What is Intensity?

by Michael Plank

Answer: maybe not what you think… at least from a CrossFit perspective.

In the early days of CrossFit, everything was about power output. You learn at the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer course that Power is exactly equal to Intensity, and that intensity is the single greatest variable in determining results. You can increase power output (and intensity) by lifting heavier, by increasing the range of motion, or by going faster. And training like that can be very effective.

But – and this breaks a little from traditional CrossFit dogma – eventually we learned that there are probably other things that we should chase too. Things besides power output…

Things like quality of movement, hypertrophy (muscle growth), joint conditioning, mobility, stamina, balance, stability…

Stuff that often does improve if you just chase power output, but stuff for which power output is probably not the most effective way to make it better.

Intensity is good. But intensity doesn’t just mean high power output. It can also mean intensity of focus. Intensity of quality. Intensity of effort.

Intensity doesn’t mandate that you work so hard that you can’t remember your name when the workout is over. After all, most of us, most of the time, are not training for singular event. We’re training to live long, healthy lives.

The intensity (which is a word related to the word intent) should match the goal.