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Be Impressed with Intensity NOT VOLUME: a look at why volume is rarely the answer

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We recently read an article from the CrossFit journal by James Hobart that talks about volume and how MORE ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER.

In his article he touches on the following points:

Volume is alluring for many reasons. But we don’t want to make the mistake of replacing volume for intensity. More volume make sense for those striving for the upper echelons of competitive CrossFit, competing at the CrossFit games. Athletes at the top of the sport benefit from extra training volume but they have an unshakeable foundation of mechanics and consistency. Overtime these athletes have built up the basics of the movement and found a way to keep them consistent even as they add load. This should always be the first step. Before contemplating just doing more (adding volume).

If you are someone who is frequently scaling workouts, volume is not the solution. Similarly, if you are struggling with the technique or mechanics of a movement (commonly the snatch or the clean) then once again volume isn’t the answer.

Of course, we need to consider each persons goal. The majority of our athletes are training for life; getting fit for things outside the gym. Most of us train because we want to change body composition, have more energy, do something that helps us keep up with our kids, not to compete. If these sound like your goals, the occasional extra volume might be fun, but training once a day, 4 to 5 times a week (or building yourself up to that) will be enough. You won’t ever need more to attain your goals.

We know as coaches and understand that every athlete will continue to improve with a single CrossFit workout per day, volume is not the cure-all; effective coaching is.

Volume is unnecessary for most of us for three distinct reasons.

One, volume is not necessary if the goal is simply getting fitter in fact, it can be counterproductive.

Two, intensity and variance must be maintained in order to maximize results as volume increases. This means eliminating bias in programming. Our athletes should see their squats and push-ups increase at a similar rate and not gravitate or get comfortable with just lifting heavy. Extra volume through lifting simply cannot replace variance when training for general physical preparedness (or looking good naked).

Three, effectively implementing multiple volume or just doing more with in a one hour class time is difficult and impractical.
Also counterproductive, as mentioned earlier. When you add too much the intensity and one part is lost and therefore your overall strength and goals are actually suffering. Heavy lifting for movements like the back squat, deadlift, and benchpress should be it’s own workout, performed on its own in a one hour session. These items should be treated with care and done intensely heavy.

Keeping that in mind, volume can allow you to improve more areas of your fitness if you were able to avoid simply going through the motions without intensity. Again doing more just for the sake of doing more doesn’t make sense unless you can maintain intensity for all of that volume. It just will not be the case for most of our athletes and cannot be accomplished in a one hour session.

There are positives to volume, but they come at a cost. It will be much harder to produce results and hit personal records if you add volume for volume sake. Your progression can actually be halted or slowed by doing too much volume.

Remember that programming and volume are just pieces of the puzzle. The magic is in the movements. Intensity is essential and it hurts but it’s required to greatly increase fitness. Volume is no substitute.

Tommy Hackenbruck said it best in a quote on Instagram when he said “you don’t need harder workouts, you need to go harder in your workouts”.

Remember, there’s two ways that we can drive intensity, one is speed, the other is load. If you leave a workout feeling like it wasn’t a good workout you either didn’t go hard enough or you didn’t have the right load on your bar. Our programming, done well, leaves no place to hide and should be uncomfortable and challenging every single day.

If all is forgotten, just remember one thing: volume can bend a few but not at the cost of intensity and variance. Intensity and variance are the keys. Volume is secondary but still can still produce results if implemented properly.

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