I’m one of our resident Exercise Physiologists, and also an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Level 1 Weightlifting Instructor. Outside of the gym, I tend to go in search of good food and great coffee. And yes, Dan’s Shoulder Stretch is mine.
We’re currently locked in the grips of high intensity everything! Every health magazine cover, advert or celebrity training routine is about high intensity. But is it the best thing for you?
High intensity training, whether it be strength, metabolic work or CrossFit, will make your body adapt. It takes you out of your comfort zone and demands that the body gets stronger and fitter. That’s a good thing!
Change cannot happen without a stimulus to make it happen. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting change is ludicrous (or insane)!
We need high intensity training. It makes us better.
We can’t always do high intensity training. I’m going to repeat that. We CANNOT always do high intensity training.
The body only has a finite amount of recoverability (known as Maximal Recoverable Volume – MRV). Exceed that for a week or two, and you’re ok, provided some rest is on the way. Chronically exceed that? The body will start to develop signs of overtraining. Lethargy, disinterest in training, feeling broken or weights and/or times going backwards are all signs that you’ve exceeded your MRV.
Not everyone is built with the same amount of recoverability, and in times of stress (work, life, crappy diet) the same person can have LESS recoverability.
How Hard Can I Train?
There are a few things to consider when asking this. Factors that IMPROVE your recovery include:
Great work-life balance
Regular recovery training sessions
A well planned program, with DELOAD sessions built in
While it comes down to your individual response at the end of the day, a few guidelines that will assist you are:
Bodybuilding style training will let you train harder more often, as long as you change the muscles you’re targeting (twice a week per muscle group works well)
Lactic acid training (the worst kind – think Tabata airdyne) can be done up to twice a week. It’s tough on muscle damage, but produces quick results.
Heavy (near maximal for very low reps) lifting can generally be done 2-3 times a week, depending on overall strength, body size and experience.
Very fast (sprinting) work can be done 2-3 times a week.
For every high intensity session you do, you need AT LEAST one skills/recovery session. Some of the best athletes in the world (track athletes, powerlifters) can only train with their best intensity twice a week. The remainder of the time is spent working on flexibility, skills and RECOVERY.
Take Home Message
High intensity is great, but in moderation. The adaptations will only come from the recovery that follows this kind of training; hence not every session will be Instagram-worthy.
If you’re a high stress/high cortisol individual, then there are better options for you to get great results!