What is Training Intensity?

Troy Holmes

All exercise programs involve a level of training intensity within the workout. This training intensity indicates the level of stress that an individual will be placing on his or her muscles and nervous system during an exercise program. Intensity levels can usually be adjusted based on the individual's desired fitness outcome.

Some levels of training intensity elevate heart rate.
Some levels of training intensity elevate heart rate.

Physical fitness programs consist of two types of conditioning, aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic conditioning is the process by which an individual trains at a pace that is maintainable for long periods of time. Anaerobic is training at a level that requires more energy then is normally necessary, and therefore only possible for short periods of time within an exercise program.

Jogging is considered a low-intensity workout.
Jogging is considered a low-intensity workout.

High intensity training that is considered anaerobic will push the human body to a level that will produce a high heart rate and often generates a spike in improvement. This type of training is typically done in cycles, as the stress this places on the body requires considerable recovery time. High intensity training is not unique to any particular sport, and is used in most fitness programs to generate quick improvement.

Some types of yoga provide a low-intensity workout.
Some types of yoga provide a low-intensity workout.

A high intensity interval program is a hybrid of a high intensity training program, as it changes the intensity level over a specified time within an exercise program. Typically, this type of exercise requires a short burst of intensity immediately followed by a cool down period of about half of the time used during the burst. Most high intensity interval programs are used to produce fast results at burning fat, raising metabolism, and gaining speed.

Weight lifters and body builders also use training intensity to regulate the growth of strength, muscle, and endurance. Lifting heavy weights in a quick burst is an example of high intensity training for weight lifting. This type of training produces quick gains, but will not be sustainable over long periods of time due to the muscle fatigue from this type of exercise.

Low intensity training is also beneficial in an exercise program as it generates good circulation and overall well-being in the body, as well as providing for higher fat-burning characteristics. This type of training enables participants to exercise for a longer duration and typically produces fewer injuries then high intensity programs. Yoga, jogging, and walking are good examples of low intensity exercise.

It is important to consider the training intensity that will be required during a training program. Mixing the intensity will usually produce better overall results over the duration of an exercise program. Managing the training intensity balance is often the key to successfully obtaining goals within any exercise program.

Someone who plans to run in a specific event may gradually take on more intensive training sessions as part of their preparation.
Someone who plans to run in a specific event may gradually take on more intensive training sessions as part of their preparation.

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Discussion Comments


@clintflint - My problem with that kind of training is that the instructions almost always seem to talk about using 70% or another percentage of your total effort and I'm never quite sure what that means. I'd rather workout with someone who knows what my heart rate should be and can help me figure out the exact point at which I'm working hard enough to achieve that rate.


@browncoat - There are other ways of ensuring you work at the right intensity. I've noticed that a lot of gyms seem to be putting in decent high intensity circuit training hubs and those are a good bet to get your heart pumping. They will almost certainly have some kind of instructions or someone to help you out with methods.

And there are a lot of interval training guides online as well, so you can figure out your own program if you need to. Interval training is good for almost every workout, and you can easily adjust it to suit your own fitness levels.


If you're interested in making sure your training intensity is at the right level, I would recommend seeing a personal trainer every couple of months. People seem to think that a personal trainer is only there to bully or encourage you in your exercise, but you can just see them for an hour to get an update on your program so that you don't plateau. They'll make sure you are doing your exercises properly and meeting your goals, although they won't be able to stand over you during the week and help you to reach those goals. That will be up to you.

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