Rooted in Intensity

Our first, biggest piece of exercise info for 2017 is going to assume one thing and one thing only…that you are actually going to exercise…regularly. That said, of all the aspects of getting in great shape, intensity is the most misunderstood and overlooked.

First you have the noisy camp which sells intensity as an explosive, fast moving and often loud aspect of exercise. This supposedly ‘hardcore’ approach mixes up putting on a performance (for oneself if not others ;n) for actual physical output of intensity. It runs high on ‘hype’ motivation, a bit high on injuries and somewhat low on lasting results.


Second you have the groups who think that the longer, sweatier and more out of breath you get during a workout the more intense you are exercising. This gang chases burning calories and having killer cardio hoping it will translate into boundless energy and fine body lines.


We won’t waste your time being critical about these types of intensity, as long as you play safe and accept the outcomes. Here is what physiology…or we should say ‘what we think physiology says’ is effective exercise intensity and how to harness it.

Intensity in exercise means taxing, together,  your present strength and stamina. Effective intensity is doing this to momentary ‘full fatigue’. It doesn’t mean how tricky can you make a movement nor does it mean cheating your actions at any cost to get out another rep. It means honest tapping of all your present ability as it relates to pure muscular output.

We’ll admit there are many ways to provide true intensity to your exercise and we happily hack most of them but the best place to start is simple:

a) Pick 6 straightforward exercises, 2 pushing moves, 2 pulling moves and 2 lower body moves.

b) Learn proper basic form in each and how much resistance you can handle safely in each.

c) Next prepare mentally. What you are going to do is picture yourself doing all 6 exercises in a row with almost no rest in between sets. You aren’t going to rush, you aren’t going to rest or cheat. You just want to see how many clean reps you can get in each movement without speeding up, contorting or throwing around any of the weight.

d) Test and format. What you want to do is pick weights that see you hitting a point of full muscular fatigue in about 60-90 seconds. Go more towards 60 for men and more towards 90 for woman. What you do is try all 6 movements in a row and time yourself on each movement and see how long it takes you to fatigue. Just track with a stopwatch and if you couldn’t go at least 60 seconds without cheating lower the weight slightly. If you could keep going longer than 90 seconds then increase the weight a bit. Don’t fuss too much, you can fine tune the weight after a couple of workouts.



Here the goal is just to learn intensity – to learn to keep trying during a set even when you feel the need to stop BUT without cheating. Don’t sell yourself short, when you think you are done typically you can do 5 more reps! At times it seems impossible but is just noise from your nervous system and with practice it will become background noise rather than an in your face alarm. If you learn control of form, build stamina from not resting between sets and fully acclimatize to high intensity you will, in just a month or two, get to where most lifters take years to get arrive at.

This is what you practice a few times per week. You do all 6 exercises one after the other testing the feel and the weight, basically working at a 8-9 out of 10 intensity. Next take a full 2-4 minute break and do it all again at a 9-10 in intensity. On the first round really pay attention to feel and form as well as not holding your breath. On the second round focus on continuing each rep until it just naturally stalls on it’s own.

Have a look at Mike’s workout in the video, you can substitute exercises like push ups, chin ups and different types of squats. You can begin with the leg exercises rather than finishing with them but maintain the push/pull back and forth format. This is all about focus and control like trying to run up a steep hill where you feel like you might have to give up before the top but you just buckle down and finish.

Next post we’ll address volume/length of workout and you can see Mike go through 12 sets doubling his volume.

And as you can see this won’t take much time* so no excuses for not doing this a few times per week! Check back again for more tips.


Andrew and Tierney


* And if you felt you could have performed a 3rd run through the workout…you didn’t train hard enough the 2nd time!



2 Replies to “Rooted in Intensity”

  1. Moe Chartrand says:

    Best blog I’ve read in a long time. Along with the video I feel this a great explanation of Intensity

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