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The Importance of Training Intensity


Workouts such as CrossFit and HIIT (high intensity interval training) have enjoyed widespread popularity for years. To put it simply: it is hard exercise that pays off. Predominately focused on strength training, or bursts of high intensity exercise followed by low intensity recovery, this style of workout has been nothing short of a fitness phenomenon.

In fact, there are over 10,000 CrossFit gyms worldwide. How does this translate to the everyday person? If you’ve never lifted a barbell over your head is this style of exercise right for you? CrossFit is more than just burpees and bodybuilding. What CrossFit gyms specialize in is the basic concept of training intensity. Here’s what you need to know.

There are three degrees of workout intensity: low, moderate, and vigorous. The parameters of these degrees are based on a person’s heart rate. When you really get your heart pumping, the number of calories burned increases. A target heart rate (THR) is the suggested beats per minute a person’s heart should reach when performing certain exercises.

As fitness improves, the target heart rate should increase. One of the major variances for a person’s target heart rate is age. A healthy 20 year old will aim to have a THR of between 100-140 beats per minute. A healthy 50 year old however, will have a THR between 85-119 beats per minute. The recommended amount of exercise for someone who is trying to either lose or maintain weight is 30 minutes of working out daily at the moderate level (think light jogging or an aerobics routine). For those whose goal is to gain muscle mass or increase endurance, a high or vigorous level of exercise will garner the best results.

The more intensity one maintains in his or her exercise regimen, the more progress begins to be seen. A person’s maximum heart rate is typically around 220 beats per minute minus his or her age. While you want to challenge yourself physically, it is extremely important to build training intensity safely.

There are several factors that can raise a person’s heart rate. The time of day, hormone levels, or hot weather are factors beyond our control but contributors all the same. Other major contributors to elevated heart rate are caffeine consumption, taking certain medications, and smoking or vaping. Being aware of how these factors affect you before you begin an intense workout is crucial so that you do not put your health in danger.

Regular high intensity regimens have been proven to increase muscle mass. In the CrossFit gyms, working up to an intense level of activity is a typically shared goal. The more muscle a person has, the more calories he or she will burn at rest.

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