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Intensity or Insanity: How Much Training Effort is Enough?

  /  Expert Advice   /  Intensity or Insanity: How Much Training Effort is Enough?

Intensity or Insanity: How Much Training Effort is Enough?

QUESTION: Fred, do you think that the intensity of your workout is “THE THING” that gives you results or is it more about being consistent with your workouts? The reason I ask is because I’m following your  program you so kindly gave me.

I love doing these workouts, but I’m having a hard time pushing myself that hard every day and I’m finding now that I’m starting to dread doing them. I have been doing these workouts only 2-3 times per week instead of the 5 times per week that is recommended in the program. This workout brings me to my knees. I’ve started questioning myself and wondering if it’s even worth the torture. – Joe

ANSWER: Intensity is one of the most important training variables, and at times, you’ll definitely want to train with high intensity to get maximum results in the shortest time. But the real answer to your question may depend on your goals, the shape you’re in now and even your personality type.

Some things to consider:

* Are you a beginner or already in shape and looking for the next challenge?
* Do you like home bodyweight workouts or are you a gym and weights/ cardio machine type?
* Are you the “hard-core” fitness nut type of person or do you simply want to get leaner and healthier, nothing crazy?
* When you say you want “results”, are you talking about fat loss, cardiovascular fitness improvement, muscle growth or all of the above?
With that in mind, let’s answer the HOW MUCH INTENSITY question in the context of fat loss first.
Obviously, starving yourself is NOT the approach I recommend!
To burn fat, focus on establishing and maintaining a calorie deficit.
To increase speed of fat loss, focus on increasing the size of the calorie deficit. Calorie deficit = fat loss is a liberating concept because it makes you realize you have endless options for achieving your fat loss goal using all kinds of different combinations of nutrition and exercise.
Countless thousands of people have acheived their goal weight with walking (low intensity low impact exercise) as their only cardio. They chose walking because that’s what suited their needs and their personality.
Here’s where intensity comes in: From a bodyfat loss perspective, using higher intensity training makes the workout more EFFICIENT. The higher the intensity, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn, the more fat you lose, if all else remains equal (ie, if you don’t compensate by eating more).
Some expert trainers claim that low intensity steady-state exercise is “ineffective” or even “totally worthless.”

Lina achieved this look in just 12 weeks following Fred’s nutrition plan and training intensity

Ok, so that covers intensity in the contexts of fat burning and cardiovascular improvement. What about for building muscle? Once again, training intensity is a critical factor. For muscles to grow, you have to literally break down muscle fibers, disrput your body’s homeostasis and create a stress response. The adaptation to that disruption is strength and hypertrophy, but it only occurs if you can recover from the stress. The major point is that intensity is a critical factor for all kinds of health and fitness training, but it’s also the one variable that has to be managed the most carefully. and sensibly!
Doing knock-you-to-your-knees workouts of any kind, every single day is not a smart strategy.
But unless you’re one of these super-human genetic mutants, your body just can’t take a nonstop pounding.
This is why most experts today are recommending only 2-3 HIIT style or high intensity cardio workouts per week when you’re concurrently doing intense weight training. If you want to increase your calorie deficit so you can burn more fat in less time, go ahead and do more training. But for most people, the additional workouts should be low or medium in intensity so they don’t interfere with physical recovery or lead to mental burnout.
Last but not least, I believe that weight training should sit atop the exercise hierarchy as one part of a total fitness program. Fat loss programs that are based entirely on calisthenic, aerobic or body weight exercise are popular today, but I recommend a 4-element model:
1. Nutrition 2. Weight training 3. Cardio training (low/moderate and intense) 4. Mental training (mindset and motivation)
For total fitness and physique development – muscle, strength, conditioning and leanness, combine weights with cardio.
Then, watch what happens to your body. You will like it!