9 Techniques to Increase Your Workout Intensity
After months of doing the same workout, things get stale. You know what lifts are going to suck, you may have a couple you like, and you end up gritting your way through the rest of the workout.
Or you maybe you've been lifting for a while and would like to take things up a notch eventually, those 3 sets of 10 aren't going to cut it. In order to make the sets more challenging, there are a few different things you can do:
- You can increase the time under tension
- You can push yourself to failure
- You could also do partial reps or drop sets
So let's jump into the list.
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1.) Paused Reps
Paused reps are great for upping the intensity and will help you bust through your personal records. The idea is to control the weight, not to let the weight control you.
If you are looking to get into powerlifting, this is something you will need to implement.
Paused reps are basically a short pause in between the eccentric and the concentric portion of a compound lift.
- For a bench press, you would pause with the bar at your chest.
- For a squat, you would pause in the hole.
- For an overhead press, you would pause with the bar at your shoulders.
You can also apply this technique to other exercises.
Your muscles have to stop the force and then re-engage to work harder than if you were to touch-and-go.
A small one to three-second pause will make a huge difference.
2.) Negatives or Forced Reps
Negative reps or forced reps are where you are overloading your eccentric phase of a lift.
Take a preacher curl, for example. Perform preacher curls until failure. Then, have a partner or use your other hand to pick the weight up and take three to five seconds to lower the weight again. Another example would be to slowly let the barbell creep down to your chest and have a partner help pull it back up.
The eccentric part of the lift that we are overloading is the portion of the lift that really tears your muscle fibers.
You should use a partner if you are doing forced reps with free weights, otherwise, machines work very well for this method.
3.) Cheat Reps
Using perfect form on lifts is important. As your lifts get to where you hit failure, we can usually squeak out a couple more half reps if you use a little momentum.
Doing this to squeeze out another rep or two can help tear down those muscle fibers, but you have to be on control the whole time.
4.) 1.5 Reps
1.5 reps are unique and I really like performing them on a machine.
For these, you will simply perform the movement, go halfway through the eccentric phase, and finish the movement. So for a lying leg curl, you will perform a full rep, lower the weight halfway, lift the weight back up, and then let the weight all the way down.
This is great for legs, biceps, and triceps.
If you want to get real chummy with your workout partner, 21s are pretty fun. This is a bro protocol but it is worth a try.
Grab yourself a barbell or EZ curl bar and perform 7 half reps from the bottom to the middle of the lift. Next, do 7 more half reps from the middle to the top of the lift. Last, you do 7 full reps.
This is where your partner comes in – as they perform their 21s, this is your rest period until they hand it back to you.
Fun fact, the former Mr. Olympia Dexter Jackson loves doing 21s, and uses them on leg presses and other exercises.
6.) Time Under Tension
Adding time under tension pushes your muscles further and tears more muscle fibers.
Slowing the tempo in which you are lifting increases your time under tension. Next time you bench, take three seconds for the bar to get to your chest, pause for one second, and explode up.
Use lighter weight – the added intensity from the time under tension is more important than how much weight you are moving.
Both supersets and maximize our effort and can save us some time.
Supersets combine two exercises, performing them back to back with no rest. Alternating exercises mean you still have a rest period for your muscle, you're just working another one while it rests.
One of my favorite supersets are hammer curls and tricep extensions. If you have a decent cable machine, you can move the handles up or down – taking no time to finish.
8.) Rest-Pause Training
This technique is great for building some power and strength. Say you are benching 225 and you can get it for five reps. Rack the weight and count 15 seconds and get back at it. You may only get a couple of reps before you reach failure again, but this will improve your anaerobic capacity in the long run.
As with anything, perform lifts safely. The goal is to push the intensity envelope, not send us to snap city.
9.) Drop Sets
If you are a volume junkie, this technique is for you.
In short, you get to your working weight and perform reps. As you fail, you drop to a lower weight and go until you fail. Repeat until you want to give up.
So if you're doing side lateral raises and you grab a set of 25, you get your 10 reps in before you can't do another one, and grab the 20s and keep going. Doing more than two drops in a set starts to have diminishing gains. So for the above example, do your set with 25s, a set with 20s, and then a set with 15s and call it quits for that exercise.
Wrapping It Up
Increase your intensity, consistently train, and eat some nutritious foods and you'll notice an increase in your gains if you implement any of these techniques.