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How To Intensify Your Workouts!

In a perfect strength training universe, everybody would work hard. However, this is not the perfect strength training universe. Learn how to bump up your intensity!

By: Fred Cantor

In a perfect strength training universe, everybody would work hard, everybody would keep adding weight to the bar, everybody would progress and everybody would reach their natural strength limits.

But this is not the perfect strength training universe. Not everyone can-or will-work to their utmost intensity, and strength gains do not come in a linear progression. Strength coaches cannot pick and choose who enters their weight-room: we can't control genetics, motivation, desire, bio-mechanical advantages or self generated effort.

For the most part, athletes strength train because they have to, not because they want to. Their sport venue is where they feel most comfortable, where they have had a history of success. The weight-room - for most athletes - is a means to an end, not the end in itself.

That does not mean, however, that an athlete cannot succeed in the weight-room. In fact, quite the opposite. The strength coach is presented with the opportunity to help the athlete come into a foreign territory, meet the enemy head on and emerge victorious. Rare is the individual who has never faced obstacles along the way to athletic success.

Whether it is making a free throw, fighting a down block or hitting a 90-mph fastball, successful athletes have always faced challenges head on. Unsuccessful athletes do not. The weight-room is no different.

Keeping workouts short and increasing the intensity are keys to long term success. This applies to competitive athletes and people who just love to be in a weight-room to work hard and get stronger. Light headedness and nausea are not uncommon by-products of a great workout.

At Lafayette College, we use various techniques to intensify the workouts. These protocols have been collected from many strength coaches over the years. They are not gimmicks, but rather methods utilized to shorten and add variety to the workout. A good workout partner and a stopwatch will help. Be sure to adjust your total workout accordingly, as over-training is a distinct possibility.

Widely Used Overload Protocols:

  • 1 1/4 reps: While doing a plate raise, bring the plate from the thigh to your eyes, arms straight. Look through the hole in the plate. Pause and contract. Slowly lower to the chest. Pause and contract. Back to the eyes. Pause and contract. Now, slowly, down to the thighs. That counts a 1 rep. Go to failure; add weight next time if you get more than 8 reps. Also good with leg extensions, dips, chins, leg curl, bicep curls, flyes, most tricep exercises lateral raises and squats.

  • 15 second reps: On bicep curls: lift 5 seconds positive; 5 seconds contract; 5 seconds negative. Go to failure. Also can be used with any of the exercises mentioned in 1 above. Add weight when you get more than 4 reps.

  • Super slow reps: On military press: 10 seconds positive,; 10 seconds negative; no pausing, just continuous movement. Go to failure. Can use with almost any exercise. Especially good for those coming back from injury. Add weight next time if you get more than 5 reps.

  • 7 up: On Lat pulldown: Do 7 full reps and, after completion of 7th rep, do 1/2 a repetition. Hold in that iso-contracted position for 45 seconds. Great to use with all pulling movements, bicep exercises and leg curls and leg extensions (basically any exercise where there's a mid-point contraction).

  • Jet sets: Can be used with any exercise: do 7 reps on your 1st set; add 10 lbs for upper body and 20 lbs for lower body for your 2nd set of 4 reps; then deduct the weight you just added for a final set of 7 reps. 30 seconds between sets. Add weight when all 3 sets can be completed.

  • 3 and out: Another protocol that can be used on any exercise: do 3 sets, all to failure, with 30 seconds between each set. Same weight for all 3 sets; add weight if you get more than 4 reps on your last set.

  • Pro 1 - 6: Again, utilize with any exercise: do 1 rep; rest 10 seconds; do 2 reps; rest 10 seconds; keep adding 1 rep with a 10 second recovery period until 6 sets are performed. Can also do a regression set where you begin with 6 reps and work down to 1 rep with 10 second intervals. Add weight when all 6 sets are completed.

Other techniques we have used include drop sets, negative only, forced negative, stage reps, partial reps, rest-pause, singles, 5-12-25, pre-exhaust, super set and unilateral movements. Add these techniques into your workout slowly, and don't do all at one time. The cornerstone remains, however, good repetitions taken to failure. Again, without intensity, overload and progression, no routine - no matter what methods or exercises are used - will be successful.

Feel free to contact me at 610-330-5526 or fecantor@starlinx.com to discuss how to implement any technique into an overall routine. Remember - work hard, work short and keep adding weight. Above all, don't be comfortable. GOOD LUCK.

Thanks,

Fred Cantor

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