This Is How “heavy” Your Typical Workout Should Be
Do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough at the gym? Or, on the other hand, do you see other people sweating and moaning while you are just doing the movements? Let’s talk about how hard your workouts should be and what you need to change if your current routine doesn’t meet your requirements.
Most of your cardio should be light.
Let’s talk about cardio first. Whether you’re jogging, biking, or shooting dance cardio videos, you’re building your aerobic base with plenty of miles (or minutes) of easy to medium work. In terms of heart rate zones , this will be zone 2, and sometimes 3 of 5.
Or, in other words, if there is a runner who walks around your neighborhood every morning smiling in his face, making a quick step easy, you can compare yourself to him in a disadvantageous light. “If I ran that fast, I would suffocate and then die,” you might think. But the secret is that if you develop the habit of running in the morning, you will need to focus on the level of effort , not speed.
Interval and HIIT cardio should be moderate to heavy.
Of course, there is a time and place for intensity. Whether you’re doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or any type of interval training in general, the whole idea is that resting allows you to work harder when it’s work time.
How difficult? Well, it depends on the workout, but you can use recovery as a guideline. If you are doing 1 minute hard/1 minute easy, you should recover enough by the end of the easy minute to be ready for the next hard minute.
If you find yourself unable to continue training at the end of your rest, or if you stop exercising early, you may have been working too hard during your breaks. On the other hand, if heavy and light intervals seem about the same to you, you may not be pushing yourself hard enough. Pay attention to the expected level of effort. Sometimes you are supposed to end up in a puddle by the end of the workout, but sometimes you have to end up feeling like you could go a few more rounds.
Difficult lifts require attention to more than just intensity.
Whether you’re doing squats or deadlifts, your body has many tasks to handle at the same time. You are using your muscles to move the weight, but you are also coordinating them so that they all move with the correct timing and maintain the correct position for the correct lift. From time to time you can bring them to the maximum intensity level, for example, to see how much you can lift as a one-rep maximum, but this will not be your daily workout.
A good program will give you a task for the day that you can complete without putting yourself in danger or overworking yourself for the rest of the week. Pay attention to what it gives you! And if you find yourself struggling to complete every exercise in every workout, consider this program may not be right for you.
Lighter climbs may need to fail
On the other hand, isolation exercises (those that work one or more muscles, such as bicep curls) can approach failure. The same goes for anything where you need a lot of reps to reach failure: if you can do sets of 20 or more pushups, you need the last few heavy reps to engage all your muscle fibers. You can’t just do 10 and move on.
However, you still need to be realistic. I often hear beginners complain that they can’t “push themselves” in the gym. They stop lifting weights or doing the last few reps of push-ups and wonder what happened. Well, if you get to the point where you literally can’t do anything anymore , you will definitely fail. There’s nowhere else to go
WOD and conditioning require you to scale or set the pace.
If you’re doing a workout that requires you to do a lot of hard work and take time for yourself — like a challenging CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) — you definitely need to push yourself hard. But it’s still important to be in control.
CrossFit has a concept of scaling. If you have to do the grace (30 pushes) in a few minutes, you are doing the workout wrong if you load the barbell with 95 pounds and spend 15 minutes doing it. It’s best to respect the intent of the workout and choose a weight that allows you to complete your workout quickly.
Remember that the point of these workouts is to get to the end feeling exhausted, not get to that point in 30 seconds.
Hard is never the real goal
Even when training is hard and should be hard, suffering is not the end goal. Heavy conditioning training is supposed to improve your endurance; hard strength training should make you stronger. If the workout is hard or unpleasant, that’s a side effect of the main goal.
So when you ask if you’re working hard enough, you need to know if you’re working hard enough to achieve appropriate adaptation . Some workouts need to be intense, and yes, they can suck. Some should be light enough that you can do them for a long time. When in doubt, remember why you are doing the workout and make sure your efforts are in line with the prescription.