If we are going to talk about intensity we must include technique in the discussion. They are not the opposites like left and right or hot and cold they go hand in hand together or more accurately up and down like two kids on a seesaw. As one side goes up or increases the other side goes down or decreases. What we want is a balance of good technique and high intensity training. Finding that balance can be hard, on one side of the seesaw you could have a holistic wellness centre approach to your training, practising breathing and stretching and pursue perfect movement by keeping the weights low and never testing your fitness. The adaptation of fitness will be slow but the risk of injury will very low. On the other side of the seesaw you have hard core, no T-shirt, every day has a strength peace, sessions are 60 mins of go go go go and ripped hands are a badge of honour type of approach. The members will be extremely fit but injuries will be often. What we want is somewhere in the middle.
Technique is the movement we use to complete a task. Think of any task that has a start point and an end point. The movement that is used to reach the end point is technique. You wanna go from one side of the oval to the other as fast as you can, well you need to run, running has technique. With technique there is good and bad or efficient and inefficient technique. You wanna pick a weight up from the ground and place it on your shoulders you can use the technique of a clean and be efficient or you could round your back, use under hand grip and do some type of a deadlift bicep curl thing and be extremely inefficient.
Intensity is an individuals power out put. Intensity can easily be confused with volume and mass or the effects on the human body. Simply looking at the weight on the bar and measuring intensity by the weight does not work. Take two athletes, athlete one has a 200kg 1 Rep Max deadlift, athlete two has a 120kg 1RM. They are doing sets of 3 reps at 100kg on the bar, this is very low intensity for athlete one but extremely high intensity to athlete two. Intensity is relative to the individual ability. The second confusion is measuring intensity by the effects on the body. Like an athletes heart rate, there is many ways that a heart rate can be increased, using heart rate to measuring intensity has to many variables. Your heart rate can be increased from a cup of coffee or being told you have to work over time this weekend, this makes it a poor measuring tool of intensity. Another one of my favourites is sweat, we some one sweating and think wow they are working hard or if a workout made you sweat it must be intense. Again there is to many variables in sweat, the air temperature, humidity and individuals body type. Some people sweat a lot, some people don’t sweat much at all. This makes it another poor measuring tool for intensity. The best measuring tool we have is power out put. We measure power out put by multiplying load by distance and then dividing by time.
Physical Ability & Mental Toughness
Considering to increase our intensity of training we first establish our physical ability and our mental toughness. Some athletes will have the physical ability to do more work or work harder, but may not be ready for it mentally. Some athletes are keen as mustard and are prepared and willing for everything and anything but may not have the ability as yet. We follow the guiding principle of Mechanics, Consistency then Intensity. We learn a new movement by practicing the technique, we show consistency in our movement so we ratchet up the intensity. Intensity is our power output so to increase it, we increase the speed or we increase the load.
Maintaining the intensity in our training comes down to our programming. It would be unwise and unsafe to start CrossFit by doing a hero WOD each day and think that in 6 months time you will be fit. Most likely you are looking at sudden burnout or a long list of injuries. A good program will manage rest days, balance training across the body and allow for or all fitness levels. We use scaling to build intensity in our workouts. As an athletes ability and mental toughness increases the load and the speed increases to add intensity.