Optimal Training Intensity
One of the most difficult things for a bodybuilder to figure out is how to train at the optimal intensity. Since this is vastly different for individuals, it doesn't lend itself to a basic recommendation for everyone. While certain methods work well for almost all trainees, they still are not optimized for anyone. Therefore we need a method of quantifying our training. Over the past few years I've been working on a training system that can be adapted for everyone, is simple to use, and gets optimal results. A tall order. However there is one key that I stumbled across, quite by accident, about a year ago.
I had decided that the current training methods just didn't add up in the real world of the drug free bodybuilder. First I started by cutting way down on the volume of training I was doing, and got great results. Then I decided that maybe even cutting down the frequency would help as well. As the body progresses it has a harder time sustaining new growth while maintaining the current body composition. Your body can only utilize a very specific amount of nutrients at a given time and this limits the speed at which you can recuperate from training. It follows that if you increase your body mass, and therefore the amount of waste produced, the body needs more time to remove these waste products and repair any damage done. In short, every time your body reaches a plateau in training it has reached a level of development beyond its current ability to recuperate in the time allowed and we must increase the amount of time between workouts.
The question I had now was, how could I tell that I was getting near overtraining or beginning to plateau before my body began to show signs physically. Also, how could I specifically track my progress beyond that of just sets, reps and weight. Looking for new information I decided that I had to go beyond current bodybuilding myths and get some real facts. I decided to utilize some basic principles, physics principles that is. The body is essentially and machine, and each muscle an engine. After a short talk with my physics professor I decided that I had to use some basic math to monitor the body's output during a workout. The natural choice was to track work done, just like an engine's power is measured. However, since we don't think in terms of horsepower in the gym, I had to find other means. In physics work is defined as:
W = F*d/t or Force multiplied by distance divided by time.
Ok so I had somewhere to start. There's just one problem. How do I know the distance in a bench press? And what about negative contraction? According to physics there is no work done by the lifter in a static or negative contraction phase. How could this be true, since we all know that doing negatives is indeed very results producing? As it turns out, for our purposes, the distance traveled is irrelevant. (Again according to my prof.) We are not really interested in the work done but rather the intensity of effort. This is a very important point, as this means that we can ignore the distance of travel entirely. What we are left with then is:
W = F/t
Normally force is measured in terns of joules or kilojoules. Totally irrelevant. We are interested in weight (actually mass but you get the idea). We can then express this calculation in terms of
F/t = Weight lifted / time in seconds.
If I bench 225 pounds for 10 reps in 15 seconds I simply make the calculation:
225 * 10 / 15 = 2250/15 = 150 pounds per second.
I call this number the Intensity Index (II) since it isn't really the same calculation as the one we demonstrated for Work. There may be a physical calculation for intensity, but this one works just fine for our purposes so why mess with it.
This allows you to take time into consideration in your training. This is very important, since muscle responds to time under tension as well as weight lifted. If multiple sets are done you simply start the clock at the beginning of the first work set and keep it running until the end of your last work set. You will also notice with this type of training that you can quickly learn the optimal number of set so for you. If you add a set and your numbers are still higher, you have done a good thing for your training. If however, you add a set and you weight per second decreases, then you have gone over your optimal number of sets. The same is true for the number of reps done per set. Every change will affect your numbers, letting you know how you are progressing. If you are doing everything right your numbers should be always increasing. If the numbers start to level out you are beginning to plateau, and you should add a days rest between your training sessions.
This is much more precise than the more primitive methods of controlling rep speed and time between sets in order to create an artificial control of time. I.e. if you do 10 reps at 6 seconds per rep and then only rest for exactly one minute, your time is always the same. This can work but how do you know what the optimum rep speed, rest time, and number of reps and sets? With these older methods it would take many years of trial and error to get the right numbers. Doesn't that make this method so much more efficient? I suspect that it is. You can be the judge. If you would like more in depth information on training systems like this Click Here to check out Peter Sisco's e-book "Train Smart." Peter provides a true scientific basis for bodybuilding training.
Best of luck;