Before going into detail regarding the various techniques we can employ to increase the intensity of our training we first need to lay a solid foundation that we can literally build upon to further our gains.
After we fully understand the importance and application of training intensity we can then create a ‘conditioned platform’ to safely take advantage of techniques such as ‘drop-sets’, ‘super-sets,’ ‘forced reps,’ ‘cheat reps, ‘negatives’ etc with minimal risk to injury. The key to this lays in developing a long-term attitude that is willing to create high levels of intensity for every single body-part in every single work-out.
So why the importance? The absolute fundamental aspect to all successful resistance training is achieving muscle overload. This should be 100% central to your approach and truly represents our number 1 priority! However to achieve effective muscle overload we are fully dependent on 3 other exceptionally important concepts that stem directly from and support/underpin our main objective. These are of course: resistance, technique and intensity.
It can be helpful to think of these 3 working in harmony like so:
Adequate Resistance + Perfect Technique + High Intensity = Muscle Overload.
No doubt you can see, remove or compromise any part of this somewhat simple equation and you will fail to achieve optimum levels of muscle overload and in the process fall short of your goals and potential – such is the importance of high levels of training intensity!
You can either train hard or long – better to train hard.
So how do we increase our base levels of intensity? Easy – we seek to minimise our rest periods; this is one of the reasons why I love bodybuilding/progressive resistance, everything is almost always practical, straight-forward and founded on commonsense. If for example we normally complete a chest and triceps workout in 90 minutes, but after addressing our levels of intensity we’ve managed to still take the muscles to failure the same amount of times in 45 minutes, doesn’t it stand to reason that we’ve trained twice as hard?
Please don’t get hung up over a potential drop in resistance – the critical point here is that we’ve taken the muscles to failure, the actual weight (if muscle failure is achieved) is irrelevant. Do you honestly believe you’ve had a fantastic workout if your finishing as strong as you started? Where’s the shame in leaving the gym exhausted only being able to manage ‘light’ weights? Isn’t this evidence of you ‘leaving everything’ in the gym? Or look at this another way, say you manage a working set (not a warm-up) of bench-press with 80KG for 10 reps, 3 minutes later you repeat the same 10 reps with 80KG, 3 minutes later you manage to press 80KG again for the third time for 10 reps. What purpose have sets 1 and 2 served? You obviously haven’t effectively broken the tissue down as your just as strong on set 3. Doesn’t this then constitute a waste of time and failure to address our main objective – muscle overload?
Being prepared to go through the pain barrier each and every session as well as humbling ourselves with so called ‘lighter’ weights are 2 critical conditions we need to meet if we are to succeed. To effectively increase our training intensity we must look to get straight back onto our next working set as soon as we manage to get our breath back to anything like normal. Be consciously aware of your breathing and follow this simple rule and you’ll notice your rest intervals reducing by the work-out as you get fitter and better conditioned to handling high levels of intensity – this is progress! Granted conversation with your training partner may be limited to a few words of encouragement but that’s a good thing, start laying the foundations now and I promise you’ll be glad that you did!