Intensity not Volume…….


I first wrote about the CrossFit (CF) Open back in 2016, 2 articles followed in 2017 and then another article right before the CF Open in 2018.  In 2019 I must have took a year off (I wish), as I didn’t write an article that year.  Well, now it that’s time of year again, with the Open only a day away I thought I would put pen to paper and share some thoughts….

Ever since its inception into the fitness industry, the aim of CF has always been to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness package that will better prepare us for any physical task in any given environment.  A very similar methodology that we prescribe at FSC as our ‘Daily Workout’.  

As the Open approaches it’s a good time to reflect and remind ourselves how far we have come in our own personal fitness journey and outline some points to consider for the future.  This is the time of year when the CF world stands still and all we hear is talk about the Open. It has a certain awe about it, a different feeling to Sectionals or Games Time, as it is considered the start of the main competition.  So have a blast and enjoy it, it’s a lot of fun and most of all enjoy competing with like-minded people on a global scale.  Once again, we will witness the unbelievable performances on the World stage with ’Live’ Open announcements back, we will witness Games Athletes continue to decimate the Open Workouts.  As impressive as this will be, equally impressive is watching people hit their first muscle up, possibly PB their Snatch/ Clean & Jerk or complete a repeat workout faster than they have ever done in the past…. Put simply, it’s about getting better, which is the key to everything we do in life.

I want to target to focus this year’s blog on an area I commonly see year after year and to hopefully shed some light on it…..  As the Open finishes, it is often the time where we become enthusiastically optimistic and set ourselves new goals, target our next competition or begin to devise a new strategy with the hopes of gaining quicker results.  Adding a sudden increase in volume to our training regimen to increase our returns is an all-too-common mistake!  This has been the downfall of the ‘Recreational CrossFitter’ (including my younger self) for many years. 
To quote 3 times CF Games Team Champion James Hobart: 

“It is a fool’s errand to cram multiple workouts on top of each other in hopes of finding a shortcut to fitness.”  

Believe me when I say this, I have made my fair share of mistakes over the years trying to develop programming/ methods to create a faster, results driven exercise regime and I forgot the basic principles of CF.  I think one of the most overlooked principles that is the cornerstone of the CF methodology is: 

“Focus on Intensity and not Volume”.  

It took me a long time to realise this uncomfortable truth, that there is no shortcut to results.  No amount of double day workouts would cover over the cracks for the lack of intensity within my programming, only muscle soreness and superior levels of fatigue.  
Every day since 2011 have posted their daily workout (if you are looking to be a serious competitor, I hope you’ve had eyes on this since Jan this year) which is General Physical Preparedness (GPP) programming.  We at FSC post daily workouts to our Instagram which are based around GPP programming, allowing you to still enjoy life with the aim of improving health and longevity along the way. 
Despite these exemplary, readily available resources; the ‘Recreational Crossfitters’ have opted to devise their own programming methodology with many favouring the strength bias approach.  The popularity of strength followed by metabolic conditioning (Metcon) has continued to increase, maybe because the CF Games Athletes continue to post higher and higher strength numbers so we feel the need to be stronger, or maybe because it is very easy to make people stronger in the short term.  In my opinion, being a strength coach is fairly straight forward, we all know that decreasing volume and increasing intensity across consecutive weeks respectively will get us stronger, however, what is the need, what are we training for? We at FSC tailor our ‘Bespoke Packages’ to the individual needs, also known as a needs analysis, also known as 

“Your Own Programme”.  

In the previous instance, you can fall into a false sense of success with instant strength results.  This is a very short-sighted approach which increases the risk of overtraining and injury and certainly isn’t conducive with long term sustainable athletic development.  Allow me to explain.  In a GPP Programme, increased strength is only a positive if it improves our work capacity across broad times and modal domains and is transferable to real world application.  A strength biased programme may give you a 200kg Deadlift but that is irrelevant if it is to the detriment of other attributes of your fitness, remember the methodology.  The aim of CF is to increase our work capacity across broad time and modal domains across our lifetime.

The reason GPP programming (when prescribed correctly) is so effective, is because it consists of constantly varied functional movements, executed at high intensity.  I know you have all experienced the feeling of high intensity.  I don’t need to remind you all of how you have felt in previous Open workouts and if you haven’t experienced them, then you’re all in for a right treat! The sensation of not knowing whether you are going to be sick or soil yourself is truly indicative of high intensity.  We strive to achieve high intensity in all of our endeavours as this is completely necessary to maximise our results.  We have known this since the 2002 CrossFit Journal Article, understanding CrossFit which stated: 

“Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with the rate of return of favourable adaptation to exercise”. 

Therefore, we do not require harder workouts, we need to learn to work harder in workouts.  Find what areas across the spectrum we can make the most adaptations and get after them.  Let’s not forget the methodology that got us to the levels of fitness that we are seeing today.  The truest CF workouts which come in the form of Couplets and Triplets with the odd Chipper are always the most potent and yet people try to over complicate their programming……WHY?  Why do we get so nervous before Fran or the Open Workouts, it is because we know how much they are going to suck? Is it is because we know the levels of intensity that we are about to experience are far greater than other workouts?  The rep ranges are correct, loading is on point, movements compliment one and another……the list goes on and this is an area for a completely different Blog.  Then why don’t we see these more often in peoples programming?  Top tip moving forward, take a blank piece of paper and write in the middle of the page what your number one training goal is, find yourself a good coach and effective programme to follow and enjoy the results! 

My fear is that the day you totally lose sight of this simple and effective methodology in search of a quick fix, is the same day you will find yourself paying someone else to fix your broken body.  Only to realise, that there is no magic pill to quick results, only hard work, dedication…..but more importantly, effective programming tailored to ‘Your’ needs…..your own programme.