Volume vs. Intensity (feat. Coach Brad)

  November 7, 2017

Not only am I a CrossFit coach, I am also an avid CrossFit athlete who truly believes in the theories associated with the CrossFit program and lifestyle. Even I question myself on my own training regimen and often get asked by athletes, “What else can I do, in addition to my CrossFit class, to get more work in?” The question we first need to ask ourselves is “Do I have a sense of purpose when I am training?” and “What am I trying to accomplish with CrossFit?”

Every athlete is different, therefore every athlete has a different need. We would be crazy to think that every athlete desires to go to the CrossFit Games. In all honesty, most of us are putting in the work just to be a healthier version of ourselves. Each and every one of us have different goals ranging from weight loss to achieving a competitive fitness level. From my experience, intensity will give every athlete the results they are wanting. Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing the rate of return on a favorable adaptation. As a society, we fall victim to the mind frame of “more is better.” In my opinion, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I can personally guarantee, if you show up to class with a sense of purpose and attack your workout, you will obtain the results you are looking for! Although the results might slow down at times, they will manifest with consistent training and patience.  Just like the old saying, “there is more than one way to skin a cat”, in CrossFit, there is an unlimited number of ways to become a better athlete. I’m not trying to say that higher volume can’t be utilized or shouldn’t be utilized. I am suggesting that, as an athlete, we need to understand our own limitations, weaknesses, motivations and efforts before we increase volume.

A better understanding of each and every workout we do will also help us understand our needed power output.  In certain workouts, we should be primarily pushing our anaerobic threshold while other longer workouts with lower power output requirement would need lower intensity. A perfect example would be Fran versus a 5K. Fran is a couplet of thrusters and pull-ups built for the athlete to reach their maximum anaerobic threshold, while a 5K is considerably more volume with much lower intensity. Both are important to building a CrossFit program, but you don’t regularly see a 5K or 30 minute workouts. Understanding power output will help us as athletes understand how to attack a workout; High Power Output = Higher Intensity while Lower Power Output = Lower Intensity. There’s a fine line between when to push yourself and when to pace. I believe finding and understanding this equilibrium is one of the hardest things to do. As an athlete you need to be able to look at a workout, figure out your strengths and weakness and approach it accordingly. The beautiful thing about CrossFit is, on the days you are struggling, you have a coach to assist and guide you into making the best decisions pertaining to your fitness needs.

In closing, we need to understand, what we do in our normal CrossFit class is for our lifetime fitness, not instant results. Of course we all want to get better for our own reasons but if we sacrifice intensity for volume, we are going to end up doing more harm than good. The founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, said it best “Be impressed with intensity not volume.” Show up with a sense of purpose, know your why and do the best you can to become a healthier version of yourself. At the end of the day, we have already won by making the decision to show up to class regardless how well we do. Remember, no matter what, “Sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail.”


Brad Tate

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