Intensity is the latest word surrounding almost all things fitness. CrossFit’s definition of it’s training regimen is “Constantly varied, functional movements performed at a high INTENSITY”. HIIT stands for “High INTENSITY Interval Training”. Hop on to Instagram and search for fitness related topics and you’ll find any number of terms or sayings that relate to intensity “Beast Mode”, “Rise and Grind”, “All Day Every Day”, “Eight Days a Week” (makes sense) etc.
We all have an idea of what intensity is, but knowing when to apply it and how at what level can help take your training, and thus your results, to a new level. Below are a few things to think of for your upcoming workouts!
Intensity is Relative
Depending on the person and their fitness level, intensity can vary widely. If you think of someone who just joined the gym with no prior fitness experience, just doing a 500m row may very well be intense for them. On the other end of the spectrum, you could take one of our more experienced Bootcamp members and they can row four separate 500m intervals with work in between and be ready to do more work afterwards.
Intensity can mean different things to different people, but ultimately it means you are working HARD. Our hypothetical newbie feeling like death on a 500m row may not technically be doing as much work, they have definitely hit a similar intensity as our experienced Bootcamper.
How Intense Should Your Workout Be?
This is a tough question to answer as it has a number of different answers, all of which are correct. Which means we have to give the fantastic non-answer of “it depends” (we’ll be running for political office soon).
Let’s break this down a bit. Your level of intensity for certain workouts is going to change depending on what you are good at, what your goals are, and how long of a workout you are doing. For example, if you are doing a 20-minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) that has all body weight exercises in it and you are a heavier athlete, we know that this is going to be more of a struggle for you. So from the get go you would need to keep the intensity lower, otherwise you’re going to blow up fast and not perform well in the workout.
Now, we’ll take that same athlete and change the workout. This time we’ll take a 5 minute, all weightlifting workout. Typically, heavier athletes move the barbell with more ease, so on this one you’d kick the intensity up a notch (or five) especially seeing as it’s a shorter workout and endurance isn’t going to come in to play as much.
Lastly, if you are this heavier athlete and your goals are more headed toward weight loss, we might change up the workout for you. Lowering the weight on the five-minute workout will help you get more repetitions in, and will aid in losing weight loss as opposed to purely gaining strength. The 20-minute workout would be a perfect workout for your goals, so we’d leave that one alone.
How Often Should I Go “All-Out”?
Unfortunately, a lot of people misunderstand intensity. They believe that they have to be going ALL-OUT, ALL THE TIME, and it’s just not true. The “high intensity” in both HIIT and CrossFit doesn’t say “100% intensity” or “maximum intensity”. If you go all out, all the time you will see results for about a month, then you will be either injured or unable to recover. Then results stop and frustration ensues.
An All-Out, hold nothing back effort should be reserved for certain occasions. In CrossFit, we want to give it all we got in our Benchmark or Hero WODs (the named ones), or when the weightlifting portion of class says “Max” in it, such as Deadlift 3 Rep Max. We track the results in these workouts and lifts so when we repeat them we know how much we’ve improved. In our HIIT and Bootcamp classes, it is similar. If the workout calls for a maximum effort, it’s time to drop the hammer, step on the gas, go balls to the wall, whatever saying gets you going!
Other than the Benchmark/Hero workouts in CrossFit, and the max lifts in our classes all-out efforts should be reserved for competition. Then giving yourself enough rest/recovery time afterward to be prepared for training is vital!