Intensity techniques / Advanced techniques of strength training

Intensity techniques are any techniques that force a workout beyond the normal level. For advanced bodybuilders and competitive athletes seeking forced muscle growth, they are techniques for extending the series to induce more intense muscle depletion than with “standard” methods.

Advantages and benefits of intensity techniques

Intesity techniques should only be used by experienced athletes because, firstly, they place a very intense load on the muscle and, secondly, some of them carry a significantly increased risk of injury.

However, if used correctly, they can or will help you to

  • Enable new muscle growth.
  • Overcome performance plateaus.
  • Gain new motivation and avoid boredom in training.
  • Shorten the duration of workout sessions (depending on technique).
  • Relieve the strain on your joints, as you can train with significantly less weight due to the higher intensity.

The most important intensity techniques

Intensity techniques that you can do alone

Muscle failure

The classic muscle failure is used very often to increase intensity. It is done by consequently performing the exercise in the last set until the trained muscle fails.

For basic exercises such as squats or deadlifts, which are trained with heavy weights, this intensity technique should be avoided. For all exercises that pose a risk of injury due to muscle failure (such as bench press, where the weight will inevitably fall on your chest if the muscle fails) this technique must only be performed with a spotter who will take the weight off you in case of muscle failure.

Drop Sets

Drop sets are a very high intensity training technique that should be used infrequently to avoid overtraining.
You first perform the exercise as usual until muscle failure. Then you reduce the weight, so that again some clean repetitions are possible up to the renewed muscle failure. Then reduce again and so on.

Peak contraction

Peak contraction, as an intensity technique, can also help force muscles to grow to their maximum. This is achieved by tensing the muscle to the maximum in the final position (peak contraction).

Typically, this contraction is held for about 2 seconds, but the peak contraction may well last for several seconds.

Partial repetitions

Partial repetitions are an intensity technique in which the repetitions are only partially performed. Who would have thought that? The full range of motion is not achieved. Partial repetitions are mainly used when the strength slowly decreases with increasing sets and the athlete reaches the point where a full repetition is no longer possible.

So you first perform your set as usual. If the strength at the end of the set is no longer sufficient for a full repetition, you add a few only partially performed repetitions.

Supersets (antagonistic sets)

Supersets or antagonistic sets not only increase your workout intensity – they also really save you time. They are also one of those intensity techniques that can easily be used when you are training alone.

Their execution is also very simple:

  • Choose two exercises that train different muscle groups. Preferably one agonist and its antagonist (such as biceps and triceps). In this example, this would be: Biceps curls and triceps press.
  • Perform the biceps curls as you normally would.
  • Immediately after, perform a set of triceps presses.
  • This is followed by a short rest. This combination of a set of curls and triceps press is called a superset.
  • This is followed by another superset and so on.

Supersets have the added benefit of training the cardiovascular system.

Compound Sets

Compound Sets work the same as drop sets (see above). The difference is that not two antagonistic exercises are performed, but two that target the same muscle or muscle group. Often a basic exercise is chosen first and then an isolation exercise.

Sets of 21

This is a very well-known and at the same time very effective technique to advance muscle building. With the sets of 21 you do different than usual only partial repetitions.

The sets of 21 are basically very simple to explain.

  • You perform 3×7 repetitions,
  • of which the first 7 repetitions are only executed from 0-90° (the first half of the range of motion),
  • the second 7 repetitions are executed from 90-180° (the second half of the range of motion),
  • the last 7 repetitions are over the full range of motion.

So you divide the exercises range of motion into 2 halves and train the full range of motion again in the last sequence!

Super Slow

Super Slow is an intensity technique in which the repetitions – as the name suggests – are performed extremely slowly in order to increase the load on the target muscles. Each repetition is performed in a very controlled manner, which of course requires an exact mastery of the exercises.

Due to the high load, significantly less weight is moved during super-slow training, and in addition, attention can be paid to exact execution.This in turn significantly reduces the risk of injury. Often in the last sets the own body weight is sufficient to load the respective muscle to the maximum.

In the Super Slow technique, the excentric and concentric movements take 5 to 10 seconds (5/5 or 10/10), while the highest and lowest points are paused for about 1 to 2 seconds.


FST-7 is the abbreviation for “Fascia Stretch Training.” The technique aims to include not only the muscles, but also the fasciae – connective tissue structures that surround the muscles – in the workout. In this technique, the regular sets are followed by another exercise for the respective muscle group, in which a total of 7 sets of 7 repetitions are completed.

The focus of these 7 sets should be on the pump. This is achieved by reducing the weight so that 7 repetitions can be completed.
Athletes should fully concentrate on the target muscles and maintain the pump even during the short break of 20 to 30 seconds betwenn the sets in which the weight is held in the stretched position before another set follows.
This continuous tension can increase the muscle pump once again, since the muscles are supplied with blood to the maximum after the FST-7.

Pyramid training

The so-called pyramid training is suitable for beginners and professionals alike, as the muscles are initially prepared for heavier weights by relatively many but light repetitions from set to set.

In the example, you start with a lower weight load and try to perform 20 repetitions. In the next set, you increase the training weight so that you can perform just 15 repetitions with it. This continues until you only manage one repetition in the last set with a clean technique until muscle failure occurs.

The number of steps and repetitions as well as the training weights of the pyramid can, of course, be individually adjusted and freely selected.

scheme of pyramid training
Example scheme of pyramid training

Intensity techniques that require a training partner

Forced repetitions (intensive repetitions)

Forced repetitions, also called intensive repetitions among professionals, are extremely effective for training variety and intensity increase. To perform them, at least one training partner is needed to assist the movement of the exercise as much as necessary when the athlete can no longer perform a complete repetition with his own strength.

The training partner helps with the movement just enough so that the athlete can finish the exercise correctly and without stalling. Usually 2 to 3 forced repetitions are performed.

Negative repetitions

Negative repetitions are one of the most effective and popular intensity techniques, but they also carry a certain risk of injury. And they require a training partner.

The partner supports only the positive part of the repetition (concentric movement), while you must perform the negative repetition (eccentric movement) on his own. This allows you to perform the exercise with more weight than you would choose if you were performing it alone. The eccentric stimulus is therefore particularly high.

Continue Reading