Archive for the tag - intensity

Running The Rack Workout Technique!

14981056675_b2db876f07_kWhen looking to increase intensity or break through plateaus, dropsets are a great strategy. As I’ve mentioned before, a dropset is as follows:

A technique wherein, after completing a set of a given exercise until failure, you drop down the weight and immediately continue the exercise with reduced resistance.

Typically, dropsets are best utilized with a workout partner. They can quickly change the weight plates on your barbell. However, if you’re flying solo, you can also use a dropset strategy by “running the rack.”

Here’s how running the rack works.

Approach the rack and select a dumbbell that allows you to complete a normal set of a given exercise. For example, I would use the 55 lb dumbbells to complete 7 bicep curls. Immediately replace the dumbbells with a set that is 5 pounds lighter. Try to complete an additional set. Drop down another 5 pounds and continue on until completing the set is no longer challenging.

It sounds easy. But I promise it’s not. As such, make sure that you don’t compromise your form as the intensity cranks up.

Next time you hit the gym, give it a try.

P.S. If you’re looking to increase muscle size, download “Size Matters: Davey Wavey’s Foolproof Guide to Building Muscle” and get started today!

Strength Training Myth: More Volume Is Better!

weight-lifterWhen it comes to exercise, more sounds better – but that’s not always the case. Especially when it comes to volume.

Volume refers to the total number of sets and repetitions performed in various exercises. In a nutshell, it’s the amount of work being done in a workout. If you do an additional rep or add another set, you increase the volume.

We’ve all seen men and women perform insane amounts of volume at the gym. They do a zillion sets with a zillion repetitions of a zillion exercises. These individuals are misguided in their belief that more is more – and their results will undoubtedly be limited by this common strength training error.

By pushing volume too high, these individuals are limiting training intensity.

When we talk about intensity, we’re talking about how hard you’re exercising. And there’s no way to do a zillion sets without turning down the dial and making things… well, less intense.

If increasing muscle size is one of your workout goals, keep the volume low and the intensity high. If you can do more than four sets of eight reps of a given exercise, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Crank things up. Not only will you dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend exercising, you’ll signal to your body that more muscle is needed. It’s a time-tested strategy that works.

What Is Perceived Exertion?

BorgWhen you’re performing an exercise, it may be necessary to exercise within a recommended range of intensity. And one way to measure intensity is by determining heart rate. However, this process isn’t always easy – and it often requires stopping or fumbling with equipment. And then the heart rate results need to be interrupted.

There’s an easier way. It’s quick and it’s simple – and it’s fairly accurate. It’s called perceived exertion.

Perceived exertion is a scale that measures feelings of effort, strain, discomfort and/or fatigue experienced during exercise. The most common is the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion, which ranges from 6 (no exertion at all) to 20 (maximum exertion). Because it’s so easy and effective, it’s commonly used by personal trainers when communicating with their clients.

Why isn’t the scale rated from 1 – 10? That’s a great question! It’s because, as a very general rule, you can multiply your level of exertion by 10 to determine your heart rate. In other words, if you’re exercising at a 14, then your heart rate is probably somewhere around 140 beats per minute. Again, this is very general.

Here’s the scale:

  • 6: No exertion (i.e., sitting in a chair)
  • 7: Extremely light (i.e., arm circles)
  • 8
  • 9: Very light
  • 10
  • 11: Light
  • 12
  • 13: Somewhat hard
  • 14
  • 15: Hard (heavy)
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19: Extremely hard
  • 20: Maximal exertion

A great example of perceived exertion in practice would performing high intensity interval training on a treadmill. For high intensity interval training, you may, for instance, alternate between perceived exertion levels of 13 and 18 or 19. It may be one minute at 13, followed by one minute at 18 or 19 and so on. It’s much easier to describe the exercise in terms of perceived exertion than a set pace in miles per hour, because what is hard for me may be easy for you or vice versa.

For me, alternating between a 13 and 18 or 19 means alternating the treadmill from 7.7 miles per hour to 11 mph at a 3 percent incline. For another person, it might mean alternating between 3 mph and 6 mph. Either way, you’ll be getting the benefits because both bodies will be working hard. And if a certain pace gets easier over time, you may need to increase the speed to stay at that perceived level of exertion.

As you can see, the Borg scale is really easy to understand and extremely helpful. Try putting it to work for you!

How to Flatten Your Midsection.

Hey Davey,

First of all, I want to thank you. You and your blog have helped me lose 20 pounds this summer.

However, I have a problem. Despite my weight loss, I still have a muffin top! I’ve even been trying lower back workouts but nothing seems to work. How can I lose it?

Thanks,
Guillermo

These tips are your ticket to a flatter midsection.

Hey Guillermo,

Congratulations on releasing all that extra weight. You must feel fantastic.

Believe it or not, I’ve become something of a muffin top expert. In fact, your “muffin top” question is probably one of the most common that I get asked.

First things first, “muffin top” is a slang term used to describe excess fat around the body’s midsection. When this fat overhangs an individual’s pants, it looks like a muffin spilling over its casing. Descriptive, I know.

For most of us, the midsection – and often stomach, in particular – is the first place we gain fat and the last place we lose it.

You email also touches upon a popular myth about body fat. You mentioned that your lower back workouts haven’t helped. Unfortunately, there’s no way to target weight loss in a particular part of your body. Though your lower back workouts are likely increasing the amount of muscle in your lower back, they won’t result in you losing weight specifically in your midsection. When you shed fat, it comes off according to its own agenda.

Back in May, I shared five tips for getting rid of muffin tops. In a nutshell, they included:

  1. Not skipping breakfast.
  2. Getting regular sleep.
  3. Cutting back on alcohol.
  4. Engaging in high intensity interval training.
  5. Eating smarter.

If you feel like you’ve really reached a weight loss plateau and are already taking advantage of the above tips and are eating wisely, then it’s time to consider changing other variables in your workout routine:

  1. Increase workout duration and frequency. Depending on your workout regimen and current schedule, you may need to increase your time commitments. For example, you can start working out 4 days a week instead of 3.
  2. Up the intensity. You’ll always get out of your workout what you put into your workout, so add some gusto by increasing your cardio speeds, adding an incline on the treadmill, adding more weights to your repetitions or decreasing rest times.
  3. Add new exercises. Our bodies can adjust to our workouts, so switch things up. You can even consider working with a personal trainer to learn a new routine.

With some hard work, time and dedication, you’ll certainly be able to see some great results and a much flatter midsection.

Enjoy – and congratulations on your weight loss.

Love,
Davey

Am I Not Working Out Enough?

Davey,

I’ve been eating healthy and working out for about a year and a half now and it seems like I’m either not eating enough or not working out enough.

I eat as healthy as I can: 5 times a day, veggies, complex carbs, protein, portion control, all that good stuff. I workout in school and at home a lot, lifting weights, running, and doing abs. It seems like something has went wrong and off balance and I’ve gotten a little skinnier than I intended. Changing my diet a little has only made me gain fat, and working out more has had no effect. I need help!

From,
EH

You get out of your workout what you put into your workout.

Dear EH,

There could be a few different variables at play.

Let’s start with diet. Complex carbs and veggies are important, but you didn’t mention lean meats or other protein sources. To build muscle, your body will need protein – and so it’s important to get protein naturally or with supplements. I always eat a protein shake or two a day to help meet my protein requirements.

Assuming you are eating enough of the right foods, let’s take a look at your workout.

There’s a difference between exercising a lot and exercising effectively. I’m all about making the most of short workouts. And in some instances, people who exercise too much actually cannibalize their results. Rest is a crucially important ingredient in building muscle mass. If you over-train and overwork your muscles, you won’t see results.

To avoid over-training, ensure that you’re working different muscle groups on different days. On one day, for example, you may work your legs. You might do chest on another. And back and shoulders on another, and so on. If you go to the gym anywhere from 2 or 3 to 6 times per week, this will give each muscle group a several days to repair and recover.

But the most-commonly overlooked component of an effective workout is intensity – and I suspect that this may be your issue. If you want to make additional muscle gains and further transform your body, you’ll need to push yourself to break through your current plateaus. If you do want to make significant muscle gains, going to the gym for 45 minutes and throwing around a few moderately heavy weights isn’t necessarily going to do it.

Instead, you need to make use of a strategy called progressive overload. Constantly push yourself to work heavier and heavier levels of resistance. If, over the course of a few months, you move from 4 sets of 8 reps of 150 pounds (your current limit) on the bench press to 4 sets of 8 reps of 170 pounds, there’s no question that your body will change as a result. It’s a matter of science; your muscles will grow – but they only grow when they’re required to do so.

Remember: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. If you diet is on point, your exercise form is solid and you’re not over-training your muscles, it’s most likely a question of workout intensity. Rather than spending endless hours at the gym, it’s really about getting more bang for each workout buck.

Love,
Davey

Music Increases Exercise Output by 15%.

Ancient roman rowers - the ancestors of this more modern specimen - were among the first to use the benefits of synchronization.

Believe it or not, music and exercise didn’t first combine forces with the advent of the iPod. In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to rowers during Roman times. According to Carl Foster, Ph.D., lead researcher for a recent compilation of studies titled Exploring the Effects of Music on Exercise Intensity:

The guy is sitting there beating on his drum and he drives the basic rhythm of the rowing. Part of that is coordination—you want the rowers to row together—but part of it is that people will naturally follow a tempo. It’s just something about the way our brains work.

The principle of synching yourself to the beat of music is called entrainment or synchronization. You match your steps, strides or cycles to the dominant beat in a song or soundtrack. But does this help exercisers up their intensity? According to Foster and the various studies his team reviewed, yes!

Some even go so far as to call music a legal, performance-enhancing drug. Why? In a nutshell, music is said to have three benefits:

  1. The aforementioned entrainment or synchronization.
  2. Increase in arousal – music makes you want to move.
  3. Distracts exerciser from discomfort or fatigue.

In addition, I believe that music makes exercise more enjoyable and fun – and helps get exercisers to the gym. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that exercise is boring. Music helps make things more interesting.

Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., of London’s Brunel University School of Sport and Education, is one of the world’s leading authorities on music and exercise. According to Karageorghis’ 20+ years of research:

[Music] can reduce the perception of effort significantly and increase endurance by as much as 15 percent.

A 15% increase in output is HUGE. And for anyone looking to up the intensity of their workout, that’s great news. Of course, not all soundtracks are created equal; elevator music, for example, might not get your heart pumping. Researchers recommend the following bpm (beats-per-minute) guidelines for selecting playlists:

  1. Power walking: approx. 137–139 bpm
  2. Running: approx. 147–169 bpm
  3. Cycling: approx. 135–170 bpm

Not sure how to calculate bpm? There’s an app for that!

Do you use music to help step up your workout intensity? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Intensify Your Workout.

Here’s a little fitness secret: You get out of your workout what you put in. And so if you’re not getting the results you want, it just might be time to up your workout’s intensity.

To that end, here are six tips to make it happen:

  1. Time the rests in between your sets. When resting between sets, most of us aim for a 60 second recovery. But, unless you are timing your rests, you’re probably resting longer. Use a watch or clock to keep track. Your break will be shorter – and your workout will be harder. For an extra bit of intensity, jump rope for your 60-second break.
  2. Add an incline to the treadmill. Even adding a 1% or 2% incline will make a huge difference in your cardio. You’ll work harder, sweat more and get a better workout.
  3. Stop cheating. Most of us cheat on our exercises. Of course, we’re only cheating ourselves and our results. Stop cutting corners. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Ensure the barbell touches your chest during the bench press. And don’t use momentum to assist your dumbbell curls.
  4. Do intervals. Running at one pace isn’t nearly as effective or challenging as intervals. To perform intervals, jog at a steady pace for a set amount of time (say, 90 seconds). Then, sprint at 100% of capacity for another set amount of time (say, 60 seconds). Repeat for 10 or 15 minutes.
  5. Up the music tempo. If you exercise with an iPod, create a playlist with fast, heart-pumping tracks. We tend to match our workout intensity to the music’s tempo; use your playlist to supercharge your workout.
  6. Minimize talking. Talking and socializing is one of the easiest ways to water-down your workout. Keep the chatting to a minimum. And if you have to, set a limit to the amount of time you’ll spend at the gym. If you know that you need to get your workout in before a certain time, it might keep the distractions at bay.

If you have any tips to up your workout intensity, share them in the comments below!