Choose the level of intensity that fits you.
In your workout, choosing the right level of intensity that fits where you are today in your fitness journey is key to sticking to a workout routine. If you go too hard too soon, you risk injury and burnout which will surely stall your fitness goals. Respecting and listening to your body so that you can keep working out, is key to making gains.
As a trainer and while instructing my classes, I offer several levels of intensity that fit people at all fitness levels. If you are coming back to workouts after a break, are new to fitness or rehabbing an injury, staying at the level one intensity is very important. As you gain strength and endurance, it will be time to move up the levels and push your body. However, don't rush it, take your time and your body will tell you when it becomes too easy and then you will need to step it up a notch.
The levels explained
During my in person and virtual class workouts, I demo the moves for several levels of intensity. I usually give the level 1 first and then work up from there. Level 1 being the least intense and lowest impact and then level 2 and above takes it up a notch incrementally to higher impact, harder moves and heavier weights.
Levels for cardio moves
Let's look at the levels of intensity for a simple cardio move like the jumping jack.
Level 1 jumping jack
This level is low impact with no jumping off the ground. You will tap your feet out to the side one at a time and then touch your hands above your head. This will still get your heart rate up especially if you increase speed but won't add too much pressure to your lower body joints.
Level 2 jumping jack
This level adds the jumping motion in a jumping jack that we all know where your feet come off the ground jumping side to side.
Level 3 jack with a squat
This levels adds an extra lower body explosive element. Challenging your lower body muscle strength and endurance plus adding a more difficult cardio element.
Level 4 is a star jumping jack
This move is a big explosive plyometric move where both feet come off the ground at the same time and don't return to the ground until the feet come together. This level is for those who are ready to seek a bigger more intense challenge.
Levels for strength training with weights
If you are doing strength training with weights your levels of intensity are the weights you choose for a movement. Lighter weights being the lower level and heavier being higher level. You want to choose a weight that takes you as close to muscle failure as possible during your workout. When you are starting out with strength training, that will be lighter weights and as you grow stronger you will need to shift to heavier and harder weights to get you to failure and build your precious muscle. It is very easy to injure yourself while lifting weights, so until you get the form down, it is best to lift lighter weights. As you master the form and gain strength, you can lift heavier weights and reach muscle failure faster.
Levels for strength training with body weight
For body weight strength training there are modifications you can choose to reduce the load of the movement. For example, lets look at a push-up.
Level 1 push-up
This level can be performed in a tabletop position with your knees under your hips or on the wall.
Level 2 push-up
This level places your knees pushed back and your hips driving towards the floor.
Level 3 push-up
This move is on your toes.
Level 4 push-up
This higher level is the push-up done on a single leg.
Toggling between the levels as you grow stronger
I love to tell my clients that have shown some strength gains, to try the higher level for a few reps and then go back down to the lower level and go back and forth. Its a great way to "dip your toe in the water" to so speak with the harder level moves. Toggling between levels is a great way to teach your body to tolerate harder moves.
I always encourage clients to listen to their bodies and take it down a notch if their body is telling them to, or take it up a notch if they feel good and are ready bring it to the next level that day. Not every day will feel great or not so great, so take it one day at a time and if you listen to your body, are consistent and stick to your fitness routine, you will move up the levels faster than you think and crush it like a beast!
Amy Francis is a certified and experienced group fitness trainer, personal trainer and nutritional coach based in Colorado. 15 years in the fitness industry with many happy clients, Amy offers in person and virtual classes. Try some classes for free!
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Amy has spent her career helping others reach their health and fitness goals. "I hope sharing my knowledge and experience with others can help someone to live a healthier and more joyous life."