Intensity VS Volume

Written by: Seth Fifer

I have recently had the conversation with many people about adding in more workouts vs increasing the intensity of your workouts, and which one will get more results! There becomes a point in time where I have seen people wanting more results and start to wonder if they should add in an extra session or do another workout because, more work= more results…. right?! Quick answer, NO…. More exercise does not always equal more results!!

First, let’s go over what I mean by “volume” and “intensity”. Volume just means adding in more. This could be extra programming, another workout, or simply just doing more exercise for the sake of doing more. Intensity is doing the workout harder, faster, or heavier. Intensity is equal to power. Power is: Weight x Distance divided by time (the heavier it is, the farther you move it, the faster you do it, the more powerful you are). 

The Founder of CrossFit stated, “Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with the rate of return on favorable adaptation.” Simply put, intensity brings about all the good results from working out. Increasing intensity appropriately during WODs will yield better results than adding in more exercise or sessions, but doing the multiple sessions with a lower intensity. You will be better off hitting 1 workout hard, then hitting 2 or 3 workouts easy. Take this example: Person A walks 2 miles at a leisure pace. Person B does a max effort 1 mile run as fast as possible. While Person A did more volume (went farther), Person B had much higher intensity and will have much more adaptations from the workout!

With this talk of higher intensity it is important to remember a few things:

  1. Mechanics and consistency come BEFORE intensity
  2. Intensity is relative to each person based on their physical AND psychological tolerance, and can improve over time.
  3. Not EVERY day needs to be max, or even high, intensity. 

It is also important to note that doing more volume is not inherently bad! Extra work is beneficial with things like specific goals, working towards skills, building specific muscle groups, etc.  

To sum it up, before you add in MORE exercise, add in more intensity and focus into what you are already doing!