Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Increasing Intensity

Often when I workout with a partner, I like to discuss the different techniques and aspects of strength training with that person. Somehow, the topic of intensity always seems to work its way into the discussion at some point or another during the session. I have heard of many techniques to increase the intensity and I have also experimented with many of the techniques. I have come to the conclusion that there are essentially three principles that govern the intensity of a workout. To increase the intensity of a workout, at least one of the following criteria must be met:
  1. The amount of resistance applied to the target muscle must be increased.
  2. The duration that a muscle is under stress must be increased.
  3. The amount of rest that a muscle is allowed must be decreased.
The first criteria refers to increasing the amount of weight used for an exercise. An example of this criteria is increasing the dumbbell weight from 30 pounds to 35 pounds when performing a curl. The second criteria refers to increasing the number of repetitions performed during each set or more general, the amount of time a set lasts. The final criteria refers to the amount of rest allowed between each set. A superset (which is essentially two exercises performed back to back without any rest) takes advantage of the third criteria by eliminating the amount of rest between sets.

I will illustrate how I incorporate these three criteria into my fitness routines. My workouts are structured into macro cycles. Simply, a macro cycle is a duration of time that includes a period of working out and a period of rest. My macro cycles are structured such that I work out for about six to eight weeks before allowing my body to rest from half a week to one week. During the start of each new macro cycle (this is right after my rest period), I tend to increase the weight used for all my exercises, satisfying the condition of the first criteria.

My workouts are broken down even further into micro cycles (a macro cycle can also be thought of as a series of micro cycles with a rest period at the end). A micro cycle establishes the day to day structure of my workout routine. Right now I am following a micro cycle that lasts seven days, with five days of working out and two days of rest:
  • Day 1: Back
  • Day 2: Chest
  • Day 3: Biceps
  • Day 4: Triceps
  • Day 5: Shoulders
  • Day 6: Rest
  • Day 7: Rest
This cycle is often repeated six to eight times per macro cycle. Micro cycles usually take advantage of the second criteria. During the start of each new micro cycle, I try to increase the number of reps per exercise by one, hence increasing the time under tension of the targeted muscle. Examples of the third criteria is found within the techniques that I utilize within my workouts, such as supersetting exercises.

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