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Variable Intensity: The Road To Training Success!
Weight hit hard! You’ve received this advice over and over and it’s drilled into your head. But even after hours and hours at the gym, you have little to show for your efforts. What is wrong with this? “Do I look bad?” you ask “Am I training hard enough?” “Am I training too hard?”
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. We must look at all aspects of our training to determine what is wrong. How many sets are we doing for each muscle group? What exercises are we using in our training? Are we overtraining? Or could it be that our muscles and central nervous system (CNS) have gotten used to all the training we’ve been doing and now refuse to add even an ounce of new muscle to our bodies?
The fact is that our bodies are incredibly efficient at adapting to the training stimuli that we subject them to. This is because our ancestors hunted for their food and were physically exhausted to survive or they would starve. We subject our bodies to the same stress when weight training. So it goes without saying that if we train the same way week in and week out we are destined to reach a sticking point. We need to change things in order to continue to improve. One way to do this is to modify the intensity of effort and volume of our training.
If your training is of the high volume variety, try increasing the intensity and trimming the amount of sets. For example, if your arm routine consists of 15 sets each for biceps and triceps, stop all sets 2 repetitions before failure, reduce the sets to 8 and finish all sets 1 repetition before failure. Do this for four weeks then switch things up by ending all sets to failure using a set count of 2-3 per muscle group. This cycle training changes the intensity of effort and volume of training to prevent the body from acclimating to the current training demands. The best gains in muscle size and strength will come during high intensity phases due to the high demand placed on the muscles.
The formula for successful bodybuilding
The formula that underlies the strategy in this article states: The higher the intensity of effort, the lower the volume. As a bodybuilder increases the intensity of his effort through “training to failure” or HIT variables, fewer sets are needed to maximize gains and prevent overtraining. Conversely, the opposite is true, if intensity is reduced then volume, or set count, should be slightly increased.
Over-training is not the culprit when failing to improve
If you’re not making the progress you feel you’re making and have determined that over-training isn’t the culprit, there are many other reasons for the lack of results you’re experiencing. They:
Age (can no longer improve; focus on maintenance or slow regression)
Genetics (peaked; can no longer improve muscle size or strength)
Over-adaptation (mentally bored; lack of motivation; physiologically adapted to stimulation) Previous demands (each set reduces subsequent exercise capacity) Inadequate demands (lack of stimulation – ie, intensity, sets, or frequency due to insufficient alarm response)
Pay attention to what your body is telling you and have a realistic set of goals. It may be that you have gained all the muscle size and strength your body is capable of.
Incorrect selection of training routines
Many of us try to follow the routines of top champion bodybuilders because we feel that since they have achieved so much success in the sport by training using these routines, we should use them too. The truth of the matter is that many of these routines are not what the bodybuilder is actually using. They appear in articles meant to impress the reader with the bodybuilder and further his career.
These bodybuilders are using chemical-enhancing drugs, steroids, human growth hormone, insulin and other anabolic drugs. These drugs allow the champion to regularly overtrain because they increase the body’s recovery capabilities and cause the muscles to grow faster due to a positive nitrogen balance. Unfortunately they cause many health problems such as heart disease, kidney failure and cancer, to name a few.
The ideal training routine is one that is designed around the current conditioning, recovery capabilities and goals of the bodybuilder. Remember to design it around the intensity principle mentioned above.
Sample Variable Intensity Program for Arms
The first step is similar to that done by beginning bodybuilders. The emphasis is on learning form and proper exercise technique rather than heavy, intensive training.
Complete the desired exercises using good form, stopping the set two reps before hitting failure (the point where no more reps are possible).
Barbell Curl – 1×10
Concentration Curl – 1×12
Seated palms-facing pull-downs-1×12
Standing Triceps Push-Down-1×12
Standing Triceps Kickback – 1×12
Standing Bar Dips-1×12
The second phase increases the intensity of the effort by completing all sets one rep before failure. We will keep the set count at three each.
Machine Curls – 1×10
Seated Incline Curl – 1×12
Seated palms-facing pull-downs-1×10
Lying triceps extension – 1×10
Seated Triceps Overhead Extension-1×12
Close-Grip Bench Press-1×12
The third phase is where we take all the sets to the point of muscle failure. Load the bar or weight machine with a weight that will give you all the effort you need to complete the required number of repetitions. Don’t stop when you hit your rep count; Try grinding out more reps. This will lead to you overloading your muscles and adding extra muscle weight to each workout. As we increase the intensity level we will decrease the set volume for both muscles to two sets.
Concentration Curl – 1×12
Bent over Palm-Facing Barbell Rows-1×10
Angle-Forward Cable Triceps Extension-1×12
Seated Machine Triceps Dips-1×8
Now that I’ve outlined all three phases of this HIT periodization schedule, start using it in your training by working on each phase for 3 weeks before progressing to the next phase.
Now strike iron!
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