Last Updated on January 10, 2017 by Jeff
Intensity is the second most important thing to have in your training. Consistency is the first. Consistently train at a high intensity and you will make significant progress in strength, muscle building, fat loss, athletic performance and anything else you train for.
What program you use, how many times per week you train, even how much weight you’re using—they all trail far behind consistency and intensity in terms of importance.
Here are 5 ways to train harder without adding more time in the gym. We are generally all time-strapped as it is. More gym time will improve outcomes, but it’s not a very practical solution. Adding more weight to the bar, running faster or generally doing more isn’t the answer either. That will quickly stagnate as you reach your peak potential—if you aren’t there already.
Here are 5 things that you can apply to your training for a long time to come.
Increase training density by shortening rest periods
This is how you get more total work done without increasing time or weight lifted/distance run/etc.Decrease the ratio of rest period to working period, so you do more total work in the same amount of time. This is called training density. There are a couple of ways to apply this:- Use timed rest periods and simply decrease the rest time. If you take a 120 second rest, drop it to 110 for a week, then to 100 the next. You will complete the same amount of work with less time between sets.- Set a timer and perform as much work as possible within the given time. For example, set a stopwatch for 8 minutes and complete as many reps as possible in the given exercise. Break the sets up however you wish to achieve the maximum total reps in the timeframe. Then try and beat it next workout. You can also try and get the same number of reps, but knock a few seconds off the timeframe.An old favorite workout of mine was to perform 100 pull ups/chin ups and 100 weighted dips as quickly as possible. In under 20 minutes you can get an incredible upper body workout.
Use visualization to perfect the movements
Do the same thing, but do it using visualization techniques, you can contract the target muscles harder, perform the movement smoother and maintain a more consistent stride length. To do this: before the set, close your eyes and imagine yourself going through the movement in your head, from setup right through to completion. Visualize in as much detail as possible how you will perform it, include your breathing rate, contracting the right muscle at the perfect time, feel the feeling of the weight in your hands as you do it.The more real you make the visualization, the more effective it will be. This is a skill that can be practiced and learned over time. It’s going to lead to better execution of the movements, and with it, better outcomes.
Keep a workout journal
The more information you have, the more opportunity you have to optimize your workouts. When you first start training, just going to the gym is going to make you stronger and fitter. Unfortunately, the time comes when you’re getting diminishing returns from the work you’re putting in. Now, you need to be intelligent about progressing your training to avoid stagnation. Keeping a workout journal will keep you informed. You will see patterns and be able to recognize when you make progress and, importantly, when you don’t. If you don’t measure, you simply don’t know. Who wants to put in loads of hard work that isn’t actually taking them anywhere? As you spot trends and patterns, you are able to start doing more of the things that work, and less of the things that don’t. This is making your workouts more effective and ensuring you keep moving forward.
Fire yourself up with music or a training partner
Remember when I said intensity is the second most important thing to bring to your workouts?A very basic measure of intensity is the ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’ (RPE) 1-10 Scale. 1 would be sleeping, 10 would be about to have a heart attack. You’re probably working out at around a 7 most of the time during your training. It’s challenging, but still relatively comfortable. You don’t really feel like you’re about to die.Moving your average intensity up the scale will lead to better results from the same workout. Now, that sounds great, but in practice it’s hard. It hurts. You have to push yourself way beyond your comfort zone. One way to get fired up and attain this higher intensity is to use music that pumps you up. Aggressive, fast music will release adrenaline into your system and allow you to work at a higher intensity. Training with a partner will also push you with some friendly competition, a motivating word here and there, or the push to eke out an extra rep when it hurts. It all adds up over time. If you can find a good training partner, they are worth their weight in gold.
Do 1 more rep
Every time you’re in the gym, commit to making a tiny improvement. One more rep, every single time. One rep doesn’t sound like much, but one rep every workout starts to add up.150 extra reps a year will represent many tons of additional weight lifted. An extra 100 meters run each workout will add up to many total miles. Make the commitment to be better—every single session.Sometimes you’re having a rough day. Do one more rep. Sometimes it hurts. Do one more rep. Sometimes you’re in a rush. Do one more rep.It’s going to add up over time and you will be pleased with the results!
Give these 5 methods a go and you will get better results from your training without additional time dedicated to it. Win!