How Is Weightlifting Intensity Measured? | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

How Is Weightlifting Intensity Measured?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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Get the Basics...
  • In order to weight train effectively, you need to listen to your body.
  • You also need to understand how the process of tearing down and repairing muscles works.
  • Weightlifting intensity is measured in several different ways.

The subject of weight training is one that easily engages debate among trainers, bodybuilders, and others involved in the industry. There are so many different opinions about the best way to utilize weight training that it becomes difficult to know what’s right for the individual.

Where weightlifting is concerned, there are several schools of thought regarding how intense a workout should be.

But at the end of the day, how is weightlifting intensity measured?

The question of intensity is one that plagues many athletes, whether they’re bodybuilding or simply getting themselves in better shape.The truth of the matter is that weightlifting intensity is measured in several different ways, depending on who you ask.

We’ll discuss three of those methods in this article.

In any case, please consult a doctor before beginning any weightlifting program. If you are ready to get started, go PRO today for access to certified personal trainers, weightlifting workouts, and more.

How Is Weightlifting Intensity Measured in Relation to Load?

The first method of measuring weightlifting intensity is to base it solely on the amount of load being lifted. In short, someone lifting 200 pounds for five reps would be engaging in a more intense exercise than someone else of the same size, weight, and fitness level lifting 100 pounds for three reps.

In order to make an accurate comparison, one must determine what the maximum lifting capacity is for the individual. In your case, what is the highest amount of weight you can lift in a single rep, with good form? Whatever that amount of weight is, that’s considered the maximum load for you.

Let’s say your maximum load is 100 pounds for the bench press. If you were successfully lifting 75 pounds for five reps, your weightlifting intensity for that exercise would be 75%.

If you up the weight on the bar to 85 pounds, your intensity would be measured at 85%. In other words, load-based intensity measures how much weight you can lift for a reasonable number of repetitions as a percentage of your maximum load.

How Is Weightlifting Intensity Measured in Relation to Each HIT?

HIT is an acronym that stands for High-Intensity Training, a highly controversial method of weight training which has been around for the last several decades. HIT involves lifting weights with the goal of causing complete muscle failure at the end of the session. In other words, if you chose to do five reps of a particular exercise, HIT dictates that you lift a load which causes complete muscle failure on the fifth rep. Complete muscle failure means that you can no longer lift the weight successfully or with good form.

Under this weightlifting principle, intensity is measured by how much weight you can lift in relation to the number of reps it takes to accomplish muscle failure. As muscles adapt to a particular load limit, the load must be increased in order to continue achieving muscle failure. As the load limit increases, so does the intensity.

The reason this measurement of weightlifting intensity is so controversial lies in the fact that loads must constantly be increased. Since there is no baseline like there is with the previous load-based intensity measurement, this method tends to be somewhat unreliable.

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How Is Weightlifting Intensity Measured Medically?

Perhaps the best method of measuring weightlifting intensity is to do so medically because it relies on the individual’s response to exercise rather than the physical properties of the equipment being used. To measure weightlifting intensity medically, one only needs to measure their heart rate at the end of an individual session. Like a load-based measurement, a medical measurement is based on the heart rate as the percentage of maximum heart rate.

You can determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from the number 220. Most experts would agree that in order to consider an exercise regimen to be “intense” it needs to cause the heart rate to increase significantly. For people who are out of shape and just getting started in an exercise program, intense exercise would increase the heart rate to roughly 40% of its maximum. For people who are already in shape, that number could be as high as 75% to 80%.

Regardless of how weightlifting intensity is measured, the important thing is to not overdo it in the weight room. Pushing the body too hard in order to receive unrealistic results can cause severe injury. Any weight training workout plan that you embark on should be with the consent of your doctor and under the supervision of an experienced trainer.

You’ll do much better with your weightlifting program if you find a plan that is designed with your goals in mind. Sign up for a PRO account today for access to certified personal trainers, weightlifting programs, goal trackers, and more.

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