There are times when we all require a modification to increase or decrease our intensity level. And, most exercises have numerous possible intensity modifications. Consequently, all fitness professionals should be well versed in the process of creating intensity modifications for each exercise, for each client. However, what do you do when you are not training with your personal trainer or coach and you require a muscular strength training intensity modification for an exercise?
There are a few fundamentals to apply, that may enable you to modify the intensity of a muscular strength training exercise safely and effectively. Adhering to the fundamentals and not becoming too creative is key since the average individual generally does not possess the body of knowledge necessary to design advanced level intensity modifications. And, the basics work really well in many circumstances, so learning these principles may go a long way toward enabling you to progress or regress even when training solo. This week, consider utilizing the following featured three fundamentals of Muscular Strength Training Intensity Modifications 101. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician. *Position/range of motion/direction/compound/multi-muscled/isolation/reps/sets, etc. all play a role in modifying intensity; however, the following, are three basics.
Principle #1 Increase or Decrease in External Load. If you are 100 percent in control of your entire range of motion when muscular strength training and you begin to achieve momentary muscle failure, the simplest solution, so that you may continue training without breaking form, is to decrease the load. If you are training with external load, a 2.5 percent decrease in that load may allow you perform the remainder of your repetitions safely and effectively. Conversely, if you are not achieving momentary muscle failure in the final two repetitions, then you may not be training intensely enough. To increase load may or may not be possible if you are structurally unable to safely manage the next logical increment of load. Therefore, if you need to increase load, do so by 1 or 2% and confirm that you feel 100 percent in control of that additional load. Remember, you may always “regress” back to the previous load if you begin to experience failure prior to the end of your designated set.
Principle #2 Lever Length. For example, if you are performing a long lever lateral raise (shoulder abduction targeting the medial deltoids) and you begin to fail, shortening the lever to 90 degrees of elbow flexion without changing the lateral raise movement pattern or the external load, will lessen the intensity since you are shortening the lever regressing the exercise. This may allow you to continue training without stopping entirely and over time this process may allow you to progress toward performing the entire set without shortening the lever length leading to muscular strength gains (progression).
Principle #3 Rate of speed. The rate of speed you are performing your repetitions will also play a role in dictation of intensity. When concentrating on rate of speed, it should generally be slow, two counts each direction or longer, controlling the external load safely/effectively. Faster rates of speed generally either encourage out of control movements, which may be unsafe or a reduced load which then may sabotage the primary purpose of muscular strength training.