The Fitness Trail: Three methods of increasing intensity |

The Fitness Trail: Three methods of increasing intensity

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(Second in a two-part series)

Last week I highlighted three “other” methods of increasing intensity when training for muscular strength beyond increasing the external load. These included slowing down the tempo of your repetitions, changing your body position and varying the equipment utilized.

This week I feature three “other” methods of increasing intensity when training for muscular strength utilizing only your body weight. Body weight training (i.e., not utilizing any external resistance or load, just your own body weight as resistance/load) is a simple, effective and practical way to train to improve muscular strength. Simple, because many body weight training exercises are not complex. Effective, because body weight is challenging to push and pull. Practical, because you may perform it just about anywhere since it requires little or no equipment. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Slow down the tempo of your repetitions

•As with external resistance muscular strength training, you may increase the intensity of a body weight exercise by slowing down the tempo of the training.

•A common error when performing classic body weight pushups is to “knock” out several dozen repetitions when you are attempting to increase your muscular strength level. The concept of performing dozens of repetitions tends to improve muscular endurance, not necessarily muscular strength. Consequently, instead of “knocking” out your pushup repetitions, slow down and as discussed last week–keep the muscle under tension longer.

•For example, attempt to lower four counts down and pushup four counts. You will be amazed how this will increase the intensity of this simple body weight exercise.

Change your body position

•Regardless of whether you are training with external resistance or body weight, the same principle applies when we are considering where the body is in relationship to gravity.

•A decline pushup (i.e. when the feet are elevated above the level of the hands) will be significantly more challenging than an elevated pushup (i.e. when the hands are elevated above the level of the feet). Why? Because the “load” will increase on the pectoral, triceps and deltoid muscle groups since the effect of gravity increases. The “load” also increases on the inner core unit muscles as these muscles attempt to stability the spine.

•Therefore, master the foundational exercise first (i.e., elevated pushup), followed by a modified, knees-down version on the floor, full pushup and then attempt the decline position.

•Pull-ups require a bar or rope to perform, but the same rule applies regarding the body’s position in relationship to gravity. You may begin with an inverted row and work your way up to a full pull-up with safe, effective and consistent training.

Increase the “load” of the body weight

•What this refers to is training with a three-point base of support rather than a four-point base during a pushup (i.e. two hands, one foot; or both feet and one hand—very difficult!). This increases the load on the upper body and the inner core unit significantly.

•There are dozens of variations on this theme, all of which will require you to master the foundational exercise first, then progress accordingly.

Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Never Summer Fitness, LLC located in Grand Lake, Colo. She may be reached at her website at, her email at, her blog at and her Facebook page at Never Summer Fitness.

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