Are Your Workouts too Intense?
The first gym I trained in had a bucket.
More specifically a “puke bucket”.
Call me crazy…
…but I don’t think a bucket should be considered a piece of training equipment.
Vomiting is a sign that things went horribly wrong.
I’m NOT a big fan.
I could understand if you hit a set of squats immediately after a bit of strip mall buffet action.
When I was younger my grandparents would take me to cheap buffets.
^^^ Too many bad choices for a 12-year-old.
Getting sick after mixing Sprite, Coke, Root Beer, Orange Crush, and soft serve ice cream into a warm plastic cup makes sense.
My sisters and I called this “The Graveyard Drink”.
Your workouts shouldn’t wear you out like a cheap buffet.
Working out should be challenging.
It shouldn’t be to the point where it breaks you down.
The issue is achieving a balance of these 3 variables.
I’ll talk about the best ways to balance these variables out…
…after a quick music break.
We will rewind the clock back about 15 years.
In my opinion, 2003-2006 was one of the best periods for rock since the Seattle Grunge Era <—I’m a little biased.
A common mistake I see in gyms is focusing too much on workout intensity without paying attention to volume and frequency.
Your body has a limit.
If you train with insane intensity, it means you will have to train with less volume (fewer sets) and with less frequency (fewer workouts per week).
When you increase 1 of the 3 variables?
You should decrease the other 2.
Well-planned workout programs take this into consideration.
Here are some examples…
High Intensity | Low Volume & Low Frequency
Back in the early 70’s Arthur Jones came up High Intensity Training (HIT).
This isn’t to be confused with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
HIT training basically meant doing 1 set to failure.
This was ultra-low volume…
Just one set per exercise.
This was also ultra-high intensity…
Push the set beyond the point of pain to complete and total failure.
Mike Mentzer took the Arthur Jones HIT concept and created his own version called “Heavy Duty”.
The setup was similar to Arthur Jones version, but he trained each muscle just once every 7-10 days.
So this was extremely low in frequency.
I don’t enjoy training this way, but the Mike Mentzer “Heavy Duty” HIT program is a solid example of reducing the volume and frequency when intensity is high.
I tried HIT in the early 90’s.
These workouts made me so sore it felt like I was injured.
I wouldn’t recommend this extreme of a workout for most people.
It breaks down the body too much.
Medium Intensity | Medium Volume & Medium Frequency
This may sound funny…
…but holding yourself back in the gym takes discipline.
We have been conditioned to go all out when training.
This can work if you train just 1-2 times per week.
If you push your limits with intensity, you shouldn’t train often.
What if you would like to workout 4-5 times per week?
You need to lift short of failure (for the most part).
As society gravitates towards being less physically active, I believe 4-6 workouts per week is ideal.
This becomes more crucial as we age.
Here’s an article I wrote about that.
Many people screw up when training 4+ times per week.
Here’s the mistake.
When a program involves frequent workouts with too high of an intensity, that program is destined for failure.
The body breaks down, injuries can happen, you’re more likely to get sick, etc.
Some CrossFit programs (not all) are a prime example…
That level of intensity should probably only be attempted 1-2 times per week.
All of my courses are based on frequent muscle contractions while avoiding muscle breakdown.
This is ideal if your goal is strength and definition without adding tons of muscle size.
(Staying slim while getting fit.)
Speaking of frequency…
High Frequency | Low Intensity & Low Volume
I have studied Eastern European strength training for close to 20 years.
They take frequency to the extreme…
Training well short of failure and with low sets and reps, but performing each lift multiple times per DAY.
…and they do this day after day.
This method of training creates outstanding strength and density without breaking down the muscle.
By not breaking down the muscle…
…they don’t add much mass.
These athletes don’t want to get bigger and wind up in a higher weight class when competing.
I have created a slightly less frequent version of their approach:
Most of us don’t want to train multiple times per day.
My routine involves training the same lifts daily, 5-6 days per week.
It is ridiculously effective at improving true muscle tone without adding size.
Since each lift is trained so frequently…
…the volume and intensity are kept very low.
Good workout programs really need to take into consideration the proper balance of these 3 variables.
The biggest mistake I see?
I’d say that too much focus is given to intensity without taking into consideration volume and frequency.
As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.
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