Fitness Trail: 3 ways to add intensity |

Fitness Trail: 3 ways to add intensity

Jackie Wright

When experiencing a plateau performing a muscular strength training program, the tendency is to increase the external resistance. However, everyone reaches a point when they can no longer lift a heavier external load. So, how do you break through the plateaus?

There are many methods of increasing intensity aimed at increasing muscular strength levels. This week we will feature three of those methods. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

1. Slow down the tempo — There has been a great deal of research on very slow tempo training. While there is value in that type of training, what we are referring to is simply slowing down the tempo of the training. So, while power training where explosive exertion is expected, slower tempo training concentrates on building muscular strength by applying a principle known as “time under tension”.

Keeping the muscle group under tension longer, may provide a safer environment for training as there is additional time allotted for proper form and technique, but it may also increase muscular strength levels by requiring the muscle to remain under tension longer which may physiologically “change” the muscle.

2. Change your body position — Where your body is in relationship to gravity is critical when training with external resistance (i.e. free weights, plate loaded equipment, cable-pulley functional stations and in most cases, resistive tubing).

Therefore, changing your body position when performing muscular strength training exercises may increase the intensity due to a different stress-adaptation component.

If you are accustomed to performing lunges holding dumbbells or with a barbell from the shoulders, from the floor, try doing so from an elevated platform, placing the front foot on an 8 inch step-bench with the back leg trailing and back heel elevated throughout. Or, attempt the lunge with the trailing leg elevated and the front foot on the floor.

You may need to decrease the amount of external resistance initially to enable the body to stabilize from the new position, but over time, you may be able to progress, gradually adding back in the original external resistance and perform the exercise from the new position.

3. Change the equipment — If you are a die-hard free weight enthusiast, think out of that box and perform your classic strength training exercises with different equipment such as resistive tubing, kettlebells, cable-pulley systems, Smith Machines, and medicine balls.

Not only may this increase the intensity, but it may help keep you firmly on your fitness journey providing variety and continued increases in intensity leading to muscular strength gains. And, as I always remind my clientele, there is no downside to becoming stronger!

Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness in Granby, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at and her email at

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