Intensity is an essential ingredient that makes any training strategy produce better results. Whatever training routine, style or philosophy you decide to follow, you absolutely must train with intensity. If you don’t have enough, your training will be compromised.
You read about intensity in the bodybuilding magazines and on the Internet all the time. Your friends in the gym often talk about it as well. Most people will swear they train with the utmost intensity. It seems to be such a relative term, and everyone has a unique way of defining and measuring it.
What exactly does intensity really mean? How do you know if you’re training with enough of it? How can you raise your current level? Let’s look at some simple and effective strategies that can immediately catapult your intensity to the next level.
Intensity in training can be described as giving 100 percent of your mind, body and soul to every repetition, every set, every exercise and every minute of the workout. It means pounding the weights so hard that every set ends in absolute failure. In other words, you have nothing left in reserve when the set is completed. Intensity is just as much a mental feat as it is a physical one.
Intensity can also be defined as consistently striving for a higher level of excellence regardless of what you’ve achieved in the past. It means never being satisfied with your current level of performance or development because, deep inside your soul, you know that you’re capable of at least one more repetition, five more pounds on the bar or a slight improvement in your form.
When you train with that type of passion, continual improvement is inevitable. If you train with intensity, there’s no question that you’ll be more productive in your bodybuilding efforts than those who don’t train with as much as you. The greater your intensity becomes, the better you’ll be at initiating the muscle-building process.
Here are five simple, effective tips that will help you immediately raise your training intensity—whatever you consider it to be right now.
1) Make it your goal to constantly raise your training intensity. Don’t assume it will automatically be high enough just because you showed up at the gym. Don’t assume you already have enough training intensity period. We get what we focus on in life—and we don’t get what we don’t focus on. You must focus on constantly raising your training intensity to continually make the improvements in your performance and physique that you want.
2) Don’t confuse activity for intensity when you’re in the gym. There’s a huge difference between the two. Activity is merely showing up. Some people get to the gym on a consistent basis—but aren’t demanding enough intensity out of themselves while they’re there. It’s almost as though they’re merely punching a time clock when they’re in the gym. Their commitment and consistency are admirable, but to get the muscle gains they want, they’ll have to up the intensity during their workouts.
3) Don’t confuse training volume—the amount of work you put into each session—with training intensity. Stimulating a particular muscle group for growth can be done quite effectively in two to four exercises per session and a total of just five to 10 sets. When you force yourself to get the job done in fewer sets at every workout rather than adding sets, the training warrior inside you will make each of them count. That’s when you know your training intensity is heating up. Don’t add a few sets here and there because you don’t feel you’ve worked hard enough. Live with the angst and disappointment for your less-than-stellar effort because it will drive you to raise the intensity during your next workout. If you add sets, you’ll never learn the valuable lesson. Don’t do it—no matter how strong the temptation! Always remember that more isn’t better—better is better. Force yourself to get better—next time around.
4) Limit your weight-training sessions to one hour or less. Yes, you can indeed get the job done in that time if you use the right amount of intensity. Lock yourself into that time frame. Regardless of how you try to rationalize it, longer training sessions are not more productive. The longer you’re in the gym, the more you water down your training intensity. Force yourself to become just as effective in a shorter period of time—and watch your intensity explode.
5) Document your training performance during every workout. That’s not just an exercise in record keeping; it’s an effective strategy for raising your training intensity immediately and producing better results over time. Seeing what you did during your last training session before you begin each set forces you to strive for more this time around. You know exactly what you need to do make incremental improvements. From week to week, you won’t have to guess how much weight you lifted and how many repetitions you were able to perform on a certain exercise. You’ll be able to start each new workout at a higher level of training intensity.
Always strive for improvement in the gym. Progressive, incremental improvements that are accomplished over time will make your training efforts more productive and enjoyable in the long run.
Train hard—and think big. You’re a mass machine warrior!
—Skip La Cour
Editor’s note: Skip La Cour is a six-time national champion bodybuilder, a success and leadership coach and the creator of the Mass Machine Bodybuilding and Training Program. Learn how you can become a Mass Machine Training warrior by visiting www.SkipLaCour.com. Sign up for a free weekly bodybuilding and training newsletter—sent to your e-mail address—and you’ll receive a free e-book.