One of the most important aspects of training is intensity. If its one thing I’ve noticed a lot of lifters lack, it’s intensity. Too many people these days go to the gym and sit and watch television or chat for 10 minutes with a friend between sets. This is not optimal for training; you want to be as focused as possible and train as hard as you can.
Since this type of training puts tremendous stress on your body, adequate rest and nutrition are vital; otherwise you’ll put your body in a state of overtraining.
The whole reason a lot of people lift is the extreme “pump” that you get after blasting a muscle group. You want to maximize and preserve this pump throughout your workout. There’s no other feeling quite like getting that huge pump in your chest or biceps, and training intensely can take this to a whole new level.
Here is a few easy ways to maximize intensity:
1. Less time between sets
Probably the easiest way to increase intensity is simply taking less time between sets, so instead of taking 2 minutes try taking 30 seconds. You may have to drop the weight a little but it can be worth it in the end to do this, as it will keep your body guessing which will make it grow.
If you’ve ever seen a pro-bodybuilder train you’ll notice that they cheat a lot on exercises, letting them push massive amounts of weight. The proper way to do this is do a set first with perfect form until exhaustion, then try it again but this time use your legs, shoulders and back and heave the weight up. Keep in mind this is a fairly advanced technique and should only be used by people who have some training time under their belt.
3. Drop Sets
Drop sets allow you to force a little more intensity out of your body. As you reach failure on a set, take some weight off the bar and continue to push out some more reps. This will let you fry your muscles and force them to grow.
4. Switch up your reps
Don’t let your body get used to doing a particular amount of reps; you want to always be switching up from higher reps to lower reps. This allows you to hit different muscle fibers and keeps your body guessing.
5. Forced Reps
Forced reps are simple; once you reach muscle exhaustion, push out a few more reps. Always remember to use a spotter for this as it can be dangerous if you fail. This is a tried and true method for lifters and should only be done once and awhile as it puts your muscles under tremendous stress.
If hardgainers want to gain a significant amount of muscle they require a different approach to weight training. Most hard gainers while undergoing a high intensity training (HIT) program have a tendency to burn out the central nervous system (CNS) pretty quickly. So in order to make good progress you really have to emphasize CNS recovery. Since if you don’t you can’t expect your CNS to function properly, as a result overloading your CNS and having the potential to wipe you out for days.
This means you should be getting plenty of sleep in order to get the best muscle gains, plenty of good nutrition with emphasis on pre and post workout nutrition and cycle your workouts as a way to avoid overtraining. When you overtrain, you will feel lethargic, and don’t want to train, which is detrimental to your gains!
6. Increase the weight you lift
If, for example, on our full motion bench press (which came out to be 208.3 ft-lb/sec), you were to add 5 lbs to each rep, then the formula would something like this – 255 lbs times 40 ft divided by 48 seconds, which equals 212.5 ft-lbs/sec. So that means that lifting more weight increases muscular strength and training intensity.
7. Make sure you use a full range of motion
For example, let’s say your full range of motion on the bench press is 2 1/2 feet, that means that 1 rep (up and down) is 5 feet total. And let’s say that each rep takes 6 seconds (2 up and 4 down). Now if you use 250 lbs for 8 reps the power would be – 250 lbs times 40 ft divided by 48 seconds, which equals 208.3 ft-lb/sec.
Now let’s say you cut 3 inches off the range of motion by not bringing the bar all the way down to your chest, thus taking of 1/2 foot off each rep. So, if all other factors are the same, the above set now looks like this – 250 lbs times 36 ft divided by 48 seconds, which equals 187.4 ft-lb/sec. With less range of motion, power goes down.
The goal with increasing your training intensity level is to make sure it is increasing, steadily, over time. Try not increase your strength for each exercise too much in a short amount of time as this can lead to serious injury.