Intensity in Lifting

Today I was lifting all the things in order to find the weight that would challenge me the most in my incline bench db chest press and incline db flys. All the things.

You ever feel like you’re just spinning your wheels in the gym? Getting no where? Going around and around and around…

My coach always impressed upon me that if I wanted results, my goal was always to get the most intensity from my workouts- intensity is grandmas secret ingredient for results and progress.

Not time.
Not weights.
Not form.
Not speed.
Not blank blank or blank.

Okkkkk- but here’s where I’m mincing words. All those elements, time spent, weight used, rep schemes, form, sets, speed etc. together create intensity. Sounds like a super squad of some sort 😉

For serious- no one technique lands you with shredded abs and bubbly glutes.

So how do you know? How can you tell? What can you do??? To be absolutely sure you’re working at the right intensity?

That’s where it’s all subjective. Really, how do you feel while lifting? Usually if you feel like you’ve got more in the tank, you probably need to be pressing harder.

Ask yourself: are you just moving heavy things around? Or are you looking for the work?

But is that it? It’s easy to feel like you’re working hard- it’s especially easy to not be working as hard as you can if you’re in a cut cycle and our just dragging anyway.

For starters, I do think many many women, and definitely men, lift too light, and miss out on a whole lot of muscle hypertrophy (growth), even though they achieve some kindof burn.

Read this article from on gauging whether you might be guilty of going too light.

Chances are, you’re not lifting heavy enough, so that’s a great place to start in increasing intensity. This article from the Get Fit Guy , Ben Greenfield, has a great article and podcast that makes it super easy to know if you’re not grabbing enough metal.

Here’s the article. I love all his podcasts from His quick and dirty gauge: if you can get 3 reps over your goal reps, up that resistance! Easy as pie.

But here’s the thing, if you just focus on moving more and more heavy weight, you’re missing out on other ways to challenge those muscles, and thereby make gains, burn fat, get pumped, and all those other lovely things. That’s where really feeling for intensity is important.

This article from gives some great techniques, besides lifting heavier, to achieve intensity. Do super sets, pick up the time between sets, switch up set/rep schemes, introduce new exercises, slow the contraction down, add plyos, take out plyos. Basically: shock ya bod.

Ultimately, as I said from the get go, intensity is subjective, something you feel. This article from talks about how to check your mental game to get more intensity from your workouts. Basically you need to get focused in order to achieve intensity.

You need to be intentional with each workout about increasing the intensity. Keep track of what you did last time, review, and ask yourself, how can I challenge myself this time?

A few things I do:

*I always include one exercise I hate doing in my routine for the day. Ex: I loathe lunges, so you better believe I’m doing long lunges or split squats or lunge jumps 1x every week.
*If I find myself asking if I’m lifting enough, that’s generally my clue to lift more. My body will tell me it’s too heavy.
*When I find myself dreading a certain exercise, I flip my script, and tell myself I love that exercise and that I will rock it. My deadlift numbers blew up after I started switching up my pre-lift self talk.
*I move quickly through my routine- no chatting, be efficient, keep my heart rate up.
*I treat every single rep as important- I aim for full range of motion and a deep contraction on every single repetition. I imagine myself training alongside someone like Jaime Eason or Felicia Romero, and I want each rep to be clean.
*I try for every rep. Just one more rep. Just one more rep. Etc.
*I change something about each workout every single week. Keeps both my mind and body guessing!

And remember: intensity is NOT about being balls to the walls all the time. Nope. None of those ‘train insane’ tshirts.

Train smart, really smart. Sometimes that means going into grunting sweaty beast mode. I’ve made my share of ‘ugly faces’ and ‘huhhs!’ in order to eke out one more rep.

Sometimes it just means being one step ahead of your body- sending it a curve ball.

Sometimes it means being accurate, precise, and thorough with each move.

Be a detective. Feel out what you need that day, that moment, to achieve intensity. Surprise yourself, and your body will make changes to adapt. In other words, you’ll achieve results.

So stop spinning your wheels and enjoy that progress!

How do you achieve workout intensity? Have any tips or tricks to share with me?


Happy sweating!!

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