Is Intensity Overrated?
By Tyler Bramlett
Over the last decade I’ve seen high intensity training come in and out of favor. One week we call it the devil’s incarnate and the next we decided that it will cure cancer. In this short article I want to share with you the positives and negatives of high intensity training and answer the question, “is intensity overrated”?
To start out, we need to identify the purpose of using high intensity in your workouts. Here’s 3 Reasons high intensity can benefit you and your workouts:
- Building Massive Amounts Of Muscle
- Skyrocketing Your Metabolism Into Overdrive
- Forging Elite Mental Toughness
Sounds good right?
But let’s not forget the downsides of high intensity training. Here’s 3 reasons why high intensity training can hurt you and your workouts:
- Nervous System Burnout
- General Fatigue And Overtraining
So… What makes the difference between training at a high intensity being of benefit for you or destroying you?
Well, the way I see it is that way to many people focus on intensity as their only variable of quantifying results. They forget about things like volume, density and movement complexity, which can be useful components to manipulate in any workout program.
You see, hanging your hat merely on intensity without determining these other variables is a recipe for disaster and must be remedied if you want to safely use high intensity training in your workouts.ee it is that way to many people focus on intensity as their only variable of quantifying results. They forget about things like volume, density and movement complexity, which can be useful components to manipulate in any workout program.
The rest of this article will be spent teaching you exactly how I apply this when I design programs for my clients. It is divided into 3 different phases that you can use to upgrade your workouts, learn to move like a pro and bust through your plateaus!
Phase 1 – Movement Competency
A mentor of mine Pavel Tsatsouline once said to me, “you can only fire a cannon from a canoe once.” What he meant by this is that a canoe doesn’t have the structure to endure the intensity of the cannon. Unfortunately this is why most people get injured.
Take for example the squat. If all you ever do is add more and more lbs to the squat over and over again. You may end up being the proud owner of a powerful 5, 6 or 700lb squat, but will you be able to do that for a long and consistent period of time?
My bet is on NO!!
I aim instead to build muscles that look as good as they perform. How I do this is by focusing exclusively on Movement competency first and foremost.
What is movement competency?
It’s really just a sexy way of saying “good form”. If you have good form, if your muscles are firing properly in the proper sequence then you can move onto phase 2. But… If you move to phase 2 before you are ready, you will battle injuries and plateaus for the rest of your life!!
Seek out a good coach (there’s not too many around these days) who knows movement and have them help you reach a high level of movement competency first and foremost before ever adding substantial load to any movement.
Another thing I will leave you with before moving onto phase 2 is the following quote, “Practice doesn’t make perfect… Perfect practice makes perfect.” Truer words are seldom spoken!
Phase 2 – Increase Volume And Density (To Hone Movement Competency)
Once you are able to move correctly, you must go from consciously performing a movement perfectly to unconsciously performing a movement perfectly.
This is what separates the pros from the amateurs! Think of a time when you watched your favorite sport. Think about a moment you remember when you witnessed an athlete do something that you may have considered impossible, but made it look easy or like it was second nature.
This is what you need to aim for!!
When starting this article you may not even have known that you didn’t know. This is called unconscious incompetence. This is the person who works out with bad form and never knows that they have bad form.
Once you understand that what may be keeping you injured or at a standstill with your gains is your movement competency as in phase 1 you move onto a stage psychologists call conscious incompetence. You are now aware of the fact that you move like doo doo.
By following phase 1 you will move onto the next stage known as conscious competence where you know how to move well, with good form but you must be thinking about it in order for it to happen.
By following these guidelines from phase 2 you will then move from the “amateur” conscious competence to the “professional” unconscious competence, where you don’t have to think and you still move well.
Ok… A lot of psych mumbo jumbo, how do you bridge the gap and move like a pro?
You increase your volume and density over a period of time focusing on ALWAYS maintaining perfect form 100% of the time.
Here’s an example of how this can be accomplished over an 8-week period if we were talking about an exercise like the squat.
- Week 1 – 3 Sets Of 6 Reps Doing 1 Set Every 4 Minutes (Use A Weight You Can Do Every Rep With Perfect Form)
- Week 2 – 4 Sets Of 8 Reps Doing 1 Set Every 3 Minutes (Same Weight)
- Week 3 – 5 Sets Of 10 Reps Doing 1 Set Every 2.5 Minutes (Same Weight)
- Week 4 – 6 Sets Of 8 Reps Doing 1 Set Every 2 Minutes (Same Weight)
- Week 5 – 6 Sets Of 10 Reps Doing 1 Set Every 2 Minutes (Same Weight)
- Week 6 – 7 Sets Of 8 Reps Doing 1 Set Every 90 Seconds (Same Weight)
- Week 7 – 7 Sets Of 10 Reps Doing 1 Set Every 90 Seconds (Same Weight)
- Week 8 – 8 Sets Of 12 Reps Doing 1 Set Every 90 Seconds (Same Weight)
Each of these workouts will only take you 12 minutes and the benefits of practicing perfect movement and steadily increasing volume and density are enormous. Not to mention you may see a sudden spike in lean muscle being added to your frame from the increased volume.
If moving like a pro, increasing your gains and busting through your plateaus peaks your interest, I highly suggest you spend just 8 weeks following this protocol and watch as you go from moving like a chump to moving like a champ!!
Phase 3 – Now You Can Get Intense!!
Once you’ve rebuilt the way you move and ingrained it in your brain so it has become second nature. Then you can add intensity.
What does this mean?
This means it is now the right time to lift heavy, move faster, kick ass and take names!!!
By the inch it’s a cinch, and by the yard it is hard. Be smart, train smarter and remember… Don’t be an amateur, be a pro!!
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