Bodybuilding.com Information Motivation Supplementation
in:
High-Voltage Training Starts With The 3 Basic Principles Of Intensity!

Many people think they're training intensely, but the sad fact is most people are not. Gain more and train less with greater intensity by trying these three proven muscle-building techniques!

By: Jeff Behar

Bodybuilding is the process of maximizing muscle hypertrophy through the combination of weight training, sufficient caloric intake, and rest.

One important factor of this "bodybuilding triangle": weight training is not as simple as it seems. To make the best gains in the shortest amount of time, it is important to understand a basic principle: intensity.

In terms of Bodybuilding, What Exactly is Intensity? Intensity is a feel factor. It is a way of lifting to put out a maximum effort.

Many people think they're training intensely, but the sad fact is most people are not. Most people "undertrain" and "overtrain" at the same time. What I mean by this is that they do not train intensely (which I will describe in greater detail later) while at the same time they train too long in the gym without the pump, which actually limits or even impedes their desired results.

dot
Three Basic Principles Of Intensity
dot

You can increase the Intensity by 3 ways:

  1. Increase the number of reps
  2. Decrease the rest periods
  3. Increase the amount of weight you lift

Under each basic principle there are different approaches that can be employed.

dot
Increase The Number Of Reps
dot

The first way to add intensity in my opinion should be addition of reps. The best way is the X + 3 rule. In this rule you add intensity by adding 1, then 2 and then 3 reps beyond your target rep zone. When you can perform 3 reps more than the target zone you need to add weights. 5 lbs additional plates for major muscle groups and 2.5 lbs for minor muscle groups.

Adding more reps creates my hypertrophy in the muscle which is what is required for growth. This is another alternative way to intensify your workout. This can be accomplished in a simple approach, such as trying to get 10 reps vs. 8, or it can be done using advanced techniques such as:

RELATED ARTICLE

[ Click here to learn more. ]
Intensity: The Most Important Factor In Bodybuilding!
Two guys can do the same exact fitness routine with the exercises, number of sets, and number of reps, yet have two different outcomes.
Author:
Shawn LeBrun

dot Forced Reps dot

    Forced reps training is an advanced training method, which is employed at the end of an exercise when you are unable to lift the weight on your own. At this point a training partner gives a small extra push while providing a spot so that you can overload the muscle by getting reps that you could not get on your own if you did not have the extra help, and a spot.

    The moral support and encouragement alone often works and allows the bodybuilder to seek out a few more reps before the force reps are even employed. Typically this method is used for 2-3 extra reps, resulting in maximum overload and a great pump.

RELATED VIDEO


Intensity Building Techniques:
Forced Reps Video Guide!

This is the most popular and consequently the most abused intensity technique. A spotter is used to provide enough assistance for the trainer to be able to complete the rep.

Click The Play Button To Start The Video.
Or Download Here:
Windows Media (.7 MB) - MPEG (5 MB) - Video iPod (.7 MB)
[ Intensity Building Techniques Main Page ]

dot Burns dot

    Burns is another advanced technique similar to forced repetitions. With this method, you would use a sub-maximal weight that is so light that you could still use it to continue to pump and work the muscle after lactic acid has built up. When you keep working under these conditions, you get a great pump, and a huge burn from the lactic acid build up.

    For those of you that may be curious, lactic acid is caused in part, to constant muscle contraction. It is created when the muscle burns sugars (in whatever form). Normally lactic acid gets squeezed out by normal muscle movement and lymphatic fluid, into the lymphatic ducts, where it is processed and eliminated from the body. What stops this is constant muscular tension (such as supersets, giant sets, forced reps).

Lactic Acid
During power-intensive exercises such as sprinting, when the rate of demand for energy is high, lactate is produced faster than the ability of the tissues to remove it and lactate concentration begins to rise.

    Lactic acid eventually will cause the muscle to tighten and bunch up, and constricts the flow of the lymphatic fluid. Since this cannot help wash out the lactic acid, it sits there, causing that familiar burning sensation. Probably more than you needed to know, right?

dot Forced Negatives dot

    This principle involves the use of a spotter. To accomplish this technique you would choose a heavier weight and your partner would help you lift the weight and you would slowly control the weight during the downward movement.

    For instance if you normally would use 225 pounds for 8 reps on a bench press, you would instead use 350 pounds and slowly lower the weight after receiving help lifting it off. Your partner would also assist you with during the upward pressing movement by pulling the weight off your chest while you are pressing the weight up.

    Another way to accomplish this is using the same 225 pounds that you would normally use, but your partner would press down on the weight as it goes down for increased resistance, while you tried to resist the weight (slow the weight from approaching your chest). It is important that when using this advanced technique that the external force applied is done in a smooth and careful manner to avoid injury.

RELATED VIDEO


Intensity Building Techniques:
Forced Negatives!

This technique focuses on the negative portion of muscle contraction (the eccentric or lowering phase).

Click The Play Button To Start The Video.
Or Download Here:
WMV (.6 MB) - MPEG (4.4 MB) - Video iPod (.6 MB)
[ Intensity Building Techniques Main Page ]

dot The Cheat Method dot

    The Cheat Method is an advanced training technique that is utilized when one can no longer perform a repetition in strict form. It is used after performing a number of reps with good form until muscle fatigue begins to set in (or the weight is too heavy).

    By employing this technique you will use surrounding muscle groups to assist in the movement to complete additional reps to complete the set. An example of this technique would be as follows: when doing dumbbell chest presses, if you feel no longer you can do in perfect form, get the help of your shoulder and back (lat) muscles to assist lifting the weight.

Author Author
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Author, Jeff Behar.

    It is key that when performing this technique you still let the major muscle targeted, to do most of the work. I always used cheat sets very sparingly as I was a stickler for good form, however there is a place in every bodybuilder's arsenal to use this technique occasionally.

RELATED VIDEO


Intensity Building Techniques:
Cheating Reps!

At the end of a set, when you can't do any more reps with good form, use a bit of body swing or momentum to help get the weight past the sticking point, e.g. swinging the weight up a little at the start of a barbell curl.

Click The Play Button To Start The Video.
Or Download Here:
WMV (.4 MB) - MPEG (3.1 MB) - Video iPod (.4 MB)
[ Intensity Building Techniques Main Page ]

dot
Decrease The Rest Between Sets
dot

There are also many techniques available for decreasing the rest between sets. They may include the following:

dot Drop Sets dot

    Drop Sets, AKA Descending Sets, is the most basic and yet one of the best techniques to maximize intensity. You begin by reaching failure with a weight, as soon as you hit failure, lessen the weight, and then continue the set until failure is reached again.

    Lets say you were to perform triceps pulldowns with a 90-pound stack. If you reached failure at 12 reps, you would strip the weight down to 70 pounds and continue. A single drop or descending set is when you lower the weight once. A double drop or descending set is when you lower the weight twice (for instance from 90 - 70, then from 70 - 50 pounds).

FORUM THREAD
Drop Sets Question.
[ Click To Join The Thread. ]
Drop Sets Question.
I started doing drop sets and I was curious if it's ok to add dropsets to every exercise and not decrease the amount of regular sets?
Started By:
hanky06

    My favorite exercise is to do a 6 set drop set while doing dumbbell curls running the stack and doing each set to failure. I might start with 50 pound curls, then drop to 40 and perform the reps to failure, then immediately pick up the 30 pound dumbbells to failure, then proceed to do reps with the 25 pound dumbbells until, failure and then finish off with 20 pound curls till failure... then work in a few cheat reps! By employing this technique I get 18 sets of arm curls done in about 12 minutes and am done!

dot Strip Sets dot

    Strip sets are essentially drop sets. If we want to be technical, it refers to "stripping" weight from a bar reducing the weight that you're using by 10% or so with each succeeding set (where as a drop set can be done on a machine, using dumbbells, etc.). For example, if you start out with 100 pounds for curls, then on your next set you would do 90 pounds and 80 pounds on your subsequent set.

RELATED VIDEO


Intensity Building Techniques:
Strip Sets Video Guide!

These are done with barbells. Do a set then, without racking the bar, get two spotters to pull off a preset amount of weight. Continue with that weight. Keep stripping as desired. This will thoroughly burn out a muscle.

Click The Play Button To Start The Video.
Or Download Here:
Windows Media (.6 MB) - MPEG (4.9 MB) - Video iPod (.6 MB)
[ Intensity Building Techniques Main Page ]

dot Giant Sets dot

    A giant set is the practice of going from one exercise to another very quickly. One of the risks with this technique is that the muscle is fatigued so quickly that there is a tremendous loss of efficiency and benefit.

    In my opinion giant sets are good for conditioning, but not so great for building size and not appropriate for contest training. For these reasons I only employ it when I have little time to train (like when I get to the gym 20 minutes before closing) or when I am very close to contest time (last week or two).

RELATED ARTICLE

[ Click here to learn more. ]
Turn Up The Intensity!
Move from one set to the next relatively quickly and keep the heart rate elevated. Here are some great tips that will help you get to the next level!
Author:
Lisa Sutton

dot Supersets dot

    A Superset is a technique where two or more exercises are performed back to back. When three exercises are performed in succession it is referred two as a triset superset.

RELATED POLL
Do You Include Supersets In Your Workout Regimen?

Yes
No
I Will Now!

    Supersets can be in two ways. One way is doing two different exercises - for bodybuilding routines - in a row that hit the same muscles. Other way is doing two exercises - for bodybuilding routines - in a row hitting two different muscle groups. Supersets work best when targeting opposing muscle groups. Performing them this way allows for a better pump, as well as more reps.

RELATED VIDEO


Intensity Building Techniques:
Supersets!

This is a good way to train if time is limited. Supersetting involves doing two exercises with no rest in between.

Click The Play Button To Start The Video.
Or Download Here:
WMV (7.9 MB) - MPEG (6.2 MB) - Video iPod (.8 MB)
[ Intensity Building Techniques Main Page ]

dot
Increase The Number Of Sets
dot

There are also many techniques available for increasing the number of sets. They may include the following:

Adding more sets of each exercise. This is a straight forward simple approach. Instead of doing 4 sets per exercise, you could do five sets per exercise.

dot Multi-Exercising dot

    Multi-exercising is often incorrectly referred to as supersets. Multi-exercise sets are different than supersets. Multi-exercise sets use different exercises for each set instead of just doing one exercise for all sets.

    With this type of training, you will be able to hit a particular muscle in different angles. For example, instead of doing 4 to 6 sets of a particular exercise for a body part, you would instead do different exercises for each set each time.

Author Author
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Author, Jeff Behar.

dot Increasing The Weight dot

dot
Other Advanced Techniques To Increase Training Intensity
dot

dot Partial Reps dot

    Partial reps are half or nearly half reps which are done after exhaustion at the end of an exercise when you do not have the energy to complete full reps.

    Partial repetitions are good for eking out a little bit more out of the exercise. My favorite exercise is the squats. As I lift very heavy weights during squats I find it difficult after 4-5 reps, I then do partial reps thereby recruiting those muscle fibers which are not yet fully tired.

RELATED VIDEO


Intensity Building Techniques:
Partial Reps Video Guide!

This is simply moving the weight through a partial range of motion (usually, but not necessarily, the strongest range of motion of the exercise, e.g. the top 6 inches of the bench press). This allows much more weight to be used.

Click The Play Button To Start The Video.
Or Download Here:
Windows Media (.4 MB) - MPEG (3.9 MB) - Video iPod (.5 MB)
[ Intensity Building Techniques Main Page ]

    Deep Reps. Deep reps are done to recruit additional muscle fibers. A simple illustration would be squatting slightly passed parallel, performing deep dips, or doing chair pushups for a deep stretch. It is important that proper care is employed, and proper warming up is done, so not to overstretch or tear a muscle.

dot Pre-Exhaust Method dot

    This method is one of my favorites, so that I can reduce the weight a bit and reduce the stress on my joints while maintaining the force on the muscle.

    The pre-exhaust method is typically done by performing an isolation movement first - like leg extensions - followed by a compound movement - such as the leg press, which works more than one joint. The principle is that on the second exercise, the muscle can be pushed into the range of failure very quickly by first employing the pre-exhaust method.

FORUM THREAD
Why Pre-Exhaust?
[ Click To Join The Thread. ]
Why Pre-Exhaust?
I recently have been interested in doing pre-exhaust to make sure I hit certain muscles. I have heard a lot of people do it, but I also read on here recently that it is "bad" for some reason.
Started By:
microrahsheen

dot Static Training dot

    Static training is an advanced training technique designed to generate high intensity by maximizing weight while minimizing hold times. How this is done is by holding on to the muscle's particular position for an extended amount of time (typically five to fifteen seconds) to give the muscle a new way of training and experience a different load.

    This technique in my opinion is very effective because when used sparingly provides the muscle with a force not typically employed, and as such it can also employ the recruitment of additional supporting muscle fibers. It is also a favorite of mine because it can increase intensity on the muscle without having to add a lot of additional weight which can pose strain on the joints. Another good benefit is that it can be used at any time - even when training alone.

dot Slow Negatives dot

    Slow negatives is a technique that is slightly different from Static Training in that it is typically used at the end of a set when your muscles are failing but you want to get more out of the set in order to drive it into the critical "growth phase."

    How it is performed is that you simply slow down the eccentric portion of the exercise (the eccentric portion of the exercise is the portion in which the muscle is lengthening under tension). To illustrate this point, if you were to do a slow negative with a barbell curl, you would slow the rep as you lower the bar towards your upper thigh; would constitute the negative or eccentric portion of the exercise.

RELATED ARTICLE

[ Click here to learn more. ]
The Body Contract System!
Eccentric training revised - Try my version of the original Body Contract System created by steroid guru Dan Duchaine.
Author:
James Chan

    A simple approach is to perform the eccentric movement taking 4 seconds, while taking 2 seconds during the concentric movement (in the case of a barbell curl the concentric movement would be the positive part of the exercise - the action of raising the bar towards your shoulders).

    With this method, it is common to also employ the Cheat Principle during the concentric movement to maximize the amount of weight and number of reps that can be performed. This technique in my opinion is very effective and can be used at any time - even when training alone.

Author
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Author, Jeff Behar.

    Speed Varying. This technique involves changing the speed that you perform the reps, while maintaining proper form. Often utilizing quick explosive movements at the point of force. Then employing slower static training methods during the negative (downward) rep.

dot
Important Points To Consider When Increasing Intensity
dot

Approach this in a systematic way to avoid injuries. Weekend warriors typically get hurt and drop out before success. It is great to get inspired, but approach your increase in intensity is a smart way.

Stretch and properly warm up to reduce the chances of injury. Stretching FOLLOWING an intense workout is just as, if not more important than stretching before the workout to reduce chances of injury, and to increase recovery.

Cardio Stretching Guides:
Search for stretches and learn the correct form with picture and video guides! Get the best results possible and stay safe while stretching.

[ Check Out The Stretching Guides Here! ]

Be aware of signs of overtraining. Symptoms of overtraining include lethargy (tiredness), aches, pains for extended periods of time, reduced strength, reduced stamina and reduced immunity. If you experience these symptoms, stop working out, take rest and start back with a new routine.

Ensure that you get enough calories and proper nutrition, supplementing vitamins and minerals when needed. Failure to do so can result in overtraining, and as a minimum will limit your growth.

Ensure that you get enough rest. Your muscles don't grow when they are being worked; they grow only when they are at rest. If you give recovery time for the muscles, they will become bigger and stronger. Getting enough rest will also help prevent overtraining. If you are not giving time for recovery, the muscles remain the same and there will be no growth in the muscle.

dot Hydrate dot

    Water is also the most abundant nutrient in the body, not to mention the most important. It is the most critical nutrient for health, growth, and development. In order to move muscle, you need water. Muscle is considered an active tissue and water is found in the highest concentrations in active tissue.

    Although water does not provide energy in the same way carbohydrates and fat do, it plays a very important role in energy transformation. Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. Therefore, you need to drink a lot of water for health, stamina, fuel, and building muscle.

RELATED ARTICLE

[ Click here to learn more. ]
The Importance Of Water!
In the diet, water is the most important component in losing fat and keeping it off. You heard that right... the most important.
Author:
Jen Heath

    It's essential that you drink water for health and building muscle. Without it, muscle strength, control and stamina are all weakened which will reduce your ability to build muscle. Drinking water is important because it helps bring nutrients to the muscles and helps pass toxins from your body.

    Water also helps out with the lubrication of your joints. Water is an ingredient in the makeup of the synovial fluid, which is the lubricating fluid between your joints. If your weight lifting diet is lacking in water, even for a brief period, less fluid is available to protect these areas.

RELATED POLL
How Much Water Do You Drink Per Day?

Just Soda - Thanks
A Few Glasses
Half A Gallon
One Gallon
Two Gallons
Three Gallons Or More

    Remember, if you are employing the advanced lifting techniques discussed above by adding more weight, more reps, and more sets (and thus more stress to your body), the demands from weight lifting on the joints will increase. Adequate water intake is imperative to support the protective fluid needed for optimum performance and to maintain normal healthy joints.

dot
Conclusion
dot

When you increased the intensity of your workouts you will not only see better gains, but you find yourself even more dedicated to your bodybuilding workout, and you will undoubtedly reap the rewards from your efforts.

It is important, however, to remember that high intensity workouts can result in central nervous system overload. Therefore in my opinion, high-intensity exercise is effective for workouts of short duration only.

With a long workout, high-intensity training results in overtraining and central nervous system burnout. One way to avoid this is to perform a high intensity workout for just one body part at a time, and if your training calls for two body parts to be trained, that the other body part be trained in a more traditional manner.

High-Voltage Training Starts With The 3 Basic Principles Of Intensity!
info@musclemagfitness.com

Visitor Reviews Of This Article!
Read Visitor Reviews - Write Your Own Review

Back To Jeff Behar's Main Page

Back To The Articles Main Page.

Related Articles
28 Laws Of Lifting For Muscle
The No. 1 Reason You're Not Growing
Grow Solo: 3 Stand-Alone Intensity-Blasters



RATE THIS ARTICLE
POOR
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
EXCELLENT
OVERALL RATING
N/A

Out of 10

0 Ratings

1

Comment

Showing 1 - 1 of 1 Comment

(5 characters minimum)

      • notify me when users reply to my comment
RXigbar

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
RXigbar

Under the supersets heading you've used two instead of to.
"When three exercises are performed in succession it is referred two as a triset superset."

Other than that, great article, cheers.

Mar 7, 2012 8:25pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 1 of 1 Comment

Featured Product

Give Us Feedback:
Report A Problem
Site Feedback
Follow Us:
Twitter
Facebook
RSS Feeds
Bodybuilding.com Newsletter

Receive exciting features,
news & special offers from Bodybuilding.com