I’ve heard it said before that the English language is the hardest to learn. Three words can sound the same but have different spelling and meaning, for example, two, too, and to. One word can hold a variety of meanings depending on the context in which it is used. One such word, intensity, can mean a variety things given the context that it is encountered in i.e. a person’s characteristics, the level of spiciness of a particular dish at a restaurant, or the degree of difficulty of a downhill mountain biking path. The importance of understanding intensity as it relates to exercise is that it is one of the determining factors which drive adaptation.
In terms of exercising, intensity may be defined in a variety of ways. Some may say it’s the degree of difficulty or how hard an individual should be working out, other’s would declare that it is the amount of work that is capable of being done over a period of time (power). Regardless of which school of thought you subscribe to one thing holds true and that is that intensity is something that is relative to each and every single one of us.
Why is intensity important?
Simply put, intensity drives adaptations. Since zero percent of us are enrolled in this pursuit to stay the same we need to understand that we must apply a certain level of stimulus in order to drive further adaptation. This is often done through regulating intensity. This regulation of intensity can be guided through both objective means- utilizing a percentage of a 1 rep max on a back squat, or subjectively by using the rate of perceived exertion method to rank our perceived effort while performing a set of squats on a scale of 1-10.
There’s a sweet spot that exists from a day-to-day perspective for each and every single athlete. Finding that sweet spot is a lot like a high wire act- walking as close to the edge of your capacity as you possibly can in order to find that ideal intensity for the day. The closer that you end up walking that line of your own relative intensity the more that you will be able to yield from each training session.
The sweet spot is where you’ll capture what you’re after. Too much intensity and you might wind up overreaching, burnt out, or even injuring yourself. Too little intensity and you will find that you’re not making any sort of progress.
So how do we find that sweet spot?
This is where the ‘intent’ piece of inten(t)sity came in the title today. Finding that ‘sweet spot’ comes with a great deal of awareness about our own capabilities and state of, what I will call, readiness for the day. Acquiring this sort of awareness requires a high level of attention from each individual- we must actively participate in the practice of acknowledging our level of skill, strength, and general overall feeling of our bodies. Said another way, it’s not just about coming into the gym, smashing the weights and leaving. There’s a cognitive portion- the awareness- that we can focus on developing while we are training too.
If you slept for 3 hours, feel like you got hit by a truck, and have drank and entire plunger of coffee to get yourself out the door for an early morning session chances are that today might not be the best day for you to attempt to perform that programmed pr on your back squat. Whereas if you got your 8 hours of sleep in, you’re feeling pretty good about how you’re moving, and you’re ready to get after it then by all means if that PR is programmed in there then you should get after it.
The key then, is to pay attention. The clearer our understanding is of our own capacity to perform, the better we can become at finding that sweet spot and pushing ourselves to the edge of it. If you aren’t actively participating in this sort of practice, I would suggest that you do.
A. Back Squat- 4 x 5 @ 8 RPE @ 4,2,1,1
B. Good Morning : 4 x 7 @ 4,1,1,1
C1. Alternating Lunge: 4 x 7/leg @ 8 rpe
C2. Palof Press: 4 x 7/side @ 8 rpe
D) 10 Minute Ascending Ladder (1,2,3,4…) reps of:
I) Dumbbell Deadlift
II) Dumbbell Power clean
III) Dumbbell Front Squat
IV) Dumbbell Push Press
A1) Split Jerk: 4×5 @ 8 Rpe @ 1,3,X,1
A2) Pull-Up: 4×5 @ 8 Rpe @ 1,3,1,1
B1) Decline Dumbbell Press: 3 x 7 @ 8 RPE @ 4,1,1,1
B2) Ring Row: 3 x 7 @ 8 RPE @ 1,4,1,1
C) 5 Rounds 4 Quality:
I) 3 Turkish Get-Ups/side
II) 50m Farmers Carry
III) 50m Waiters Walk
IV) 60s Hollow Hold
A) Sumo Deadlift (2″ Block Pull): 4 x 5 @ 8 Rpe @ 1,1,1,1
B1) Split Squat (Dumbbells)- 4 x 7/side @ 8 Rpe @ 3,2,1,1
B2) Suitcase Deadlift (Dumbbells): 4 x 7/side @ 8 RPE @ 3,1,1,1
B3)Side Plank- 4 x 30s/side
I) 30s Kettle Bell Swings
II) 30s Burpees
III) 30s Max effort sprint on: Assault bike, Rower, Or Actual Sprint
Rest 3 minutes & Repeat for 2 more rounds