By Tony Horton
You’re tougher than you think. The fear of pain or injury from working out is a mindset steeped in failure. You must learn to “find the line.” Do the extra rep or two, increase your range of motion, and up the resistance as you get stronger. Intensity goes hand in hand with variety and consistency. And all three factors work as a triad that creates a platform for success. Programs like P90X and 10-Minute Trainer provide variety. Your plan will keep you consistent.
Intensity is the final ingredient that gives you results. For a physiological change to occur, there first needs to be a stimulus. This stimulus comes in the form of an overload. This principle is known as GPO—gradual progressive overload. As you train over time, the overload should be slowly increased. Too much overload too quickly can result in injury. Lack of increased overload over time will result in plateaus. People who plateau often get discouraged and quit. Here are the 3 rules of intensity to help you succeed.
The 3 rules of intensity
- Find the line. The “line” is that special place you need to get to if you want any program to work. It’s the desire to do the extra reps on push-up day or increase the depth and range of motion of your lunges and squats, and not being afraid to add more weight and resistance as you get stronger. It’s discovering your pain/discomfort threshold so you can get the job done without jeopardizing good form and without injuring yourself. If you undertrain or just plain old “give up” because you “can’t” do something the first few times, then you’ll never know what it’s like to be fit and lean. Find the line, do the best you can, and maintain good form.
- The over/under. You need to understand the difference between undertraining and overtraining. Undertraining is what happens when you keep doing the same thing, with the same weights, at the same intensity, and nothing much is happening. You know you’re overtraining when you can’t get through workouts without hurling (see “Give yourself a break” in #3 below), and you’re so sore for the next 3 days that you can’t walk, sit down, or feed yourself. You’re training properly when you have some soreness in your muscles—not pain in your joints.
- Put on the “breaks.” I’m a big believer in listening to my brain’s interpretation of what’s going on with my body while I’m exercising. When looking for the “line,” you sometimes discover you’ve already gone over it. When this happens, it’s time for a break. Here’s a list of when to take breaks:
- Mid-set mini-breaks. Say you’re working your biceps and you’ve mistakenly chosen a weight that’s a bit too heavy. You’ve set a goal of 10 reps, but on rep six, you know you’re not going to make it unless you start crossing the line. Stop and hold the weights down by your side for a breath or two (chill!), and when you’re ready, continue to rep 10. You can also put the weights down and grab lighter ones. This technique will work with almost any exercise. This is why I tell you to keep your remote nearby. Think of it as a mini-vacation.
- Give yourself a break. Far too often I see people trying to be superheroes the first couple of weeks of a program. This aggressive attitude can often cause a phenomenon known as vomiting. To prevent this from happening to you, I recommend NOT trying to “push through it.” Superman wasn’t built in 2 weeks. He was born on an icy planet and . . . That’s another story. Do yourself a favor and kick it down to 80 percent when you’re starting out.
- Illness or injury breaks. If you’re getting sick or you’re injured, then do the right thing: back off, back down, or modify. Hard exercise when you’re injured or ill can be disastrous. You have to think long term. More often than not, taking a break is the smartest approach for your long-term success.
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