Intensity is the name of the game. Without pressure, there is no necessity to adapt.

There are lots of ways to add intensity. Unfortunately, it’s tempting to just change exercises and experience the illusion of progress under the guise of nervous system adaptations.

Here are some ways you can increase intensity without changing exercises:

  • Increase the weight you are using. Assuming your form is good, you can add weight to the particular movement you are performing. Small jumps are best. 2.5 pounds added to a one arm 50 pound military press is a significant amount. Assuming other variables are kept the same (e.g. rest between sets, total number of sets, recovery, etc.) the amount of repetitions you can perform will go down.
  • For bodyweight exercises where you can’t add more weight, you can perform more difficult variations:
    • The embedded static protocol – this protocol has you stop and hold various portions of the negative for five seconds. It will lower your reps and increase your time under tension. It’s great for building muscle control.
    • Advanced / different variations – If you are doing squats, you could learn to do the one-legged squat. If you’re doing a kettlebell military press, you could switch to a bottom up military press which adds a balance, grip, and form component.
  • Decrease the time between sets – This challenges your recovery and builds more endurance.
  • Pre-fatigue yourself – go for a run prior to training. Not good for strength, but adds more exercise to your life.
  • Add reps – simply do more reps, ensuring you maintain good form.
  • Close your eyes – be careful, but wearing a blindfold will force you to rely on other balance and feedback mechanisms in your body, making the exercise more intense.
  • Switch to a thicker bar – Even if you’re using the same weight, a thicker bar poses more challenge as it limits your gripping capacity. Thick bars are great for strong hands.