Intensity OR volume up (NOT both)

When it comes time to make your current exercise regime a little more challenging, people often make the mistake of changing too many things at once.

This isn't ideal as the body hasn't had a chance to even try the small difference that you were looking to implement.

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"How is this a bad thing?", you might be wondering?


Well firstly, I always like to look at the long-term. Of course I want short-term and medium-term results.


But think about the big picture.

There is going to be a point where you hit a wall, or plateau. This means that you will eventually stop seeing results. A way that you can extend the period of time where you are continuing to see and make progress is by the following method.

Increase either the intensity (difficulty) OR volume (duration) of the training program. NOT both at the same time.

This acts in such a way where the program becomes more challenging and places further stress on the body (this is a good thing). When you adjust two variables, such as intensity and volume, then your body will realise and adapt to these changes quicker than if you were to change one. Then adjust the other at a later point in time.
Does that all make sense so far?

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I'm going to specifically cover the training style of 'cardio' here. 

We can absolutely increase both the intensity and the volume, but it will be significantly harder and could result in sub-par technique and/or not reaching the targets set. 
The way you can get around that, and still maximise your training time and it's effectiveness, is to remember that volume and intensity have an inverse relationship.

Meaning that when one goes up, the other goes down. Like a see-saw!

The more intense an exercise is, the shorter it should be in duration.

Let's take the bench press for example now.
If we are going to perform a 1RM (One Rep Max-1 repetition at the heaviest weight possible), then we know it's going to be for a short duration. That would represent a high intensity, with very low volume.

Still with me?

How this relates to cardio, and your specific goals is this.

When you perform slow, steady-state cardio, you are working at a low intensity, or difficulty level. This has to be the case to stay the course and continue moving for the designated time-period.
Now, when we perform high intensity exercise, such as sprints, heavy weight lifting or interval training, we generally perform these for a much shorter amount of time. It just isn't possible to continue working at such a high intensity. Physically impossible!

To cut a long-winded story short;

  • If you want to lift heavy weights, do it for low reps (1-5)
  • If you want to work on 'toning', hit medium to high reps (8-15)
  • If you want to spike your heart rate, do it for a short time-period (< 30 seconds)
  • If you want to improve endurance, work for a longer duration (>60 seconds)

If you can remember the see-saw principle when it comes to making changes, or alterations to your current program that will go a LONG way!

You will ensure technique doesn't diminish and should also find the slightly higher workload challenging, but still achievable.

Going harder, just for the sake of going harder, isn't going to lead you to continued progress. 

All it will do is ensure you don't have many options, or variables to change once your 'gainz' stall and you hit a plateau.

You want to try and keep that ace up your sleeve for when you need it.

You want to try and keep that ace up your sleeve for when you need it.

This is the secret to making small, but constant progress over weeks, months and years!

Small, incremental, steady improvements can, and will add up over time. It's a snowball effect which will improve your confidence, self-esteem and overall body composition with each and every small win that you make.

Try to aim for that, rather than the big leaps and bounds. Because they won't last forever!

Until next time,

Train smart.



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