The main variables that makeup training programs are intensity and volume, and there’s an inverse relationship between the two. Understanding how to properly manipulate intensity and volume will help your workouts and allow you to design an effective and efficient training program.
Here’s one of the best fitness tips you’ll ever get; intensity is not a subjective judgment that deals with the difficulty of a workout. In other words, a 2-hour weight lifting workout, a 45-minute spinning class, or machine-based cardiovascular workout isn’t intense in the technical sense of the word.
These are examples of high-volume workouts that by definition cannot also be high-intensity. I’ll repeat it; “intense” doesn’t mean “hard.” A true high-intensity workout – including warm-ups – consists of a maximum of 8-12 sets, of five repetitions, of ground-based exercises. During these sets, you must use weights that result in you being able to do no more than 5 reps in a set and no more than 3 work (non-warm up) sets for each exercise. Here’s another fitness tip for you; a great high-intensity strength workout needs only to incorporate the squat, military press, and weighted pull-ups performed according to the above guidelines.
The volume of this workout – total number of sets and repetitions – is very low, as the 12 sets would result in 60 repetitions. If you were to take about 10 minutes and warm up with some dynamic flexibility work and calisthenics and rest no more than two-and-a-half minutes between sets, you should complete this entire workout in no more than 45-minutes. Since the volume of this workout is very low, the intensity MUST be very high in order for it to be effective. The 2 keys to get the most out of this kind of workout are 1) use proper form and 2) use the appropriate amount of weight for each set. For this work out to be effective, you shouldn’t be able to do any more than 5 repetitions in any set and shouldn’t be able to do any more than 3 work (non-warm up) sets. Adding any more volume – reps and/or sets – to this workout, by rule lowers intensity and diminishes its effectiveness.
Trained individuals – people who have experience exercising – training with true intensity will benefit from all the wonderful things that exercise can provide, in both weight training and cardiovascular training. A high-volume program is fine, but cannot deliver the goods the way a high-intensity program can. And from my experience, I can tell you that there is no barrier that should keep anybody out there from training with high-intensity.
You have to make the effort to get good enough to perform the best exercises properly, and also be willing to push yourself to perform these exercises with the appropriate amount of weight. No excuses, no substitutes. And while all beginners need to take the time to develop a training base and develop good exercise habits and proper form, people of all ages and ability levels should strive to train with high-intensity.
Check back regularly for more fitness tips that will help you to understand the proper way to construct an efficient and effective training program.