Training with Intensity

I think the first thing to ask is, what is intensity? 

Defined as the average power created by force multiplied by distance and divided by time, it’s basically how much work you put in and how quickly you do it. The greater the average power output, then the greater the intensity. Thus, intensity and average power are the variable most commonly associated with maximising sought after results. 

Whatever we want from exercise, or life from like for that matter will come to us more quickly with greater intensity. It’s important to understand that this means your results aren’t always achieved through the volume of training, duration, heart rate or even spending time in discomfort. Simply, do more work in less time and you’ll get your results faster. Pretty simple, right?

Now that we know what the definition of intensity is, how do we add more of it to our training? Remember, to be training with intensity, we need to be doing more work in a short amount of time, aka faster!

To help explain this a little better, let's imagine that you will be doing the workout “Jackie”. 

For time, you must complete:

1000m row

50 thrusters 

30 pull ups 

To ensure that we have a target and can push people to work with intensity, there is a 12 minute time cap and your aim is not to work until the time cap, but to finish the workout within it. For example, let's say your 1000m row PB is 3:30 minutes, you can do 15 kipping pull ups unbroken and you know that you can do the 50 thrusters in 2 sets when completed on its own. 

You decide at the start of the workout, you are going to go all out on the row and manage to finish it in an impressive 3:35 minutes. The downside? Because you have gone all out you need 20 seconds to rest before you begin working through the thrusters. Your heart rate is through the roof and legs are fried. You start with 20 thrusters but then need to drop down to sets of 10 with 15 second breaks between.  You take 30 seconds to chalk up in hopes that nobody noticed while you try to catch your breath before you do your first set of pull ups. You manage 5 in the first set but very quickly reduce that to sets of 3. Once you finish the pull ups you look at the clock as you collapse to the floor. You’ve finished and been working for 10:30 minutes, :90s to spare before the time cap. But, could you actually have gotten a better score?

Lets see. Using the same workout and same individual, but a different game plan. This time however, bring your intensity on the rower down slightly and complete the row in 3:50 minutes, enabling you to immediately pick up the bar and complete 20 steady thrusters. You now put the bar down and only rest for 3-5 seconds. You then complete another 15 thrusters before breaking once more for 3 seconds and then finish the remaining thrusters. You look at the clock and see that it's taken you roughly 6 minutes to complete the row and thrusters. You quickly chalk up and head to the pull up bar and complete 10 pull ups; again, sticking with your game plan to break for 5 seconds and then complete another set of 10 pull ups. After another 5 second break you complete the final 10 pull ups and smash the workout in 7:20 minutes. That means you’ve beaten your previous score by more than 3 minutes! You’ve gotten the work done in less time while working at a higher, yet smarter, overall intensity. Thus, same amount of work but done in less time = greater intensity.

So, does it really matter if you completed the same workout with the same reps faster? It certainly does. If you want to increase muscle mass, decrease body fat, become more conditioned to take on difficult workouts, and become mentally resilient up your intensity. Remember, this means you will need to break down your workouts ahead of time, realising you can’t just simply go through the motions until the time cap is called or go as hard as you can at the start until fatigue sets in. To grow you need to push and learn, your limits.

And learning your limits means understanding the appropriate level of intensity in relation to your physical psychological tolerances. Simply put, the intensity at which you should work is always and only relative to you, not the person next to you or someone you might be competing against. As long as you are working near the limits of what you are capable of, then you will experience the same increased benefits from the workout this rule applies to everyone; from the beginner to the seasoned athlete. Whether they are an elite athlete or simply trying to be better at life.

As a member of InnerFight, you’re no stranger to the phrase,  “learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” Think about that the next time you feel like giving up or want to stop. Keep pushing and hold on.

Think about it, what's more impressive? Someone completing 50 calories on the assault bike in 60 seconds or someone completing 500 calories in 60 minutes. If you have spent any time on the assault bike, you know the answer is 50 calories in 60 seconds. The intensity you have to be working at to complete that is pretty awesome. So be impressed by intensity and not volume. Do more work in less time. Not more work in more time. 

Give 100% to every workout and you won’t need to add huge amounts of volume to your training to get results. Sure, we see some of the best athletes in the world do huge amounts of volume and back-to-back workouts, but they have far more superior conditioning and can therefore do more because they can maintain that intensity. They have earned that! Intensity is relative to each individual, keep that in mind when setting targets in workouts.

Be confident in where you are at, and where you are going if you put the work in...Oh, and don’t forget to have some fun along the way! 


By; Andy McTaggart, Performance Coach