Understanding Intensity and Volume – They are not the same.

 The development of General Physical Preparedness (GPP) is at the cornerstone of the CrossFit (CF) Programming with the ultimate aim of improving people’s work capacity across broad time on modal domains.  Yet, as we approach Open Season I continue to see, year after year a spike in people’s volume levels, incorporating various other training methods in the search for a fast track to results programme.  I’m here to tell to you, that this approach is flawed.  I’ve seen people turning up to classes and when they see the workout Fran, Cindy, Amanda, Elizabeth (classic benchmark workouts) that they consider the volume insufficient for their needs.  I’ve heard on multiple occasions “I know that’s not enough work for me” – “that’s low volume, low co-ordination of movement” and assume inadequacy.  They can then be seen after the class performing additional workouts HOPING they rectify the holes in their fitness capacity, all the while……adding additional volume at a rate the body is not yet accustomed to. 

 “Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximising favourable adaptation to exercise,” – Coach Greg Glassman.

 Let’s take it a step and consider the methodology that get all these people so fit in the first place.  The vast majority of your training time regardless of your aim should be spent in GPP, embodied in simple couplets and triplets, strength training and the occasional long duration effort.  In a nutshell – short, hard and intense.  If you’re reading this article and have got this far, consider the times when you have opted for a steady state EMOM or a longer duration effort against the Workout of the Day – Jackie.  Why is that?  It’s because it’s measurable – hard and intense.  As Greg Glassman so eloquently put it “be impressed by intensity and not volume”, which crudely translates to – Do more work in less time.  So, intensity matters, it’s more important than volume, remarkably more important.  For the beginner/ intermediate this means no 2-a days and certainly no 4-a days.  No flash in the pan volume accumulation.

 Volume accumulation, the method by which athletes are able to endure ever more reps within any given time period, is not the product of a week of training or in this case 30 days before the start of the CF Open.  It is a product of a lifetime of training, years upon years of constant focus.  Whether you’re a competitor or a leisurely trainer, you must treat intensity and volume accumulation like two separate identities, each with a different trajectory.  Intensity is created in the movement, embodied through intelligent programming that allows for maximum output.  Volume is accumulated over months and years, an extraordinary gradual layering of intense workout upon intense workout.  Don’t confuse the two.  If intensity and volume accumulation are confused, the result is generally SETBACK, injury, deficiency in movements, short term success at long term loss.  I’ve seen it more often than I should have over the years.  The rapid preparation for a looming contest consisting of a sudden massive increase in volume, imposing huge loads on unprepared physiology.

 Here me now……if you’re an aspiring competitor without years of volume accumulation through high school, college or university, without significant time under a skilled veteran CF Coach and you pursue volume with aplomb, you’re going to crush yourself.  Set yourself realistic goals alongside smart time scales.  Give yourself adequate time to develop a base level GPP, to identify and remedy your movement deficiencies at their root level, to acquire new skills……to accumulate volume in a sensible way.  Go to the gym, get after it and go home.  Be consistent in your training but never overzealous in frequency.  Never confuse simplicity with inadequacy.  Never confuse Volume with Intensity.

Success is a lifetime pursuit – treat it that way!

 Karl Thorpe

CF Choice Co-Owner