What’s Better – Consistency or Intensity?

Blog, Exercise & Training, Goals, Health, Injury, Lifestyle, Personal Training, Psychology, Sport

Last week, as I was making some meals and washing up the mess I’d left, I was listening to a podcast. Although a lot of people don’t like him or may disagree with a lot of what he says, it was a podcast by Joe Rogan…

However, I hadn’t tuned in because of who was talking. I was listening because of the title of the podcast and how it stood out to me “How To Workout Smarter”.

As a fighter, athlete, trainer and coach, I’m always looking to learn and improve my own skills and also find out better ways to help my students and clients. Therefore, title’s like this tend to stand out to me and I figure that there’s no harm in listening to what these guys have to say as I can learn and also take inspiration!

Who Else Is in the Episode?

Joining Joe Rogan on this podcast, is a martial artists and trainer to legendary UFC veteran Georges St-Pierre, Firas Zahabi. A guy who after listening to this podcast, I’ve been intrigued by…

By the way, in this post I will only be covering the short, 20 minute snippet which I have linked above. For the full, 3+ hour podcast, you can click here. It’s well worth checking out!

Getting Into It

The first thing that Zahabi says is that he believes in never being sore; that we should train one day and wake up feeling good the next. He then goes on to give an example, using pull ups as the basis for it.

Essentially, what he says, is that if we do half of what we’re capable of, then we should be feeling fresh enough the next day to go and do the same amount. We can basically repeat this every day, until it becomes too easy and then add in a very gradual progression.

By doing this, Zahabi’s argument, is that we will have done more over the course of a whole week, (even though we’ve only done half of what we could do at our maximum in each session) than if we were to do a few training sessions at our hardest/highest intensity.


After giving his examples of doing more pull ups and doing more rounds over time, Zahabi goes on to talk about the state of flow and uses a picture of a flow channel chart (shown below).

Flow & Training Intensity

During this discussion, Zahabi makes a good point of training and exercise being fun and enjoyable. Stating that too many people hammer themselves and go really hard in training all the time.

However great that may make someone feel immediately after, it can have a souring effect as a person cannot achieve that same high for an extended period of time due to muscle soreness and fatigue.

Intensity When Necessary

The Martial Artist, based out of the TriStar Gym in Canada, doesn’t totally knock intensity. He believes that it has its time and place during a person’s training camp or training programme. As he says “by nature, intensity can only be done once in a while”…

If we think about it, this is true and if we’re constantly going hard and working at our highest intensity every day, we’re not actually working at our hardest. Although that sounds contradictory, by going our hardest each and every day we don’t allow our bodies to recover and replenish. Therefore, it’s physically impossible to actually work at our very hardest every day!

The Way of the Eastern Block

In his example of Russian wrestlers versus American wrestlers, Zahabi says about how the Russian’s would rather focus on long term consistency and repetition with short term periods of intensity, closer to competition, as opposed to less regular training sessions with more intensity per session.

Essentially it is the same concept of volume over time, compared against intensity.

Faris Zahabi concludes that if there is – overall – more training and practice of technique, with short periods of intense work, then the person who trains in this way has the advantage, over a person who has spent less hours drilling techniques, despite their work at higher intensities.

In his own words “the volume, is far more important than the intensity”.

Screenshot Consistency or Intensity

A Balanced Training Programme

Listening to this podcast, it re-affirmed to me the importance of a well structured and well balanced training programme. If there’s no set plan in place, then we should at least train smart and accordingly.

Although in any sport we want the best results and we want to feel the changes as soon as possible, it pays to work towards the long term and be patient with our practice.

A lot more can be achieved, with smaller, but more consistent practices and even if a session doesn’t look like much on paper, it’s value, the lessons learnt from it and the skills gained can be far more significant than how any written totals may appear.

Agree or Disagree?

Whether or not you agree or disagree with Faris Zahabi, he does make some valid points and has a lot of experience in this field.

Obviously, Zahabi is speaking in relevance to martial arts and the crafts that he is always studying.

However, I would say that this idea of consistency and relevant periods of intensity are far more beneficial to everyone in whatever it is that they’re doing, than to be working at a maximal output all the time.

It’s definitely something to consider, whether you’re a fighter, a general gym junkie or a keep-fitter!

Periodisation Chart Skill/Vol/Intensity

Closing Thoughts

I have personally always thought in a similar way, but have admittedly fallen into the trap of feeling the need to work harder all the time and needing to feel it after each and every session.

I think that this is a common mindset for fighters to fall into!

In retrospect, I believe that in my own training, trying to train at high intensity on a daily basis, is where I have ended up worked against myself… Hence the co-incidence of a broken arm to make me step back and realise this!

However true this may be, in terms of coaching others, I am always very aware of how hard to push them and I know when enough is enough. So from now on, I will be treating myself like one of my own clients.

It’s certainly funny how fate works and how things fall into place to make us realise our own shortcomings…

Anyway, that’s it for today’s post! Many thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts and opinions on the subject – Consistency or Intensity!

Tyler 🙂


For more information on custom training programmes, you can click here and be re-directed to the A.R.D. Training Camp Facebook Page where we can create them for you.

Also, you can find more of my own posts relevant to this topic below:

Winning The Mental Battle of Physical Fitness and Obesity

How Often Should We Exercise?

Why is Movement So Important?

The Benefit of Injury


Let me know what you think

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