Too often people make the trek to the gym but only to go through the motions of a workout, without really working out. This is fine if you aren't really trying to improve, but you should understand that the best workout program in the world doesn't do squat if your workout lacks purpose and intensity.
Image by Pricenfees.
Intensity is a big deal because if you want to see lasting benefits of a good workout program, how hard you push yourself is key. I've outlined this point in our article on lifting weights within different repetition ranges before. In a nutshell, you can get stronger or bigger, badder muscles, but only if you work hard enough. The tricky part here is that "hard work" means something different to everyone. John Romaniello of Roman Fitness Systems puts it this way:
The point here is that you have to reach a level of tolerance -- you have to teach yourself to be comfortable with a certain level of discomfort. From there, you can achieve almost anything you want.
This doesn't mean you need to lift really, really heavy weight or go bananas to the point of vomiting or hurting yourself, but you do need to be uncomfortable and be singularly focused on your training during your workout. That means no checking your Instagram likes or thinking about what to eat for lunch. It's just you and the task ahead of you.
So how do you make yourself work harder? Here's one of five things to do, according to Romaniello:
Try to progress, each and every workout, for the next 8 weeks.
For the next two months, every single time you train, do one of the following:
- Squeeze out a few more reps each set
- Increase the weight from workout to workout
- Cut down on rest periods between sets
- Alternate exercises to eliminate rest altogether
- Push harder, squeeze the bar harder, and generally lift more explosively
Unless you know exactly what you're doing, don't try to do all of those at once. Choose one and focus on it. Let's say you're squatting that day. If you think you can do five, aim for six or seven (preferably with the safety pins or a spotter ready to catch you). And if you feel like it's too hard, well, it's supposed to feel that way.
This Is What an Intense Workout Means [Roman Fitness Systems]