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Updated on March 1, 2012


Intensity is the key to bodybuilding success. Its application in training procedures is the single most important ingredient which produces results. However, the term is often misused by many weight trainers who confuse it with profuse sweating, barbaric screams, and fanatical training methods. Intensity is more than an enthusiastic attitude. Intensity is progress and progress is derived from progression.

Two methods of intensity which are used by successful bodybuilders are progressive resistance and progressive repetitions. Each method when properly used will make demands on specific types of muscle fiber. Heavier exercises, accompanied by lower repetitions will stimulate the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Exercises performed with a higher number of repetitions will elicit response from the slow-twitch fibers. Together, the strategies help develop the muscle to its greatest potential.

Weight training's most fundamental principle, progressive resistance, is the cornerstone of all lifter' progress. Popularized by Henry "Milo" Steinborn in the early 1900's; progressive resistance has become the most important aspect of intensity training. Milo was a professional wrestler who decided to test his theory of progressive resistance in a rather unorthodox and dramatic way. Figuring a muscle which met with progressive demands would grow accordingly, he began lifting a newborn calf. By lifting the calf each day, his strength grew as did the weight of the calf. By the time the calf had become a full grown cow, Milo was lifting it. This was most impressive, thus a following of the progressive resistance principle was generated among the strongmen of the day. Milo's experiment was tried by others but often with less successful results. The reason is obvious; the calf grew at a faster rate than the strength of the lifter. Nonetheless, the principle of progressive resistance is valid provided the progression of poundage does not over exceed the lifter's progression of strength.

If, in our training, we could plan the amount of increased poundage in such a way as to allow for our strength to parallel the progression, we would have the ideal resistance training program. There are limitations for no one (not even Milo) can continue indefinitely hoisting progressively heavier weights without reaching his limit. However, by prolonging your progress, you postpone the inevitable sticking point. For this reason it is more valuable to progress by smaller amounts consistently than larger amounts sporadically.

The second method of intensity training to be applied is the progressive repetition theory. To continually use a specified weight for the same number of repetitions only insures the muscle will adapt to the work load. However, if at the same time when a muscle has grown accustomed to the work load, it were forced to perform one more repetition; the muscle would compensate by growing stronger. As minor as a change as it may appear, one additional repetition every third or fourth workout is enough to prevent the muscle from becoming stagnant. The muscle is forced to adjust to the increased demand by growing larger and stronger. You can not expect to add repetitions indefinitely. A limit does exist. However, when limits are reached, the repetitions can still be met by employing assisted forced reps and the rest pause technique.

After exhausting the above strategies, it is time to drop the repetitions to the original starting number and add weight to the exercise. By now you will have added at least three repetitions since the start of the program. Your progress can be noted by comparing what your poundage is with the original. This described procedure repeated over again in cyclic fashion will develop true strength and muscle size. The double progression method when performed with each exercise and for every body part is an experience in real intensity. Intensity generated by training method itself and programmed so as not to be left to chance. Milo may not have known it as intensity but he experienced it and so can you.


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