T Nation

Adjusting to Intensity

I was wondering, is it possible to adjust (more or less) to a certain intensity level and if so how?

When I say adjust I’m not talking about adding mass after a workout, hormonal response to exercise, or burning out form over training. I just just mean getting to the end of the workout without craping out half-way through.

One way I see it is to keep the volume low and the weights super heavy.

Depends on what you mean. If you mean can you adjust to going to failure all the time (which seems to be implied by what you said) then no, you can’t adjust to it. Your nervous system won’t let you.

If you want to adjust to a higher level of intensity, the way to go is to lift frequently, heavy but NEVER to failure. For example, do triples with your 5-rep max. Olympic lifters and many powerlifters train this way. This method is designed to train your nervous system as much as grow your muscles.

If you don’t have a caloric surplus, all it can do is train your nervous system - useful for lifters who want to stay in a weight class.

Of course, intensity can mean a variety of things. For the HIT Jedis, it is all about going to failure. The truest definition of intensity is probably the % of your 1RM - but then again, as Dan John pointed out in his latest article, a 1RM can mean a number of different things. O-lifters would normally take this to mean the % of the max you were capable of on the day.

Another method to train the nervous system, used by many powerlifters, is speed work. This uses weights only around 50% 1RM, moved as fast as possible, in low rep sets (doubles or triples). The reasoning behind this is that weights around this level generate the maximum force (remember F=mA from high school physics).

The high acceleration more than compensates for the lower mass. by generating the maximum force, this maximises muscle fiber recruitment.

[quote]Sliver wrote:
I was wondering, is it possible to adjust (more or less) to a certain intensity level and if so how?

When I say adjust I’m not talking about adding mass after a workout, hormonal response to exercise, or burning out form over training. I just just mean getting to the end of the workout without craping out half-way through.[/quote]

If you’re a beginner, it will take several weeks (even months) for your body to adapt. That’s why beginners should start out with programs of 1-3 sets and 8-12 reps per exercise until the central nervous system and muscles can adjust.

Also, another reason you may be “crapping out” part way through a workout could be a lack of nutrition. Do you eat 5-7 small meals per day? Do you get enough calories? Do you eat 30-60 minutes before you workout? Do you eat after you workout?

What type of training program are you following? I highly recommend whole-body workouts and upper/lower body splits for beginners. Once you build a decent base of strength, then it’s time to add weight, lower the reps and stick with some tried and true strength and mass programs (5x5) using full-body workouts.

I know someone who drinks a strong caffeine shake with protein and carbs at the begining of his workout, he never seems to crap out.
Also what works for me when I go through an overtraining week, as I feel myself starting to feel like shit, I take a 3-5 minute break concentrate on what I am in the gym for focus on that hard.

Get on the bike for 2 or 3 minutes get my heart rate up a little then do my next set as hard as I can.