Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How hard are you really working? Figuring out your training intensity

Most people unknowingly take the easy road in their routines and really don't understand what training intensity they should be working in. Training intensity is defined as an individual's level of effort compared to their maximum effort. It can also be derived from the percentage of maximal oxygen consumption (MHR), as in cardio training programs. Training intensity is one of the most important variables to consider in you training program and it can make or break your success.

An individual's training goal and the appropriate phase that will help them accomplish that goal will determine the number of sets and reps for an exercise and in turn, determine the appropriate level of intensity.

  • Power training is best performed with 30-45% of 1 rep max when using conventional weight training or up to 10% of body weight when using medicine balls.
  • Maximum strength training requires training at 80-100% of 1 rep max.
  • Hypertrophy (or muscle gain) is best achieved when training at 70-85% of 1 rep max.
  • Endurance (stabilization) is optimally developed with a training intensity of 40-70% of 1 rep max.
All training intensities are determined by calculating your 1 rep maximum. Note that it is stated calculating, as the risk of injury when attempting a 1 rep max is very, very high.

There are many ways to increase the level of intensity in your routine. Training in an unstable environment in the stabilization phase can increase the intensity because it recruits more muscles to perform the exercise. This leads to burning more calories per exercise. Changing other variables such as rest period and tempo also changes the level of intensity by increasing your heart rate. It's more than just changing the resistance and increasing the weight.

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