Intensifiers: the key to achieving Progressive Overload

Posted: October 27, 2013 in fitness, Muscle Building
Tags: , , ,

The term “progressive overload” is almost synonymous with bodybuilding and is one of the major principles in muscle-building.

The concept is pretty simple: progression in workload = adaptive muscle gains

Workload here can be defined as: Workload = Load(weight) x Time under tension x sets / total time
Time under tension = number of reps x tempo of each rep
Total time = amount of time to complete all sets including rest periods

This provides us with number of areas in which progression may occur:

  1. Increasing weight
  2. Increasing time under tension (via tempo or number of reps)
  3. Decreasing rest time between sets
  4. Increasing volume (number of sets)

In an ideal world we would improve upon one (or more) of these each and every workout, but in practice that’s not always possible; hence the beauty of INTENSIFIERS (also known as Finishers).

Intensifiers typically come in one of the following four forms:

1. Drop Sets

Typically you would do this by adding 3-4 sets immediately following your last work set, dropping the weight by 15-20% on each drop. This is my preferred method, as it works the muscle to complete exhaustion.

2. Partial reps

At the end of a set when you can’t perform any more full reps, you can often do 4 or 5 reps in a small portion of the range of motion to squeeze out a little more work. This is another good way to help you towards lifting progressively heavier weights.

3. Negatives

The negative portion of a rep is where you are strongest, so you can often perform additional reps by just doing the negative portion. This one often best utilized in unilateral exercises where the non-working limb can assist with the positive potion.

4. Rest-pause

To be honest, I don’t use this one a lot, but where I find it handiest is when doing high-rep exercises when you are totally drained; by resting for ten seconds or less, and then completing the remaining reps, you can often push beyond your current failing point.

Hopefully some of these ideas will help you on your mission to acquire the coveted progressive overload!

Related: How to lift heavier weights

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superhero_physique by Shawn Buffington

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