What Is Training Intensity?
I decided to write this article to help all the new lifters who feel a bit lost on how hard they actually should or should not train.
There are lot of different factors that will affect your training intensity but for natural lifters the best way to gain muscle is to train with high intensity, close to the concentric muscular failure.
Let’s go into a bit more in-depth of this issue…
Training With High Intensity
So training with high intensity means training close to a concentric muscular failure, which means the point when you’re unable to perform the actual lifting part of any exercise, not lowering it (eccentric).
Usually high intensity lifting is associated with 70-100% range of your 1 Rep max.
Ofcourse lifting a 70% load just 3 times is not considered high intensity since you’re not getting close enough to failure. When you crank 12 reps with that 70% load, the last rep or two start to get really difficult, that is the point where you should be aiming for.
What happens is when you train close to failure you’ll end up recruiting the most amount of muscle fibers possible while performing the exercise.
And this is important fact if your goal is to build maximum amount of muscle mass and strength.
Rep Ranges And Training Intensity
People always tend to get way too caught up with different rep ranges and which of them is the best for gaining muscle.
Well the answer is that it really doesn’t make a difference on what rep range you’re using if the training volume and lifting intensity is high enough!
But that being said, while training with high intensity it’s generally safer to train in the moderate rep range, which is roughly between 5 and 8 repetitions per set.
The reason for this is that when you’re performing a certain exercise, it’s much easier to stay focused on using proper lifting technique when you’re lifting within the 5-8 rep range. This will decrease the risk of injury and allow for the maximum requirement of muscle fibers and allow yourself to really give everything you have and focusing on the quality of the set.
This range is not too heavy and not too light, it’s basically the “sweet spot” of lifting and will yield great results in the name of hypertophy and strength.
This rep range is usually the best option for most people in most cases, and like I stated already before virtually any rep range will produce good results as long as the total volume and intensity are there!
5 is a magical number. 5 reps is the sweet spot for building muscle and strength simultaneously – Andy Bolton
Training Intensity And Proper Form
A lot of people in the beginning of their lifting career (myself included) have read the mantra of going balls to the walls with the weight.
Well this breeds an issue of compromising lifting form in order to lift more weight and this is a really big mistake to do!
There are some genetic freaks who will get away with bad form for a number of years but the truth of the matter is that as the weights get heavier the injury risk accumulates also.
And this brings a really important point of lifting which is:
You should never sacrifice lifting technique when aiming for high intensity!
Training with high intensity (close to failure) should always be done with proper lifting form. As soon as you start seeing drastic breakdown of technique it should be the end of the set.
The thing is that your body is trying to compensate for the lack of strength by altering your technique and at that point you’re likely injure yourself when your body starts to shift the weight onto muscles that are much weaker than the prime movers. Ontop of injury there is the fact that you’ll end up training muscles that you’re not supposed to train with the particular exercise you’re doing.
Focusing On Quality, Not Quantity
The reason why training intensity is so important is the fact that you can get so much out of your workout when you push yourself to the limits.
If you want to grow muscle and get stronger, you have to be willing to work for it. You cannot show up to the gym and half ass your workouts. You have to be ready to give your body a reason to grow and that is accomplished by training with high intensity.
You have to treat every heavy compound lift as your life depends on the set, this is what pushes you forward.
By doing 2-4 sets of heavy squats with proper form and 1-2 reps short of failure, you will give your body no other option than growing bigger and stronger.
This is why you must understand that quality overcomes quantity.
Let’s say you did 2 sets of back squat with 225 pounds on the bar. You did the first set with 8 reps and the last one started to get really heavy, you might got one or two more reps more if you’d really pushed yourself. The next set you could crank out only 6 reps but again you maybe had one or two in the tank.
By completing just 2 really heavy sets focusing 100% of effort to finish the set, you got way more out of those two sets compared to just doing 135 for 3 sets of 12 reps.
This is what I mean by focusing on quality over quantity.
Conclusion On What Is Training Intensity
When it all comes down to it, training with high intensity in the gym is one of the most important factors that come into play when structuring a sound workout plan that will deliver results.
As long as you’re implementing proper form and training 1-2 reps short of failure, aiming for progressive overload on the weight, reps or sets, you will make awesome gains in muscle mass and strength.
It is easy to get lazy and take the mellow road and train with the lighter weights with light intensity. But the truth is that if you want to grow, you have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone and really push yourself.
But you must stay intelligent with your training and overload your muscles using proper form or otherwise you will get hurt. And injuries are truly your worst enemy if you want to build muscle!
I hope you found this article helpful and you got something out of it!