Workout of the Day

The CrossFit 'Intensity' Paradox, Part I


Walk into a CrossFit gym on any given day and there's a good chance you're going to see 'for time,' 'AMRAP,' or 'as heavy as possible' up on the whiteboard as part of the workout of the day. It's a hallmark of CrossFit training, and it is the application of one of the key tenets of CrossFit: intensity. Of the three 'pillars' of CrossFit—intensity, constant variance, and functional movement—intensity is likely the one that has garnered both the most enthusiasm and the most controversy. CrossFit holds intensity as one of the pillars of training because, all else being equal, greater intensity yields greater results.

We stand by this assertion that intensity yields results, and we regularly use 'for time' and 'AMRAP' modalities in our GPP programming; but, we also find that the application of intensity can be ill-conceived by coaches and athletes alike. Short-sightedness combined with competitive enthusiasm often leads to a 'right here, right now' intensity that ignores yesterday and tomorrow. This looks like training at the redline, zero-restraint, all out thrashing from the moment '3-2-1, GO' is called out. We've all encountered someone who brings this kind of intensity (let's call him Todd). Every workout is war, a fight for life or death—Todd won't let himself be seen as 'outworked' by anyone. Sweat, blood, tears, cursing... the works. Todd must have this intensity thing down, right?
Well, no.

The irony is that this type of so-called 'intensity' actually detracts from overall intensity. Yes, Todd, the most (seemingly) intense of them all, is missing the mark on intensity. Why? True intensity doesn't always look the way we expect it to. We defer to physics for our primary definition of intensity: work completed over time. If we're not careful, this definition might suggest that intensity is indeed being exhibited to the greatest degree by our buddy Todd. But if we take a moment to consider the capacities of the human system, and to zoom out, and realize that 'over time' could refer to more than just the time between '3-2-1 GO' and the final buzzer, we get a bit of a clearer (and bigger) picture. The reality is, this fitness stuff is a long-game endeavor. It's more akin to a 100km ultra-marathon than a 100m dash. And intensity isn't always blood, sweat, and tears.

We'll dig in a bit deeper tomorrow.

- Preston Sprimont


  • Spend 15 minutes working on ring muscle-ups, transitions, negatives

  • 4 rounds for time:

    • 2 rope climbs

    • 4 box jumps (30”/24”)

    • 6 C2B pull-ups

    • 8 jumping squats

    • 10 hand release push-ups