• Rob Olson

Volume VS. Intensity. Which is better?

^ The face of intensity

This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood elements of CrossFit. More is better, right? More squats, more classes, more mobility, more veggies, more protein, more more more. That will make us better athletes, right? The answer is … not always.

CrossFit is defined "Constantly Varied, Functional Movements, executed a relative High Intensity". The key portion of that statement for todays purpose, is "relative high intensity".

Did you know that the general prescription, from CrossFit, is to workout 3 days on, then take 1 day off, and repeat? This is because for most people, intensity decreases after 3 days, and you get diminished returns on your workouts. Most people opt for 5 days on, 2 days off, just because of our work week and that weekends tend to be filled with kid activities. It is a fact that workouts #4 and #5 will be less intense, and less gains producing, than workouts #1 #2 and #3. If you workout 5 days in a row, I challenge you to make workout #3 or #4 a deload day. Still come to class, but scale way down, just move and sweat, but don't challenge yourself on intensity or weight. Make it truly casual. This will then allow you to hit the next workout with more intensity.

Greg Glassman, the creator of CrossFit, famously said "Be impressed with intensity, not volume."

If a workout has a time cap, do you find yourself hitting that time cap more often than not? If so, you are missing the intensity stimulus, and thus missing out on gains. You are getting less results than the other athletes in class who do finish under the time cap. Is there a time to challenge yourself and attempt a harder/heavier scaling? Absolutely, but it should be the rare attempt, not the go-to. Going heavier and with more challenging movements slows us down, which decreases intensity, which decreases power, which decreases results. But if we never attempt the heavier or more challenging movements, we will fail to see progress there as well.

So why we do chase volume? I can think of two reasons.

First, we love working out. It releases feel-good hormones, it feels good to sweat, and its fun working out with your friends in class. It can literally become an addiction. So of course we would want to add more! I totally get this.

The second reason is that Games athletes, the professionals, do multiple workouts a day, 6 days a week. If they workout that much, it must be the best way to do it, right? The big difference here is that when they aren't working out, they are focused on recovery. They sleep 10 hours a night. Their nutrition is perfect. They spend hours a day foam rolling, doing romwod, and stretching. They are able to properly recovery from the workouts and this is what allows them to train so much. Their intensity remains high. Meanwhile, we have 9-5 work, kids, activities, etc. It is not practical for us to do their workouts because we cannot recover the way they do.

If you are reading this blog, and think you tend to go with volume instead of intensity, I challenge you to decrease your scaling level. If you typically RX, go L2. If you L2, go L1. The key here though, is you MUST INCREASE YOUR INTENSITY. If you are used to a certain weight, and you decrease it for the next workout, you will most likely go the same speed just from muscle memory. Be cognizant of this, and try to go faster! Try this for an entire month and see if you see more results. Think of it this way, you are taking 1 step backwards, to then take 3 steps forward. If you are truly in this for the long run, it will be a month well spent!

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