It happens all the time in gyms the world over (I assume).
You’ll look across to see someone squatting with form that’s let’s say, less than optimal.
An injury waiting to happen sort of situation.
They’ll finish up that set, somehow without collapsing in a screaming heap, and then proceed to load more weight onto the bar.
Why though, would you load more weight onto the bar when the movement is already faulty?
Let’s get a possibly not so obvious reason out of the way first.
It’s likely that some of the time, there’s a real chance that the individual in question has little or no idea that their technique is compromised, even though we sometimes unfairly assume that they’re just being lazy or careless.
That’s not the reason I want to talk about today though.
The reason I would like to talk about is not even a bad thing in theory, and is a crucial ingredient (or should be) of an effective strength and conditioning program.
By intensity I mean the subjective type, eg. feeling that you’ve given as much of your effort as required for a session.
High intensity type training and heavy strength training have both become hugely popular in the general gym going population (read non-athlete), and for good reason, as they’re both very effective ways to improve your body composition and overall health when paired with dialled in nutrition.
The problem with these two training styles doesn’t come from the modalities themselves, but from the improper application of them.
Quantity over quality?
For a lot of people, it’s important to feel absolutely stuffed at the end of a training session, and by adding load and/or speed to the movement or session as a whole, they’ll generally achieve the desired outcome.
Adding load or increasing the speed (think more work in the same time) in isolation is a good thing, and what we should be aiming for.
The problem is doing either of those things to increase intensity when the technical proficiency of the movement isn’t there yet.
Let’s use our example of the squatter at the top of this piece.
They want to add load to their squat because it make it’s harder, and will make them stronger.
That’s a good thing.
But it’s only a good thing if the movement pattern underlying it is sound.
Our high intensity training lover wants to do ten million jumping lunges in their circuit because that’s what it takes for their legs feel like they’re going to fall off at the end of the session.
But if they don’t posses a strong lunge pattern as a bare minimum first then they’ll eventually be wishing their legs had fallen off, when their knees start sounding like cement mixers, and it hurts every joint from the ears down to sit on the toilet.
If though, they had focused on progressively building their lunge pattern, and slowly added intensity, before progressing to a jumping lunge that they’re able to perform with perfect form, plus stopping the set before fatigue turns their technique to garbage, then they’re much less likely to have issues.
Generally speaking, focusing on maintaining good form is going to require more energy than sloppy form would, so although you may be completing less reps, or the same reps at a lesser weight, the difficulty or intensity of the session can/will still feel high.
You will have potentially traded in some quantity, but you’ve added quality.
Working hard and smart.
The idea behind this article isn’t to scare you away from adding intensity to your training, but rather to get you thinking about when it is and isn’t appropriate to.
So, to sum up and oversimplify.
Adding intensity on top of good movement quality equals good.
Adding intensity on top of poor movement quality equals not so good.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll catch you next time.