Today is intensity check day. Are you breathing hard during cardio and/or weights? Do you sweat? Are you sore the day after weights? Are you getting stronger? Are you developing more cardiovascular endurance? Are you gaining muscle mass/losing fat?
Intensity is the most commonly overlooked exercise principle since many take a ‘as long as I do my time it’s good’ approach to their routine. Or, are satisfied with their bodyweight so without the gnaw to burn maximum calories coast through their workouts on cruise control.
Any physical activity IS beneficial and moderately intense energy expenditure CAN maintain healthy bodyweight, but higher intensity work yields greater benefit that helps to ensure motivation.
Said differently, higher intensity work = optimal benefit + resilient motivation.
For a quick intensity fix, two tried and true intensity enhancers are using drop sets during strength training and holding your arms overhead as you do cardio.
Strength training drop sets – for this technique, continue an exercise at a lower weight after fatiguing at a higher weight. For example, complete 12 bicep curl reps using 25lbs then without rest complete another X reps using 15lbs. Repeat this sequence at least three times taking about 45 seconds rest in between each set. The key is continuing the exercise using the lower weight after fatiguing using the higher weight without pause. (Numerous drop set variations exist. Please consult with a reputable fitness professional for more drop set ideas).
The compounded fatigue triggers a compounded training effect: working past failure twice double shocks the muscle fibers into stimulating hypertrophy (growth). Note – because of the intensity, drop sets should be one component of a strength training routine. In other words, mix drop sets into a routine that includes a variety of strength training techniques.
Arms overhead while doing cardio (appropriate when using the stair mill, stair stepper, treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine) – for this technique, raise your arms overhead while you jog, step, bike or use the elliptical machine on an interval or periodically according to your heart rate. Holding your arms overhead increases the intensity of the exercise by eliminating the assisted bodyweight support that holding onto handrails provides. This requires your legs and core to support your full bodyweight as you exercise. The increased workload means your heart has to work harder to accomplish the same result, which leads to a higher heart rate. Know your safe heart rate maximum before using this technique and consistently monitor it during the exercise. Alternate between holding your arms overhead and holding onto the handrails if your heart rate exceeds its safe maximum. The additional workload leads to strengthened cardiovascular capacity. Note – holding your arms overhead requires the ability to remain balanced while you are moving. Take care to ensure you can use this technique and remain safely stable.
Use these two techniques to quick fix your workout intensity. You are the only you you have. Don’t cheat your benefit or risk your engagement motivation by working out below the radar.