We’ve previously discussed the importance of intensity but we haven’t really hammered down the details as to why. We have discussed CrossFit’s definition of fitness which is: increase in work capacity across broad times and modal domains. There’s a lot there but all that means is how much work can you do, in any amount of time, in any physical domain. In other words, if you want to see if you’re getting fitter, pick a physical task, perform it to the best of your ability, and then try doing it again and see if you improved. This would be an increase in your fitness. Now, back to intensity. Intensity is a really common buzzword in the fitness community that people throw around with no real meaning behind it. Everyone has a relative idea of it and they’re on the right track but they don’t really have anything to provide some concrete context to it. CrossFit does.
CrossFit has defined intensity as being exactly equal to power. What is power? Again, we’re looking at human beings the same way you would look at a car that is judged by its’ horsepower.
Power = (Force x Distance)/Time
Therefore, intensity is how much power did you produce? Let’s suppose we took a 180lb athlete who is 6ft tall and say he deadlifted 400lbs and it took him 6 seconds. What would his power output be?
Work (athlete) = 180lb x 2ft = 360 ft.lb
Work (barbell) = 400lb x 3ft = 1200 ft. lb
Total Work = 1560 ft. lb
Reps = 1
Time = 6 seconds
Power = 1560ft. lb/ 6 seconds = 260 ft.lb/second
You could do this for any number of workouts. Lots of math is involved so I won’t bore you with that but the point is the greater the intensity the greater the power output. But, again why is intensity so important? Well, any great thing is done with intensity. It is the variable most commonly associated with maximizing the rate of return on your efforts. If you want to get good at ANYTHING, you have to raise the intensity. If a piano player plays a composition in which they make ZERO mistakes, they will never improve as a piano player. They must try to perform a new composition in which they make some mistakes. A good place to be is about 80/20. They should perform about 80% of it well and the remaining 20% should be flawed. The same rings true in our workouts. If you perform a workout, it should leave you rolling on the floor completely gassed. If you perform a workout and you’re standing up talking normally like you just took a nice stroll in the park then we didn’t get anything done and we might as well have done that. Intensity is making mistakes but only so much that you’re able to move really fast. Intensity sucks but it’s where the money is; if we just want to do a bunch of things and be in the gym for over an hour then we might as well go back to the old globo gym days because that’s essentially what we’re doing. We might be doing it with different movements but if I leave the gym without having collapsed to the floor writhing in discomfort then what did I do?