Are You Intense Enough?

personal trainer

The person taking the most rest is most likely training with the most intensity.

Didn’t think you’d ever hear that from a personal trainer did you?

As your personal trainer, our role is to educate you on everything related to your health and fitness so that you can make an informed decision with your actions inside and outside of the gym.

Now you may have noticed a recent addition to the header of our workouts that says the following:


So what do we mean by intensity?

Intensity is the percentage of your maximum effort.

or said in a different way…

Intensity is the percentage of the heaviest weight you can lift for 1 rep (your 1 rep max or 1rm).

The heaviest weight you could lift for 1 rep would be 100% intensity.
The heaviest weight you could lift for 8 reps as heavy as you can is 80% intensity.
The heaviest weight you could lift for 10 reps as heavy as you can is 75% intensity.
The heaviest weight you could lift for 15 reps as heavy as you can is 65% intensity.

This even works for cardio!

The hardest you could bike for 8 secs would be 100% intensity.
Nothing else technically can be 100% intensity (even if it feels like it). 

That’s because of how the body works with its 3 energy systems.

>>> The most intense energy system is the ATP-CP system (think quick max efforts)

This is 3-20 secs of max effort – Not 85%. Not 75%. 100%. The fitter you are, the longer you can go all out. Most likely, if you consider yourself unfit, it will be around 3 secs for a 100% max effort (you’ll notice when you shift out of this energy system on the bike when you can’t maintain your max watts or effort as the watts will start to drop no matter how hard you work with most people done around 8-10 secs.

Working in this system is great but you don’t want to do it all the time as it takes longer to recover. Don’t worry, we carefully select the appropriate exercises for all levels at BEFIT to keep you injury free, so that you can build your ATP-CP system’s power and capacity.

>>> The Glycolytic system is next (that burning feel in your muscles)

Think movement for 20-70 secs with most people not being able to go as hard as they can for the full 70 secs. This can be applied to both cardio and strength training movements.

You want to be feeling the lactic acid build up here (like that burn in the legs). If you don’t, it was not challenging enough and you were working aerobically (the next energy system). This is where knowing the weights that you use on each exercise is so important!

I would suggest that every member in the gym track their workout weights, sets, and reps. It will help you make informed decisions in your workouts moving forward.

Coaches note – If you are not feeling great and just getting to the gym was a win for the day, you would not want to train in this system as it will make you feel worse. This is where just using lighter weights and not working as intense would be the best move for you. 

>>>If you were using lighter weights and not working as intense, you would be working in the aerobic system.

  • This is any effort that you can maintain a steady pace for longer than 70 secs and for as long as you can maintain it!
  • This sort of training is best for recovery.
  • You’re in the aerobic system with light weights for higher reps or easy cardio where you can maintain the same cal/hour pace on the rower for an extended period of time.

You might see this sort of training built into our workouts on Wednesdays and Saturdays for you.

So to bring it all together…

Intensity is not how tired you are.
It’s how intense your body works in the time that it’s working.

In order for you to lift your heaviest 1 rep squat, you have to engage more of your nervous system, muscle fibres and focus with 100% intention. This action takes a toll on your nervous system and will take longer to recover.

We’ve added these intensity guidelines for those invididuals coming 5-6 days/week, as in our humble opinion, good training is managing recovery and a challenging feat in a group setting with people on different schedules with different experiences, injury considerations, and skill sets.

If you are coming 1-3 days/week you can train as hard as you can for the given rep ranges and workout (always listening to your body).

If you are training 4 days/week, take notice of these intensity guidelines if you are doing 3 days in a row of the workouts.

And here is the intensity overview for people coming 5-6 days/week moving forward:
Monday – High Intensity (Lower body)
Tuesday – Medium Intensity (Upper body)
Wednesday – Light Intensity (Lower body)
Thursday – High Intensity (Upper body)
Friday – Medium Intensity (Lower body)
Saturday – Low Intensity (Upper body)

As always, if you have any questions you know where to find us!

Committed to your success,
Josh Saunders, BSc, CSCS

P.s. Here is a guide for you for choosing weights when the reps are adjusted. It works best with bigger lifts like squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows.