Understanding Intensity for Better Gains

We live in a society that has a culture of instant gratification, of which immediate results are desired, in fact they are expected. To this end, we are constantly running out of time, time that we want to spend training, so that we can build the new, in-shape us that we envisioned during our new year’s resolution.

Understanding Intensity for Better Gains

In this article I offer you, the holy grail of training success – intensity.

 What is intensity?

Simply put, intensity is how hard you are working in a session; it can be measured in sweat, distance traveled or load shifted. It boils down to how relatively hard you are working.

Due to our individual differences, we will flock to a certain discipline of training; some prefer the cardio burn, while others believe in lifting weights. There are as many training paradigms as there are layers to an onion. So which one do you choose?

It’s simple… you choose the form of training that excites you, that captivates your imagination, which resonates with your soul. That is the key to prolonged attendance of a training regimen, making it a lifestyle thus allowing you to reap the benefits of that program.

In our busy lives, time is very important; intensity together with time and frequency are the three things we can manipulate to bring about physical change in our bodies. Frequency (the number of times we train) and time (how long we train for) are two factors we all find difficult to manipulate with our busy schedules.

However, the term you need to become accustomed to with is Relative Intensity; what is hell for a professional athlete would kill the average Joe Public. On the flip side, hell intensity for Joe Public would not even cause a professional athlete to break a sweat. Intensity is all about getting work done in the shortest amount of time. So, relative intensity is all about you pushing your intensity for the best results.

Let me demonstrate the above point with the use of the American kettlebell swing. By swinging a 12kg kettelbell for 50 repetitions in under five minutes, you would have moved 600kg. Should you progress to a 16kg kettlebell, you would move 800kg in five minutes, or less. And if you were to swing a 20kg kettlebell, you would move a cool 1000kg (a ton!) in five minutes, or less. That is a whole bunch of work done in five minutes or less. So, there is absolutely zero excuse for saying that there is no time to train – five minutes alone, as shown here, will see you doing extraordinary things at great relative intensity.

Training with a purpose

Training must have a purpose. There is no point in going to the gym or going for a run and pushing yourself until you are completely exhausted if there is nothing to measure yourself against. A clear training goal will allow you to manage your intensity to the level that you can handle so that you can breed success in your sessions, motivating you to keep training. If you go out for a run/walk and then discover you’re running more than walking, your session has become more relatively intense due to the fact that you will cover the distance in a shorter time.

A training log book where you log in the details of all your sessions will not only keep you honest, it will also provide you with a record of how you are progressing with your training. Paging back through your book will show you how far you have come. Also check out these top ten CrossFit Apps, which are great for logging and monitoring progress in workouts – perfect for CrossFitters.


It boils down to how badly you want to cause change in your training lifestyle. You are the key. Allow yourself time to find your limits and then you are better equipped to push those limits.

Stay safe, and above all else, have fun while exploring the new you.

Is intensity something you are mindful of when training? What do you understand intensity as and how do you manage it for the best results?

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