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INTENSITY! What level should you be training at?
January 27, 2015

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Training intensity, what level should you be training at? This is a quick message to tell you about one of the most important fitness principles and how to apply it. Training Intensity.

What is training intensity?

Intensity is a percentage of your maximum effort for a given task. If you are lifting weights, then intensity is determined by getting a percentage of the amount of weight you can lift for just one maximum repetition. For instance, your max squat might be 200kg. 80% Intensity means you are lifting 160kg. This is used in order to determine an appropriate intensity based on the number of reps you are aiming for. The same applies to everything. If you are running intervals of 600m, then you will likely operate at a moderate to high intensity, possibly around 90%.

PLEASE NOTE: Intensity is NOT a measure of how difficult something is or how exhausted or fatigued you are after the training session. What does it matter? It matters because results and training intensity should have a universally applicable measuring system.

ALSO NOTE: Intensity does not have to be measured precisely. In most instances an educated estimate of intensity is sufficient.

So what intensity should you be training at? That all depends on your goal. There is no ideal training intensity, it is outcome-specific. Intensity is the one primary variable that will determine the actual outcomes and adaptations that result from consistent training.

Intensity is almost purely an energy system principle. Intensity should somewhat match the task one is training for. If your goal is long distance endurance then intensity, for the most part, should be applied within a sustainable range that pertains to the task of running long distance. If the goal is maximal strength then strength training should reside largely in the high intensity, low rep range.

This is all very simple stuff, but many people fail to recognise the importance of intensity when they train. This leads to results that do not quite match the desired outcome.

In order to calculate intensity you can use the following steps...

1. Define the goal/outcome. What are you trying to do? This is important. If you're a sprinter then it's far different outcome than a marathon runner.

2. Determine the average duration of activity and how many times it may have to be repeated. A long jumper will calculate the time it takes to perform the approach and then jump into the pit. A boxer might need to calculate several layers, with 3 minutes per round, which are further broken down into shorter bursts of activity within the round.

3. Determine the level of difficulty of the activity. If you had to, how long could you continue doing the same activity at the same rate or pace?

4. Define any mechanical characteristics. Mechanics refers to movement. What movements are required in the task at hand?

5. Lastly, use the time and effort characteristics to determine an appropriate training intensity. If the duration is approximately 60 minutes, the effort level moderate and you can sustain the same rate of exertion for the entire duration then intensity is low to moderate. If the outcome is short and explosive such as with weightlifters, then training intensity is high because duration is low and repeat efforts at the same level cannot be performed. Sometimes the activities are varied and require multiple layers of conditioning.

PLEASE NOTE: Even if the outcome clearly uses a given intensity, it doesn't mean that training should be restricted to this intensity. It just means that a large amount of training focus should pertain to the identified intensity.

Although this is a simple concept, it is important to pay attention to and apply it. Determine the energy systems used within your activity of choice. Aim to match these energy system demands as closely as possible for at least 80% of your training. A 200m sprint race might last on average 23 seconds. Therefore, a lot of training effort should match that duration and the appropriate intensity. This even pertains to activities outside of the main one, such as strength training, with sets aiming to be 20-30 seconds long.

Take the guesswork out of your training and let a coach guide you through it step by step until you reach specific goals and milestones. EVOLVE runs a sophisticated and effective sprint coaching service for athletes and individuals of all ages.

The EVOLVE program is operated in two ways:

1. Face to face coaching in Merrylands, Parramatta and Sydney CBD, either one on one or in a squad/group environment.

2. Customized online sprint training programs. Face to face sprint coaching in Sydney - click here. Customized onlione sprint training programs - click here.

Unleash your physical potential,

Chris Lyons Click here to send us an email.

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