It’s crucial to understand intensity and volume, because there is typically an inverse relationship between the two. If intensity is high, we likely want to keep volume lower. If volume is high, we need to be careful to control intensity.
There can certainly be times when both are high or both are low, but it’s crucial to understand we can’t just slam our face into the floor via high intensity day-in & day-out if we want to look good and feel well in the long term.
Intensity = how hard you are working (are we cruising along at 70-80% effort most days? Or are we competing with others, working to near failure, and “redlining” each and every single day?)
Volume = the entire amount of work we perform (sets, reps, load, etc)
One could do extremely high volume with super low load (for example: walking). As intensity increases (such as running), the total time doing it decreases out of necessity. When sprinting, the output level is much closer to maximal and maybe 5-10 all-out bursts is all that can be performed. Lifting weights isn’t much different.
The ability to auto-regulate and judge when to “push the bill” or “back-off” during training and exercise is a crucial life skill. Self awareness is a helluva drug and we need to be able to analyze and how we feel inside and outside the gym. Blindly training hours on end, at high intensity, 5-7 times a week is an eventual recipe for disaster.
If we feel run down and beat up, try manipulating volume and intensity by going lighter, taking more days off, or changing modalities completely. Modalities like spin class, HIIT, Orange Theory, or CrossFit tend to be consistently higher intensity, whereas stuff like yoga and bodybuilding tend to be less stressful on the body.
If the goal is simply to maximize aesthetics, keep in mind that no one CrossFit’s their way to the Mr. Olympia stage. The way that you workout and train should match the outcome that you are trying to achieve.