Measuring the Intensity of Your Workout for Fast Muscle Gain

Anyone who’s spent some time training and even picked up a few bodybuilding magazines knows all to well there is a real lack of science in the sport. Bodybuilders create these high volume workouts that offer the non steroid using weightlifter nothing more than extreme fatigue and over training. Most of that advice can be summed up as follows; lift a lot and you get big.

This motto, while it may serve a few genetically gifted individuals well, is not going to allow the average Joe to grow in a safe, sustainable, and methodical way. Most of us know the principle of progressive overload, that in order to cause the adaptive growth response in our bodies we need to push past previous intensity limits or overload our muscles. This is all well and good but it is hardly actionable advice without knowing exactly how intense a workout is.

Fortunately, for those who want a little more method to the madness of lifting, we can quantify our training intensity, and we can use this data to scientifically create future workouts guaranteed to methodically push past previous strength limits. Intensity can be calculated by multiplying the amount of weight you’re lifting in a certain exercise times the number of repetitions you’ve lifted it, and then divided by the number of minutes it takes you to complete that lift.

This figure gives you your exact intensity level for a certain lift in a clean pounds-per-minute number. Your goal then is simple, seek to increase that number every workout. This can be done by altering any of the three variables, so long as the other two variables remain constant or also improve. You can increase the weight you’re lifting, increase the repetitions, or decrease the amount of time it takes to complete your lift. All three of these option, individually or collectively, will increase your intensity level and result in muscular fatigue that leads to growth.

Many people believe that lifting longer means better, and this isn’t the case. When one of our variables is time, it should be obvious that the more work you do in the shortest amount of time, the higher your intensity level. If you seek to maximize your pounds lifted in about a 10 to 20 minute time frame you’ll be most likely of keeping your intensity number increasing. Lifting beyond this amount of time requires more rest time between exercises and this lowers your overall workout intensity.

And finally, you should seek to increase your intensity number every session. If you are unable to meet your numbers one session, you should add more rest days between sessions. As you become stronger and your workouts become more intense, your training frequency should decrease. Remember, muscle growth occurs during rest, and not during a weightlifting session. If you find yourself become weaker or stagnating in strength, in all likelihood, you’re lifting too much. A very strong person who is not using steroids may only need to lift a muscle group once every two or three weeks, which maximizes both time in the gym as well as recovery time. Train smart, not just hard!

Tom Fazio is a personal trainer and martial arts instructor based in Shanghai, China. He uses the principles in this article to help people construct the best shoulder workout, the best bicep workout and the best chest workout for them as individuals.

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