Your Friendly Neighborhood Gym Girl: Intensity Techniques

Throughout my 20’s I was pretty consistent with weight-training because I genuinely enjoyed being at the gym. I pushed myself to increase my weights steadily over the years, and I saw some decent muscle development. What was missing from my training regiment back then, to maximize the results I was working hard for, was the application of intensity techniques. Some exercises were so enjoyable and gratifying for me that I could do them day after day, month after month, and not feel the itch to mix up my regimen.

Until I started surrounding myself with more serious athletes, and started a coaching program run by a pro fitness model, I was oblivious to the value of mixing up my training routine. For years I trained upper body on one day, lower body on the next day, and always performed three sets of ten reps (HEY, I was young and uninformed, what can I say?). I lifted fairly heavy for a youngster, yet my muscles were a fraction of the size they are now. I see many gym rats hammering out their training days like this. This may be why their for or five years of consistent training hasn’t brought them the insanely impressive results that reflect the hours they spent in the gym.

For those who are looking to take their weight training to a more efficient level, or for those who are beginners and are not familiar with all the fun techniques you can apply to your sets to maximize results, let’s break it down, shall we? Consider applying these intensity techniques in your next gym session to keep things interesting, keep puddles of sweat forming on the gym floor around you, and to see an increase in your muscle mass.


The first time I heard of this concept was with Suicide Curls when I was younger. It was the one exercise I knew that involved drop-setting. I delivered my standard 10 curls at a high weight with a straight bar on a low pulley, and then quickly moved the pin up the stack a couple of plates and performed as many reps as I could at that lighter weight. Then I moved the pin again to an even lighter plate, and performed as many curls as I could until reaching failure at that weight too. This is the concept of drop-setting — continuing to reduce the weight and lifting to failure at each weight. Ideally when you reach an insanely light weight, your muscles will feel so maxed out that you can barely get out two or three reps. Depending on your goals you can try reducing weight in large increments, or in tighter increments.


This is a simple concept that will allow you to lift more reps overall in a set. When you lift a weight to the point of failure, try resting for three breaths and then attempt three more reps. I’m sure some athletes rest for more breaths or less, but I like three. You can apply this intensity technique in various ways to suit your schedule. Sometimes I do it with every set. Sometimes if I am aiming for five sets, I’ll apply rest-pause to the last two sets only. This is also helpful if you just increased your weight and know you may only be able to hammer out a few reps. Instead of giving up after only three reps at a new weight, it might pay off to rest-pause and then lift a couple more.


This technique involves two exercises, usually with the same body part, but could be different muscle groups within it. One might pair up two exercises on arm day where one exercise works the triceps and one works the biceps. With super-setting you will perform a set with one exercise and with a little rest in between, you will complete a set for a completely different exercise. The idea is to work your way back and forth between the two exercises, and it sure helps if each piece of exercise equipment or weights are close to each other. If you are working out on a piece of equipment that could also serve as a bench, you might want to have a dumbbell handy to incorporate into a super-set exercise. I like super-setting an exercise like bicep pull-ups with triceps kickbacks. It’s easy to bring a light dumbbell over to the pull-up area, and then lean over a machine or a seat to complete the kickbacks. You can apply this to shoulder days with dumbbell flies between an Arnold Press too. The combinations are endless.

Ever since I started incorporating these techniques, I always leave the gym knowing I delivered 100 percent effort in my session. I’ve never sweated so much during weight training, and I’ve never had such speedy results. I also found these techniques to maximize my efficiency when I had to lift with lighter weights during injury recovery. These techniques helped me reach failure when I had to lower my weights, and helped to prevent me from losing muscle before a competition. I’m sure you’re already thinking of ways you can mix up your routine now. Please feel free to share your favorite intensity training techniques.

Happy Lifting!

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1 comment for “Your Friendly Neighborhood Gym Girl: Intensity Techniques

  1. November 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Good stuff Mindy! I actually recently did an entire month using almost all pause rest as an experimentation and the results were petty amazing. The increase in strength in the lifts from week 1 to week 4 were pretty dramatic. It also seemed to carry over into my other lifts when I switched it up again.

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