Increasing Workout Intensity

Intensity is a key to achieving natural strength gains and muscle growth. Some people find that they get added training intensity by visualizing a workout in their minds the night before they go to the gym. This should be done in a quiet, comfortable setting, such as a peaceful corner of your house or when you’re in bed before falling asleep. The mental imagery of going through the steps of a training session can help your mind to focus on the task to come. It may even aid the subconscious in preparing for the next day’s lifting.

To maximize the effectiveness of this method, you must push all extraneous thoughts out of your mind so it can concentrate on the task at hand. You can do this in a variety of ways ranging from meditation to conventional relaxation techniques. In each case, the mind must be emptied of random thoughts and all the static that usually bombards us. Focus on one particular thought and dwell on it until it dominates your entire mind. This thought can be as simple as repeating the word “relax” over and over, or it can be a mantra-like those used in Eastern meditation. Concentrating on your breathing may also help, especially if you count to 10 while doing it. Another method is to alternate flexing and relaxing each body part, starting with your feet and continuing muscle by muscle until you reach your neck.

Experiment to find the technique that works best for you, and then focus on those words, breaths, or movements until they become the only things you think about. You’ll probably find that thoughts pop into your head even when you don’t want to think about them, including thoughts that haven’t reached your conscious mind yet. Don’t try to suppress them. You can’t keep the genie in the bottle. Let all of them out so they can escape. Then your mind will be free to concentrate on the task at hand: tomorrow’s workout.

Visualize all of the exercises you will do tomorrow. Imagine yourself achieving the short-term goal you have set for that day. If you have decided to go for an extra 10 pounds on an exercise without reducing the number of repetitions you do, picture yourself executing that movement in your mind. Count the reps as you do them. Now visualize yourself pumping out that final repetition, straining as you know you must against a piece of iron that seems to get heavier by the instant. Yet you don’t give in. No, you achieve the goal you have set for yourself. Mission accomplished. Now all you have to do is go to the gym and repeat the exercise!

In order to get the greatest benefit from aerobic training, you should perform your aerobic activities at an intensity level that is from 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. The body has two energy pathways for exercise: anaerobic and aerobic.

The anaerobic system produces energy without oxygen, while the aerobic system needs oxygen to provide energy. Anaerobic energy is the type predominantly used for progressive resistance training. Aerobic activity, on the other hand, uses oxygen. This is important because the fatty acids in the body can only be burned in the presence of oxygen.

Doing your aerobics at an intensity that is more than 80 percent of your maximum heart rate will bring the anaerobic energy systems back into play, and anything less than 60 percent will be so low that you’ll need to spend a lot longer exercising to burn the fat you want to get rid of. It’s also less exercise for your cardiovascular system.

To determine your maximum heart rate per minute, subtract your age from 220. (Your maximum rate declines with age.) Then multiply that rate by 60 and 80 percent to determine your desired range of heartbeats. You can measure your heart rate by taking your pulse manually or by using one of the machines now on the market.

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