The Top 5 Training Intensity Mistakes

...and how to fix them.


It's no wonder so many of us fail to bring the proper intensity to our workouts, for intensity is one of the most misunderstood concepts in bodybuilding. For powerlifters and other strength athletes, it means training heavy. For others, it means training fast. And some believe it’s a test of one’s pain threshold. All of these may be components, but it’s actually a measure of how hard you train, especially in regards to pushing sets to failure and beyond. In this class, failure equals success, as we pinpoint the five most common training intensity mistakes and how to stoke your workout fires. Class is in session.



Let’s start with a definition. Failure is the point in a set when you cannot complete another full rep with good form. Not every working set needs to enter the failure zone, but many body- builders fall far short of failing on every set. Often, this is because they set a target well within their reach, hit it and quit. 


  • On a failure set, don’t bail out of a strict rep until it has stalled for at least three seconds. Then you can stop, or you can cheat just enough or get just enough assistance to finish the rep.
  • Keep a workout log, noting your personal bests in lifts. “Beating the log- book” will give you something to shoot for each workout.
  • Don’t set a rep target unless it’s beyond your full-rep comfort zone and, ideally, a personal best.
  • To safely push sets of squats and bar- bell chest presses (flat, incline or decline), as well as many other exercises, to their limit, you will need a spotter.



Cheating is the great tempter. Used correctly, it can up the intensity of sets, but it’s too often employed too soon and therefore lessens intensity. Many bodybuilders cheat (i.e., use bad form) throughout a set, and therefore transfer stress away from the targeted muscles.


  • Learn how to do each exercise with the proper form, and then practice until you have this form mastered. Warm-ups and the lighter sets of a pyramid are also like practice rounds to get you into the groove, so you can do your heaviest sets correctly.
  • Do not loosen your form until you’ve reached full-rep failure. Cheating should be used to make a set harder (pushing it beyond failure), not easier (preventing you from reaching failure via strict reps).


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