How to Workout Smarter – Is Consistency Over Intensity the Way?

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A colleague sent me this video and asked me to take a look.

In This Video Firas Zahabi, Black Belt, Philosophy Major, former kickboxing champion, Tristar MMA Gym coach and head coach for UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, is interviewed by Joe Rogan on The Joe Rogan Experience MMA show #32.

The entire episode touches on MMA, Science, Philosophy, and even religion toward the end of the video podcast.

Today, I am focused on Zahabi’s training Philosophy, which according to this video might be summed up as:

Training should happen at 70% effort most of the time, on a consistent basis, and full intensity effort occasionally.

We should train in a flow state, enjoying the work leading to effortless consistent training. Consistent practice will ultimately lead to more hours with less injury than always going all out.

Frias ideas are intriguing.

Nevertheless.

I wondered if his theory holds up for all sports.

I decided to let the ideas marinate a little bit and spun them around in my head for a few days before I attempted to decide what I believed.

The following are a few main points of Firas argument I wrestled with a bit.

man lying on rubber mat near barbell inside the gym

Never Being Sore?

Firas asserts you should not train to the point of being sore or to the point of exhaustion.

Firas says: “Don’t redline the body. If you are at a 7, work until you are at an 8.5, don’t go until you are tired.”

As someone who has hit the Gym sore many times, I was surprised by what Firas said.

Could what he is saying be true?

His argument is this:

Making yourself sore thwarts training the next day, and pushing yourself past the point of enjoying the exercise sets up mental training roadblocks by creating an aversion to working out.

I have to admit, I don’t like being spent for an entire day after a workout.

Sometimes being sore does get in the way of life, and it been the cause of a skipped workout or two.

Except…

I usually do enjoy my workout while I am working out.

But I agree with him, if you are not loving it, or in a “flow state” as he calls it, training will be massively harder, and I can see an athlete quitting because they hate the training.

But what about this sore muscle business?

Firas stresses consistency and volume over intensity. The idea is through consistency and volume, you perfect your move.

This reminds me of what Bruce Lee said:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.Bruce Lee

OK, consistency and volume are certainly tools to build form perfection, excellent muscle memory and technique.

But do volume and consistency make you stronger or bigger?

Or are sore muscles necessary to become stronger and grow bigger?

Let’s be real here, not every athlete, not every sport calls for the same attributes.

  • Martial Arts favor the technically skilled.
  • Running favors the athlete with endurance and speed.
  • Olympic Lifting favors strength.
  • Body building favors muscle growth and aesthetics.

Jeff Cavaliere, former Head physical Therapist and Strength Coach for the New York Mets, has his Masters Degree in Physical Therapy and a Bachelor of Science in Physioneurobiology & Premed and is someone I respect.

Cavaliere’s take on being sore is basically this.

It is not necessarily required, but eventually you will hit a wall or ceiling in growth and strength, and eccentric overload (which causes soreness) will be necessary if you want to progress.

Cavaliere argues against excessive volume as he says it creates injury from overuse.

What is Flow State and Why is it Important?

I find it much easier to agree with Firas on this point.

Firas says having flow, or being “in the zone” leads to greater performance. In a flow state you have energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment of what you are doing.

You fall out of flow state when:

  • The Challenge is too high because you will meet anxiety.
  • The Challenge is too low and you encounter boredom.

Firas says: “If you are not in flow state, it will not be fun and take too much mental energy to go work out. When you leave flow state, cut the workout short.”

Frias argues that running full bore all the time harms your training because:

  • Pushes you out of flow state making the workout unenjoyable.
  • Exhausts you and causes sore muscles, discouraging volume and consistency.

Staying in Flow state is one of the best ways to stay motivated.

Consistency Over Intensity – Is it the Way?

Frias says: go 70% capacity most of the time, and with full intensity occasionally. Train more often and increase training volume.

Firas says if you train at full intensity everyday your body will break down.

Cavalierie says that if you train for volume you risk overuse injury.

Who is right?

I don’t know. What do you think?

I will say this; I think volume is important when the sport involves favors skill over strength.

Perfecting form and movement takes volume. It’s the whole one punch 10000 times philosophy.

I want to hear your thoughts!

Share your observations in the comments below and let’s get a discussion going.

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