Most people are pumped up and ready to kick off the New Year the right way. They want to get themselves fit and feeling confident. I love that about the each New Year. And I even deem it necessary to make a theme word for this year. A word that will hopefully change your attitude on your path to having the ideal body that suits you.
And that word is ……..……. Wait for it…………….INTENSITY
Yes intensity. This is what I would like everyone to think about as soon as they walk in the door to their gym. That does not mean that you should go to the gym and get in everyone’s face as soon as you walk in, trying to motivate them. What it means is when you’re asked to do a set, give no less than 100%. Don’t cheat yourself of any reps. When you’re asked to sprint, don’t give an 80% run……SPRINT. Demand the most of your body and I promise you will see the changes you seek. Below I would like to discuss different ways to think about your program and how it could be more effective using a higher intensity approach.
But, before we go any further, we found this gem while researching videos. It has NOTHING to do with this article, but it sure is funny.
How does intensity apply to resistance exercise?
Resistance training is already added intensity of doing the same movement with just your body weight. But in 2014, when we resistance train, let us do every rep with explosion on the working (or concentric) part of the movement.
For instance, when told to squat; descend slow and controlled and when you stand up from the bottom position, explode up as fast as possible.
When dumbbell pressing, punch out hard from the bottom position.
Squeeze your glutes as tight as you can at the top of your kettlebell swing.
Brace your abdominals as tight as possible during your plank.
Strive to make sure each repetition is done with perfection.
Another component relating to resistance training and intensity is the weight you are using during the prescribed exercise. If the prescribed repetition is 8, and you believe you can do 11 or 12 reps with the weight you’re currently using, then make sure you tell the coach it is time to go heavier. Adding weight to an exercise doesn’t make you a muscle head, it taxes the system to a higher degree causing the entire body to work harder. To follow up on that point, a sufficient short circuit (or a super/compound set) should not only fatigue the muscular system, but also the aerobic system as well. It should put you in such a state of fatigue that you should not be able to hop right back into the next set.
As an example, the individual in this video significantly lacks intensity. The “fun” starts around 0:54.
Now on the flip side, this dude is really getting after it!
How does intensity apply to cardiovascular exercise?
We believe doing “cardio” (or what we will refer to as conditioning) should not take a 60 minute session. A good conditioning session can be 20 minutes or less. What dictates the duration of the exercise is, you guessed it, INTENSITY.
For example, if I asked you to do a brisk walk for a 45min segment you would most likely not have trouble completing the time prescribed. But now if I told you to sprint for 30 min you would cry at the 2min mark. You don’t have to do something for a long period of time in order for it to affect your cardiovascular system. At Solution Fitness, our conditioning is made up of sled pulls/pushes, airdyne and slide board intervals, and various circuits.
In 2014, when asked to do a sled push, go at the fastest speed possible without breaking form. Be sure to use a weight difficult for the length of the push. Make sure to change up the rest times, where shorter rest interval will make the exercise substantially harder. The less time the body has to process the bi-products of high intensity exercise, the more you are working your cardiovascular and metabolic systems. When it comes to circuits, do the repetitions with proper form of course, but use speed and a sense of urgency to complete the timed circuits. For interval circuits, try to get in as many repetitions as possible in the duration given. Earn your rest time with your conditioning and I PROMISE it will make a huge difference.
This video is of a marathon runner who just completed a 26 mile run in 2 hours. Look and listen to him. Not sweating, not out of breathe…not intense.
Now, check out Usain Bolt seconds after a race (which lasted less than 10 seconds).
Alright, that is all well in good. Show me the research.
No problem. As evidence to prove that in fact intensity significantly changes exercise outcomes, I will use a study done by Tabata et al. (1996). The study is titled, “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2 max.” The authors created 2 six week protocols, each protocol having the subjects exercise 5 times a week.
The first group exercised on the bike at 70% of VO2 max (or aerobic capacity) for 60 minutes each workout.
The second group exercised on the bike at 170% of VO2 max (or really flippin hard) for 8 sets of a 20 sec sprint, followed by a 10 second rest.
Upon conclusion of the study the researchers found that the long duration group improved their VO2 of an average of 5ml/kg/min, while not showing an improvement in their anaerobic threshold.
The sprint group however improved their VO2 by an average of 7ml/kg/min and increased their anaerobic capacity by an average of 28%.
So we can see that hard, short and sweet work is better than low to moderate-intensity endurance exercise.
But here is the crazy part……. look how much of a time difference there is between the two groups. The first group exercised for a total of 60min, while the second group exercised a total of 4 min (including the rest intervals). If they both worked out 5 times a week, that’s a total of 300min vs. 20min. ARE YOU SERIOUS!!! Now in a time when people are too busy for this and too busy for that, wouldn’t you want those extra 280 minutes? I know I would.
Hopefully I have gotten my message across. Work harder and not necessarily longer or more often and you will see changes. I want to leave you with 5 reminders that you can think about to get the most out of your exercise program.
#1 – Use an appropriate weight for your prescribed repetitions. This means if you can go heavier (with proper form of course), THEN DAMNIT GO HEAVIER!
#2 – Give it everything you have on the speed of the sled drag or prowler push.
#3 – Explode on the working part (ask the coach what this is) of each resistance exercise. And on the lengthening portion, use a slower and controlled movement.
#4 – Complete circuits with a sense of urgency or as fast as possible.
#5 – Be as honest with the coach as possible. Maybe something is too easy, let them know it’s time to increase the resistance. Maybe something is truly too hard. Ask the coach for a modification or a tip on how to do the movement properly.
Make 2014 your year.
Solution Fitness Coach