To me, exercise intensity is one of the most important factors to gaining mass from your gym training. I must clarify that obviously eating is the number one factor, but exercise intensity is a very close second. The problem is that most people have no idea what intensity really is–until they are shown.
Increase Intensity with Time Under Tension
One way to increase intensity is to increase the time under tension for the muscle being worked. This can be done quite simply by slowing the repetition down. By slowing things down you will keep the muscle under tension for a greater period of time. This cause more muscle fibers to be activated and extra destruction to the muscle, which spurs growth.
Increase Intensity with Sets to Failure
Most people work a prescribed number of repetitions. If their program calls for 15 repetitions, they stop at 15. The problem is that quite often they are leaving some repetitions in the bank and that's not a good thing. Try taking some or all of your sets to failure. You will force your muscles to work that much harder and spur on growth at the same time.
Increase Intensity with Drop Sets
A drop set is a simple technique. Pick up a weight that you want to use for your working set. Complete your set to failure. Now pick up a lighter weight and do more repetitions to failure. Continue to do this for a set number of attempts. This is a new favorite of mine. I enjoy using this on my shoulders and triceps. I will do a bunch of compound movements early in my shoulder workout. I will push hard through those, taking sets to failure. I will then finish off my shoulders by doing heavy laterals and drop sets. The drop sets finish off my shoulders. When I do this for my triceps I get an insane pump.
Increase Intensity with Volume
Volume is the amount of work you do during a workout. You can manipulate intensity by adjusting the volume of your workout. The added sets will fatigue your muscles. I am not a huge fan of this approach. I believe you should get the workout done in as short a time period as possible with massive intensity.
We often hear of taking sets to failure, but what does that mean exactly? My definition is taking a set to the point where you cannot do another repetition with proper form.
If you have some intensity techniques you like, please share them in the comments below.