Intensity: What Is It?
What does it mean to say that something is “intense”?
Intensification refers to increasing the amount of work done over time.
For example, if you were working out at a gym where you could lift 100 pounds for 5 reps, but then had to do 50 pushups after your workout because there was no weight room equipment available, would you feel like your workout was intensifying or de-focusing?
If so, you might want to change up your routine.
On the other hand, if you are doing a workout with weights and you have to lift 200 pounds for 10 reps, would that make your workout intensifying or de-focusing?
The difference between intensification and de-focusing is often overlooked when it comes to strength training. When most people think of intensity they tend to think of how much weight one lifts or how many repetitions they perform. However, what they may not realize is that intensity can refer to several things. One of those things is the mental state one enters into during a workout.
When someone says their workouts are intense, they’re probably referring to two different aspects of intensity:
1) How hard you train; and 2) Your mindset while training.
Most of the time when people talk about training intensely, they are usually referring to how hard they train. For example, someone who trains with higher volume and higher frequency is going to train less intensely (and with less weight) than someone who trains with lower volume and lower frequency. The less you work out, the less intense your workouts are going to be.
De-focusing is a way of training that is less intense. When training in a focused manner, you are going to put more pressure on a particular muscle group. Someone who trains in a de-focused manner is going to emphasize the overloading of multiple body parts during a given workout.
As such, this type of training is going to be less intense.
De-focusing involves the use of compound or isolation exercises that target several major muscle groups, or training opposing muscle groups with different rep ranges. For example, if you were to bench press for a rep range of 3-5 and then do dumbbell flyes for 10-12 reps, you would be de-focused. Alternatively, a focused approach would involve training either bench or flyes for a higher number of reps.
One reason why someone might prefer de-focused training is because it gives them more of a “pump”. The term “pump” refers to the feeling one gets when their muscles are engorged with blood. Some people believe that when you train a particular muscle group with higher reps your body is fooled into thinking that it needs more blood in that part of your body.
As a result, it sends more blood to that region, which helps the person feel more pumped up.
De-focused training is also beneficial for someone who wants to build endurance without adding more resistance. Someone who wants to have great endurance in say arm exercises, can perform multiple exercises that target the arms without having to add more weight. For example, they could do 3 sets of 10 push-ups, 3 sets of 10 hammer curls and 3 sets of 10 tricep extensions.
This would allow them to work the muscles more without having to lift heavier weights, which would increase strength.
Someone who is looking to increase their strength would be better off focusing during their workouts. During a focused workout, one would perform a compound movement either for low reps or for a high amount of reps. For example, someone could do 5 sets of 3 bench presses for low reps.
Alternatively, they could do 5 sets of 8 pull-ups for higher reps. It’s important to note that in this case, the exercises should be focused on the same muscle group (e.g. chest or back).
Focusing is beneficial for someone who is looking to increase strength because it helps them achieve progressive overload. Progressive overload refers to the gradual increase in stress that you place on your body. In order to make a muscle stronger, you must place a burden on it that is greater than what it is used to dealing with.
When you complete this process, your body responds by getting stronger so that it can handle future burdens of a similar nature. This is how muscles grow in response to the stress you place on them.
As you can see, de-focused and focused training each have their benefits. While focused training is good for strength or endurance, someone who trains de-focused will be able to build endurance without having to increase the weight that they lift. However, someone who trains focused will be able to increase strength without having to increase the reps that they lift.
Personally, I would recommend that a beginner or intermediate lifter focus on their workouts. Once you reach an advanced level, you’ll probably want to start implementing more de-focused training into your routine.
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