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Intensity in the gym. Understand it and you'll get the most out of your body.


Hammerblow

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Hammerblow

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      Intensity

The word "intensity" gets thrown around a lot in the bodybuilding world. so what does it mean? in basic terms, it refers to the effort put into your lift. i will describe inteinsty on a scale with 1 being low and 10 being all out. in any given workout, you need a mix of intensity throughout the workout. every set can not be a 10. dorian yates is a good example of a guy who took intensity very seriously. he only did 1 working set per movement (supposedly, but he had and incredible physique so am I to argue) and it was always a 10. he would do 2-4 warmup sets at a 6-8 intensity to get ready for the big set, then he hit one all out set of true muscular failure. it is important to realize that to push past a 7 or an 8, it requires MENTAL strength more so than physical strength. a level 10 intensity will have every fiber in your body telling you than you CAN NOT do another one, it is impossible, but you will move the weight again and again. you will push through a great amount of pain to make it happen. this is where your mind must be strong.

there are workout intensifiers, things you can do to increase the intensity of any given set. a lot of these are rather basic, but most people are just going through the motions when they do these, they arnt really taking advantage of the benefits they can provide if done properly.

a good example of this is supersets. commonly used, a super set is one movement followed by another movement without a rest period. this can be done on opposing muscle groups, like bicep curls followed by tricep push downs. or they can be done for the same muscle group such as lat pull downs super set with cable pull overs. both are effective. here is the thing about super sets that i see frequently that disappoint me. if you want to grow, you need to take a set to a 9 or 10 level intensity. you should be pretty dead after this, you shouldn't be able to talk to your bro or crack jokes, or really even speak without heavy breathing between words, defiantly not full sentences. so a superset should KILL you, because you should already be fully fatigued from the first movement, then as you go into the second one you should be pushing everything as hard as you can, it should require strict mental focus to perform.

rest pause sets: this method involves taking a set to failure, or close to it, then resting anywhere between 5-15 seconds, and performing another set, usually for less reps. there are a few ways to go about this. you can do a single rest pause set, where you move to failure, then after a short period of time push to failure again.

the other way you can do these is to use a weight you can get 10-12 reps with, and do sets of 5 with 5-10 seconds in between, the total number of reps here should aim for 20-30. this is just one rep scheme example, some guys will do 6 rounds of 6 reps with 5-15 seconds between, it really depends on the movement being done and what your comfortable with, you can play with it. these cluster sets, or as they are also called muscle rounds should be performed with movements that dont require much set up. you should be able to just move the weight for a few reps then rack it easily. something like a squat or db shoulder press requires too much set up. movements that work well with this include leg press, squat machines, any pressing machine, smith machine bb rows, and other rowing machines.

partial reps: typically we want to take an exercise through a full range of motion. partial reps can really help in taking a set past failure, they dont work well for every movement, but can be great tool. we will use lat pull downs as an example. i would perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps focusing on a good range of motion, i would use an explosive contraction, focus on a good squeeze at the bottom, and use a 2-3 second negative with a solid stretch at the top before repeating. for these 3 sets i would use an intensity level of 7-8. for the last set i would perform it exactly the same way, but after the last rep, when i can get anymore, i shorten the range of motion and push for another 8-10 reps. i get a full stretch at the top and pull the bar to the top of my head, maybe just 3-5 inches. the really important thing about this method is that you make sure you are engaging and squeezing with the target muscle. it should BURN in your lats. its easy as we get fatigued to start pulling with our biceps. make sure you are engaging the lats, not your biceps. it works well for back, or biceps. you can do it for pressing movements too. for a press usually i would perform these on the bottom half. after i am unable to get any more reps i would rack the weight (on a machine) and then push as hard as i can squeezing the weight up 3-4 inches, then rack it again momentarily and repeat. these work very well on lateral raises as well (my personal favorite to use these on).

slow reps: some guys really like these, Dennis James has his guys do alot of these and calls them MTUT (menace time under tension). these are done by slowing down not only the negative, but concentric part of the rep as well. when doing these you will have to lower the weight significantly to really control the movement. anywhere from 5-10 seconds on the negative and 5-10 seconds on the concentric part of the rep. these are VERY hard. personally i will typically mostly perform these on machines, where i can take the stabilizer muscles out of the picture and focus on keeping tension where you want it. its important to note that you should not lock out on these reps because you will loose tension that way, and the idea is to keep maximal tension the muscle for the entire time the set its performed. aim to keep tension for 40-80 seconds on these sets.

slow negatives or added partner resistance on negatives: in my opinion slow negatives should be part of EVERY rep performed in the gym. a 2-3 second negative will make sure that you are using a proper weight you can control and keeping form perfect. partner added resistance involves your partner adding resistance to the movement on the negative. hamstring curls are good example of a movement that this works well on. pick a weight you can easily get 20-25 reps with. at the top of each rep your partner will push the weight down as hard as he can, your job is to squeeze your hamstrings and fight it as much as possible. once you get to the bottom your partner lets up and you move the weight up yourself. repeat for 10 reps or so. this also works well for back machines like the plate loaded high row, or lateral raises with dumbells. remember to keep form tight here and make sure you are squeezing with the target muscle, this is another one that is easy for accessory muscles to take over or form to break once you get fatigued.

static holds: this technique involves holding a maximum contraction. there are a few ways to do this, the first involves holding a 2-3 second squeeze with every rep (works awesome with back movements). the 2nd and method that i generally prefer is a 10 second hold after finishing the set. using hamstring curls again as an example, you would finish your last set and then squeeze HARD for about 10 seconds. i really like this technique for hamstrings, biceps, back, and leg extensions. another variation of this is paused reps, this involves hold the weight at the bottom (stretched) position of a rep for a few seconds before EXPLODING into a contraction. this works well with pressing movements and squatting movements.

drop sets: a pretty common and basic one, most guys are familiar with this technique. basically once you reach failure at a certain weight, you drop the weight and without any rest extend the set. this can be done multiple times. i am personally not a fan of drop sets for back, as i feel my arms fatigue and prevent my back from really reaching failure. but everyone is different.

to recap, intensity is vital to growth. we need to really stimulate our muscles to grow and we do that with HARD training and food. steroids only aid in this process, without hard training and food, growth simply will not occur. these techniques can help push your intensity to the next level, but it is important to realize that you cant do these every set. some guys, Jay Cutler comes to mind, he never did any intensifiers. these are simply a tool to add to our arsenal. bodybuilding and weight training is as much if not more a mental game than physical. you need a strong mind to push through the pain and grow. if you guys have any thoughts or other ideas that i didnt cover here please feel free to add.

 

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onesquared

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Totally agree with you on everything, this is a really great informative post. One thing to remember too is that you are going to have crappy workout days, some days are just better than others. It's a lifestyle, a marathon and not a sprint.  But yeah, you should always push your hardest and then push some more.

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Hammerblow

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Thank you @onesquared yeah we all have those days where whatever you do you just can't seem to get into it. I usually do one of three things, go home as for me it's sometimes and indicator my CNS hasn't recovered and I need n extra rest day. People are also scared of this, missing one scheduled gym day will steal all there hard work. Actually the opposite 9/10. Two, I'll do some cardio light to moderate cardio. Three, weak point training. Those pesky body parts that lag. Requires intensity but not nearly as much as full on. back or leg day.  My quads can be a Bain for me, so I'll do 5-8 sets 20 reps of goblet squats and superset that with cable rear delt raises. Another weak body part for me. Same rep range and I'm out.

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Have you noticed the genetic elite never kill themselves?

Yes they let a lot of the drugs do the work but their atrophy and drug assimilation is on another level to the normal person.

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Hammerblow

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It's on a whole a sickening :( Branch trains like a maniac but looks like shit now cpampared to old branch. His muscle maturity should be peaking. Ronnie obviously done himself in but that was more through his lifting style and how long he trained that way. Who else could win 8 Mr olympias training an hour before work then go be s cop for 9-10 hours. He'd do his hour - two hour on the treadmill. But a genetic freak with assimilation to boot. Not a morsal wasted.

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TBH once you have been in this for a long time you become very cynical as you realise that is now based upon polypharmacy at its best.

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