The importance of intensity in exercise

fitness Nov 11, 2023
The importance of intensity in exercise

When it comes to exercise, there are three important factors that determine how efficiently you put on muscle: frequency, volume, and intensity. Of these three, intensity is the most important. That's what we'll be talking about today.

The points we'll be covering are the following:

  • Why you should focus on intensity
  • What happens with insufficient intensity
  • Balancing intensity with the other factors so you don't push too hard

The importance of focusing on intensity

Think back to the things you can remember vividly. Perhaps it was a good time, perhaps it was a bad time. Regardless of which it was, there's a very high likelihood that it was an emotionally intense experience. The emotional intensity convinced your brain that the memory was worth keeping around, so it went to storage.

When it comes to exercise, the intensity of your exercise is what tells your body whether or not you actually need more muscle. This is why you need to lift progressively heavier.

With enough intensity, your body becomes convinced that you actually do need more muscle, so it builds more with the resources required. And if you don't have enough resources, then your body hits you with cravings.

One big reason to focus more on intensity that has less to do with muscle is knowing whether you're doing the exercise properly or not.

If you're not doing it right and you have a lot of intensity, then you'll feel it where you shouldn't. This will tell you to adjust a lot faster than any of the alternatives.

If you are doing it right, then the tension will go to the muscles that contribute to the lift. Not only will this give your body more stimulus to build muscle, but it also helps to build strength through a mind-muscle connection.

Insufficient intensity leads to frustration

Have you ever met somebody who struggled with getting stuck? As somebody who's gone through a couple of plateaus myself, it's pretty frustrating. When you don't have enough intensity in your workouts, you hit more plateaus, and your motivation stalls.

The importance of intensity in exercise has to do with whether or not you keep making progress. If you ever meet somebody who can't make progress or is progressing slowly, chances are they're not working out hard enough.

To make consistent progress, you need to have enough intensity. Otherwise, you hit a plateau, and staying consistent becomes difficult.

I remember my first plateau. It took a whole month for me to get any progress and I considered throwing in the towel until I saw my progress.

Yes, motivation is quite flimsy, but it can be very effective if you know how to use it. Most people who quit working out simply don't know how to utilize motivation properly and don't know that they aren't pushing hard enough.

By having enough intensity in your exercise, you cover both of these by having more consistent progress that is noticeable when you look in the mirror.

The importance of balance in the factors of muscle growth

In the wise words of Thanos, "Perfectly balanced, as all things should be." Yes, intensity is important, but if you don't have the appropriate volume and frequency to match, you may still end up overworking or underworking yourself.

When it comes to your volume and frequency, it will vary depending on a lot of factors. Based on those factors, you adjust both factors up or down.

The main factors that affect frequency and volume are time available, intensity itself, and how often you want to exercise.

For time available, there are workout plans that account for those with less time. Generally, if you have little spare time you don't want to be spending more than an hour and a half at the gym without some sort of scheduling.

If you have less time available, then frequency and volume adjust down while intensity goes up. If you have more spare time, then you can bring frequency and volume up while bringing down intensity.

As for intensity itself, this one has to do with fatigue. The more intense your exercise, the quicker you will become fatigued.

Finding a balance with your intensity of choice is mainly to avoid injury. If you choose to have a higher intensity, then adjust your frequency and volume down. If you choose to have a lower intensity, then bring frequency and volume up so you get enough stimulus.

Finally, your desire to exercise directly affects frequency, as this is what motivates your specific frequency to go to the gym. And because intensity, frequency, and volume are linked together, when one is affected so are the others.

If you have a higher frequency, then your volume goes up naturally. And because you have a higher volume, you'll want a lower intensity.

If you have a lower frequency, then your volume goes down. In this scenario, the importance of intensity rises to ensure you have enough stimulus.

The body is smart and is very capable of adapting. Whatever balance works best for you, make sure it is properly balanced to ensure you can keep going week after week.

The importance of having intense exercise

It's one thing to go to the gym, it's another to get results from it. Both are good, and one is amazing. Most people want the results, they just don't know how.

Fortunately, it's not complicated to get to the point where results are easy. You just need To find a balance that accounts for intensity without pushing yourself too hard.

- Karl