BodybuildingPro.com Training Database Bodybuilding Articles Intensity Principles
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Principles - In Detail
Shocking your System into Awesome Muscular
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Due to the adaptiveness of the human body, certain exercises and
routines will elicit a smaller and smaller effect on the body
(expressed in terms of muscular development) as they become more
familiarized in your training. Several methods to
“shock” the body into new growth include the
(1) Train with more weight than
(2) Do more reps or sets.
(3) Speeding up your training.
(4) Cutting down rest time between
(5) Doing unfamiliar exercises.
(6) Changing the order of your
Change in itself will shock the body into new growth more than
intensity. One good method of shocking is to take one day out of
the month and train with many more sets, or with very high
The Cheating Method
The cheating method is the one exception to maintaining strict
form in all bodybuilding movements. It is a method in which you
deliberately use other muscle groups in order to aid one primary
movement. An example of the cheating method in use would be
individuals who arch their back slightly to do one or more
additional repetitions of standing barbell curls. It is recommended
that you keep cheating movements to the last set of an exercise,
and not to go beyond a total of three additional repetitions with
Continuous Tension Principle
If you do your exercises in a slow, controlled manner, you will
maintain optimal muscular tension and this will result in new
growth for your muscles. Always complete every bodybuilding motion
with emphasis on strict form throughout the entire range of
Cycle Training Principle
Do one workout for size, mass, and strength, then lower the weight
and increase the number of repetitions in the following workout for
greater quality. This way, you subject your muscles to maximum
output every workout, and reduce your chances of overtraining and
Double Split Principle
If you are looking to maximize energy reserves, you can take your
daily training activities, and split them into two training
sessions, one AM training, and one PM training. For example, if you
are planning to train chest / biceps one day, you can train your
chest in the morning, and your biceps in the afternoon or
Eclectic Training Principle
Combine both mass building and shape building exercises in all of
your bodybuilding exercises to ensure total development. If you pay
attention to both mass and shape, you will develop a symmetrical
physique much more easily. For example, dumbbell curls are
considered a very important exercise to develop your biceps peak,
where standing barbell curls are considered a very important mass
builder. By incorporating both mass and shape building exercises
into your workouts you will develop the mass you want as well as a
shape you will appreciate.
To add extra intensity to your workouts, you can exercise your
muscles in a continuous way using a steady pace. This will keep the
blood flow to your muscles steady and help you to keep yourself
“pumped” throughout the entire workout. To completely
focus on the exercise, you can train different aspects of the same
body part on different days. For example, you can train your
quadriceps on day one, and then your hamstrings on day three. This
will help you to develop a complete and balanced physique and your
overall symmetry will benefit.
“Forced Reps” is the term given to the idea of forcing
yourself to do additional reps beyond the point of muscular
failure. This can be achieved in numerous ways. One way is to let
your training partner give you a spot on one or more final reps in
a given lift. Another good method is to complete your set, wait a
few seconds, and try to pump off a few more repetitions, shortly
after muscular failure has occurred.
The instinctive principle is exactly what you may be thinking it
is. It is the technique where you base your exercises on what
muscles you feel should be worked that day, and you perform the
exercises in the order you feel they will benefit you. This may
mean you will perform the same workouts from week to week and only
vary the order in which you perform the exercises, or it may mean
that you workout your biceps three times in the week, while in the
same period of time, take a rest period of 10 days before
performing an exercise for your back. The instinctive principle is
based on working the muscles which you feel are the freshest and
basing your workouts entirely on how you think and feel. The
instinctive principle may be a welcome change from performing your
workouts in a specific way, almost as though you have two drill
sergeants telling you what to do.
Generally speaking, intensity of training effort falls into the
following categories listed and described below:
(1) Positive or concentric full - rep
(2) Positive or concentric full - and
partial - rep momentary failure.
(3) Positive or concentric full - rep
momentary failure plus additional negative or eccentric - only
These are listed in order of increasing intensity or stress. As
intensity levels increase, the ability for the body to recover is
more difficult; therefore you may require additional recovery days
if you are employing intensity principles into your training.
However, these extra days will be well worth the extra mass you
By flexing your worked muscles between sets and after the workout,
you will be able to better control them, and bring out separation
and striations. This isometric flexing helps give your body
sharpness. As an example, you may want to flex your quadriceps.
Use exercises which isolate different parts of the muscle you want
to develop. This will allow you to develop that muscle in a more
complete and balanced way. This will help you with your overall
symmetry. If you would like to achieve a balanced upper arm, work
both your biceps and your triceps with a number of different
workouts to ensure you make it grow in a complete way.
“Isolation” training refers to isolating a specific
muscle or muscle group, or even a certain detailing aspect of an
individual muscle. Some movements develop, or require the use of, a
number of individual muscles. An example of this would be a
compound movement such as the squat. In order to develop a complete
and balanced physique, it might be necessary to include isolation
training as part of your regiment in order to bring out your
proportion and symmetry and achieve a look which could be likened
to a Greek sculpture.
Manipulation of Growth
General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) is the defense response of the
body or mind to injury or prolonged stress. It consists of the
following three stages as listed and described below:
(1) An initial shock reaction.
(2) An increasing resistance or
adaptation, using various defense mechanisms of the body or
(3) Final stage of either adjustment
and healing or exhaustion and disintegration.
Bodybuilding is first physical stress, and second, mental and
emotional stress. It is the delicate balance between GAS from your
body and the continued onslaught of training that yields pounds of
hard - won muscle. Train less, eat and sleep more is the
generalized prescription for taking advantage of your body’s
GAS. Remember that steroids only speed the recovery side of GAS.
They do not specifically produce new muscle growth. There must
always be the initial source of stress - training.
Muscle Confusion Training Principle
One of the most basic, and most important of the training
principles, is the muscle confusion training principle. This
principle is all about ensuring you have a variety in your
workouts. This will be a variety of sets, reps, exercises, rest
periods, etc. It is also important to train the muscle from the
most efficient position, in which it has the greatest mechanical
advantage / stress. It remains critically important to supplement
those exercises with others utilizing various angles for certain
exercises. Muscles should never be allowed to accommodate to an
exercise to the point where the exercise is ineffective and
doesn’t result in hypertrophy or the goal you were looking
for. This variety will improve your motivation, keep you mentally
fresh, and keep your muscles growing.
The negative (or concentric) part of any movement, is the lowering
phase during the range of motion. For example, in the bench press,
the negative motion would be the process of lowering the weight
from the starting position to your chest (or immediately above).
The negative portion of any movement is said to be the largest
factor for hypertrophy (muscular growth). Some methods to succeed
at negative reps would be to lower the weight slowly and under
control, and bring it up, with force and power, or have your
training partner do the positive part of the motion for you. Keep
in mind you are capable of performing negative repetitions with
more weight than you would normally use for the full movement. If
your one rep maximum (1RM) for bench press is 200 pounds, you
should have no problem doing negative repetitions (at least a few)
with that weight and the aid of a training partner, as safety
should be your number one priority.
To shock your muscles into growth, you can overload with
progressively heavier poundage. For example, if you can bench press
150 pounds for a total of 10 repetitions, you may want to increase
this number weekly by upping the poundage by a certain percentage
each week. Another overload method is to decrease the amount of
rest time between sets. Once again, if you can bench press 150
pounds for a total of 10 repetitions, you may want to decrease the
rest interval between each set, from two minutes to one minute and
After achieving initial muscular failure, it is possible to
continue your sets by performing repetitions which do not go
through the entire range of motion. An example of this would be
doing a bench press exercise where you perform half repetitions in
the upper third range of motion. This can bring your muscles past
the temporary point of failure and up to complete muscle
exhaustion, or very close to it.
Peak Contraction Principle
Keep continuous tension on the fully contracted muscle. By
squeezing and contracting the pectorals during the exercise, you
can use peak contractions to stimulate and striate your muscle
fibers. An example of the peak contraction principle would be
feeling your chest squeeze through the entire range of motion when
performing pec deck flies, or squeezing your biceps through the
entire range of motion of a dumbbell curl.
In certain exercises, many different muscles are stimulated in one
lift. However, some of those muscles used reach temporary muscular
failure before others. For example, when you perform the bench
press exercise, you are using your pectorals, as well as your
triceps and front deltoids. Since your triceps and front deltoids
are smaller muscles, they will likely reach muscular failure before
your pectorals. To compensate for this, you can perform dumbbell
flies first, which will isolate and exhaust the pectorals.
Afterwards, when you perform the bench press exercise, the
pectorals, which are already tired, will go to a fatigue at the
same time as the other muscles.
The priority principle is one technique used to develop a complete
and balanced physique. It allows you to work on weak areas, while
also developing a full physique while training your strong areas as
well. Regardless of genetic predisposition, everyone has certain
areas which are lagging in comparison to the others, or even
certain aspects of individual muscles which are not as complete in
proportion to the muscle as a whole (ie, many individuals who are a
lagging upper or outer chest, but a full, and balanced lower
chest). Some tips on using the priority principle in your training
are listed below:
(1) You can train a certain body part
immediately after rest day so that it is fresh, recuperated and
(2) You can train a certain body part
at the beginning of your training to ensure quality repetitions are
achieved rather than after when the muscles become more fatigued.
An example of this would be the pairing of back and biceps in a
total body split. If biceps are trained immediately after back, the
biceps will be pre fatigued to a certain degree as a result, and
the training focus may not be as intense as it could have been.
Although it is not the weight you lift, but the form, many would
argue that this does not matter, but to really isolate a certain
muscle, it is helpful to train it at the beginning of the workout
when glycogen stores and motivation are at there peaks.
(3) Be specific with your exercises
and ensure that they will help you achieve the goal you have in
mind. If your goal is a defined look, you will want to perform high
rep range, in the range of 12 - 20 repetitions for example, where,
if your goal is to develop mass, you will want to keep your
repetitions in the 6 - 12 rep range.
(4) Use training intensity techniques
specifically on lagging muscles or muscle groups to bring them up
to the standard you would like.
(5) Remember to use perfect form in
all your exercises to blast and bomb your muscles in various ways
to create the mass and definition you are looking to achieve.
Bodybuilding involves progressive resistance training, always
using a low percentage of your one rep maximum (1RM). Usually this
percentage is around 75% - 85%. You need to gradually increase the
weight you use, keeping within a rep range. This way, you will
continue to challenge your muscles as they get stronger. By
continually testing and training using your one rep maximums, you
will be training for power, which will sculpt your body in another
way, generally making the muscles thicker and more dense, but doing
less for mass gains than recreational bodybuilding. The goal in
either case, is to push the body far enough so it adapts and makes
new gains, but not far enough that it causes an injury. If you are
looking to bench press or squat with three plates a side, that is
an excellent goal, however, you need to be sure to work up to it
gradually, and have safety as your number one priority, and only
perform these types of lifts with a spotter by your side.
The Psycho Set shocking method is similar ascending or descending
sets but where you surprise your muscles by frequently changing the
weight / number of reps.
You can pyramid the weight to ensure proper muscle warm - up. This
may take the place of stretching or other conventional warm ups,
because by pyramiding you prepare your muscles for the lifts ahead,
and reduce your chances of injury. For example, you can start with
60% of your maximum lifting weight, and gradually increase the
poundage during each subsequent set.
Quality Training Principle
A type of workout used just prior to a competition in which the
lengths of rest intervals between sets are progressively reduced to
increase overall training intensity and to help further define the
physique. You can incorporate this training principle in your
workouts to help you develop mass and muscle symmetry.
Rather than ending your set after taking a heavy weight to
failure, rest for 10-15 seconds and then bang out another rep or
two. It is also possible to go on to alternate work with rest until
the muscles you are using are completely fatigued. Rest-pause
should never be done without a spotter present.
Riot Bombing Principle
Riot bombing works two opposing muscle groups in superset fashion. Riot bombing incorporates
several sets while doing so.
Set System Training Principle
If you perform many sets per workout, as many as three to four per
exercise, you will completely exhaust each muscle group and
stimulate maximum muscle hypertrophy. Remember, this extra
intensity works effectively to pack on mass, but should only be
done once every month or so to shock the system into new
Split System Training Principle
To increase the overall intensity of training, hit no more than
two bodyparts during a single workout. This not only allows you to
perform more exercises and sets for a particular bodypart, but also
gives each bodypart more time to rest and recuperate between
Staggered sets involve doing a number of sets of a body part you
want to train with increased intensity in between other exercises
throughout your workout. For example, when doing barbell curls, you
can rest during a period when you perform leg presses, and then
continue on with barbell curls, followed by a set of squats. By the
end of your workout you will have completed primarily barbell
curls, while also working your legs, and do another biceps workout
several days later to really spawn muscular growth.
The stripping method involves reducing the weight you use as you
begin to fail at the end of a set, so that you can continue to do
more repetitions. When you come to an end of an exercise of a given
set with a certain weight, you may or may not be surprised to know
that performing additional sets immediately following the initial
set is feasible if you reduce the weight. The main benefit of this,
is that each time you take a plate off and reduce the poundage to
perform additional sets, the muscle(s) which you are working are
forced to recruit additional muscle fibers. Similarly to the cheat
rep method, the stripping method is best performed at the end of a
workout, during your last set. At this time, muscle fiber
recruitment will be at its peak. An example of this can be seen
with individuals who start a dumbbell curl exercise, and perform it
until they have reached temporary muscular failure, they then take
another weight off the rack, which they feel they can handle for a
few more quality repetitions, and recruit new muscle fibers to
achieve temporary muscular failure once again. This is a very
effective shocking method.
Supersets are two exercises being performed in a row. It is also
possible to perform three exercises in a row in the same manner.
Not everyone will have the endurance necessary to do supersets, but
the skill will develop quickly with hard work and proper training.
Below are the two methods of supersetting:
(1) Performing two slightly different
movements for the same muscle group back to back
(2) Performing two movements for
different muscle groups back to back
It is amazing that right after a set of bench press, for example,
the body has the ability to perform a full set of an exercise using
the same muscle group, only performed slightly differently (such as
dumbbell flies, or cable crossovers). You can use the priority
principle to help any lagging muscle or muscle group, such as the
thickness of your upper back, or the fullness of your chest, or the
peak of your biceps. Many people have improved their physiques and
developed the look they were aiming for through the use of this
Go to: All Intensity
Principles - In Detail
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