Volume vs. Intensity

Photo by IvelinRadkov/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by IvelinRadkov/iStock / Getty Images

Go hard, and then go home. Be consistent in your training, but never overzealous in frequency. Never confuse simplicity with inadequacy. Never confuse volume with intensity. 
Success is a lifetime pursuit. Treat it that way.
– Jon Gilson

There seems to be a trend with CrossFit lately, most likely fueled by the superhuman performances of Games athletes and their legendary training load, that more, longer, harder is better.

The truth is, for the vast majority of CrossFit athletes who are training for health, fitness and longevity, this mindset is unnecessary at best and detrimental to those goals at worst. The basic tenets of CrossFit that Coach Glassman detailed in the seminal “What Is Fitness” article in the CrossFit Journal apply today as much as they did in 2002. In order to achieve true fitness you must use functional movements, train for the unknown and unknowable and train at high intensity.

Intensity must be balanced with volume or intensity will be loss.

High intensity and high volume may be necessary to make it to the CrossFit Games but it has no place in the training of an average athlete who is seeking optimal health and fitness. Too much volume, by definition, will lead to a degradation of intensity. Think Fran (high intensity, low volume) vs. Murph (low intensity, high volume). Both are legit workouts but 80% of your training should be high intensity, low volume.  As Jon Gilson writes:

“This intensity is much more important than volume. Remarkably more important. 

For the newer trainee, this means no two-a-days, no four-WOD Saturdays. No flash-in-the-pan volume accumulation.

Volume accumulation, the method by which athletes are able to endure ever-more reps within any given time period, is not the product of a week of training. It is the product of a lifetime of training, years of consistent focus.”

We see the best results from our athletes who train with us 3-5 times per week but bring everything they have to each workout. Intensity followed by adequate recovery is where the magic happens.

This is not to say that your should never do back-to-back classes. But make sure you know why you are doing it. Have a specific goal that you are working toward and focus your training. Adding volume for the sake of adding volume is not the best strategy because your intensity will falter. Ask yourself: “Am I better off doing two classes or doing one class and going as hard as I can?”