Get Intense, But Be Smart About
Training intensity is a major key to unlocking new gains. But many lifters assume that going balls-out every workout is the secret to building as much muscle as possible. Not true. If you've ever truly pushed yourself for weeks and months on end, you'll know that it doesn't end well:
- Angry joints
- High levels of irritability
- Loss of training drive and excitement
- Strength drops
- Irregular appetite
- Trouble sleeping
These are all signs that you've held your training intensity too high for too long. Your body is screaming at you to dial things back and give it a break. Keeping this in mind, you need to give yourself somewhere to go, and allow for room to grow, so to speak. That means its best that you avoid going balls-out from the get go.
Think about it. Much like fat loss is best approached in a slow, cyclical fashion to prevent plateaus and unwanted rebound weight, your muscle-building goals should be treated much the same. Nobody diets successfully by slashing their calories, adding in cardio, and upping their training volume all at once. You'll see initial results, of course. But once your body adapts, you have nothing else to add (or take away) to keep you moving forward.
If you start doing tons of volume and include every intensity technique under the sun, you'll grow initially. But after 4-6 weeks, you'll notice considerably smaller returns on your time and energy investment. Stagnant gains aside, you've left yourself in the awkward position of having nothing more to add to your training that will help you keep progressing.
A Better Way: Build Intensity
Here's how you can build up your intensity over 7 weeks, and then pull back before cycling back up again.
- Week 1: Establish your baseline of volume and intensity.
- Week 2: Add 1 set to each exercise.
- Week 3: Add 1-2 intensity techniques per session (drop sets, loaded stretches, isometric holds, partial reps, etc.)
- Week 4: Add 2-3 reps per exercise.
- Week 5: Knock 15-30 seconds off your rest times.
- Week 6: Add 1 set to your big, main exercises.
- Week 7: Add one more intensity technique per session.
- Week 8: Cut out all intensity techniques and drop your volume by 30-50%.
Building up your intensity over time will allow you to continually build muscle while not firing every bullet in the proverbial muscle building chamber.