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What Are Your “Intentions”?

A few months ago I got a cool tip from IFBB Pro Ben Pakulski about a training technique he calls “intentions.” After a certain point in your training, going heavier and heavier either won’t be possible or will carry more risk than potential reward. If you’re in your first seven years of training, that’s not a concern, but if you continue working out, it eventually will be. At the point when going heavier isn’t the best option for stimulating growth, you have to look at other solutions.

With intentions you change the angle of pushing or pulling by means of a technique almost imperceptible to an observer. You push inward or pull outward with your hands or feet as you perform an exercise. I gave it a try during a recent back workout. On lat pulldowns as I pulled the bar down, I tried to pull my hands apart. They didn’t actually move on the bar, but that different motion made my lats fire in a different way, and my back was more sore the next day than it had been in months.

Ben said you have to play around with exercises. On barbell presses for chest, for example, he tries to push his hands together. One thing is certain: Forget about using your normal weights. Typically, I do work sets with 200 to 250 pounds on lat pulldowns to the front; at that recent back workout I didn’t need to go any heavier than 150. As I said, though, the feeling in the lats was completely different.

We often play around with grip widths and experiment with pushing and pulling angles, but with intentions you introduce a variable that can awaken dormant muscle fibers and stimulate them in fresh, new ways. Pakulski has used intentions to get more out of exercises like leg presses, squats, barbell rows, bench presses and overhead presses—really anything that has you pushing or pulling both limbs at once on a bar or roller pad. It’s helped him become ripped at 270 and qualified to compete in the Mr. Olympia, and it can probably breathe new life into your workouts. More important, it stimulates new muscle growth.

Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding—Muscle Truth from 25 Years In the Trenches, available at

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