Intensity – Rule of Fitness #10

Is your workout routine stuck in a rut?

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing repeatedly with the expectation of different results. In the workout world, intensity is the answer to the insanity. It’s far too common to see gym goers doing the exact same exercises, with the exact same weights, for the exact same number of repetitions. They then step on the scale or look in the mirror, and get frustrated. They will tell you how they workout every day and how they watch what they eat, but just don’t see any changes. So what’s the answer?  If working out and eating right aren’t enough, how do you reach your goals?  Intensity.  You must ensure that you are working hard enough.

Intensity is the key…

To make a meaningful physiological change, you have to be working out at the right level of intensity. In basic terms, you have to make sure that you are working hard enough. What that level is depends on what your goals are. Is the goal to be stronger? Bigger? Smaller? Have more endurance? The answer to meeting those goals is to bring your exercise intensity and your nutrition intensity to the right levels.  This helps you beat the dreaded plateau, and push your training and your fitness goals to the next level.

The principle of progression states that if an exercise program is to produce the desired outcome, the intensity should gradually become more challenging to apply an effective overload.  Overload…is that a term you’ve heard in the fitness world before?  If it’s not, you should be adding it to your vocabulary right away!  Overload, or progressive overload, is the idea that to create physiological changes (bigger, smaller, stronger, etc), an exercise stimulus must be applied at an intensity greater than the body is accustomed to receiving.  What does that mean?  That you have to work harder over time to achieve results!  You have to add stimulus.

Here’s an example. You’ve been doing Smith machine squats with 10 pounds on each side, 3 sets of 10 repetitions each, for months on end.  Your body has adapted to that.  It has already made any changes that it was going to make from that stimulus.  If you want to keep developing your leg muscles, it’s time to add weight to the machine.  Even better, step away from it entirely and work on those free weight squats instead.  And the key here is…you have to keep making it harder.  You can’t stop when it gets tough and expect your body to keep changing.

How do you choose the right intensity?

But how do you choose the right intensity for your workout?  Well, we can help you with that if you’re interested, it’s part of what we do when we create custom workouts, like Impact.  There’s also well established research on the subject.  This chart breaks down the research of recommended training volumes to achieve specific goals.  This chart breaks down exercise into repetitions and intensity, which have an inverse relationship; as intensity increases, the number of repetitions that an individual is able to perform decreases.



  • Strength endurance is the ability to produce and sustain muscle force over an extended period of time – marathon runners, triathletes, cyclists, we’re talking to you here
  • Hypertrophy is the technical term for an increase in muscle size (and definition) – bodybuilders and those looking to improve their physique, these are your training goals
  • Maximum strength is the ability to generate a maximal amount of muscle force for a particular exercise – we’re really talking to powerlifters and strongman competitors here
  • Power is the ability to generate a significant magnitude of force in the shortest amount of time possible – Olympic weightlifters, track and field athletes, certain CrossFitters, power is going to be your go-to





So, now that we know there are specific repetition and intensity ranges that you should be working within to achieve your specific goals, which means you have a starting point.  But that’s all it is, a starting point.  As your body adapts and grows, you have to push the envelope and keep overloading by increasing repetitions, intensity, or both.  This is where having a trainer or a coach can be a huge help, because we can push you to work harder than you might on your own.  Overload doesn’t need to be significant, but it does need to be consistent and effective to create results!

Amp up your intensity, and reach your goals!



I'm Jessica, one of the founders and owners of True Grit Fitness. I'm a workout junkie and health nut who happens to be a certified personal trainer through ACE. I love lifting weights and cooking healthy versions of favorite foods. In my other job, I work on offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico as a licensed mariner. I'm also a wife, a stepmom, a mom to furbabies, and a former officer in the USCG Reserve. I love everything about the great outdoors, I'm a certified bookworm, and I love creating and crafting. Welcome to my corner!