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Intensity Principles


BodybuildingPro.com Training Database Bodybuilding Articles Intensity Principles



Go to: All Intensity Principles - In Detail

Shocking your System into Awesome Muscular Growth!

*NOTE* - For those of you wishing to see the intensity principles listed below in greater detail please check out our Detailed Intensity Principles Page.

Introduction

Due to the adaptiveness of the human body, certain exercises and routines will elicit a smaller and smaller effect on the body (expressed in terms of muscular development) as they become more familiarized in your training. Several methods to “shock” the body into new growth include the following:

(1)     Train with more weight than usual.

(2)     Do more reps or sets.

(3)     Speeding up your training.

(4)     Cutting down rest time between sets.

(5)     Doing unfamiliar exercises.

(6)     Changing the order of your exercises.


Change in itself will shock the body into new growth more than intensity. One good method of shocking is to take one day out of the month and train with many more sets, or with very high reps.

The Cheating Method

The cheating method is the one exception to maintaining strict form in all bodybuilding movements. It is a method in which you deliberately use other muscle groups in order to aid one primary movement. An example of the cheating method in use would be individuals who arch their back slightly to do one or more additional repetitions of standing barbell curls. It is recommended that you keep cheating movements to the last set of an exercise, and not to go beyond a total of three additional repetitions with this method.

Continuous Tension Principle

If you do your exercises in a slow, controlled manner, you will maintain optimal muscular tension and this will result in new growth for your muscles. Always complete every bodybuilding motion with emphasis on strict form throughout the entire range of motion.

Cycle Training Principle

Do one workout for size, mass, and strength, then lower the weight and increase the number of repetitions in the following workout for greater quality. This way, you subject your muscles to maximum output every workout, and reduce your chances of overtraining and injury.

Double Split Principle

If you are looking to maximize energy reserves, you can take your daily training activities, and split them into two training sessions, one AM training, and one PM training. For example, if you are planning to train chest / biceps one day, you can train your chest in the morning, and your biceps in the afternoon or evening.

Eclectic Training Principle

Combine both mass building and shape building exercises in all of your bodybuilding exercises to ensure total development. If you pay attention to both mass and shape, you will develop a symmetrical physique much more easily. For example, dumbbell curls are considered a very important exercise to develop your biceps peak, where standing barbell curls are considered a very important mass builder. By incorporating both mass and shape building exercises into your workouts you will develop the mass you want as well as a shape you will appreciate.

Flushing Principle

To add extra intensity to your workouts, you can exercise your muscles in a continuous way using a steady pace. This will keep the blood flow to your muscles steady and help you to keep yourself “pumped” throughout the entire workout. To completely focus on the exercise, you can train different aspects of the same body part on different days. For example, you can train your quadriceps on day one, and then your hamstrings on day three. This will help you to develop a complete and balanced physique and your overall symmetry will benefit.

Forced Reps

“Forced Reps” is the term given to the idea of forcing yourself to do additional reps beyond the point of muscular failure. This can be achieved in numerous ways. One way is to let your training partner give you a spot on one or more final reps in a given lift. Another good method is to complete your set, wait a few seconds, and try to pump off a few more repetitions, shortly after muscular failure has occurred.

Instinctive Principle

The instinctive principle is exactly what you may be thinking it is. It is the technique where you base your exercises on what muscles you feel should be worked that day, and you perform the exercises in the order you feel they will benefit you. This may mean you will perform the same workouts from week to week and only vary the order in which you perform the exercises, or it may mean that you workout your biceps three times in the week, while in the same period of time, take a rest period of 10 days before performing an exercise for your back. The instinctive principle is based on working the muscles which you feel are the freshest and basing your workouts entirely on how you think and feel. The instinctive principle may be a welcome change from performing your workouts in a specific way, almost as though you have two drill sergeants telling you what to do.

Intensity Levels

Generally speaking, intensity of training effort falls into the following categories listed and described below:

(1)     Positive or concentric full - rep momentary failure.

(2)     Positive or concentric full - and partial - rep momentary failure.

(3)     Positive or concentric full - rep momentary failure plus additional negative or eccentric - only reps.

These are listed in order of increasing intensity or stress. As intensity levels increase, the ability for the body to recover is more difficult; therefore you may require additional recovery days if you are employing intensity principles into your training. However, these extra days will be well worth the extra mass you gain.

Iso-Tension Principle

By flexing your worked muscles between sets and after the workout, you will be able to better control them, and bring out separation and striations. This isometric flexing helps give your body sharpness. As an example, you may want to flex your quadriceps.

Isolation Principle

Use exercises which isolate different parts of the muscle you want to develop. This will allow you to develop that muscle in a more complete and balanced way. This will help you with your overall symmetry. If you would like to achieve a balanced upper arm, work both your biceps and your triceps with a number of different workouts to ensure you make it grow in a complete way.

Isolation Training

“Isolation” training refers to isolating a specific muscle or muscle group, or even a certain detailing aspect of an individual muscle. Some movements develop, or require the use of, a number of individual muscles. An example of this would be a compound movement such as the squat. In order to develop a complete and balanced physique, it might be necessary to include isolation training as part of your regiment in order to bring out your proportion and symmetry and achieve a look which could be likened to a Greek sculpture.

Manipulation of Growth

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) is the defense response of the body or mind to injury or prolonged stress. It consists of the following three stages as listed and described below:

(1)     An initial shock reaction.

(2)     An increasing resistance or adaptation, using various defense mechanisms of the body or mind.

(3)     Final stage of either adjustment and healing or exhaustion and disintegration.

Bodybuilding is first physical stress, and second, mental and emotional stress. It is the delicate balance between GAS from your body and the continued onslaught of training that yields pounds of hard - won muscle. Train less, eat and sleep more is the generalized prescription for taking advantage of your body’s GAS. Remember that steroids only speed the recovery side of GAS. They do not specifically produce new muscle growth. There must always be the initial source of stress - training.

Muscle Confusion Training Principle

One of the most basic, and most important of the training principles, is the muscle confusion training principle. This principle is all about ensuring you have a variety in your workouts. This will be a variety of sets, reps, exercises, rest periods, etc. It is also important to train the muscle from the most efficient position, in which it has the greatest mechanical advantage / stress. It remains critically important to supplement those exercises with others utilizing various angles for certain exercises. Muscles should never be allowed to accommodate to an exercise to the point where the exercise is ineffective and doesn’t result in hypertrophy or the goal you were looking for. This variety will improve your motivation, keep you mentally fresh, and keep your muscles growing.

Negative Repetitions

The negative (or concentric) part of any movement, is the lowering phase during the range of motion. For example, in the bench press, the negative motion would be the process of lowering the weight from the starting position to your chest (or immediately above). The negative portion of any movement is said to be the largest factor for hypertrophy (muscular growth). Some methods to succeed at negative reps would be to lower the weight slowly and under control, and bring it up, with force and power, or have your training partner do the positive part of the motion for you. Keep in mind you are capable of performing negative repetitions with more weight than you would normally use for the full movement. If your one rep maximum (1RM) for bench press is 200 pounds, you should have no problem doing negative repetitions (at least a few) with that weight and the aid of a training partner, as safety should be your number one priority.

Overload Principle

To shock your muscles into growth, you can overload with progressively heavier poundage. For example, if you can bench press 150 pounds for a total of 10 repetitions, you may want to increase this number weekly by upping the poundage by a certain percentage each week. Another overload method is to decrease the amount of rest time between sets. Once again, if you can bench press 150 pounds for a total of 10 repetitions, you may want to decrease the rest interval between each set, from two minutes to one minute and a half.

Partial Reps

After achieving initial muscular failure, it is possible to continue your sets by performing repetitions which do not go through the entire range of motion. An example of this would be doing a bench press exercise where you perform half repetitions in the upper third range of motion. This can bring your muscles past the temporary point of failure and up to complete muscle exhaustion, or very close to it.

Peak Contraction Principle

Keep continuous tension on the fully contracted muscle. By squeezing and contracting the pectorals during the exercise, you can use peak contractions to stimulate and striate your muscle fibers. An example of the peak contraction principle would be feeling your chest squeeze through the entire range of motion when performing pec deck flies, or squeezing your biceps through the entire range of motion of a dumbbell curl.

Pre-Exhaust Principle

In certain exercises, many different muscles are stimulated in one lift. However, some of those muscles used reach temporary muscular failure before others. For example, when you perform the bench press exercise, you are using your pectorals, as well as your triceps and front deltoids. Since your triceps and front deltoids are smaller muscles, they will likely reach muscular failure before your pectorals. To compensate for this, you can perform dumbbell flies first, which will isolate and exhaust the pectorals. Afterwards, when you perform the bench press exercise, the pectorals, which are already tired, will go to a fatigue at the same time as the other muscles.

Priority Principle

The priority principle is one technique used to develop a complete and balanced physique. It allows you to work on weak areas, while also developing a full physique while training your strong areas as well. Regardless of genetic predisposition, everyone has certain areas which are lagging in comparison to the others, or even certain aspects of individual muscles which are not as complete in proportion to the muscle as a whole (ie, many individuals who are a lagging upper or outer chest, but a full, and balanced lower chest). Some tips on using the priority principle in your training are listed below:

(1)     You can train a certain body part immediately after rest day so that it is fresh, recuperated and strong.

(2)     You can train a certain body part at the beginning of your training to ensure quality repetitions are achieved rather than after when the muscles become more fatigued. An example of this would be the pairing of back and biceps in a total body split. If biceps are trained immediately after back, the biceps will be pre fatigued to a certain degree as a result, and the training focus may not be as intense as it could have been. Although it is not the weight you lift, but the form, many would argue that this does not matter, but to really isolate a certain muscle, it is helpful to train it at the beginning of the workout when glycogen stores and motivation are at there peaks.

(3)     Be specific with your exercises and ensure that they will help you achieve the goal you have in mind. If your goal is a defined look, you will want to perform high rep range, in the range of 12 - 20 repetitions for example, where, if your goal is to develop mass, you will want to keep your repetitions in the 6 - 12 rep range.

(4)     Use training intensity techniques specifically on lagging muscles or muscle groups to bring them up to the standard you would like.

(5)     Remember to use perfect form in all your exercises to blast and bomb your muscles in various ways to create the mass and definition you are looking to achieve.

Progression Principle

Bodybuilding involves progressive resistance training, always using a low percentage of your one rep maximum (1RM). Usually this percentage is around 75% - 85%. You need to gradually increase the weight you use, keeping within a rep range. This way, you will continue to challenge your muscles as they get stronger. By continually testing and training using your one rep maximums, you will be training for power, which will sculpt your body in another way, generally making the muscles thicker and more dense, but doing less for mass gains than recreational bodybuilding. The goal in either case, is to push the body far enough so it adapts and makes new gains, but not far enough that it causes an injury. If you are looking to bench press or squat with three plates a side, that is an excellent goal, however, you need to be sure to work up to it gradually, and have safety as your number one priority, and only perform these types of lifts with a spotter by your side.

Psycho Sets

The Psycho Set shocking method is similar ascending or descending sets but where you surprise your muscles by frequently changing the weight / number of reps.

Pyramid Principle

You can pyramid the weight to ensure proper muscle warm - up. This may take the place of stretching or other conventional warm ups, because by pyramiding you prepare your muscles for the lifts ahead, and reduce your chances of injury. For example, you can start with 60% of your maximum lifting weight, and gradually increase the poundage during each subsequent set.

Quality Training Principle

A type of workout used just prior to a competition in which the lengths of rest intervals between sets are progressively reduced to increase overall training intensity and to help further define the physique. You can incorporate this training principle in your workouts to help you develop mass and muscle symmetry.

Rest-Pause Principle

Rather than ending your set after taking a heavy weight to failure, rest for 10-15 seconds and then bang out another rep or two. It is also possible to go on to alternate work with rest until the muscles you are using are completely fatigued. Rest-pause should never be done without a spotter present.

Riot Bombing Principle

Riot bombing works two opposing muscle groups in superset fashion. Riot bombing incorporates several sets while doing so.

Set System Training Principle

If you perform many sets per workout, as many as three to four per exercise, you will completely exhaust each muscle group and stimulate maximum muscle hypertrophy. Remember, this extra intensity works effectively to pack on mass, but should only be done once every month or so to shock the system into new growth.

Split System Training Principle

To increase the overall intensity of training, hit no more than two bodyparts during a single workout. This not only allows you to perform more exercises and sets for a particular bodypart, but also gives each bodypart more time to rest and recuperate between workouts.

Staggered Sets

Staggered sets involve doing a number of sets of a body part you want to train with increased intensity in between other exercises throughout your workout. For example, when doing barbell curls, you can rest during a period when you perform leg presses, and then continue on with barbell curls, followed by a set of squats. By the end of your workout you will have completed primarily barbell curls, while also working your legs, and do another biceps workout several days later to really spawn muscular growth.

Stripping Method

The stripping method involves reducing the weight you use as you begin to fail at the end of a set, so that you can continue to do more repetitions. When you come to an end of an exercise of a given set with a certain weight, you may or may not be surprised to know that performing additional sets immediately following the initial set is feasible if you reduce the weight. The main benefit of this, is that each time you take a plate off and reduce the poundage to perform additional sets, the muscle(s) which you are working are forced to recruit additional muscle fibers. Similarly to the cheat rep method, the stripping method is best performed at the end of a workout, during your last set. At this time, muscle fiber recruitment will be at its peak. An example of this can be seen with individuals who start a dumbbell curl exercise, and perform it until they have reached temporary muscular failure, they then take another weight off the rack, which they feel they can handle for a few more quality repetitions, and recruit new muscle fibers to achieve temporary muscular failure once again. This is a very effective shocking method.

Supersets

Supersets are two exercises being performed in a row. It is also possible to perform three exercises in a row in the same manner. Not everyone will have the endurance necessary to do supersets, but the skill will develop quickly with hard work and proper training. Below are the two methods of supersetting:

(1)     Performing two slightly different movements for the same muscle group back to back

(2)     Performing two movements for different muscle groups back to back

It is amazing that right after a set of bench press, for example, the body has the ability to perform a full set of an exercise using the same muscle group, only performed slightly differently (such as dumbbell flies, or cable crossovers). You can use the priority principle to help any lagging muscle or muscle group, such as the thickness of your upper back, or the fullness of your chest, or the peak of your biceps. Many people have improved their physiques and developed the look they were aiming for through the use of this principle.


Go to: All Intensity Principles - In Detail


Take care,

Matt Canning
webmaster@bodybuildingpro.com

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