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Intensity vs. Volume

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by Coach Kelly Moates

“Be impressed by intensity, not volume.” Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, is quoted as saying as early as 2002.

When it comes to the Intensity vs. Volume debate, this is the response. There are layers to it, which we will discuss, but this is the most basic answer to the question, “What’s more important? Intensity or Volume?”.

Often, we find ourselves wondering if we should work out more than the one hour CrossFit class per day. Or more days per week than we are used to. This, to some extent, goes back to the question of what are your goals? If you want to compete in the sport of CrossFit then yes, intensity and volume are equally important. If, however, you want to be the healthiest version of yourself in your life outside the gym, intensity matters far more than volume. 

Each workout has a very specific intent – called a ‘stimulus’. CrossFit workouts are also designed to be done at 100% effort (which includes appropriate pacing).

Can we all be honest for a second? Could it be true that you are leaving some amount of fitness on the table because of your effort level? Are some of you attributing that missing fitness to a lack of volume instead of intensity? 

Kelly’s very personal (only pertaining to  myself) answer would be: YES

Effort is a choice. Our goal should be to give max effort to each one hour block we are in the box. This is how we get the results we want. Your intensity is what determines your results. Intensity is what takes people from sick to well to fit.

Now, intensity is relative to the athlete and it is our job as coaches to make each workout is intense for each individual athlete. This is where modifying (scaling) comes into play. Read the post on scaling here for more insights. 

Intensity also matters because most of us do not have the time or energy to add volume to our schedule, and we don’t need to. We need to increase our intensity; pushing our bodies and expanding our fitness through effort. You can control your intensity by making smart weight and movement substitution choices during the warmup and movement prep leading up to your workout and by giving 100% effort to each and every workout. 

Cheers to intensity, and to fitness!