The scientific literature clearly delineates that intensity is the most important controllable factor (uncontrollable factors would include our genetics) in an individual’s response to an exercise program. It appears that the other variables of an exercise program, although important, are simply not as meaningful as the intensity with which we exercise. Whether you seek muscle strength, muscle endurance, caloric expenditure, or any of the innumerable health and performance benefits of exercise; intensity is paramount.
This leads us to an important (and often ignored) question: What is intensity?
Intensity can be defined as a percentage of our momentary ability to perform an exercise. Stated other wise, it has nothing to do with the amount of weight we lift, but has everything to do with our effort. Lifting a relatively heavy weight for 6 reps or a relatively light weight for 20 reps are both deemed “intense” so long as it is utterly impossible to lift a 7th rep or a 21strep. When seeking better results, faster results, or to break through a plateau, focus relentlessly on your training intensity. The most practical way to increase our intensity is to continue a set to the point of muscle failure; the point in which another perfect rep is momentarily impossible.
Most well-intended trainees err in almost the opposite direction. They add more exercises, add more sets, and/or increase the number of weekly workouts. All of these are steps in the wrong direction.
We generally don’t need MORE exercise, we need more INTENSE exercise.