The idea of high intensity strength training is to increase the exercise intensity, rather than the exercise duration and frequency. We can exercise hard or we can exercise long, but it's difficult to do both! With high-intensity training, we make strength gains by working the muscle harder rather than longer. Due to the greater muscle demands and recovery time, this type of training should not be used more than once a week.
High-intensity training involves maximizing the workout by demanding the muscle to work harder over a short period with less recovery time. This system maximizes the time spent in the gym by limiting the amount of time spent between sets of exercise. The high-intensity training system is designed for maximal strength and endurance gains. Physical exertion through weight training causes the body to adapt to the stress by making the muscles stronger and larger.
Principles of High-Intensity Training
Every muscle group should have at least 48 hours to recover following a high intensity workout. High-intensity training requires that the body have time to rebuild. If the body is not provided with adequate recovery time, the muscle can degenerate rather then increase in muscle size.
Use proper technique. Allow the muscles to raise and lower the weight, do not bounce, throw, jerk, or drop the weights. Ask facility staff for specific instruction.
Emphasize the eccentric contraction (lowering the weight). A muscle is approximately 40% stronger during an eccentric contraction. This means that even though a lifter cannot lift the weight anymore without the assistance of a spotter, the lifter can still perform negative repetitions (lowering the weight) if the spotter assists with the lifting portion of the exercise.
To stimulate muscle enough to cause adaptation, the muscle must be brought to failure. Momentary muscle failure is achieved when another repetition can no longer be performed properly. High-intensity training maximizes this effect by asking the person training to go beyond what is perceived as his or her physical limit. Once positive failure is reached (the ability to lift the weight alone), the lifter should concentrate on the negative or lower phase of the repetition by using a 6- to 8-second count as the weight is lowered.
Little rest between sets is needed. Lifters should move directly from exercise to exercise with minimum time between sets. The method of performing a pushing exercise and then a pulling exercise is effective in limiting rest time between sets. It allows the push muscles time to recover; yet intensity remains high.
The purpose of a repetition is to create tension in the muscle through a full range of motion, that when repeated throughout a set, would fatigue a muscle. Also you must minimize momentum by performing each repetition slowly and with control. Increasing the momentum takes tension off of the muscle. Taking tension off the muscle during a repetition is not only counterproductive, but also dangerous.
In order for weight training to be beneficial the workload must constantly progress as the body get use to previous effort. If a lifter can lift 70 pounds 15 times today, then the next time the lifter should attempt 70 pounds 16 or 17 times. Alternatively, progression can take the form of increasing the weight to 100 pounds and then attempting 20 repetitions with the increased weight. Once that is achieved, progression would again continue with more added weight or repetitions. The weight should be lifted until the lifter can no longer safely lift the weight with the assistance of a spotter.
The amount of work that muscles perform depends on volume (the number of times the weight is lifted) and time (the amount of time over which the exercise is performed). Intensity is a matter or increasing the rate that the exercise is performed, or increasing the weight and decreasing the repetitions. Increasing the rate is done by moving through the movements quicker (not recommended) or decreasing the amount of time resting between each set and each exercise (recommended).
The high-intensity training system is not a highly advanced method of strength training, as it is sometimes perceived. It is simply a matter of maximizing the benefits of weight training by increasing the intensity at which one performs the exercises, and by maximizing the body's capacity to lift more during the negative contraction.
High-Intensity Training Techniques
To shock your muscles into growth, you can overload with progressively heavier poundage. Example: Increasing the weight on your bench press each week but keeping the same amount of reps.
When attempting negatives the lifter is utilizing maximal weight (30-40% more than ones maximal concentric lift) and concentrates on the 'down' phase of the lift. Timing during the lift is very slow, allowing for control, and minimum amount of time is needed between reps. Example: Bench press with weight exceeding your maximal press, slowly lower the bar to your chest and with the help of a partner return the bar to the starting position. Repeat.
Pre-exhaustion is a method in which a muscle group is isolated, using an isolating movement prior to doing a compound movement (more than one muscle being utilized, or more than one joint involved in an exercise). Weight is light to moderate and reps are usually in the higher range. Example: For your chest - Doing cable crossovers (isolating movement), three sets of 20 reps, before doing bench press (compound movement).
Load sets progressively add weight to a given set while the number of repetitions stays the same or decreases. Example: One set - 100lbs 10 reps, followed immediately by 120lbs 8 reps, etc.
Drop sets involve decreasing the amount of weight while you decrease or keep the reps the same (each time to failure) with in the same set.
Partial reps or restricted range of motion (ROM) is when the entire set is done through a partial range of motion. This can be done anywhere within the normal full range of motion such as at the beginning, the middle, or the end. Weight is usually moderate to heavy and timing between sets is anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Example: Lying Hamstring Curls - a set of 12 reps is done at the top of the normal range of motion, starting from the hamstrings being fully contracted and ending approximately midway through the normal range of motion and repeating.