If there's one thing, I've learned about training, it's that there are a lot of opinions out there on how to do it best.
Some people swear by high-intensity workouts, while others believe in taking things slow and steady.
So which is better, in the context of training intensity- more or less? Let's take a look at what we know thus far.
What Is Training Intensity?
When we're working out, it's important to push ourselves close to our limits in order to see results.
But what does that really mean? Well, training intensity, by definition, is the level of exertion during physical activity, and it increases the closer we get to our maximum training capabilities.
In simpler words, the heavier the weight used, the higher the intensity.
And why is that important, one may ask? Well, it is quite simple - Intensity zones define the type of stimulus we will induce upon the muscles.
Generally speaking, when we train at 65-85% of our maximum strength capabilities, we stimulate bulk muscle growth.
Once we go to 85-100%, we stimulate the development of maximum strength.
However, intensity is just one part of the puzzle.
There are 2 more variables, important for each and every workout that you do, so let’s have a brief look at those, too!
Volume & Density
Besides intensity, your workout can also be measured by its volume and its density.
Simply put, volume is the total amount of weight lifted, and is measured with this formula: weight * sets * reps = volume
For instance, 2 sets of 10 reps with 100 kg would yield 2000 kg volume (100 kg * 2 sets * 10 reps = 2000 kg)
On the other hand, density measures the volume, relative to the total time needed for completion, including rests.
Density is measured with this formula: volume : completion time = density (kg/min)
For example, if those two sets of 10 reps with 100 kg take you 4 minutes to complete, including rests, that would be a density of 500 kg/min (Because 2000 kg lifted in 4 minutes = 500 kg per minute)
Intensity, volume, and density are intertwined, in each and every workout that you do.
As intensity (weight) increases, you do fewer reps and thus, the volume decreases.
Furthermore, as intensity goes up, you also need more rest, so you’re basically doing less total volume, for more time, meaning that density decreases too.
What Matters Most?
Okay, that may sound confusing, and you’re probably asking yourself - What is actually effective in this case? Should I focus on intensity, volume, and density?
And well, the answer is… it depends.
Here’s a training cheat sheet to go by, though.
Intensity (% of 1RM) End Result Rest Between Sets
85-100% Maximum/relative strength 4-8 minutes
65-85% Bulk growth, strength endurance Up to 3 minutes
40-65% Strength endurance Up to 2-3 minutes
0-40% Mainly cardio endurance Can go a long time with no rest
Generally speaking, if you are training at the high levels of intensity (65-100%), you should start with 5 sets per muscle group, per week, as a beginner, and then work your way up to 10-15 and more working (heavy) sets.
Pick the range that most reflects your goals and focus on that!
And so, what’s the verdict? Is more intensity better?
Again - it depends! If your goal is to build maximum strength, sure. Then your best bet is to focus on the 90-100% intensity range and occasionally dip into the lower intensity ranges, to work on higher reps.
Oppositely, if your goal is bulk muscle growth, you should adopt the 65-85% range and do more repetitions, while occasionally going to the 85-100% rep range to work on that maximum strength.
Finally, if you’re not really into intense training and don’t care about strength and visual development, focus on the really low-intensity ranges and work on your endurance!
What’s your favorite intensity range? Comment below!