Most people who follow a training program do not achieve results. In many cases the reason is the program. The typical recipe for a machine routine followed by a 20-minute treadmill is an ineffective way to improve your physique.

To be truly FIT, you should consider a program that meets:

  • Work all dimensions of fitness. Don’t become a specialist.
  • Work the three energy systems of your body (2 anaerobic and 1 aerobic), from time to time mixing everything in the same exercises (how about running and jumping carrying a kettlebell?). An excessively fragmented workout (weight days and cardio days) develops fragmented capacities.
  • Generate an adequate hormonal response: That naturally maximizes the production of anabolic hormones (such as testosterone and growth hormone) and minimizes the production of catabolic hormones (such as cortisol).
  • Based on functional exercises, which we can define by the following characteristics:
  1. Natural: Exercises with which we ‘evolve’, which have direct application in real life.
  2. Insurance: They don’t put the body in compromising mechanical situations.
  3. Compounds: They use multiple muscle groups and joints, in a coordinated way.
  4. They enhance the main force producers of the body. For example, the hips and glutes are your most powerful muscle groups (even if you are not Shakira :)). If you train sitting down, you deactivate them!

But understanding this, assuming that we start from a good program, and that we take two identical people (with the same diet) and that they follow the same program, ¿¿which parameter will determine who will achieve the best results?

I could keep the suspense a little longer but I’m going to finish the mystery now.

The answer is INTENSITY

In equal conditions, the one who trains with more intensity will achieve better results. In many cases, dramatically better.

But what exactly is intensity?

Traditional definitions of intensity

Intensity in bodybuilding

If you go into a traditional gym (but one of those that at least still have a free weight zone and have not been totally invaded by the terrible machines), you will see ‘strongmen’ moving large weights.

For them, it seems that intensity is only measured in kilograms. With high probability there will be a guy with big muscles doing a shrug or shrink of shoulders, howling with each repetition. Finally, a great metallic noise, when dropping the bar on the rack. This ensures that the entire gym is aware of the intensity of your workout. He has moved 80 kilos !! …. about 5 centimeters in each repetition.

Intensity in endurance sports

In endurance athletes, the typical definition of intensity has to do with heart rate.

intensity_endurance

Hence, you see runners with sophisticated (and expensive) pedometers that tell them at all times how their heart behaves. The closer they are to their theoretical maximum frequency, the more intense the workout is considered.

Is heart rate a good indicator of intensity? If you are sleeping peacefully in your house and you see a stranger sneaking through the window with a gun, I assure you that your heart rate will skyrocket into the stratosphere, but it does not mean that you are improving your physical form.

Intensity in CrossFit

In the CrossFit world, it is common to see photos of proud initiates with their hands ‘bare’, as a sign of intensity doing chin-ups or kettlebell swings (even if they have broken their skin on the second repetition). Also ‘sweat angels’ are used as irrefutable proof of intense exercise. If sweat was a good indicator of intensity, you could go to the sauna every day and be very fit.

And this is not the worst, it seems that vomiting is for many the true sign of intensity, the rite of passage of a true devotee. What little angels :).

cross_fit_intensity

But being fair, CrossFit actually equates intensity to power output during the training. Dusting off the physics books, let’s remember that power equals Force for Distance divided by Weather:

P = F xd / t

Or what is the same, force for speed.

For example, if you weigh 70 kg and do 100 jumps on a platform (box jumps), and your center of gravity (around the hip), moves 50 cm in each jump, in a Tabata workout (240 seconds), you will have developed a power (intensity) equivalent to (100x70x0.5) / 240 = 14.5 joules? (If there is a physicist to correct me please, I have a little forgotten my units of measurement :)).

It is an interesting concept, but it is still an abstraction with little practical applicability. The human body is not easily reducible to mathematical formulas.

A more ‘human’ definition of Intensity

Although I have had a bit of fun with the traditional definitions of each group, the reality is that they all have some truth.

The concept of Intensity = F x V, or train hard and fast, it will give you good results if you want to lose fat. This is the concept behind High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and this is what programs like Insanity or P90X are based on.

If you want to gain strength, the kilos you move (or the difficulty of the body exercises you can perform) are a good indicator of the intensity of your training.

And you will certainly have to race your heart to get your body to perform intense exercise.

But grouping and simplifying these concepts, and to use another term that will sound closer to everyone, the important thing is the effort.

Effort

There are better and worse ways to achieve results, but there are no miracles. If you want to change your body, you will have to make an effort.

Unfortunately, society is determined to minimize physical effort, and as a consequence, our resistance to fatigue is very low. But there is no need to worry; The fitness industry comes to the rescue, offering thousands of devices that will allow you to transform your body effortlessly: vibrating tapes, electrostimulating belts, weights that move by themselves while holding them, footwear to tone your buttocks …

fitness_absurd

Of course none of that works. Nothing they want to sell you as a substitute for effort is going to give you results.

The relationship between effort and results is something like this. results_vs_effort That is, if what you do does not involve any effort, then surely it will not contribute anything. If your body can carry out an activity without ‘messing up’, why is it going to change?

What many people consider ‘effort’ in a normal gym is rarely enough to achieve real results. A level of physical exertion that allows you to keep an eye on financial news while running on the treadmill, or that does not prevent you from checking email messages on your phone while working your quads on the leg stretcher, is insufficient effort.

As the graph shows, most of the people you see in the gym are in the first zone. Obviously what they do is better than nothing, but they would achieve better results (in less time) by increasing the intensity of their workouts. And also changing the way of training, but that’s another story. results_vs_effort_whereThe curve indicates that it is not advisable to ‘go over braking’ either. Nothing stops your progress more than injury. Too much effort, too soon, can backfire. Take a day off before you really need it.

Nor is it possible to train with high intensity every day. Is a powerful medicine, but you must use the right dose and frequency. In fact, if you train for long hours, for example long distance, you will have to put in a lot of workouts also of low intensity, the so-called polarized training.

A well-designed program will take you through levels, it will expose you to intensity in a gradual and controlled way, with adequate rest, but it will require you to make an effort. Have I told you about my programs 🙂?

On the other hand, you should not equate effort with suffering. As they say, pain is necessary, suffering optional. That something involves effort does not mean that you do not enjoy it, or that you should be obsessed with the results (remember the principles of slow fitness), but it should absorb your mind while you do it, being in the moment, forgetting about the problems newspapers.

Again, if while you are exercising you are worrying about the pending tasks in the office, you are not trying enough.

Train hard, live hard.