‘Intensity’ is a term that’s becoming more and more fashionable amongst trainers right now.
Long, drawn-out workouts comprising of 20+ sets are out the window in favour of shorter, tougher sessions lasting an hour or less with almost non-existent rest periods.
While I don’t agree this is the BEST way to train (there is no ‘best’ way), it’s certainly effective, and a style that you should practise periodically.
‘Intensity’ is an ambiguous term however; some take it simply to mean ‘trying really hard’ – this is something you should be doing regardless of whether your workouts last 20 minutes or 2 hours.
So how can you ensure that your workouts become more intense?
Here are 4 techniques you can employ at the end of your sets to take your muscles ‘beyond’ failure;
Finish your set in the normal fashion.
Rather than resting and waiting for your muscles to replenish so you can perform another ‘full’ set, put the weight down, rest up to 10 seconds, then push out as many more reps as you can.
Try decreasing this 10 second rest period over time until you can actually tack an extra rep on the end of your normal set.
The video below shows one regular set followed by 2 rest-pause sets (a style of training known as DogCrap or DC)
You’ll need a spotter for these.
Once you reach failure, get your spotter to assist with as many more reps as you can handle.
As this video states, your spotter needs to do ‘just enough’ to help you get the best results, on most exercises you’ll reach a ‘sticking point’, and your spotter is best utilised in getting you past this so you can perform the remainder of the rep on your own. You can also spot yourself on single-limb. movements.
Since you’re always stronger in the eccentric phrase of a rep (the lowering phase), you’ll be able to continue performing negative (eccentric or ‘lowering reps’) long after you’ve failed on the concentric (lifting phase).
With this in mind, get a spotter to essentially perform the concentric phase for you, while you concentrate on lowering the weight as slowly as possible for extra reps.
This also works as a standalone technique – i.e. you could perform a whole workout consisting of just negative reps
When people talk about failure, they’re mostly referring to failure to perform another full concentric rep.
Often you’ll still be able to perform partial concentric reps through a certain phase of the lift.
For example, once you’ve reached full concentric failure on the barbell bench press, you should be able to continue performing the 2nd phase of the lifting (where the triceps are more involved).
Of course you’ll need a spotter to help get you through the initial phase (or the final phase, depending on which is the toughest) unless you’re using a power rack, as demonstrated in the video below
Drop sets work best on machines, although they can just as easily be performed with fixed-weight dumbells/barbells or plate-loaded machines or barbells.
Once you’ve reached failure, remove 2/3rds of the weight and continue to rep out until you reach failure again.
Repeat until you want to scream.
You don’t necessarily need a spotter for these.