The definition of intensity is: exceptionally great concentration, power, or force. But the actual word gets misused a lot in the bodybuilding world. People describe an entire workout as being ‘intense’. But usually intensity in the bodybuilding world is meant to describe something more akin to its’ actual definition.
Intensity should involve great concentration and be an incredible output of force, by your muscles.
Muscles and Growth
You body is a wonderful machine that will adapt and recover after having stress placed on it. For bodybuilding it is a rather basic concept of making the muscles work harder than before and they respond by growing larger and stronger. When you first start lifting weights it can happen very easily. However as things progress the curve steepens and it becomes more difficult to shock the muscles enough to cause the wanted response of growth and strength.
That is where intensity comes in.
Intensity in Workouts
The idea isn’t that every single repetition of every single set is intense. If that was the case it would cause tremendous overtraining and you would be unable to move after a while. True intensity in a workout involves reaching normal muscle failure and then forcing the body to do just a little bit more; this done with concentration and use of power or force.
It is that last bit of work beyond the muscle failure that will push the body to adapt and provide the kick your body needs.
Intensity and Efficiency
The concepts of intensity and efficiency are highly related. Remember that intensity is related to great concentration. But it can be hard to stay focused over a longer period. So we combat that by being very efficient in what we do. Here are some efficiency tips that will help with intensity:
- Shorter workout sessions not to exceed 45 minutes
- Cut the total number of sets you do in half and focus more on each set you do
- Rest less between sets
- Use a full range of motion with the heaviest weight possible
The key to a higher intensity workout is to exhaust the muscle normally and then push it just a little further. By focusing on our efficiency as well this will reduce the risk of overtraining and keep the focus level high. The following are some of the most common intensity techniques:
- Drop Sets – After you go to failure you drop the weight down to crank out a few more reps, then repeat.
- Super Sets – Combine 2 exercises doing one after the other. The most common is to pre-exhaust with something like chest flyes before doing bench presses.
- Rest Pause – After going to failure set the weight down and rest for a few seconds. Pick up the weight and do 1-2 more reps. Repeat one or two more times.
- Assisted Reps – This works with a training partner. They help lift the weight as little as possible for a few more reps after you reach failure.
Intensity isn’t about volume; it is about effort. But you can’t go all out all the time. That is why using intensity is combined with being efficient in your workouts. You have to try and give it your all for a short burst and then rest and grow!