I.C.E. Program #4 - A Question Of Intensity!

What is intensity and how can you achieve maximum intensity during your workouts?

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Article Summary:
  • Contrary to popular belief intensity isn't all about how much weight you can lift.
  • Many different people are attributed with the creation of these techniques.
  • A few of these principles require the use of a training partner to be done safely.
  • Despite the overwhelming proof to the contrary, some would still have you believe that intensity is all about the weight you can lift. This is a total myth that has haunted our sport for years. You have to lift big to get big. I can't hear that anymore without wanting to throw up. I'm sorry, but I guarantee you that there are thousands of bodybuilders out there who are the living proof of the opposite.

    Even the great Arnold, who was known for his extremely heavy approaches to bodybuilding, held back on some exercises. He did only 60-pound flyes. I can do 80. So we all know he could do more, but the 60's allowed him to do his flyes deep and strict giving him what is probably still the best and most developed outer chest this world has seen.

    I myself can only bench 315, considered very weak by most standards, but I am fully convinced that had it only been 250, I'd still be this big. While I hold it in high regard that you have to keep pushing the envelope where strength is concerned, we aren't power-lifters. If we were we'd be fat unsymmetrical bastards. Our fair sport is the evolution out of power-lifting. Using the density that weight can give us and perfect it with other means of intensity that bring out the qualities muscles have to offer.

    These aren't my sentiments, that's an adapted quote of Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman himself. I'm here to instruct you in other means of increasing the intensity. I assure you your choice will not be limited. After all, the muscle only knows what it feels, it can't read the numbers on the plates.

    Ronnie Coleman At The 2007 Olympia. Ronnie Coleman At The 2007 Olympia.
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    Ronnie Coleman At The 2007 Olympia.
    View More Pics Of Ronnie Coleman At The 2007 Olympia.


    Fast Or Slow Reps

      By controlling the speed of the motion as you perform an exercise you can place new strain on a muscle. A super-slow set will take the maximum contraction point at every angle to new extremes, not only providing extra-gravitational resistance, but carving new striations in your dense muscle tissue. By increasing the speed you are forcing the muscles to lift more weight, technically.

      The speed factor requires more energy and will give the set a heavier feel. Many pros are known for their faster reps, and it is commonly believed that a truly talented athlete will develop a faster stroke as he matures. This should be the result of increasing strength without adding too much strenuous resistance as is common among power-lifters. So experiment with the rep-speed and explore the benefits of these very hard systems.

    The Speed Factor Requires More Energy And Will Give The Set A Heavier Feel.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    The Speed Factor Requires More Energy
    And Will Give The Set A Heavier Feel.


    Decrease Rest Between Sets

      While you shouldn't attempt to lift the same weight if your muscle hasn't recovered adequately, all too often we take prolonged rest-times between sets because we feel flushed, fatigued or out of breath. But odds are the muscle will have recovered much sooner, making all this extra time a total waste. I usually keep 45 seconds between sets, but when in a mass or contest-prep phase I will cut that time to 20 seconds.

      That's all I need, so that's all I use. This maintains the pump much longer and thus stimulating more growth. Because of the pump it also increases the perceived intensity as your workout progresses, making the last sets extremely hard.

    Odds Are That Your Muscle Recovers Sooner Than You Can Catch Your Breath.
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    Odds Are That Your Muscle Recovers
    Sooner Than You Can Catch Your Breath.


    Training Partners

      As far as motivation goes, training partners are as good as it gets. If you aim to keep intensity high, nothing gets the job done as a bellowing maniac screaming insults in your ear as you crank out your last reps. Nothing is as satisfying as being able to squeeze out more reps, knowing that you are safe with someone to aid you. All factors that contribute to more intensity and more growth.

      The one catch is that you'll have to find someone to meet these characteristics, because if he'll be chatting up chicks as you get crushed beneath a barbell, I assure you your intensity will falter immensely in the coming weeks. When looking for a training partner, look for the biggest sadist you can find. Someone who will gladly move the pin up the rack when you're not looking or not let you stop until you break your old record. Someone who likes to see your suffer and doesn't mind that you make him suffer. No mercy between two iron brothers, remember that.

      Nothing short of an injury should interfere with your training sessions. So be on the lookout for someone who will always be there for you. If he makes you wait instead of weight, and is unreliable, ditch him. You'll progress better on your own.

    Be On The Lookout For Someone Who Will Always Be There For You.
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    Be On The Lookout For Someone
    Who Will Always Be There For You.


    HIT-Workouts

      This is the only good thing you'll ever hear me say about HIT. Whilst I abhor advocates of this style of training as a given, I don't deny it's a useful tool for anyone. Sometimes over-training does set in, or you are just having a bad day. Such things will screw with your concentration.

      When that happens it may be smarter to focus on cranking out a few very intense sets, with weight-drops, negatives, spotters, the works. Even if just for ten minutes. It's always better than not training, and in some cases a true lifesaver. These workouts will give you more time to recover as you prepare for your next big session.

      I would never suggest making constant use of this, but once in a while, especially in times of low recovery or a depressive mood, or even because you feel to lazy to concentrate on a long session of intense work, doing a bit of HIT may be best.

    These Workouts Will Give You More Time To Recover As You Prepare For Your Next Big Session.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    These Workouts Will Give You More Time To Recover
    As You Prepare For Your Next Big Session.


    Forced Reps

      Common practice among all genuine trainers, forced reps are one of the best ways to see if someone is serious about working out. When you are near the end of a set, and can't push any harder no matter what you try, a spotter jumps in and helps you gently to squeeze out a few more. The spotter gives you a very gentle lift that provides more of a mental boost than actual help. This way you can really stimulate all fiber in a muscle to total collapse.

    The Spotter Gives You A Gentle Lift That Provides More Of A Mental Boost Than Actual Help.
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    The Spotter Gives You A Gentle Lift That Provides
    More Of A Mental Boost Than Actual Help.


    Super-Setting Within A Body-Part

      There are two fashions of super-setting that are often used in the sport of bodybuilding. They differ only in the fact that one combines two exercises within a body-part and that the other combines two exercises of different body-parts. By performing two exercises within the same body-part you can hit a muscle from two different angles without rest, so as to hit them completely as one muscle. This kind of stimulation assures a more complete "flowing" kind of physique.

      You can superset any two exercises basically, but generally it is more of application when referring to pre-exhaust supersets, which require you train the more isolative exercise first. But one of the most popular generic superset setups is when you hit different heads of a muscle:

    Front Dumbbell Raise
    Front Dumbbell Raise
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    Front Dumbbell Raise
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Front Dumbbell Raise.
    Side Lateral Raise
    Side Lateral Raise
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    Side Lateral Raise
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Side Lateral Raise.

    Preacher Curl
    Preacher Curl
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    Preacher Curl
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Preacher Curl.
    Hammer Curls
    Hammer Curls
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    Hammer Curls
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Hammer Curls.

    Triceps Pushdown
    Triceps Pushdown
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    Triceps Pushdown
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Triceps Pushdown.
    Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdown
    Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdown
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    Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdown
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Reverse Grip Triceps Pushdown.


    Tri-Sets

      The logical result of super-setting is tri-setting, and thus combining three exercises in a cycle. This is often used when training back, when you can really hit the fiber by starting off with dumbbell rows, then quickly moving on to 1-arm rows and finishing off with barbell or seated cable rows. This kind of exercise combinations will have your muscles screaming in agony.

      I don't really advise you use it on smaller muscles like biceps or triceps, as this could potentially lead to injury. The intensity of a correctly performed Tri-set is not to be underestimated.

    The Intensity Of A Correctly Performed Tri-Set Is Not To Be Underestimated.
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    The Intensity Of A Correctly Performed
    Tri-Set Is Not To Be Underestimated.


    Giant Sets

      I'm not going to go into it, as this is no longer a commonly practiced form of weight training. Not many people have the concentration to do four or more consecutive exercises for a single body-part. Most body-parts don't really lend themselves to this anyway. Again, back is the only muscle that was normally trained in this fashion.

      Some people who believe that you should train 3 or more body-parts in a workout which is total insanity. Usually HIT-advocates, but some just plain idiots who don't understand the principle of concentration. In HIT this has its uses because you would only have two or three workouts. And super-setting 2 exercises for 4 different muscle-groups to form an 8-tier giant set is sometimes a lifesaver to keep time short and intensity high and doing it this way will leave you breathless.

      But the other kind are obviously morons, suggesting you do 12 or more sets for a giant set and then repeat it three times. Not even the most extreme of high-set advocates would tell you to do 36 sets for a workout. This way you'll get good stimulation of the first muscle on the first giant set, but that is all. You will derive little or no benefit from this and yet there are some high-acclaimed magazines that publish this kind of routines...

    Giant Set Are Lifesavers To Keep Time Short And Intensity High And Doing Them Will Leave You Breathless.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Giant Set Are Lifesavers To Keep Time Short And
    Intensity High And Doing Them Will Leave You Breathless.


    Pre-Exhaust

      There are two kinds of pre-exhaust training. The first consists of doing an isolation exercise for a certain body-part, say leg extensions for legs and performing 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps until you get a good pump in your quads. Now go to the squat rack and rep out for about 5 or 6 sets. I guarantee you, you won't have to handle anywhere near the weight you normally would. This is safer and allows you to do dangerous exercises like squats with only one spotter.

      The second way of pre-exhaust training, is to do it in a superset fashion. For me this is the best way of increasing the intensity without having to change weights. Again you are going to do an isolative exercise and perform a number of reps, say 8 to 10, until you can't crank out another one and then immediately move into a more advantageous position that will allow you to use other muscles along with the exhausted muscle, and you rep out.

      Go for as many reps as you can squeeze out in this last exercise. It probably couldn't hurt to have a spotter give you a hand and do a few forced reps as well. The first form of pre-exhaust works with nearly all exercises for all body-parts, but the second is preferably used with some key exercises that really target the muscle and allow you to stay with a similar weight. Here are some of the favorites:

    Incline Dumbbell Flyes
    Incline Dumbbell Flyes
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    Incline Dumbbell Flyes
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Incline Dumbbell Flyes.
    Incline Dumbbell Press
    Incline Dumbbell Press
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    Incline Dumbbell Press
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Incline Dumbbell Press.

    Side Lateral Raise
    Side Lateral Raise
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    Side Lateral Raise
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Side Lateral Raise.
    Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    Dumbbell Shoulder Press
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    Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Dumbbell Shoulder Press.

    Leg Extensions
    Leg Extensions
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    Leg Extensions
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Leg Extensions.
    Barbell Full Squat
    Barbell Full Squat
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    Barbell Full Squat
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Barbell Full Squat.

    Lying Leg Curls
    Lying Leg Curls
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    Lying Leg Curls
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Lying Leg Curls.
    Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift
    Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift
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    Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift.

    Preacher Curl
    Preacher Curl
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    Preacher Curl
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Preacher Curl.
    Barbell Curl
    Barbell Curl
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    Barbell Curl
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Barbell Curl.

    Skull Crushers
    Skull Crushers
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    Skull Crushers
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Skull Crushers.
    Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
    Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
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    Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press.

    Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
    Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
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    Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row.
    One-Arm Dumbbell Row
    One-Arm Dumbbell Row
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    One-Arm Dumbbell Row
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of One-Arm Dumbbell Row.


    Super-Setting Different Body-Parts

      Arnold Schwarzenegger was a strong believer in this practice, as were many others. Most pros these days are still convinced that super-setting biceps and triceps is a valid way of training. They stepped away from back/chest supersets that supposedly made Arnold so big because they felt it detracted attention of the body-parts if you had to share concentration between these two major muscle groups.

      Besides Bi's and Tri's and back and chest, no other body-parts really lend themselves to this. Basically what you would do for this kind of training is do a set for one body-part, say barbell curls, and then follow it up without resting with an exercise for another body-part, like Skull Crushers. Often when this is done, its not just one superset, it was usually the entire training session.

      Every time you would pair your exercises by two, one for each muscle. For those of you who think this may be the best way to keep intensity high I seriously recommend reading Arnold's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

    Arnold Was A Strong Believer In Super-Setting Differenet Body-Parts. Arnold Was A Strong Believer In Super-Setting Differenet Body-Parts.
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    Arnold Was A Strong Believer In
    Super-Setting Differenet Body-Parts.


    Pyramid Sets

      This is a normal way of training, and though it may not seem so intense that it warrants being listed here, it is what will allow more intense practices to pay off. I usually teach people intensity the proper way, meaning that as soon as they are properly warmed up (1 or 2 light sets) they should jump in to their heaviest weight for the desired number of reps for a working set. But inevitably this leads to a halt in strength at some point.

      For me that never bothered me, whether I gain 5 pounds or 50 pounds on my bench press during any given time is irrelevant. If the 5 lb period gives me more mass, I don't really care. But some people do, and still others believe that you have to lift phenomenal weights to grow. So for these people resorting back to pyramiding is the best plan.

      By starting at a higher number of reps with less weight and increasing weight as you decrease reps over the number of sets that you do until you reach new poundage in a lift is the best way to break a strength plateau. It takes the excess pressure off while still pushing the muscle to improve. Pyramiding is and always will be the staple of all strength training, as I will explain when I get to percentage strength training.

    Start At A High Number Of Reps With Less Weight And Increase Weight As You Decrease Reps Over The Number Of Sets.
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    Start At A High Number Of Reps With Less Weight And
    Increase Weight As You Decrease Reps Over The Number Of Sets.


    Drop Sets

      This ancient principle is one of the staples of bodybuilding as it is known today. Drop sets are the opposite of pyramiding. Instead of upping the weight as you further in your workout, you will be decreasing weight to maintain reps and keep intensity constant. Using moderate reps (8-15) is the best way of attacking most of the muscle-fibers without risking aerobic involvement.

      Drop sets allow long intense workouts without sacrificing that benefit. If you can't possibly handle the same weight again, and with little or no resting time that will happen, you drop the weight. Switch dumbbells or take some plates off and on you go, until you can't squeeze out six reps with the lightest dumbbells or an empty barbell. This will have you screaming in agony and you will notice even after the first such workout that you have stimulated more of a muscle than you previously thought possible.

      A spotter is a must to keep rest-time short and insure you lift the weights to the maximum of your abilities, but this is well worth the effort. Including drop sets on occasion can really invigorate a slow workout. You can also incorporate them with other manners of intensity like pre-exhaust or super-setting within a body-part.

      Another variation of this technique is running the rack. It's a dumbbell combination of pyramid and drop sets. You start with a weight and do your 12 reps, increase weight and do 8 reps, increase weight and do 5 reps, then start lowering weights and do max reps with every pair of dumbbell you pass. I guarantee you that this will be the first time 5-pounders will feel so heavy.

      Usually after running the rack you'll call it a day for that muscle because chances are you did at least 8 sets, but almost always more. So don't overdo it. Its a great shocking principle, but not one I would make a habit out of or make part of a regular program.

      Sometimes you'll hear drop sets being referred to as 1-to-10's. That's the rep range described in the way the old-timers used drop sets. They used to do sets starting with 1 rep at the heaviest weight and then working their way down until they did a weight they could handle for 10 reps still. Usually this was through 5 or 6 sets and the weight used on the last one was merely a fraction of what they started with.

    RELATED VIDEO: Drop Sets
    Triple Drop Sets!

    Confused on how you do a drop set? No problem. Check out this quick and simple video demonstration on how to perform drop sets!


    Staggered Sets

      I have no idea when or where this originated, but thank God we can rely on this. If you have weak calves I can seriously recommend these. Staggered sets means you get in a set of an exercise between your regular exercises. Say you just finished a set of bench presses and before you move on to flyes or whatever else the next exercise is, you do a set of donkey raises. As you wait to start every new set and let your chest recover, you do a set for calves.

      I tried this when I noticed my calves were more than an inch and a half behind my arms. So I started doing staggered sets 3 times a week, usually toe raises on the bear squat machine. I picked my longest workouts so that on some days I easily got 15-20 sets of calf exercises and this three times weekly without having to free extra time for calves. Instead I saved the time I usually spend on calves.

      Now I feel confident that there aren't many natural lineups where my calves don't stand out. They measure 19 and a half inches and would dwarf my thighs if they were bigger. My arms only measure that much at the height of my bulking stage. Staggered sets are a great way for bringing up weak body-parts without having to invest extra time. Definitely something you should try.

    After You Finish A Set Do A Set Of Donkey Raises Before Moving On To Your Next Set.
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    After You Finish A Set Do A Set Of Donkey
    Raises Before Moving On To Your Next Set.


    Negative Repping

      Every exercise has a positive part (concentric, going from rest to contraction) and a negative part (eccentric, going from contraction to rest). The negative part has to ensure that any weight you lift can be put back on the ground safely, so it's only logical that you can lift more in a negative part of a rep than in the positive. Roughly 20 percent more. You can play into that extra strength by having a training partner help you with the positive part of a lift and then slowly performing the negative part as you bring back the weight to resting position.

      Doing this long-term may be more harmful than beneficial, so I wouldn't recommend making it a part of your regular routine, but one way to make sure you can jack up the intensity is by doing some more negative reps after you fail on the positive part of the exercise. This requires the utmost attention and help of a training partner.

      The fact that negative reps have more potential than positive reps means that you won't sense positive failure on a bench press and that can lead to compromising situations if you haven't considered any safety precautions. Negative reps are not wise when considered as a separate form of training, but can be a great addition after positive failure.

    You Won't Sense Positive Failure On A Bench Press And That Can Lead To Compromising Situations.
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    You Won't Sense Positive Failure On A Bench
    Press And That Can Lead To Compromising Situations.


    Cheats

      "I can't do any more!" "So cheat ...", I reply.

      More often than not when you say that you'll get a real funny look from people. One of the first things you learn about training properly is to guard against bad form. And not too seldom that is indeed the best approach. For instance if you are training back or chest and start repping out cheats you'll get a great arm workout, but no added benefit to the target muscle. However, for arm and leg muscles and in lesser amount for the shoulder girdle you can get great result with cheat reps.

      Say you are trying your hardest to squeeze out then perfect reps on the barbell curl and you succeed, so you try for 11. Alas, you fail just before the point of contraction. Had you just made it to that extra squeeze you could have exhausted more fiber. So what if you leaned in a bit just to get that contraction? I mean, you already reached failure and you still did 90 percent of the work on that extra rep with the biceps.

      Arnold Schwarzenegger thought cheats deserved more reverence than the holy cow. I wouldn't go that far, nor would I limit them to biceps as Arnold suggested. But adding cheat reps can stimulate fiber you may not be able to hit with 8-10 reps to failure. A nice habit is to have a spotter handy so that you can put that extra movement in and not worry about the rest. This way you'll avoid putting too much lower back in to it which can be hazardous when handling heavy weights. But cheats can be the extra intensity you need to finally feel that burn ...

    You Did 90 Percent Of Work, So What If You Lean A Bit To Get The Contraction?
    + Click To Enlarge.
    You Did 90 Percent Of Work, So What
    If You Lean A Bit To Get The Contraction?


    One And A Halfs

      This is great way to see how far you'll get with your current weight-load. When doing your set, if you really want to feel what you did the next day, have a throw at this one. When your do a rep complete it, return to starting position, then start a new rep but stop halfway and return to starting position. That is a single rep in this case. So when you finish your 10 reps you'll have done 15, but it'll feel more like 50 if you did it right.

      This is a practice I usually teach people when I want to show them what squatting is all about. I used to work out with a couple of football players who boasted impressive poundage on the squat. But if you don't do the squat all the way, you can't squat at all in my book, so I taught them the one and a half because not only does it force you to go all the way down, it forces you to stay below a 90 degree level with your legs for over 60 percent of the time.

      You do the bottom part twice as it were, teaching you more than proper intensity and form on this exercise. The next day they were sore as hell. Lucky for them they were linebackers and running backs and they didn't have to run, but it taught them new respect for me. As a wide receiver I had to do my squats and run the 100-yard dash in under 12 seconds (It paid off, I only played seven varsity games, but I had the season record for touchdowns: 16).

      But I digress. The point is, if you have a lagging muscle and you think it may be the result of poor form in the stretch point of an exercise, this measure is the right one to get you back on track in the shortest time. Exercises like French presses for triceps can give your upper tri's new life and as shown before squats will teach you new respect for intensity. But also spider curls to bring up the lower biceps or dumbbell presses for the outer chest deserve proper attention as valid ways of applying this method of intensity.

    If You Have A Lagging Muscle This Measure Is The Right One To Get You Back On Track.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    If You Have A Lagging Muscle This Measure Is
    The Right One To Get You Back On Track.


    Strip Sets

      Much like the previously described drop sets, but you'll definitely need helpers to do this on compound exercises. When you fail you take off weight, but instead of little rest-time, you have no rest-time. You have to look at it like a giant set where 75 percent of max weight is your first exercise, 65 percent your second and on to 55, 45 and 35. The first one to your designated number of reps and every one after that until you can't get another rep.

      Much as I disagree with most of his training views, we owe Mike Mentzer for making this one popular. Combining a regular exercise with strip sets and consequently negative sets is the preferred way of doing the heavy duty thing.

    RELATED VIDEO: Strip Sets
    What Are Strip Sets!

    Confused about the difference between a regular drop set and a strip set? Check out this video demonstration of a strip set!


    Partial Reps

      I know this goes against one of my outlined success principles, namely doing full range of motion. And no, I don't advise this to beginning lifters because this is the number 1 way of creating imbalances in a muscle. But partials do have their benefit in the world of bodybuilding.

      In first instance if one part of a muscle is lagging, then doing the bottom end of the rep for a while can bring that up, its like taking the one and a half rep and dropping the full part of it. But most often used is the top-of-the-rep approach. Doing only the top of the rep can bring a pump to a muscle you have never felt before. It shortens the rep and the time of the rep and emphasizes contraction and time under tension.

      In the 40's and 50's there was a practice known as Muscle Spinning that consisted only of doing fast top-of-the-movement reps with a moderate weight, and believe it or not, combined with good nutrition these people built truly impressive physiques. It had two downsides though that made it an invalid practice among the real lifters: First of all it hit the parts of the muscle that were already hit most so it created huge peaks, but short and incomplete muscles. And secondly because of the nature of training it built useless muscle.

      These guys obtained no real strength from working out. So in a way they were just balloons. The reason I bring this up is to warn you and enlighten you. On the one hand again to discourage the use of partials by beginners who, because of incomplete range of motion, may be adding to an already existing imbalance and on the other because I wanted to show that combined with compound power moves, partial reps can give you a lot of additional size. It's a proven method, I'm really not making this up. The best way to incorporate them is either in shaping exercises or by adding a few sets of partials at the end of a workout to emphasize the burn and the pump.

    An Incomplete Range Of Motion, May Add To An Already Existing Muscle Imbalance.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    An Incomplete Range Of Motion, May Add
    To An Already Existing Muscle Imbalance.


    The Platoon System

      As we discussed in the previous paragraph, there is a bottom half and a top half to a rep. The Platoon System seeks to incorporate them both for maximum effect. What you usually do is 7 reps of the bottom half (stretch point to midway) followed by 7 reps of the top half (midway to contraction) and after that you move on to 7 reps of the full exercise. Naturally these can also be in increments of 8 or 6 if that works out better for you. But they were normally used in 7's, and mostly in biceps curls.

      That particular exercise was dubbed 21's because of it, and the name got adopted as a synonym for the Platoon System. The downside to this was, since it was only employed for barbell curls, that everyone thought it was a biceps exercise, when in effect you could do it on virtually any exercise including bench presses, squats, military presses and French presses, as well as a whole host of others. Which is the only reason I mention it here. You too may have forgotten this, or may have never known it.

      Anyway, when attempting to do a Platoon set, use about 50 percent of weight, because these things are extremely heavy and hard. Do three or four platoon sets at the end of a workout to carve striations or do them first thing, because nothing gets a pump going like platoons. One warning: Do not rely on Platoon sets as your primary mass-builder. Because of the high number of reps it needs you may be disappointed with the result.

    Because Of The High Number Of Reps Platoon Sets Shouldn't Be Used As Your Primary Mass-Builder.
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    Because Of The High Number Of Reps Platoon Sets
    Shouldn't Be Used As Your Primary Mass-Builder.


    Flexing/Isotension

      Isotension or Isometric exercise is training a muscle without actually moving it. When a muscle is tensed in, or near the point of contraction you are actually expending more energy than while doing a full rep of an exercise. Some have tried to turn Isometrics in to the new way of training, as early as Charles Atlas but today still, but like all such limited systems it failed.

      Obviously the important flaw here is that you only work the part of the muscle that is in the actual contraction. That doesn't make for esthetic shapes in relaxed forms if you did only that. But Isometrics have their use. Especially for competitors since you shape and build the muscle in the position you are going to show it, making for a more dramatic flex.

      So how do you incorporate the benefits of Isotension into your training? One way, is a way you should already be using. When doing any exercise you should hold the point of contraction before returning to starting position. At least a count, but since we are exploring ways of upping the intensity try two or three counts, or even a full ten reps with ten counts on every rep if you think you are man enough.

      Naturally you should be looking mostly at isolative exercises for this purpose. The odd bench press, or squat will work, but since you mostly do this anyway to a point (the resting point is the same as the point of contraction.) isolation is the key here. Here are some of my favorites for every muscle.

    Side Lateral Raise
    Side Lateral Raise
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Side Lateral Raise
    Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Side Lateral Raise.

    Barbell Shrug
    Barbell Shrug
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    Barbell Shrug
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    Dumbbell Flyes
    Dumbbell Flyes
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    Dumbbell Flyes
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    Dumbbell Bench Press
    Dumbbell Bench Press
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    Dumbbell Bench Press
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    Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
    Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
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    Bent Over Two-Dumbbell Row
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    Seated Cable Rows
    Seated Cable Rows
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    Seated Cable Rows
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    Spider Curl
    Spider Curl
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    Spider Curl
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    Triceps Pushdown
    Triceps Pushdown
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    Triceps Pushdown
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    Skull Crushers
    Skull Crushers
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    Skull Crushers
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    Leg Extensions
    Leg Extensions
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    Leg Extensions
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    Standing Leg Curl
    Standing Leg Curl
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    Standing Leg Curl
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      Standing Calf Raises
      Standing Calf Raises
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      Standing Calf Raises
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      Another way of incorporating isotension principles in your training is by tensing the muscle as hard as possible after each set for that respective muscle. Tense it for 30 seconds and relax 30 seconds, wait 30 to 45 seconds and then hit the next set. And if you keep rather long resting times between sets or exercises it could be extremely nice to hit a few poses while waiting. This gives you practice in your posing, extra definition and isometric training.

      Also if you happen to have a bad day and think you won't be able to go through a real workout, practice your posing as if you were actually in a contest. The intensity builds up gradually and after its all said and done you did the same amount, if not more work, then when working out like normal. Hold your poses for a minute to two minutes at a time.

      Go through a routine, design a routine, practice keeping your legs tensed and abs tucked for an hour on end, and you'll feel that this is a valid way of training to. The intensity is enormous, the rewards are there shortly, often times in the form of extra striation and cuts. Definitely a worthy choice in a dieting phase.


    Hand-Offs

      As you probably gathered from the name, you'll need to have a partner in crime for this one. The intensity factor here is that your rest-times are short and that you need to keep up with your partner at any given time on any given day. Pick an exercise, any exercise is good though mostly exercises where you stand up are used in most cases.

      Get a weight that allows you to get 14-15 reps. Now do 10 strict reps focusing on the contraction and getting a good pump. As soon as you are done, immediately hand the barbell, dumbbell or whatever to your partner and make him do the same. Then when he is done have him hand it back to you and start again. Keep doing tens as long as you can then nine, eight, and so forth until neither of you can do three strict reps.

      That could take ten, fifteen, twenty, even twenty-five or more sets and you probably shouldn't do anything else after that. Usually its something I would apply to barbell curls of French presses, but apart from the regular shifting and the 5 seconds to switch, you can do it on almost any exercise. Bench presses, squats, but also kickbacks and side laterals. Hand-offs are a great way of doing an intense workout in which you do only one exercise, but constantly spur each other on to push the limits. You don't know the meaning of training to failure until you attempt one of these.

    Hand-Offs Are A Great Way Of Doing An Intense Workout Workout In Which You Only Do One Exercise.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Hand-Offs Are A Great Way Of Doing An Intense
    Workout In Which You Only Do One Exercise.


    Heavy Singles

      I know I started off this article by saying that weight does not equal intensity, but in this case it does. Heavy singles are also know as one reps. They usually concern a very heavy lift between 90 and 100 percent of your maximum lift. Heavy singles are a great way of adding strength to your compound lifts. They can add a bit of variety and doing some heavy singles on all your major lifts once a months can be very beneficial to strength levels. But of course the downside is that when you reach failure, up to 49 percent of the muscle may not be stimulated. Still, heavy singles have a place in the arsenal of the intermediate trainer.

    Heavy Singles Are A Very Heavy Lifts That Use 90 To 100 Percent Of Your Maximum Lift.
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    Heavy Singles Are A Very Heavy Lifts That Use
    90 To 100 Percent Of Your Maximum Lift.


    Perfect 10

      The Perfect 10 is a principle that is included in the "Weider Principles" of training. That is Joe Weider's personal collection of stolen or borrowed systems. Just like pre-exhaust is ascribed to the name of Bob Kennedy, Perfect 10 is linked to Weider. But all these systems are subject to invention and reinvention and sprout the mind of every seasoned bodybuilder eventually, whether he learns them or not.

      But anyhow, Perfect ten is performing ten sets of ten reps of the strictest form of an exercise you can do. The strictest of the strict. That's all there really is to it. Not one of my favorites, but well worth the try on a rainy day.

    A Perfect Ten Is Performing Ten Sets Of Ten Reps With The Strictest Form Possible.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    A Perfect Ten Is Performing Ten Sets Of
    Ten Reps With The Strictest Form Possible.


    Percentage Strength Training (Power Pyramids)

      These systems are popping up in a thousand variations of a thousand forms everywhere. Some more famous, others hardly even heard of. Some of the more reputable include the power matrix, the actual PST (Percentage strength training), The Russian Power Pyramid and the OSU workout that is mainly used for strength-enhancing by football players. All rely on the same principle though.

      You take or calculate your one rep maximum and then calculate the percentages. Every time you do the particular exercise (usually a compound exercise since this is a strength program) you gradually increase and decrease the weights by percentages as you go. Say you lift a 300 pound bench. For a PST program that means your first set would be 15 reps at 60 percent (180 lbs in this case) the proceeding to 10 with 70 (210), 8 with 80 (240) and so on, until you get to, for example 2 for 90 or 95 (270 or 285) and finish with 5 for 70 (210) again to cool down.

      The different programs differ in number of sets, percentages used and so on. If you do a search here and there you'll find a few of them I'm sure, but you could just as well make your own form of PST if that is your preference. Because this goes pretty low-rep towards the end it's often not very good for mass, but if increasing your lifts is your thing, nothing adds 50 lbs to your bench in less time than a good form of PST, that's a flat out guarantee.

    Your First Set Should Be 60 Percent Of Your Max, The Second 70 Percent, And So On.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Your First Set Should Be 60 Percent Of Your
    Max, The Second 70 Percent, And So On.


    Doubling Up

      Not a favored practice amongst people who believe the over-training hype. That crowd stays away from things as expansive as this. What doubling up does, is assessing your weakest body-part and taking the program and simply doubling the number of sets for every exercise.

      This can be very extensive if your back is your weak point and you already do 16 sets, you better take some time to do this. But 4 or 5 weeks of this and good nutrition will go a long way towards correcting weak points short term. This is another principle often accredited to Bob Kennedy, though Arnold and the gang have been known to use these long before Bob Kennedy ever wrote or talked about it. Like I said, most of these principles are instinctive and every good bodybuilder eventually comes up with them somehow.

    Doubling Up Your Sets Can Be Very Extensive If Your Weak Point Is Your Back.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Doubling Up Your Sets Can Be Very Extensive
    If Your Weak Point Is Your Back.


    Breathing Sets

      This is something I don't advise using for anything other than legs, because it provides a lot of aerobic stress to the muscle that works mostly slow-twitch oxidative fiber in a muscle. This type is mainly found in muscles with a greater endurance like the legs and lower back. For breathing sets take a weight you can handle for 10 reps, then get those ten and force out 10 more at any cost no matter how long it takes.

      The name comes from the fact that apart from being dizzy as heck after finishing a set, you'll also be panting like crazy. This is mostly used for squats, but I have successfully used it for calf and hamstring work as well as leg presses and leg extensions. This is definitely a must on squats once in a while and I assure you your legs will thank you for it with instant growth after 4 sets of leg extensions and six sets of squats in this manner.

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    Split Training

      Something I came up with a few years back, but if you do the reading you'll find that Arnold is often accredited with the invention of this, and that several bodybuilders before and after him claim to have invented it as well. This goes to prove some of my earlier points. Split training is not actually a principle as much as just an inventive way of arranging your program.

      Some people train muscles twice a week, other only once but they can't train more than three days. In situations like that you have to do more than one muscle per day. Naturally that detracts from the attention and concentration you give to either muscle. Either because you already used all the energy and have none left for the second muscle or because you are preserving energy for the second muscle and don't give full attention to your first muscle.

      That's where the split routine comes in. You split up the muscles over two training sessions in the day, one in the morning and one at night. This gives them time to recuperate, for you to rebuild energy levels and definitely to be able to concentrate more on each muscle, giving them the work they deserve. This preserves intensity and books better gains. If at all possible this is a great way to train, but obviously not everyone can train twice a day.

    Split Training Is Not Actually A Principle As Much As Just An Inventive Way Of Arranging Your Program.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Split Training Is Not Actually A Principle As Much
    As Just An Inventive Way Of Arranging Your Program.


    Conclusion

    I hope that at least to some extent I have debunked the myth of weight equaling intensity. Up above are a couple dozen ways of increasing your intensity without having to add weight and I'm convinced I have forgotten a few. You have your pick. Your intensity should skyrocket just reading these things, and you'll find that if you apply any of the techniques above properly, you'll add a whole new dimension to your way of training.

    You may discover aches and soreness you have never experienced. So go ahead, if it looks interesting give them a try. Whether you've been meaning to all along, I reminded you of something you forgot a long time ago or simply because you saw something new and exciting. Have a shot, and learn what intensity is all about. So that the next time someone asks how intense you train, you don't list your poundages, but instead you get an indescribable feeling of accomplishment simply by hearing the word intensity.

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