The CrossFit Prescription: High Intensity

Welcome back to CrossFit Breaux Bridge’s three-part series, The CrossFit Prescription. In the first installment of this series, we covered the value of functional movements, and concluded that performing functional movements is the best way to optimize power output. Their ability to produce power leads us straight into the next element of the CrossFit prescription, which is “high intensity.”


Intesnity is directly equal to power. In physics, the formula for intensity–and power–looks like this:

Intensity = Power = Force x Distance / Time


Force x Distance is known as “work,” (i.e. functional movements) and can be measured by strength: How much force can you apply to a load in order to move it a certain distance? The amount of time it takes for you to move that load directly affects the amount of intensity that will be produced. Consider two scenarios involving the benchmark workout, “Grace:” 30 clean and jerks for time at 135/95lb. If Chandler performs a clean and jerk once every two minutes, he will complete the workout in an hour. If Monica performs six clean and jerks every minute, the workout will be completed in five minutes. While Chandler may have relatively moved the same load, the same distance, and therefore completed the same amount of work, he did not generate the same power output, or intensity, as Monica did. She completed the workout 12 times faster and produced 12 times the intensity!


Why does this matter?


Because the higher the intensity, the greater the stimulus for positive adaptation of maximum aerobic capacity and body composition will be attained. What does this mean? By performing functional movements at high intensity, you are increasing your body’s ability to use oxygen in energy conversion (read: metabolism) AND you improve your overall body composition (read: less fat, more lean mass). You are also reducing the time commitment of improving your fitness when compared to traditional methods of improving aerobic capacity. Instead of spending one hour on the treadmill with minimal results, you can get the best results in a quick, twenty-minute WOD. On top of all that, in a study conducted by members of the Ohio State University Kinesiology Program, the results suggest that performing these high-intensity movements will yield beneficial results “in men and women of all fitness levels.” That’s good news for all of those people who think they are “too old” for CrossFit.


Another important part of this “high intensity” element involves the scalability of CrossFit movements. For most hard-chargers, a stigma surrounds the idea of “scaling” a WOD, because–God forbid–they fail to do it Rx’ed. However, the whole point of this sport is power output. We are called to do more work, faster (intensity). If there is no balance between strength (work) and speed (time), there will be a blunt in power output. Imagine a seesaw with speed on one end and strength on the other. Strength is the fat kid, who keeps the seesaw at a standstill. Escaping this metaphor, if the load is too heavy, and outweighs speed by a multiple of ten, no power will be produced. There must be a balance between strength and speed in order to increase intensity and attain desired results. So, that may mean that you should “scale” the weight in a workout in order to move quicker. You will be better off for it. Like I tell my On-Rampers, if most of your time in the workout is spent staring at the barbell, building up the courage to lift it back up, it is no good to you. Find a weight that you can move quickly, and I guarantee, you will see results.


I will conclude with a quote from our very own, Coach Josh, who stated, “The sun, shining on a dried leaf, will not start a fire. But if you focus the light through a magnifying glass, you can make flames. You can also burn the shit out of unsupecting friends. It is unarguable (yes it’s a word) that if your goal is to make a fire, you don’t need MORE sunlight, nor do you need MORE leaves. What you need to do is make what you have more focused. More intense…The word “intensity” is also related to the word “intentional.” To do something with intent means to do it with PURPOSE. Not just lazily meandering through but performing with focus toward a goal.”


And so, if you have taken anything from this article, it should be to make “intensity” your goal (with consistent and correct movement, of course).


That’s all for part two of The CrossFit Prescription series. In the final installment, we will cover the advantages of these functional movements performed at high intensity being constantly varied. See ya then!