Understanding High Intensity Training & How to Apply It: by Coach Anne

High intensity is an important part of training. If you are not pushing for increased intensity, you may not be getting the most out of your work outs.

Pay attention your next couple weeks of work outs. 

Do you have a day where you train to 100% effort? Or, are you pushing to 100% and then burning out every single work out? 

If you answer yes to either of these, it might be time to re-evaluate how you complete your work outs.

What does full, high intensity training feel like?

As an athlete, coach, and a nurse, I understand that pain perception and tolerance mean different things to different people. Every one perceives pain differently and can tolerate different levels of pain. That being said, feeling the pain or deep burn at least once a week is one important part to training. If you are uncomfortable with feeling uncomfortable, this should be a little bit of a wake-up call. Sometimes life hurts, and sometimes your work outs are supposed to as well!

By pushing the intensity, not only are you gaining physical benefits, but training to full capacity can also increase your work out mental game, confidence, and prepare you for competition and everyday life. It is also proven to be the only way to increase athletic performance in already well trained endurance athletes.

Disclaimer: Every single day should NOT be a max effort or 100% intensity. This can often lead to burn out and injury. The key is to listen to your body and balance your high intensity days with general conditioning and strength training. Also, form always trumps intensity. Make sure your form is solid before you increase intensity. Always clarify with your coach what the intended intensity for each work out is and make sure you have safe technique.

Short Work Outs:

When the work out is short (2-8 minutes) or indicates a max effort movement, that means full intensity and speed! Go as hard as you can for as long as you possibly can. You may burn out near the end, but sometimes that is OK! It is going to hurt, but that is OK too!  

Moderate Work Time:

For moderate length workouts (9-17 minutes) the pace should be up, but not a max effort the entire time. My suggestion is to begin at a steady pace (70%), then begin to increase your pace after the second half of the work out. 

Being able to sustain at an 80-85% pace for an extended period of time is a different type of pain. It requires mental and physical strength and is also a great way to improve your overall training.

Longer Work Out Time:

When working for 18-30+ minutes, you obviously cannot go as fast as possible can the entire time. These work outs are often designed for pacing and consistent movement. They are not intended for you to burn out half way through. However, this still means full effort (60-70%) and mental engagement for the time allotted. Get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable for longer periods of time.

Main Takeaway about High Intensity Training

Some work outs are supposed to very uncomfortable or painful. But not EVERY work out should leave you rolling around on the ground. When programmed well, they will help your overall fitness goals.

Remember that a little suffering from time to time will make you stronger!


Check out some studies on High Intensity training.

Metabolic Adaptations to Short Term High Intensity(American College of Sports Medicine)

Alternating CardiorespiratoryFitness (Sports Medicine Journal)

The Scientific Basis for High Intensity Interval Training(Sports Medicine Journal)

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GEAR: when to use a weight-belt

The Weight Belt
The weight belt is a great tool to help you move a lot of weight! But it can be used improperly. Here are some of the most common questions I get asked about weight belts.

• What do weight belts do? 

-Weight belts are best used for max lifts and max reps. When used properly, it greatly increases your intra-abdominal and thoracic pressure (everything inside your torso). This allows more stability through your core and back. This principal allows your back to handle more force, provides a rigid platform, and you to move more weight. 
-Belts can also decrease the chance for injury during a max attempt. 

• When should I grab my weight belt? 
-Only over 80% and up to a max rep. They can be used in deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, and Olympic lifts. 

• How should I use it? 
-The weight belt should be tightly placed between your rib cage and your hips (your gut). It should not be so tight you can’t properly contract your abs, but enough that you can brace against it. Before you lift, take a deep breath, brace your stomach against the belt, and hold that position during your entire lift.  

• I don’t like using a weight belt at all. Is that OK? 
-Yes! If you prefer to lift without a belt, there is nothing wrong with that. You are using all your own stabilizers to properly maintain your position. This is an excellent crossover to every day movements. However, if you are really pushing for that extra edge, using a weight belt while maxing will help increase your numbers. 

• Can I use it for all my sets, even warm ups? 
-No. This is never recommended. If you are using it all the time, it can quickly become a problem that sets you up for injury down the line. Using a belt all the time decreases your ability to brace your core on your own. Every warm up set (everything under 80-85%) and most WOD’s should always be completed without a weight belt.  

• Can I use it for back pain? 
-NO! NEVER! If you are requiring a weight belt to squat or deadlift because of back pain, then you need to stop and address the actual problem. Most of the time it is lack of core activation, but there can be several other causes. If this is the case, please contact your coach and seek help. Lin Hill is in house and has several great therapies and exercises to get you moving pain free! 

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New to Mountain Strong? Here’s What to Know

So you’re considering an exciting journey – becoming mountain strongER – congratulations! Starting a new gym always poses a few questions, and we hope this post helps you feel more comfortable in your early weeks.  


Let’s be honest. It’s about the people too. First: The coaches are a mix of athletes with diverse passions/skill sets and sense of adventure. (We’ve got martial arts, van living, world exploring, archery, etc. on our resumes.)

We have endless love and excitement when it comes to coaching and watching people earn small and big wins every day.

We challenge you to do your best, and the members come ready to deliver every single day. We don’t push you overboard. We have colorful programming, and we work with everybody to make the day successful. Members are genuinely curious how you are and will ask you about your life because we are real people who thrive on the strength of our close-knit community. We are supportive of each other, whether’s its sharing some of our hard earned advice or cheering somebody through a timed workout.

We love kickin’ back with the occasional beer (this is Denver, after all) so expect some social gatherings!



Despite being labeled a CrossFit gym, we focus our energy on helping people who live the Colorado lifestyle – mountain athletes, skiers, runners and climbers- take their performance to the next level through injury prevention, conditioning, mobility, and strength training. CrossFit is just one tool we utilize. We integrate grip work, Olympic lifting, running, bouldering, campusing, gymnastics, animal flow, and kettlebells to make you a well-rounded, long-lasting badass human. 


No question is too silly. We’ve all been where you have been once. We also keep a sharp eye on how well each individual is integrating with the program – we don’t view you just as a class – we monitor each body’s progress!

This is Coach Anne talking: I still vividly remember the day I signed up for a gym. The first few months, I would gather all my equipment for the assigned workout I selected out of a magazine and bring them into the studio. The studio was a place with dim lights and very few other members, if any!

With that said…here are some questions:

  • What do I do about this specific imbalance or injury?
  • I’m not familiar with this movement – can you go through it with me?
  • Do you have alternatives I might be more comfortable with during the assigned workout?



We will work with you to modify the workout every time. We don’t believe in pushing through the pain we do love working around it! We want you to come back smarter and stronger. Injuries are a common part of an athlete’s life and we won’t allow it to detour us!



We suggest coming 10-15 minutes early. This will give you adequate time to change clothes, make small talk, and warm up before the coaches’ warm up. All coaches offer a unique style of warm -up and activation drills to prep you for the workout, but it helps to get warm for about five minutes before class officially begins!

We recommend:

  • Climbing 
  • Rowing
  • Ski ERG
  • Foam rolling (if you are familiar with how to foam roll – otherwise ask us!)
  • Air Bike

Checking in? 

If you haven’t already, download the Mind-body app on your phone. This app allows you to check in to class, see whos coaching and helps us stay prepared and organized for every class. If you sign up for a class and can’t make it in- don’t worry – its no big deal!

What to wear? 

Wear clothes you feel good in and are capable of moving in all planes! Coach Anne here: I’m a strong believer in wearing attire you feel confident in, especially in new surroundings. Second, as mentioned, we deploy barbells, climbing work, kettlebells (and lots of chalk for our sweaty hands!): You want durable attire that won’t snag or tear. 


Can I come in to climb or lift without following the gym’s programming or coaching?

The short answer is YES. We understand lots of athletes have their systems in place and want to do their own thing when it comes to training- using our top-notch equipment and facility. We offer a 24hour membership for athletes who have a solid understanding of training methodology and best practices. You get a code to the door and are allowed to come train anytime the gym is open or closed- to your heart’s content. Email us if your interested ( info@mountainstrongdenver.com ) 


High-five on considering becoming mountain strong. We mean that literally and will do our best to make it happen for you. We are psyched to have you become part of our growing community! 

Check out our other blog posts to learn more about the gym and our training methodologies!

More questions/concerns? Just take the leap and come drop in for a class ( your first one is always free- no pressure ! )  or Talk to a coach!


Written by Coach Anne R.  check her out on instagram @liftlivelead and the gym at @mountainstrongdenver



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Coaches Corner: The pull-up

The pull-up is one of those movements that comes so naturally for some and is a constant struggle for others. But, no matter where you lie on the pull-up spectrum, there is always room for improvement. 

Why should you do pull-ups?

Pull-ups are a great test of body weight strength. They work your grip, biceps, shoulders, and back. They also help improve general body awareness and help you learn to control your body through space. Pull-ups are the ultimate real-world upper body exercise.  

Why do some people struggle?

Sorry ladies, the cards are sort of stacked against us! Women have a higher body fat percentage than men, which means that their strength to body weight ratio is low. Women also don’t build muscle as fast which makes it more difficult but not impossible!

Also, taller and larger people have a harder time with strict pull-ups. Smaller people have a relatively higher body weight strength than a larger person-once again, that strength to body weight ratio. It often comes down to weight, levers, and physics. 

The good news: You can still get a pull-up!

If you are committed to working towards it, there are many things you can do to work towards that elusive strict pull-up. 

  1. Work on the basic muscle groups to build bicep and lat strength through free weight movements and lifting. 
  2. Scale the pull up to something that directly translates to the full movement. I recommend toe assisted box pullups (video) and only SOME band assisted pull-ups. 
  3. Make a goal and commit and be diligent to whatever program you choose! (check out my pull-up program on the website or find one that works for you!)
  4. If it is healthy and feasible for you, shedding even a few pounds will make pull-ups, and every body-weight movement much easier.  


To kip or not to kip. 

Why do we do the kipping pull-up? In any high-intensity training, we want to find ways that you can do more reps in a short amount of time to keep the intensity up. 

However, if you cannot perform a strict pull-up, there is no reason to do kipping pull-ups in a workout. It’s just not safe! However, you can continue to work on the skill outside of workouts while you are developing your strict pull-up strength.

Improving on your strict pull-ups.

If you already have a good strict pull-up foundation, here are a few things to add to your routine that can help improve them even more. 

  1. Add some weight: Go slow and work up in weight and reps.
  2. Improve your mobility: If you know you have tight lats or thoracic spine, spend some time every day working on those areas for a better full range of motion. 
  3. Negatives: Work on negatives until failure (no longer able to control descent)
  4. Chest to bar: Work on pulling even higher! Aim for your chest or sternum. This will help engage even more lats, chest, and triceps. 

wait for it…..



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