New Workout Difficulty

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Hello everyone!

DAREBEE now has a more clearly defined difficulty assignment for all workouts and programs. Now that we have over 2100+ various workouts in the database we felt we needed a better way of sorting workouts and programs by difficulty. We've been slowly re-categorizing the entire database and we are 95% done with our entire workouts' collection (the programs are next). You can already use the following guidelines to find the workouts that are better suited for you and your current needs/abilities:

Difficulty Level 1: Light

Standing exercises only, some seated exercises. Exercises include: various arm exercises, march steps, step jacks, side jacks, side leg raises. It's an ideal category for anyone who is severely overweight, is recovering from injury or has limited mobility. It is also a good category for active recovery days.

Difficulty Level 2: Easy

Standing and floor exercises - but no planks. This category contain low impact exercises: reverse lunges, hops, squat holds, butt kicks and reverse lunges. This category will also be a good option for recovery days or for anyone with limited mobility and/or joints' issues.

Difficulty Level 3: Normal

This category is the middle-ground for all of our routines. It's challenging and effective but it doesn't include any of the high impact exercises: like push-ups, jump squats. jumping lunges, squat hops or burpees. I repeat, there are no burpees at level 3. You will see wall push-ups, though. This category includes: all types of jumping jacks, high knees, squats etc.

Difficulty Level 4: Hard

And now we have all of the high impact exercises: jumping lunges, jump squats, lots of burpees, regular (and knee) push-ups, pull-ups and up & down planks. This is where it gets hard.

Difficulty Level 5: Advanced

All workouts with complex exercises can be found at level 5. You will see workouts with the following exercises in here: single leg squats, single leg balance exercises, push-up variations, jump knee tucks and hook kicks. This category is calisthenics territory.


We are still fine-tuning the filter but we felt it's something you can already use hence the announcement. We hope you like the change!

P.S. To update the filter and see the changes you may need to clear your cache (not your cookies!).
P.S.S. If you see workouts in the wrong category after your clear your cache, do let us know below. Thanks!
 
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Laura Rainbow Dragon

Well-known member
Bard from Canada
Posts: 1,811
"Striving to be the change."
Will these category descriptions (or a link to them) be added to the workouts (and eventually programs) filter page(s)? Difficulty level #s, no matter how you classify them, will never be all that useful because an exercise that is easy for one person may be impossible for another, and vice versa. I can do most single-leg balances with my eyes closed. Literally. But full push-ups are HARD. And unassisted pull-ups are still impossible for me. This information here, however, detailing the categories of exercises that get a specific rating, is useful.
 

Sundance

Well-known member
Duelist Posts: 205
As I understand it, you have changed the difficulty level to reflect the complexity of the exercises included in the workout rather than the intensity of the workout itself. The perception of complexity and intensity will always vary from person to person, and the more complex exercises naturally have a higher intensity built in.

It is probably a matter of personal preference. Still, I liked the old filtering system, where I could filter based on intensity. For example, all workouts with push-ups are now grouped under "Hard." For me, there is a difference between a workout with ten push-ups per set and, for example, a workout with max push-ups. Take "Special Ops" and "Wake Up! & Make It Happen" as examples.

In the old system, I filtered for level 3 workouts as they suited me in intensity. On recovery days, I screened for level 1 and 2 workouts, and on days when I wanted to challenge myself, I filtered for level 4 and 5 workouts. I no longer have that option. Now, I have to manually sort through 790 workouts and, based on my knowledge and experience with Darebee's workouts, try to figure out which ones match my desired intensity.

I understand the rationale and consideration behind the new filter. It is also part of the site's changes that make it more user-friendly and open to new users. However, I do not feel that it caters to the users of the site who want to be able to filter by the individual workouts' intensity. One solution could be to keep the new filtering but add the old filtering as a new option.
 

Matan

Well-known member
Alchemist Posts: 729
I love the idea of an exercise filter.
On some days I don't want to do particular exercises because of injury or DOMS or just because, and the new filter fits it perfectly. On some days though I don't really care what exercises I'll do but how hard I want to push myself, here the new filter, just like @Sundance said forces us to go through hundreds of workouts to find "that one".

Also I think that the new filter took away the variety. Sometimes even level 2 workouts where quite challenging, making us to work safely on skills we may lack.
For example "I Aim To Misbehave" has been moved into level 4 category, with many much, much harder workouts, just because it has push-ups.
 

PetiteSheWolf

Well-known member
Alchemist from France
Posts: 1,650
I agree that the push ups "cut-off" is interesting but not always apt. I really like the example that @Matan gave : I am to misbehave has a total of 6 push ups per set. I can comfortably do that, would consider it a nice upper body workout but not a terrible sweater. (push ups to failure would be hard, but doable , for another example) - when I know "old type" difficulty 3 are my mainstay "i wanna swear a bit but it's not like I had a ton of coffee and a challenge" workouts, and difficulty 4 quite rare.

Another example would be that, for little personal me, a criteria for chosing a workout is definitly its knee-friendliness. In "new type" recent level 2 workouts, Evolution or Regulator with their 30 reserve lunge/set would be a definite no no for me. But that's always been true through the different difficulty ratings.

So ... interesting discussion. I don't know what type of advice to give, except look at the exercises themselves, before, and know yourselves - what pushes youj and when to push yourself!
 

Skal1agrim

Member
Posts: 12
As I understand it, you have changed the difficulty level to reflect the complexity of the exercises included in the workout rather than the intensity of the workout itself. The perception of complexity and intensity will always vary from person to person, and the more complex exercises naturally have a higher intensity built in.

It is probably a matter of personal preference. Still, I liked the old filtering system, where I could filter based on intensity. For example, all workouts with push-ups are now grouped under "Hard." For me, there is a difference between a workout with ten push-ups per set and, for example, a workout with max push-ups. Take "Special Ops" and "Wake Up! & Make It Happen" as examples.

In the old system, I filtered for level 3 workouts as they suited me in intensity. On recovery days, I screened for level 1 and 2 workouts, and on days when I wanted to challenge myself, I filtered for level 4 and 5 workouts. I no longer have that option. Now, I have to manually sort through 790 workouts and, based on my knowledge and experience with Darebee's workouts, try to figure out which ones match my desired intensity.

I understand the rationale and consideration behind the new filter. It is also part of the site's changes that make it more user-friendly and open to new users. However, I do not feel that it caters to the users of the site who want to be able to filter by the individual workouts' intensity. One solution could be to keep the new filtering but add the old filtering as a new option.
I'd like to echo these sentiments. The Darebee team is of course acting in the best interest of its community, but the new filtration feels like a misstep to me. It seems like sheer volume, a key contributing factor to Sundance's "intensity" should qualify a given workout for a higher level status.

For example, workouts like "Squat and Co.," "Cardio and Tone," and "Legs & Core" now occupy Level 5 spots because of their inclusion of single leg movements, while "Superhuman," "Goddess," and "The Nix," formerly Level 5 workouts, now slot in at Level 4. Like Sundance notes, "the perception of complexity and intensity will always vary from person to person," but I'd still wager the average trainee taking on the latter three workouts would feel far more exhausted than if they were performing the former, the newly minted Level 5 workouts.

At the end of the day, an old Darebee salt like me isn't much affected by this change; I'll be able to find the workouts I need just fine. But I can see new potential Darebee users being confused or even frustrated by the new setting. Just anecdotally, when I first came to Darebee, the workout level intensity really inspired me to push myself to perform; it was a major achievement to complete Level 4 and then Level 5 workouts. That sense of a threshold from a beginner to intermediate trainee is a real testament to the care and attention of the Darebee workout designers and testers, and I can't help but think that the new filter standards might belie that same standard of dedication, insight, and finesse in crafting excellent (mostly) bodyweight workouts.
 

Nihopaloa

Well-known member
Duelist from Germany
Posts: 271
"Eyyyy"
I take particular gripe with
All workouts with complex exercises can be found at level 5. You will see workouts with the following exercises in here: single leg squats, single leg balance exercises, push-up variations, jump knee tucks and hook kicks. This category is calisthenics territory.
Emphasis mine.

This results in the Level 5 category being all over the place and you have something like this:
https://darebee.com/workouts/kitten-workout.html (very very hard for me!)
in the same category as this:
https://darebee.com/workouts/muse-workout.html (comatose easy for, once again, me).
Or this here:
https://darebee.com/workouts/sofa-bound-workout.html (this used to be Level 1 or 2, did it?)

And this here:
next to this one:

I think this organisation is an incredibly weird one. Push-Ups are one of those baseline exercises, bumping them to Level 4 seems weird. Reaching real push-ups should be the standard and from here on it should get hard. I feel that Darebee aims to be a starting point for those that haven't worked out much or are just starting out (which is great), but even then categorising balancing on a single leg as callisthenics territory is plain weird. I don't know how I feel about this. Weird, obviously.
But then again, while Darebee is great for starting out, I think those who have trained for some time and are developing real goals probably are experienced enough to start looking for how to reach their goals elsewhere, so in the end it probably comes down to how to use Darebee and what to expect.
Personally, I think it's harder for those who are used to the old difficulties to find what they're looking for.

Edit: maybe emphasising the fact that one can always substitute easier variations for the hard ones would be a better course. Example: wall-push-ups in stead of normal push-ups. Because sometimes, those 4 push-ups make a rather easy ground-based workout a difficult one for some. Now it's just a hard or advanced workout. Weird, once again.
 
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broli

Well-known member
Ninja Posts: 136
This results in the Level 5 category being all over the place and you have something like this:
https://darebee.com/workouts/kitten-workout.html (very very hard for me!)
in the same category as this:
https://darebee.com/workouts/muse-workout.html (comatose easy for, once again, me).
Or this here:
https://darebee.com/workouts/sofa-bound-workout.html (this used to be Level 1 or 2, did it?)
Sofa Bound WO indeed states:
It's a Level II workout which means you can integrate it into your day to day TV-watching without any difficulty.
That WO has a single leg squat hold with the other leg on the sofa and it's just 30 sec.
Too weird that it is level 5.

Kitten used to be level 3, I think that it's harder than 3.
I find it however lighter than other WO that used to be level 4, e.g. https://darebee.com/workouts/4x4-workout.html.
But it has one-arm hang.

In my opinion the filter should consider the number of reps and intensity.
Single leg balancing doesn't look so advanced.
While if there are 100 pistol squats the situation is different.
 
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Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 653
I am taking this opportunity to address a couple of things for our greater knowledge. When we consider difficulty levels in exercise some things will be subjective. Each one of us has different strengths and weaknesses that are the result of genetics, prior fitness and nutritional history, lifestyle and so on. Other things however will be objective. In the past, within the Darebee classification program we followed the route of averages. If an average number of volunteers of varying ages and backgrounds agreed on the difficulty level of a workout we assigned that to it. The judgement was subjective but it was broadly agreed and it was, at the time, what we felt we had to do.

We have grown in the number of workouts we offer considerably and many more are coming down the pipeline. At the same time the data we have on how people exercise and what effects this has, has led us towards this very different and more scientific approach. For example: during a single push-up we carry up to 85% of our total body weight on our arms and shoulders. This changes at different points of the push up and the variation also reflects the individual uniqueness we each bring to bear which I mentioned earlier. So, is a single push-up hard to do? No. Not really. With some exceptions we can get almost anyone to do one. But the ability to do one does not take away from the fact that the load experienced by the skeletal muscles and tendons is considerable. So a push-up is not an easy thing to do despite the fact that most people can do it in some form or another.

Our fresh approach to filtering workout difficulty takes into account the very real loads experienced by skeletal muscles, tendons and ligaments because they, ultimately, trigger adaptations that lead to effective, lasting physical change and applies them across the board. If you can breeze a difficulty Level V workout that's because that particular workout fits into your own physical adaptations, not that it is not difficult. In that case you'd need to find another difficulty Level V workout that is more challenging for you because it pushes you outside your comfort zone.

This fresh approach has two distinct benefits:

  1. It will help you get fitter by stealth in some cases. Just because you did a workout relatively easily doesn't mean your muscles have not experienced the load necessary for change to occur.
  2. It levels the playing field. If you consistently, for instance, find yourself doing difficulty Level V workouts that is your level and that is an admirable achievement. In the past we had Level III workouts that were as challenging to do as Level V because our focus was on performance instead of loads applied. This fresh approach will help avoid plateaus, it will make it harder for you to slip back (and when you do, you will know it) plus it makes it easier for newer Bees to move forward.
I hope this helps you better understand the benefits of this new filtering which reflect the logic behind our more scientific approach to exercise.
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
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Posts: 653
Now I am very curious about the scientific insight on the baseline difficulty of balancing on a single leg, to be quite honest.
Maintaining reactive balance in a standing position on one leg activates almost as many muscles as walking. You can see a study on that here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641709/

Other studies show that maintaining more challenging balance positions such as the ones we use in our workouts require "that the lower extremity muscles like biceps femoris, psoas major, sartorius, iliacus play the major role for both maintaining the balance using one limb as well as maintaining the flexion of the other limb." Again, there are studies on that: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

All this before we take into account the neural changes that have to take place as the brain remaps the way it maintains the body in balance in 3D space. So what seems easy is not quite as easy as it seems.
 

broli

Well-known member
Ninja Posts: 136
For example, workouts like "Squat and Co.," "Cardio and Tone," and "Legs & Core" now occupy Level 5 spots because of their inclusion of single leg movements, while "Superhuman," "Goddess," and "The Nix," formerly Level 5 workouts, now slot in at Level 4. Like Sundance notes, "the perception of complexity and intensity will always vary from person to person," but I'd still wager the average trainee taking on the latter three workouts would feel far more exhausted than if they were performing the former, the newly minted Level 5 workouts.
I think that the load is indeed a lot more in the former.
 

Fremen

Well-known member
Shaman from Italy
Posts: 3,531
"“Keep an eye on the staircases. They like to change.” Percy Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
I've been following this thread from the beginning and have been browsing the new workout library with the new difficulty levels a bit.
I understand that with so many workouts there is an imperative need to have a scientific distinction to give a level of difficulty, instead of trying to do it and more or less arbitrarily giving it a level of difficulty by averaging the age and gender of the experimenters.
But I think a beginner would be shocked to find workouts with large intensity differences in the same level of difficulty or even between different levels of difficulty.
Darebee's great strength lies in being beginner friendly, from here it's easy to start and then move on, there's everything you need, from examples to support.
I find it really hard to detach difficulty level from intensity, 2x3 push-ups or max per set makes a big difference and this is just one example on an exercise that discriminates difficulty level.
It's just my take on what I found the new difficulty split leaps at the eyes :)
 

Damer

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DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 653
@Fremen and @broli thank you for adding to this thread. As with everything we do this has taken some time to come about, lots of internal discussions and it is, of course, always an experiment. I totally get what you are saying about intensity due to volume. And when we were discussing strength training in one of our AMAs this, indeed, came up as a way to increase load. One of the original issues we had to deal with when DAREBEE got started was how to achieve progression when workouts are always different and someone does not want to yet commit time to doing a program. In the beginning we couldn't. We had too few workouts in our database, the diversity was not sufficiently broad and we had yet to find a scientific way of grading difficulty.

This new approach answers all of that and @Fremen your observation is on-point. A Level II beginner, for instance, now has a means of progressing through Level II workouts precisely because their intensity varies and the load increases without however getting outside the level of difficulty. We need to be able to increase the load within a level in order to level up. So, for argument's sake, if you're a Level V DAREBEE and you find a Level IV workout you can't do then you're not really yet a full level V. You are, instead, borderline. The same goes for every other level (I used level V arbitrarily here).

Intensity always has to do with the perceived load we experience during a workout. Difficulty level on the other hand has to do with the physical, mental and neural attributes we develop. Some of those attributes are, indeed, related to intensity within a specific level of difficulty but others aren't.

A considerable amount of work has gone into making the change but that is by the by, if we see that it doesn't work as intended we shall, of course, change it again. :LOL:

I hope this helps and guys, thank you for chipping in here. Your views and perceptions are always valuable to us.
 

LionAlpha

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Guardian from Kavala, Greece
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Posts: 104
Hey everyone! As I can see, there are different opinions, which I like because we can have a productive conversation on it, and it's nice to see how each one of us thinks about the fitness aspect.

To begin with, personally, I like the new filter. Since I use DAREBEE to focus on strength-type workouts, both with resistance and calisthenics style, it is a huge help to assist in the detection of relative exercises (so if I understand correctly, my current targets are Level IV and V). Is it a disadvantage in terms of intensity filtering? Yes, but I like the idea that I have a variety of options to select from in order to do my workout. And if one workout is easier than the next one, that's okay as well. I'll just have an easy day and "go hard" the next one. Maybe the team will add in the future an additional filter for intensity, but let's see how the new system works out first before we jump to conclusions.

Secondly, and again, it's my own personal opinion, I've been using DAREBEE for years; it has literally been the core and basis of my current fitness level, and please allow me to say that I don't like the perception that DAREBEE is only suitable for beginners or people starting out. And truth be told, I believe the new filtering will assist in proving against that opinion. I won't lie, the last few months the released programs seemed a bit too beginner-friendly, but I ignored the individual workouts (my bad, I want to finish the strength programs first, but please don't forget releasing new strength-type programs :p). I don't consider myself a beginner, although I recently built some foundational strength for pull-ups (even though I can do full push-ups), but even advanced athletes need a place like this one with structured workouts and programs that can be done at home. I don't go to the gym for several reasons, so up until now, DAREBEE has literally been my fitness bible to reach my goals. So, I hope that the team will still include intermediate and advanced workouts and programs in their database for those that are above the beginner level.

And these are my reasons for supporting the new filtering. Thank you! :LOL:
 

Fremen

Well-known member
Shaman from Italy
Posts: 3,531
"“Keep an eye on the staircases. They like to change.” Percy Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
So if I understand correctly the level of difficulty will be due to the "technical" difficulty of the exercises but within that level of difficulty you will find more or less difficult workouts depending on the intensity.
In practice it will be easier to select the type of exercises you want or don't want to do but then you have to select the intensity by browsing the various workouts :)
 

LionAlpha

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Guardian from Kavala, Greece
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 104
So if I understand correctly the level of difficulty will be due to the "technical" difficulty of the exercises but within that level of difficulty you will find more or less difficult workouts depending on the intensity.
In practice it will be easier to select the type of exercises you want or don't want to do but then you have to select the intensity by browsing the various workouts :)
That's the main idea, yes.
 

J_o_h_n

Well-known member
from Dallas, TX
Posts: 134
From my PoV, no problem to try this new arrangement. I don't see that much difference is how I will make a selection from the database on any given day. I typically manipulate the filters and see what what appears, click through the pages until I find something that inspires me for that day. If I find my selection is too/not intense, I realize I can change the reps or add/remove resistance to make it suit me. That said, if an intensity filter could be added in addition to the new difficulty ratings, that could be a help. It's still subjective, but maybe easier adds one more knob to turn to help users find what they like.

One small request: Can the equipment selection logic be "OR" like difficulty and focus and types? I get that it might make the filter way too long to add all of non-dumbbell / pullup bar equipment found in these 79 workouts, but it might be helpful sometimes to to see if dumbells are used with a bench, ball, plyobox or something else.
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Second not so small suggestion:
Individual days from the program workouts can be great stand-alone workouts too. Sometimes while completing a program I will bookmark one or two of the days because I really liked the workout and want to repeat it in the future. It would be really cool to have a separate filter adjacent to the normal programs filter to sort these the same way as the individual workouts.

One of my favorites to repeat from time to time is Spartan Trials Day 21. I was gassed doing this one for the first time in 2020. Also the plank-to-lung movement is not found in that many other workouts and gave me a good stability/balance challenge too. As I have been doing Back & Core and 30 Days of Yoga of late, I have similarly noted a couple of the individual day workouts I want to do again - example I really liked the stability challenge of B&C Day 25. Over the years I've had trouble with Achilles tendinitis and went for PT to help it. I found this workout activates my lower leg muscles similar to some of the exercises the physical therapist gave me a few years ago - so a pleasant surprise to add to my toolbox.


John
 

eeek

Active member
Alchemist from MN
Posts: 26
I agree with others that a workout intensity setting, as well as the new difficulty setting would be a great solution. I did find certain exercises in lower levels of the older difficulty setting that were very hard for me, and the new system addresses that particular issue.

However, right now I struggle more with intensity than difficulty. Having started a new job recently where I am running back and forth on my feet all day, standing exercises are actually more difficult for me now with foot pain - but planks, sit-ups, floor exercises - are ideal as a result, but only at maybe 2-3 intensity.
 
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Skal1agrim

Member
Posts: 12
Just out of curiosity, is it still the plan to update the Darebee programs to accommodate the updated exercise standards, as with the workouts? I can imagine this would be a significantly trickier task, given all the variation built into specific programs. Anyways, just wondering if there were further changes on the horizon with this.
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 653
Just out of curiosity, is it still the plan to update the Darebee programs to accommodate the updated exercise standards, as with the workouts? I can imagine this would be a significantly trickier task, given all the variation built into specific programs. Anyways, just wondering if there were further changes on the horizon with this.
Everything on this platform is in a constant state of evolution so the short answer is "yes". I just can't give you an accurate timeline given the workload we each have.
 

Saffity

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Ranger from Southern Ontario, Canada
Pronouns: She/Her
Posts: 112
"Getting strong enough to keep two tiny humans from unaliving themselves."
@Damer do you guys have a volunteer program? I do data entry, repetitive tasks, and minor coding changes for a living and I’m currently on maternity leave with Baby Boy and could possibly assist with some of these across the board changes.
 
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