requires you to be efficient and use as little energy as possible, but training for physical change usually requires the opposite.
Here’s an example:
Let’s take the push up being done between two different people, Paul and Jack.
Paul is training for a physical fitness test and he has to be able to do at least 50 push ups within 2 minutes. He is training for performance.
Jack is training to build up as much muscle and strength as possible. He doesn’t care how many he can do, rather he’s training to tell his body that it needs to be stronger with each workout.
If I were Paul, I would use the easiest style of push up possible. I would use the minimal range of motion allowed and keep as many muscles relaxed as possible. In short, I want to be as lazy as I could get away with. That way, each push up would tax the muscular system as little as possible thus maximizing the score on the judges clip board.
If I were Jack, I would take the exact opposite approach. I would use the biggest range, the most difficult tempo and strive to tax my muscles with as much tension as I could with each rep. The body only grows muscle and strength if it’s given a very good reason to and it won’t see any need to grow if it’s trying to be efficient.
Now both methods are fine, but it’s important to know exactly what you’re going after. If improving your body is your goal then you don’t want to train like Paul. If you have to pass a push up test, then Jack’s training would be the worst thing.
The important thing is to know what you want and then train accordingly. Keep in mind that if you value performance you’ll naturally alter your training to cause as little physical change as possible. The same goes for training for change. As you strive to tax your body your numbers will naturally improve at a very slow rate or even drop from time to time.
Just like all things in fitness, it’s important to know exactly what your goals are so you can train accordingly. If you are training for one goal, yet shooting for another you may not be able to hit either.