It’s certainly no secret that strength training is highly recommended. Research shows that strength training improves muscular strength, endurance, bone density, metabolism, joint stability, cardiovascular health, and many other things. With so many positive benefits available, why wouldn't we want to strength train?
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. So to strength train properly, we're going to have to tackle the topic of exercise intensity. And it's more than the old saying 'no pain, no gain.'
No amount of light exercise will ever produce meaningful fitness improvements so we must learn to master exercise intensity. If you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and work harder than you have before, you will take your physical fitness and overall health to an all new level.
6 Secrets to Mastering Your Strength Training Intensity
Here are 6 secrets to safely build the physical and psychological skills necessary to master strength training intensity:
Secret #1: Learn proper technique - There are many ways to increase strength training intensity, but not all are safe. For example, use of fast repetition speeds, breath holding, and inappropriate body positions are dangerous and will almost certainly take the life out of your joints and leave you susceptible to injury over time. Instead, focus on the following:
- Slow-motion repetitions - By slowing your repetition speed during strength training exercises to a minimum of 5 second lifting and 5 second lowering phases, you will decrease momentum and create a much more joint-friendly, muscle-recruiting form of exercise.
- Breathe continuously - There is a natural tendency to hold your breath when strength training, which immediately raises blood pressure and can cause dizziness and even headaches. When an exercise becomes difficult or the urge to hold your breath is strong, breathe at a smooth, continuous pace.
- Maintain a stable body position – Only the targeted muscles in the exercise should be engaged with significant tension. Indirect muscle groups, specifically in the neck and low back, should contract only enough to maintain stability throughout the movement.
Secret #2: Choose safe exercises – Select safe exercises based on your needs, goals and limitations. For example, if you have knee problems, choose a slow-motion wall squat without allowing your knees to travel beyond your toes, rather than lunges, barbell squats or leg extensions. Never risk injury or aggravating an existing condition by choosing inappropriate exercises.
Secret #3: Progressively apply higher intensity over time - Gradually building your exercise intensity over time will allow your body and mind to become better acclimated to the additional physical stress. The ultimate goal of any strength exercise should be to safely, yet thoroughly, fatigue your target muscles. It's not easy, but well worth the effort and fatigue you'll experience.
Secret #4: Understand what causes exercise discomfort - The closer you get to the point of temporary muscle failure, the more your muscles rely on anaerobic metabolism to fuel their contractions. A consequence of this is a more acidic environment within the muscle, which will undoubtedly cause some momentary discomfort. This is a necessary part of meaningful exercise and as long as you understand that it’s not dangerous, but beneficial, you will be more likely to accept and tolerate it.
Secret #5: Embrace the physical discomfort - Your first inclination will be to stop the exercise when faced with physical discomfort. Although difficult to grasp, you must welcome this feeling rather than avoid it. If you can anticipate the fatigue-related sensitivity, you will be able to work through it longer. This will more completely stimulate your muscles, bones, and cardiovascular system to improve in condition.
Keep in mind, there is a difference between muscle fatigue and the pain of injury. Tolerate fatigue-related discomfort as long as possible, but if you feel you are at risk of aggravating something or causing injury, stop the exercise immediately.
Secret #6: You have to want it - You get out of strength training what you put into it. If you just go through the motions without effort, you will simply waste your time. However, if you remain confident, tolerate some discomfort and commit to getting the most out of every exercise, you will tap into your true physical potential and improve your health beyond what you ever thought possible. Give it a shot, you can do it!
Don’t ever think high intensity means high risk. When done properly, rest assured you are working hard enough to force positive change in your body without worrying if it’s too much or too dangerous.
If you really want to get the intensity just right, The Exercise Coach® proprietary technology coupled with our highly skilled and certified Coaches have led to our trademarked Right Intensity Training™ approach. This is meaningful exercise that safely optimizes muscle activation. The resulting improvement in muscle quality leads to more efficient fat loss, cardiovascular vitality, bone health and other improved wellness outcomes. Check us out at a location near you!