This week, we’re going to get “intense”! Adding intensity to your workout is a great way to see more results, faster. Rather than train for long periods of time, you can train harder and get out of the gym sooner. Incorporate these three training methods to crank up the intensity of your workout.
A superset is two sets of different exercises performed back-to-back. Supersetting drives you to work through more exercises in a shorter time span with fewer breaks, increasing overall intensity. There are several types of supersets. I recommend antagonistic supersets, which involve pairing opposing muscle groups (e.g., back/chest, quadriceps/hamstrings and biceps/triceps); while one works, the other rests. Antagonistic supersetting maximizes your workout time, keeps you moving and keeps muscle groups balanced. Take biceps and triceps as an example: Perform 12 bicep curls, and follow immediately with 12 tricep overhead extensions. Your biceps rest while you work your triceps, and vice versa. By training the biceps and triceps equally, you also benefit from creating muscle balance.
Integrating short 30-90 second bursts of power to your workout is a great and (relatively) easy way to add intensity. This can be a cardio burst, like a 60-second sprint, or a cardio-strength burst, like squat jumps. You can add power bursts to any routine, using either time or sets. For example, if you like to walk the treadmill for 45 minutes, add a sprint or a very high incline for 30-90 seconds every four minutes, and cut your overall treadmill time to 30 minutes. In your strength routine, replace some of your static exercises with dynamic ones. For example, change basic lunges to forward-stepping lunges or jumping lunges. Power bursts train your heart and muscles to work hard and fast — and to recover quickly. They come in handy for those times you find yourself sprinting for a bus, rushing up some stairs or leaping over an obstacle like a large puddle of water.
Multi-joint exercises that require several muscle groups to work at the same time, compound exercises are a great way to get more bang for your butt — I mean, buck! Rather than doing three sets each of chest presses, shoulder presses and 30-second hovers, you can target the same muscles in one shot with push-ups. Another option is to layer exercises together, such as a push-up with a back row to include back work, or a lunge with a bicep curl to use more muscles at once. You may already be familiar with the squat, push-up and bench press — all compound exercises. Others you can try are the pull-up, the dip and the deadlift. Besides shortening your workout time, these exercises also require more energy to perform, which burns more calories. Compound exercises offer the advantage of training different muscles to work together, improving coordination and building functional strength, which better prepares our bodies for our day-to-day activities. That said, be careful: Although the benefits are great, the risk of injury from compound activities is also greater, because you will tire more quickly. Limit the number of compound exercises within your routine by continuing to include single-joint/muscle moves (aka isolation exercises). It’s best to start your workout with the compound exercises and follow with the isolations.
By including supersets, power bursts and compound exercises, you’ll have a well-rounded high-intensity workout to strengthen and tone your body and improve your cardiovascular fitness. You can fit it all into a 30-, 45- or 60-minute workout a few times a week. Remember to give your muscles time to recover between strength-training workouts; work hard so you can play hard!
Katya Mohsen is a personal trainer with over 10 years of experience in fitness and sports training. Catch her practical fitness advice Thursdays on Slice.ca.