Intense workout routines can be a beneficial part of your fitness regimen. While most people believe that weightlifting is necessary to work out intensely, that isn't always the case. This article looks at some intense workouts and how they can be a valuable part of any exercise regimen.
What Is Intensity?
Intensity in a workout essentially refers to how hard you are working. Intensity is typically measured by heart rate, although there are other indicators that you are working out intensely, as well. When you are lifting weights, high intensity exercise is achieved when you focus on moving your weights through a carefully controlled range of motion until muscle failure. Muscle failure is when you can no longer move the weight. When you are working on a cardio machine, high intensity exercise is when you work towards the upper end of your maximum heart rate.
Why Up the Intensity?
Adding intensity to your workout routine can help to take your fitness to the next level. Not only that, but the more intense your workout, the more your body will respond. It is easy to get into a rut with your exercise and just go through the motions. While you will gain some benefit from doing the same workout routine over and over again, the gains decrease as your fitness level increases. Soon your workout routine becomes your body's norm and your body will respond minimally to your efforts.
Tossing in an intense workout routine once or twice a week can help to shake things up and get your body moving to a higher level of fitness. Not only that, but intense routines can kick your metabolism in gear, helping you to burn more fat and calories with each workout.
Important Cautions for Working Out Intensely
When you are doing high intensity exercise, it is important that you give yourself breaks between periods of high intensity work. For instance, when you work a muscle to fatigue during weightlifting, it is important to rest the muscle between sets, and also to rest the muscle for a few days following high intensity training in order to allow the muscle fibers to recover and rebuild themselves even stronger than they were before.
Various Intense Workout Routines
The following routines can be used to help you up the intensity level of your exercise.
Intense Weight Workouts
There are a few ways to up the intensity of your weight workout. One is to increase the weight that you are lifting until you can do five to six repetitions to muscle failure for two to three sets. Because the weights you are lifting will be so heavy, it is important to observe the following precautions:
- Pay careful attention to form. If you don't know how to safely lift free weights, make an appointment with a trainer to help you to achieve the proper form. Using improper form when lifting heavy weights can lead to injury.
- Avoid using momentum. To properly lift a weight, always use a controlled range of motion on both the flexion and the extension. Relying on momentum decreases the intensity of exercise and can lead to injury.
- Don't lock your joints. For instance, if you are doing a bench press, press the bar until your arms are fully extended without locking your elbows. Don't rest at the top. Lower the bar back down without bringing it to rest on your chest. Maintain smooth and continual motion throughout the set.
- If you can't use proper form for five to six repetitions, the weight is too heavy for you. Lower it by a few pounds and try again. It isn't about being the person in the gym who can lift the heaviest weights, it is about finding a weight that allows you to maximize your workout.
- Always work with a spotter when lifting heavy free weights.
- Allow 48 to 72 hours between days of working the same muscle group intensely. Rest and repair is important for muscle grown and to avoid injury or over training.
- Focus carefully on the motion. Pay attention to the muscles being worked as you lift and lower the weight. This focus on your muscles can help up your intensity.
- Don't forget to breathe throughout the range of motion. Breathe out as you lift the weight, breathe in as you lower it.
- Always properly warm up and cool down.
- Be sure to stretch following a weight workout to maintain muscle flexibility.
The other way to up the intensity of a weight workout is to use slow lifting. To do this, take 20 to 30 seconds to work your way through the full range of motion (using good form) for as many repetitions as you can achieve. Aim for a weight that allows you to do eight to ten solid repetitions at this slow rate.
High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is a great way to up the intensity of your workout. HIIT involves bursts of all out activity followed by periods of less intense activity. It can be done with almost any type of cardiovascular training apparatus or aerobic type activity. To up your intensity with HIIT:
- Start with a five minute warm up.
- Exercise at your regular intensity for about 2 minutes.
- Exercise at all out intensity (for instance, if you are jogging - sprint) for about 30 seconds.
- Return to your regular intensity for 2 minutes.
- Repeat steps 2-4 several times until your workout is complete. For beginners, do this cycle four times. As your fitness level increases, so can the number of cycles you complete.
- Cool down for five minutes.
As you can see, there are a number of ways to up the intensity of your fitness routine. If you're in a rut, why not give it a try and see if it breaks you free?