On Intensity. Frequency. Volume.

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Have you ever invested in an Online Training program before?

If you have, you will have undoubtedly have encountered by now numerous training terms & exercise variables?

For the purposes of simplicity, we're going to focus on a select few: Intensity, Frequency and Volume.

Basically everyone has differing levels of Intensity, Frequency and Volume. Just as everyone also has differing Body types, Fitness goals, Physiological and Genetic potential etc. This is especially more-so when someone new is starting out in the gym.

These specific training variables are commonly dependent on the individual being you and your current fitness goals in or outside of the gym. If we're new to the gym (0-6 months) this wont directly affect your Traning probably, however as time goes on you will eventually meet every regular exerciser's nemesis, the training plateau.

On Plateaus.

In short, a plateau is when there is little or no change following a solid period of activity or progress. They most commonly can occur in both a Dieting and Exercise sense. When we restrict calories for i.e. Fat loss, progress will eventually come to a halt over time as you hit a plateau.[1]

When we vigorously train to improve our performance, progress also eventually comes to a halt over time as you plateau.

As any good Coach will know, nutrition and training MUST almost always change in order to allow a steady progression in performance and physique based results.

For the average Gym goer however, a simple solution could be the one of the following:

Further increasing calories may also help to break through the most common performance biometer's alongside the infamous dieter's plateau.

The same also applies when adjusting one's Intensity, Frequency and Volume to help break through a Training plateau.

Now you're probably wondering this looks like?

Let's break down and explore these Training terms a little further...

Intensity

In short, Intensity is how much Energy you’re actively expending on any given task. Intensity is also used to determine how hard the Muscular system is working to complete a single repetition.

Intensity is also usually measured by how close you are to Muscular failure or to your maximal effort by the number of repetitions you are performing.

Intensity repetition range is most commonly dictated by your overall goal:

Note: It is generally recommended to NOT exceed an Intensity range of 90% or your 1RM.

Furthermore there are also a few ways to measure intensity closely, one of the more popular methods is using the RPE scale.

RPE & RIR RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) is a commonly used scale to measure the current intensity of any given exercise being performed. In conjunction to this the RPE scale can also be used to measure RIR (Reps in reserve) a relatively new term and method to gauge how many reps you have left in ‘the tank’.

These scales are both known to be beneficial at gauging just how much effort you ‘feel’ you are putting into a strenuous activity on any given day.

Whilst there may be limitations using RPE, using RIR-based RPE scale requires less effort at no extra cost and useful where RPE’s can not be perfectly measured and gauged. The RPE scale runs from 0 – 10:

So we can determine 0 as being little to no effort required whilst 10 being the most strenuous amount of effort required. In most cases this would describe a 1RM.

We can also calculate a theoretical RPE | RIR based off current Intensity Vs Total time & duration for the length of the prescribed session.

This can also help give us a total RPE 'load' or score for each exercise performed. An 'overall' RPE load can also be summed by including the RPE load for each exercises performed. i.e.

Frequency

Frequency simply put is just how frequent you’re undertaking workouts in any given time cycle. Whether you are exercising once per week or a few times per week. More of Frequency:

  • Mostly used on a per workout or per week basis

  • More relevant for advanced lifters

  • General Frequency range for Strength & Size: 2 – 3 x p.w.

Volume

Volume is simply both the output and sum of the overall workload you have performed in any given Training workout or cycle. Less of a variable for beginners, however is also more relevant for advanced experienced lifters for progression in strength and MFH (Muscular Fibrillar Hypertrophy).

Your overall Training Volume is also important as it is one of the best ways to measure and to keep track of your overall amount of Training per cycle. i.e.

Note: Above recommendations are only a generalization of ranges for the average Gym goer. Always consult a Fitness Professional before commencing.

Tempo

Tempo simply refers to the number of seconds you take in conjunction when performing a specific phase of a lift. The 3 main phases of a lift include:

Tempo typically represents the amount of time count spent on each phase of a lift. i.e.

Summary

Now that we've just about covered most of the basics of Training Variables, we should be able to incorporate this into our Daily / Weekly Exercise regime.

If you've been consistent and have hit a training plateau, changing one of the above variables will likely help you break through.

If you're new to Training or have hit a plateau, consider investing in a Training Program and start getting results today!

References:

1. Todd I. Stark, The Concept of a Body Fat SetPoint (1998) - The "Body Fat Set-Point": Can it be changed permanently? page 4 & 5.

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