Intensity vs simply finishing a workout. When it comes to Intensity, it can come in many forms, 12 different ones to be exact, more on that later…
Let’s take for example: Grace. 30 Clean and Jerks for time. Sounds simple right? The prescribed Rx weight for Grace is 95 lbs for gals, 135 lbs for guys. Now before we get ahead of ourselves, know that CrossFit Games athletes finish Grace in less than 2 minutes with those weights.
Looking at the prescribed weights, what I would recommend for anyone doing Grace is to pick a weight that they can at least complete 10-15 reps without stopping. In most cases, guys won’t be picking 135 and gals won’t be picking 95. Another recommendation I’d suggest is to pick a weight that will allow you to finish all 30 reps in less than 5 minutes or simply put a 5 min cap / target for everyone to work towards.
By giving a target or cap should be very helpful in terms of matching up the intensity I’d like everyone to feel. I think that’s where a lot of coaches and athletes mess up.
By messing up, they miss out on the intensity.
Intensity is being comfortable with being uncomfortable. That discomfort – doing 5 more reps when all you want to do is stop is how you become fitter.
Perhaps you’ve been there. Perhaps you haven’t. It’s a very dark place… Perhaps you need to go there more with a variety of different combinations. This could be the difference in the results you want versus the results your currently getting. This applies to any goal that includes strength, conditioning, fat loss, etc.
Think about your daily workouts / conditioning pieces, if you finish a workout where many others are laying on the floor squirming around while you still feel “ok”… you may have under estimated what you’re capable of or talked yourself out of a more challenging workout and chose an easier path. Both are very common.
As a coach, you quickly learn to be impressed by intensity with great technique, not volume that often leads to crappy technique. This was a famous quote by CEO / CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman back in 2002. Crudely translated, it means this: Do more work in less time – not more work in more time. Explained via a benchmark scenario, if you took 10 minutes to do Grace with the Rx weights and afterwards felt like doing “more work” because “10 minutes wasn’t enough,” you did not perform Grace with intensity. If you had, you wouldn’t want to do anything else but get up. Likewise, you did not reap the true benefits that intensity delivers.
Here is a secret for you…
The LONGER the workout, the shorter time you need to “warm up”… The SHORTER the workout, the longer your warm up time should be.
We tend to ignore warming up as if it’s a waste of time when that is not the case. For those wanting to reduce body fat, it’s a perfect opportunity to burn up an extra 200-500 calories by simply moving around a little bit and getting your heart rate up… A good warm up will improve your performance, a poor warm up will not.
Track athletes / Sprinters will take 30+ minutes to warm up for a 40 yard dash that takes less than 5 sec. Read that again…
So when you see a 12 min AMRAP on the board with nothing else, you should warm up for 15-20 minutes instead of a quick stretch, hurry to start a 12 min AMRAP and feel like that wasn’t enough for you when finished. Instead, stretch, move around, workout all your kinks first, then eventually practice all the movements that are included in the workout itself. Go through the transitions, figure out a good pace for you, what you’re going to scale, try to do unbroken, etc. Learn to prepare better so you can actually do AS MANY REPS AS POSSIBLE.
This more work scenario eventually becomes the thing to do at most gyms and CrossFit facilities. There’s a crazy thought process going on that believes more volume equals better, and I see that leak into our regular classes where everybody wants extra work to do but not with intensity…
We see different people doing different workouts on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. and we “think” they look fun, hard, challenging, etc… These could be workouts that “Games athletes” are doing… But we fail to recognize that they maintain intensity throughout all the additional workouts they’re doing even though they make it look very easy, don’t be fooled by that.
Now with progressions and proven work capacity along with perfect meal planning, perfect warm up, perfect recovery, perfect sleep, they need extra volume in order to push their work capacity to uncomfortable limits and improve their fitness even more… and they have all the measurables and the resiliency to do them safely.
Note: They’re not doing extra work because they spent $20 at Taco Bell the night before.
If we did our very best (for that particular day), then be proud of yourself. There is usually no need to punish yourself with more work just because… Now, if whatever you want to do happens to be something that is going to improve your fitness, rock on, I’ll never be insulted by anyone wanting to do skill work or practice something their not that good at yet, even after a tough workout… But to simply do a bunch or “whatever” with no real benefit other than more work seems silly to me. If there isn’t any intensity or uncomfortable challenge involved, it’s probably not worth doing unless you’re trying to beat “your previous younger self…”
Keep better, more accurate data on yourself so when that day comes when you feel the need to “do more”, scroll back through your notes and pick a previous workout you’ve done and try to beat your time, reps, etc.
I like that much better…
The fact is, we/you simply can’t keep grinding week after week with heavy lifting, long AMRAP’s, hard movements you haven’t mastered yet AND expect to keep seeing improvements.
It’s up to you to make “things” hard but not at the expense of poor movement which usually always leads to un-necessary bumps and bruises.
The programming we regularly provide includes lighter, de-loading weeks that allows for more practice, better recovery along with time to learn new skills.
The Takeaway: Intensity trumps Volume.
With intensity, you will increase your work capacity across broad times and modal domains, hence become fitter / more fit.