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Training Intensity – How Hard You Should Be Training and Why It Should Matter To You

  Mar 10th, 2013

Training Intensity - Jason StathamIf you go to any public gym, you’ll witness a wide range in training intensity.


You’ll see those that look like being at the gym is the most intimidating experience imaginable.


They cautiously pick up a few dumbbells, engaging their muscles to a degree that would be similar to what they experience when bending over to tie their shoes, and then breathe a sigh of relief before hurriedly moving towards the nearest exit.


This kind of gym-goer is easy to spot because they stand out like a sore thumb. There’s no intention in what they’re doing, they look awkward and eventually leave the gym with their shirt as bone dry as it was when they walked in.


Then you have those dudes that look like they’re sniffing smelling salts between sets (seriously, people really do this). They appear to get so amped up that if it wasn’t time to move a barbell they’d be liable to do something really stupid, like screaming at the top of their lungs before head-butting a wall.


If you were forced to pick an extreme end of the intensity meter, the latter description would be better, at least as far as building additional muscle is concerned (your personal safety is another story).


But does it really matter how much intensity you’re using while training?


Physical Change Requires Intensity

Pragmatically speaking, you could have a look at the most jacked guys at your gym and see how much intensity they’re using. Remember not to count the juicers; they’re cheaters and would be a misrepresentation of your target sample set.


If you don’t mind, I’d like to save you some time by telling you exactly what you’ll find: those with ripped and muscular physiques will almost always be those lifting with a noteworthy level of intensity.


Yes, there are those lucky few with genetics that make us less genetically-gifted saps want to vomit in their shoes. People like that can put on muscle and stay lean without giving a second thought to what lifts they’re performing, how much weight they’re using or how intense they are when training.


For us normal folks, we need to be intelligent about how we train. The amount of intensity we’re training with is no exception.


Just the other night my wife made a comment about hearing me grunting while I was training in our basement. “That’s what happens when you hit it hard,” I quickly explained, while breathing heavy and downing my post-workout shake between breaths.


I know from a number of past personal failures that building a ripped and muscular physique doesn’t happen without lots and lots of hard work.


This hard work certainly applies to more than just training intensity. Anyone who has tried to follow a structured diet knows how much of a challenge that can be.


Unfortunately, the way you feed your body is too important and has too great of an impact on your outward appearance to simply ignore.


Likewise, the amount of intensity you train with is proportional to the results you’re going to get from it.


Now, there is a limit to the amount of intensity you’ll want to use when training. Training with level 11 intensity day after day is a terrible idea.


It will wreak havoc on your CNS and multiply your chances of injury many times over. Nevertheless, you will have to work hard and press yourself if you’re going to continually improve your body.


Just don’t go overboard. Train hard, use explosive movements and go to failure. But, never compromise your form, because it will exponentially increase your risk of injury. And be sure to periodize your training to give your body the rest it needs for optimal growth and recovery.


Training Intensity, Progressive Overload and Muscle Growth

Training Intensity - Go HardProgressively overloading your muscles is absolutely essential if you want to make any noticeable improvements to the amount of muscle you’re carrying around.


The best way to accomplish this is by being intentional about doing everything within your means to lift more weight, perform a greater number of reps, or both, every time you train.


If you’re haphazard about your training you aren’t going to get very far. You will have a heck of a time outdoing your past performance on any lift and your training will then essentially be doing nothing more than engaging your muscles to a degree they will have long since adapted to.


This will leave your muscles looking the same week after week and month after month, which is completely unacceptable!


You have to have the right mindset, a mindset that forces you to dig deep and do everything within your power to outperform your previous best.


In addition, you never want to let your muscles completely recover between sets. Your rest periods should always be kept to under 2 minutes and should usually be closer to 1 minute in duration.


If that means you have to stop socializing between sets, keep a training log, or grunt a little bit, so be it. Are you at the gym to make friends or improve yourself?


If you are there to make a friend or two, then be sure to go out of your way to find the jacked-out guys training hard and pushing themselves because they will make you better, not keep you down.


Just don’t do it while your in the middle of a training session or at the expense of your training intensity.


Actually, having the comradery of a few people at your gym that look the way you want to look can go a long way.


“You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.” – Tim Ferriss


Keep in mind, this principle works both ways. So don’t get sucked into hanging out with those perennially out of shape cats who do more chatting than lifting and display a similar level of intensity when performing either task.


Intensity Produces Results

As your intensity goes, so goes your results. Nobody that’s ever made dramatic improvements to their body has done it without consistently training with a high level of intensity.


So get sweaty, strain your muscles till they hurt, don’t be afraid to make a little noise and stay away from those who aren’t doing the exact same things.


Intensity matters. So go hard or go home.



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