Exercise Intensity–When to give more energy and effort, and when to lay back.

So you have a program and you are ready to hit the (home) gym.

But, though you know how to do each of the exercises, including reps and sets, you don’t know how much effort to give it.
So what to do?
Follow the exercise intensity scale and apply it to your workouts according to the type of exercise/session you are doing.

1: Little or no activity – like sitting on the couch, reading, surfing the internet
2-3: Light activity- a very slow walk where it is easy to hold a conversation because breathing is not heavy.
4-6: Moderate activity- Feels like you could keep doing this type of activity for a long time but you are breathing heavy so conversation would be difficult to have. Think, jogging for long distances.
7-8: Vigorous activity- On the verge of becoming uncomfortable. Only a short sentence or a few words at a time, heavy breathing, and activity can only be sustained for a short period.
9: Very hard activity.- Very hard to sustain. Breathing is heavy and labored. You can barely say a word let alone string together a very short phrase without taking a heavy breath.
10: Maximal activity- Almost impossible to keep going. You can hardly breathe and you can not speak.
Now, how do you know when to apply each exertion level to your programming?
First off, a good program will include a range of exercise intensity. You should NOT be doing between a 7-8 every day. Somedays should be a 7-8 while others should be a 4-6 or 2-3 and you might even want to add a 9 in there somewhere as well.
The same program is not going to be the same exertion level for every person. Someone just starting out might have a higher exertion rate than someone who is well trained.
With those things said, there are some general rules to follow:
When lifting in a moderate rep range (what I have most of my clients do most often) of 3-4 sets and about 6-12 reps, your effort should feel like a six or seven. This kind of training is called hypertrophy and is the type of training that is usually done for growing muscle size.  
This is also the type of training I create most of my clients’ programming around.
Next, if you are lifting in a higher rep range, 2-4 sets and about 12-15 reps, your effort will probably be a little lower, between 5-6. This kind of training is more of an endurance training and even though it is done with weights, you will probably be able to do it for longer periods of time than programming that uses heavier weights and lower reps. 
Lastly, if you are doing high intensity interval training (HIIT), your intensity and effort should be maybe an 8-9. The main thing about HIIT is that the high effort you are putting in, is in short bursts and not a steady state. I usually don’t program in HIIT unless clients are looking for a quick “cardio” type session. Side note: I don’t think beginners should be doing HIIT, it is definitely a form of exercise that if done wrong can cause injury. If you are just starting out I recommend walking, hiking, swimming, and cycling before introducing HIIT.
I hope this give you a better idea as to the effort you should be putting in to different workouts. Remember, when you first start out, your effort might be a little bit more than if you are training all the time. Just know the intensity/effort you are striving for and work towards it.  
(The number ratings and descriptions are taken from the Moms Gone Strong Manual)


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