In order to build muscle faster, you need to raise the intensity of your workout and have adequate rest. There is little to say about how to rest, but there are a lot of ways to increase your training intensity. Here are 23 tips to build muscle faster naturally through raising your training intensity.
Your Problem is Likely You Think You Are and You Are Not
If you’re like most people, you might fall victim to a common misconception. A lot of people think they’re training intensely, but the sad fact is that often they aren’t. You might be undertraining and overtraining at the same time. Overtraining and Undertraining happen when you don’t train intensely, but you do train for too long. Lifting for too long ruins any “pump” you could have gotten, and also delays needed nutrition from getting to your muscles and can limit or even impede your desired results.
Intensity: Maybe the Most Important Factor In Weight Training
Have you noticed you can do the same fitness routine as someone else, with the same exercises, number of sets, and number of reps, yet you have a very different outcome? Intensity is what determines your success when it comes to maximizing your gains.
What is Intensity in Weight Training
In terms of bodybuilding, what exactly is intensity? Intensity is a feel factor. It’s the way that you lift to put out maximum effort.
The Four Basic Principles of Intensity
You can increase your intensity in 4 main ways:
- Increase your number of reps
- Decrease your rest periods
- Increase the amount of weight you lift
- Increase your volume of work (sets)
Under each basic principle, there are different approaches that you can employ. Understanding these approaches will help you reach your goals quicker. It will also help you break through plateaus when your performance is stagnating.
Tips to Build Muscle By Raising Your Intesity
1. Increase Your Number of Reps
The first, easy way you can add intensity is to add reps. Adding more reps creates hypertrophy in your muscle, which is what they need to grow. The best way to do this is to follow the X + 3 rule. With this rule, you add 1, then 2, and then 3 reps beyond your target rep zone. When you can perform 3 reps more than your target zone, you need to add weights. You should add 5 lbs of additional plates for major muscle groups and 2.5 lbs for minor muscle groups.
2. Forced Reps
Forced reps training is a more advanced training method. You can use it at the end of an exercise when you can’t lift any more weight on your own. At this point, you need a training partner to give you a small extra push. Your partner will also provide a spot so that you can overload your muscle and get reps that you wouldn’t be able to get on your own.
Typically, you can use this method for 2-3 extra reps, to get maximum overload and a big pump. You should be careful, however, because this is the most popular and consequently the most abused intensity technique. You can get hurt, use it too often and overtrain, or use it with bad form and technique. These are all recipes for disaster. Sometimes, though, the moral support and encouragement alone that you get from a training partner will help you complete more reps before you even try forced reps.
Bradley Martyn Demonstrates Forced Reps With a Partner
Burns is another advanced technique similar to forced repetitions. With this method, you use a sub-maximal weight. It should be so light that you can still use it to pump and work your muscle after lactic acid has built up. When you keep working under these conditions, you get a massive pump and a quality burn from the lactic acid buildup.
If you’re curious, lactic acid forms when you’re muscles are constantly contracting. Your muscles create acid when they burn sugars (in whatever form). Usually, lactic acid gets squeezed out by normal muscle movement and lymphatic fluid. It’s squeezed into the lymphatic ducts, where it’s processed and eliminated from your body. You squeeze out the acid when your muscles are in constant tension (such as when you do supersets, giant sets, and forced reps).
When you’re doing power-intensive exercises such as sprinting, your muscles’ demand for energy is high. Your body produces lactate faster than your tissues can remove it, and lactate concentration begins to rise. Lactic acid will eventually cause your muscle to tighten and bunch up, which constricts the flow of lymphatic fluid. Since it can’t help wash out the lactic acid, the lactic acid sits there, and you feel that familiar burning sensation.
4. Forced Negatives
This technique focuses on the negative portion of your muscle contractions (the eccentric or lowering phase). You’ll need a spotter for this exercise. To accomplish this technique, choose a heavier weight than what you’d typically use. For example, if you usually use 225 pounds for 8 reps on a bench press, instead use 350 pounds. Your partner should help by pulling the weight off your chest while you are pressing the weight up. Then, slowly control the load during the downward movement.
You can also accomplish this force negatives by using the same weight, but have your partner press down on the bar as you’re lowering it. Your partner will provide increased resistance, so you’ll need to slow the weight as it’s approaching your chest. It’s essential when you use this advanced technique that your partner apply the external force smoothly and carefully to avoid injury.
5. The Cheat Method
The cheating method is an advanced training technique that you can use when you can no longer perform a repetition with proper form. You can use it after you complete a few reps with good form, but then muscle fatigue begins to set in (or the weight is too heavy). At the end of a set, when you can’t do any more reps with good form, use a bit of body swing or momentum to help get the weight past the sticking point. For example, try swinging the weight up a little at the start of a barbell curl.
By employing the cheat method, you will use your surrounding muscle groups to help you complete additional reps and finish the set. For another example, you can use your shoulder and back (lat) muscles to help you perform the dumbbell chest presses after you can’t do any more reps with perfect form.
The key to the cheat method is that you still let your major muscle you’re targeting do most of the work. You might be a stickler for proper form and only use cheat sets sparingly. However, there is a place for this technique in every bodybuilder’s arsenal at least occasionally.
Tips to Build Muscle by Decreasing Your Rest Time Between Sets
There are many ways you can decrease your rest time between sets. Here are a few of the best techniques:
6. Drop Sets
Drop sets, also known as descending sets, are the most basic and yet one of the best techniques you can use to maximize intensity. To perform drop sets, exercise until you reach failure with your initial weight. As soon as you hit failure, lessen the weight, and then continue the set until you reach failure again.
For example, say you are performing triceps pull-downs with a 90-pound stack. If you reach failure at 12 reps, strip the weight down to 70 pounds and continue when you lower the weight once it’s called a single drop or descending set. A double drop is when you reduce the weight twice (for instance from 90 – 70, then from 70 – 50 pounds).
Another great exercise you can do is a 6 set drop set of dumbbell curls, running the stack and doing each set to failure. You could start with 50-pound curls, then drop to 40 and perform the reps to failure. Then, immediately pick up the 30-pound dumbbells and continue reps to failure. Next, do reps with the 25-pound dumbbells until failure and finally finish off with 20-pound curls till failure. You can also work in a few cheat reps! With this technique, you’ll get 18 sets of arm curls done in about 12 minutes!
Jeremy Ethier Gives Tips to Build Muscle With Drop Sets and The Studies to Back it Up.
7. Strip Sets
Strip sets are very similar to drop sets. If you want to be technical, it refers to “stripping” weight from a bar. You reduce the weight that you’re using by 10% or so with each succeeding set. While you can do drop sets on a machine, using dumbbells, or with other exercises, you do strip sets only with barbells.
To do strip sets, first do a set, then, without racking the bar, get two spotters to pull off a preset amount of weight. Continue with that weight. Keep stripping as desired. Strip sets will thoroughly burn out your muscle.
For example, if you start with 100 pounds for curls, then on your second set you would do 90 pounds, and 80 pounds on your subsequent set.
A superset is a technique where you perform two or more exercises back to back, without any rest in between. When you complete three exercises in succession, it’s referred to as a tri-set superset. Tri-sets are a great way to train if you have a limited amount of time.
There are two main ways you can use supersets for your bodybuilding routines. For one, you do two different exercises in a row that hit the same muscles. For the other way, you do two exercises in a row that hit two different muscle groups. Supersets work best when you’re targeting opposing muscle groups. Working different muscle groups allows you to get a better pump, as well as more reps.
You may have misheard supersets referred to as multi-exercising. Multi-exercise sets are different from supersets. When you’re multi-exercising, you use different exercises for each set instead of just repeating one exercise for all sets.
With multi-exercise training, you’ll be able to hit one particular muscle from different angles. For example, instead of doing 4 to 6 sets of an exercise for a single body part, you would instead do various exercises for each set. If you’re doing chest presses, instead of 6 sets of a flat bench, you’d do one set of barbell flat bench press. Then, do a set of incline dumbbell presses, followed by a set of dips, decline flyes, and finally cable crossovers. Unlike supersets, you do get rest periods between sets so that you can approach each set at a heavier weight.
10. Giant Sets
A giant set is when you go from one exercise to another very quickly. One of the risks with this technique is that your muscles get fatigued so fast that you lose a tremendous amount of efficiency and benefit. However, by moving from one set to the next relatively quickly, you can keep your heart rate elevated. Giant sets are a muscle confusion technique when you use it periodically. Also, giant sets are suitable for conditioning. However, you shouldn’t use giant sets as the cornerstone of your training methods. Use giant sets when you don’t have much time and need to get a quick workout in.
Super Sets – Tri-Sets and Giant Sets By Joe Bennett
11. Increase the Weight
Increasing weight can raise your risk of injury. You increase your risk of injuries if you don’t use proper form. You may have heard of the late Mike Mentzer. He’s probably best known for employing this principle. Mentzer wrote many articles and books and developed audiotapes about what he coined his “Heavy Duty Training Principle.”
Mentzer’s approach became extremely popular among bodybuilders, especially after he won the 1978 IFBB Mr. Universe contest. He was the first bodybuilder ever to receive a perfect 300 score from the judges. Mentzer’s system is based on the principle of “intensity,” as Arthur Jones emphasizes it. If you follow this system, you won’t overtrain. You’ll do a limited number of sets with adequate rest in between (4-8 days in between each workout).
12. Increase Your Number of Sets
Another great way to increase intensity is to improve your overall volume of work. You can do this by either increasing your number of sets per exercise or your number of exercises per body part, adding new lifts results in a higher number of overall sets as well. It’s especially helpful if you can complete this higher total work volume in the same amount of time that you’d do a lower volume of work.
More Advanced Tips to Build Muscle by Increasing Training Intensity
13. Pre-Exhaust Method
This method might become one of your favorites because you can reduce the weight a bit and reduce the stress on your joints while still maintaining the force on your muscle.
You typically do the pre-exhaust method by performing an isolation movement first, such as leg extensions. Then do a compound movement such as a leg press, which works more than one joint. The principle is that on the second exercise, you can push your muscle into the range of failure very quickly if you first employ the pre-exhaust method.
14. Partial Reps
For the partial rep technique, move the weight through a partial range of motion. You’d usually, although not necessarily, repeat the most robust range of motion of the exercise, for example, the top 6 inches of the bench press. Partial reps allow you to use much more weight. You usually use this technique at the end of an exercise when you don’t have the energy to complete full reps. Partial repetitions are good for eking a little more out of the lift. Squats are a great exercise to try with this technique. If you lift heavy during squats, you’ll probably find it difficult after 4-5 reps. So, do partial reps, thereby recruiting those muscle fibers that aren’t yet fully exhausted.
Partial Reps is a Great Tip to Build Muscle For Bodybuilding and Sculpting
15. Deep Reps
You can do deep reps to recruit additional muscle fibers. A simple illustration would be squatting slightly past parallel, performing deep dips, or doing chair pushups for a deep stretch. It’s essential that you be careful and warm up properly, so you don’t overstretch or tear a muscle.
16. Slow Negatives
The slow negatives technique is slightly different from static training in that you typically use it at the end of a set. Use slow negatives when your muscles are failing, but you want to get more out of the set to drive it into the critical “growth phase.”
To perform this method, you slow down the eccentric portion of the exercise. The eccentric portion is the part of the movement in which your muscle is lengthening under tension. For example, if you were doing a slow negative with a barbell curl, you would slow the rep as you lower the bar towards your upper thigh.
For a simple approach, you can perform the eccentric movement over 4 seconds, and take 2 seconds during the concentric movement. In the case of a barbell curl, the concentric movement would be the positive part of the exercise – the action of raising the bar towards your shoulders.
You can also employ the cheating principle during the concentric movement to maximize the amount of weight and number of reps that you can perform. This technique is very useful, and you can use it anytime, even when you’re training alone.
17. Static Training
Static training is an advanced training technique designed to generate high intensity by maximizing weight while minimizing hold times. You perform static lifts by holding your muscles a particular position for an extended amount of time (typically 5 to 15 seconds). Static lifts allow your muscle to experience a different load.
Performing static training is very effective when you use it sparingly. Your muscle will be fatigued in a manner you don’t typically employ. You’ll also be able to recruit additional supporting muscle fibers. Static training can increase intensity on your muscle without having to add a lot of extra weight. When you use less weight, you are reducing the strain on your joints. Like with slow negatives, you can also use static training anytime, even when you’re training alone.
18. Speed Varying
To use this technique, you’ll need to change the speed at which you perform reps, while still maintaining proper form. Use quick, explosive movements at the point of force, and then employ slower, static training methods during the negative (downward) rep.
Essential Points to Consider When Increasing Intensity
Weekend warriors typically get hurt and drop out before they reach success. It’s great to get inspired, but you have to be smart about the way you approach your increase in workout intensity. Follow these tips to avoid injury:
19. Stretch and Warm-up Properly to Reduce Your Chances of Injury.
It’s just as important, if not more important, to stretch after an intense workout as it is to stretch before. Stretching will reduce your chances of injury and help you recover more quickly. Check you these articles to improve your stretching. Warming up your muscle is essential before you raise the intensity and lift heavy. Most injuries occur from lifting too much weight on muscles that aren’t warm and ready.
Jeremy Ethier Show The Science of Warming Up
20. Feed Your Muscles Calories and Nutrition are Great Tips to Build Muscle.
Ensure that you get enough calories and proper nutrition, and supplement with vitamins and minerals when needed. If you don’t, you can risk overtraining, which will limit your growth and can lead to many other problems. Your muscle can’t grow if they don’t have the building blocks to make more tissue.
21. Ensure that you get enough rest.
Your muscles don’t grow when you work them; they grow when they are at rest. If you give your muscles time to recover, they will become bigger and stronger. If you don’t, they won’t be able to grow. Getting enough rest will also help prevent overtraining.
22. Be aware of the signs of overtraining.
Symptoms of overtraining include lethargy (tiredness), aches, pains for extended periods, and reduced strength, stamina, and immunity. If you experience these symptoms, stop working out, rest, and start back with a new routine.
Water is the most abundant nutrient in your body, not to mention the most important. You need water for health, growth, and development. Muscle is considered an active tissue, and liquid concentrates the most in inactive tissue. Water is vital because it helps bring nutrients to your muscles and pass toxins from your body. Without water, your muscles will weaken and lose control and stamina.
Although water doesn’t provide energy in the same way that carbohydrates and fat do, it plays a significant role in energy transformation. Water is the medium in which all energy reactions take place. Failure to hydrate will diminish your performance in the gym. It will result in decreased strength, decreased endurance, potential cramping, and more.
Proper Hydration Prevents Injury
Water also helps lubricate your joints. Water is an ingredient in synovial fluid, which is the lubricating fluid between your joints. If you don’t drink enough water, there will be less fluid available to protect these areas. If you’re using any of these advanced lifting techniques, you’re putting more stress on your body and increasing the demand on your joints. It’s imperative that you get enough water for optimum performance and to maintain normal, healthy bones.
Dehydration Will Make You Tired
One common sign of dehydration is lethargy. Instead of running for that red bull that will leave you crashed after the initial high, try drinking more water. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your overall energy levels. Remember, if you get thirsty, you are already in dehydration mode. Solution: drink at least 16 ounces before and immediately after your work out, and try to drink water during your workout as well.
Use Caution With These Advanced Tips to Build Muscle
It’s excellent to increase the intensity of your workouts. However, you must remember that high-intensity workouts can result in a central nervous system overload. Therefore, you can only effectively use high-intensity exercise for short workouts. If you try working out at a high-intensity for too long, you’ll overtrain and burn out your central nervous system. One way to avoid this is to perform a high-intensity workout for just one body part at a time. If your training calls for you to exercise two body parts, train one muscle more traditionally, at a lower intensity.
You shouldn’t try to add all of these techniques to a single workout. To best employ, these methods incorporate a few into different workouts. You’ll see an increase in your strength, tone, and muscle size. Additionally, you find yourself even more dedicated to your bodybuilding workout. Employ these intensity principles smartly and consistently, get the proper amounts of rest, and fuel your body correctly with the proper nutrients, supplements, and water. You’ll be surprised how quickly your efforts pay off. What is your go-to technique to raise your intensity?