Plateau Breakthrough 2: Increased Intensity

Shoaib Siddiq May 06 2016

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting things to change” – Vas, Far cry 3

It is a matter of mere common sense to change a workout if it does not give you any further results. To break a plateau, you need to stay one step ahead. Surprise your body with increasing challenges (even decreasing challenges at times). In this article, we will focus on how to increase the intensity to “shock” your muscles into growth.

The following techniques will allow you to lift more weight, or make a workout more intense as to force your muscles to grow bigger and stronger.

1. Pre-exhaust Training

Pre-exhaust training is an excellent technique to push your body further. The idea is to exhaust a muscle by an isolation exercise (single joint movement) and quickly move over to a compound exercise (multi-joint movement), which would assist and further target that muscle group without any rest in between. The best example of this is, doing a triceps pushdown (an isolation exercise), followed by close grip bench press (a compound exercise). You can even go intense by adding other exercise (such as overhead shoulder press in the example mentioned above).

2. Cheat Through

Cheating is when you use the momentum of your body to lift the weights. It is discouraged to cheat in a workout. But if you really want to push your body, it is okay to cheat. It helps you pull off a couple of more reps when your muscles are exhausted. For example, doing a bicep curl, but swinging your lower body. But remember, this technique is only to be used to get a few more reps in the last set of an exercise. If your entire workout looks like you are dancing with the weights, you are doing it wrong. You can ask a spotter to help you force out a couple of reps. In this case, the spotter should only assist in completing the rep, not assist in entirely lifting the weight himself.

3. No More Plain Sets

There are literally dozens of sets available. Your body has, most probably, plateaued to the same old boring plain sets. Try utilizing super sets, giant sets and drop sets. These will add great intensity to your workout, forcing your muscles to grow!

4. Give 50% to Get 100%

Partials are reps, not down in full range of motion and they add intensity to your workout. I am not telling you to do the entire workout on partials, just the last set of a particular exercise, to force few more reps with the same weight without rest. For example, not going down entirely in bench press or bicep curls and concentrating only at the peak contraction of the exercise. In other words, reduce the eccentrics and focus on concentric. Partials are a great way to increase tendons and ligaments strength along with muscle growth.

5. Think Negative

Eccentrics or negative part of an exercise (such as lowering of barbell during bicep curls) have shown to greatly induce muscle hypertrophy. Try counting 4 seconds on concentric movement, hold at peak contraction and count 4 seconds on eccentric movement to really hit the muscle throughout the rep.

6. Rep Target

Rep targeting is a technique in which you set a goal for the number of reps and get it done no matter how many sets you have to do. For example, you choose to do 50 pullups. You start your exercise, but are able to do only 20 in one go. Rest for a few seconds and try to do as many more reps as possible, upon failure, rest again and repeat until you reach your desired number of reps. This is a great technique to keep you motivated and help you push further.

Remember, using too much of these high intensity sets can result in over training syndrome and may result in injury. So, lift smart and achieve what you plan to achieve.


Shoaib Siddiq

Shoaib Siddiq:

Shoaib is currently a 3rd year MBBS student. Apart from studying, you can often find him in gym either resistance training or practising mixed martial arts. With his love for fitness training and knowledge that comes along with it, he writes various fitness related articles for HTV.