Here are methods for increasing the intensity of your training.
For beginners we want volume to be relatively high and intensity low as the individual is still learning the movement and we want to avoid injury, so this isn't for you.
For advanced lifters, in order to stimulate growth it’s very often necessary to increase intensity to break through plateaus.
Types of Failure
The muscle has 3 actions:
Concentric - the muscle shortens i.e. when you raise the dumbbell on a curl
Isometric - the muscle doesn’t change length i.e. hold a dumbbell at the top of a curl
Eccentric - when the muscle lengthens i.e. when you lower a dumbbell during a curl
The concentric is the weakest muscle action, next is isometric, and finally the eccentric is the strongest muscle action.
Most people stop at concentric muscle failure i.e. you can’t raise the dumbbell any more during a curl, however, there are ways to go past this failure that increase intensity and stimulate growth!
Drop sets: This technique involves doing an exercise with a heavy weight until failure, then immediately reducing the weight and continuing the set until failure again. This technique helps to increase metabolic stress on the muscles, which can stimulate hypertrophy.
Example: Bench press 225 lb to failure, then drop to 135 lb to failure. This is a good way to finish a set if the goal is hypertrophy.
Super sets: This involves performing two exercises back-to-back with no rest in between. You can choose exercises that work the same muscle or choose antagonist supersets that work different muscles.
Example: Bench press followed by chest fly or Bench press followed by chin-up.
Cluster sets: This involves breaking up a set of repetitions into smaller subsets, or clusters, with short rest periods in between each cluster. Cluster sets allow for partial recovery and permit the lifter to perform more high-intensity work in a single set than they would be able to with traditional sets
Example: Choose a weight you can do for 10 reps and break it up into 2 clusters of 5 reps, with a short rest period of 10-15 seconds between each cluster.
Rest Pause Sets (or Myoreps): This involves doing a set to failure, then resting for a short period (around 10-20 seconds), and then continuing the set until failure again. This technique can increase both metabolic stress and mechanical tension on the muscles.
Example: Do as many push-ups as you can, rest 20 seconds, and repeat as many times as you want.
Isometric Squeeze: Once you can no longer perform complete reps, hold an isometric squeeze to increase the time under tension for the muscle.
Example: Perform cable chest flys and once you reach failure, hold the last rep with hands together for a 10-second squeeze.
Forced reps: If you have a training partner, have them spot you for 1-2 reps past failure. If you have no training partner, you can choose specific exercises that allow you to help yourself past failure.
Example: Have a training partner spot you for 2 reps past failure on bench press or perform a concentration curl and when you reach failure, use your other arm to assist with lifting the dumbbell then control the lowering.
If you decide to use one of these advanced methods, it’s critical that you track your progress because progressive overload is still king. We must challenge the muscles with increasingly heavier loads, which will lead to long term adaptation and growth.
High-intensity training techniques should be used in moderation and it’s important to ensure adequate recovery time between workouts to allow the muscles to rest and recover.
If you want to take your training to the next level, apply for coaching here.
Hope this helps! - Tom