Increase Your Workout Intensity to Build Muscle Fast

Here at, we try to focus on techniques to bulk you up quickly and a lot of these focus around greater workout intensity though we've never discussed it explicitly.

For example, supersetting, working out to exhaustion and slowing your reps down are all techniques that you can use to make your sets more intense.

The key to building muscle fast is to completely exhaust your muscles. You should only finish a set when you absolutely can not do another rep and can't hold the weight.

If you stop and suddenly realize, "I could have done another rep" or "I feel good", you cheated yourself - the end of a set should never feel good.

You only build muscle during the last few reps when you are really pushing your limits. Before that, all you are doing is tiring your muscles out in preparation for your new gains.

This is where a lot of people fail. They go to the gym, load up their weights, do a set and when the reps get to be a little difficult, they put the weight down.

These people are wasting their time and they're also the people that you hear saying, "I just can't build muscle", "It's my genetics", "I go to the gym 5 days a week and nothing".

The fact is, they go to the gym and wuss out. They're wasting their time and you need to stay the hell away from them.

Kicking up the Intensity

Recently, I've been looking for a new way to kick my workouts into high gear and went back to the Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. While I don't necessarily agree with everything Tim suggests, I do respect his approach of recording data, evaluating and testing to improve processes, including working out.

One of the things Tim talks about it workout intensity, citing a number of big names in bodybuilding and olympic training. Perhaps the biggest take away from this section of the book is that you shouldn't finish a set until you absolutely can not move the weight any more.

This is high intensity.

Here's how I've started to incorporate it into my workout. While Tim recommends limiting exercises and workout days to an absolute minimum, I've decided to stick with a 3 day split but only 2 exercises per body part. To do this and make sure my muscle develop fully (i.e., all parts of the chest, all parts of the back, etc), I've chosen compound muscle exercises like incline bench presses, squats, leg presses, military presses, etc.

Now, during each exercise, I make sure to choose equipment (mostly free weight barbells and dumb bells) and have safety mechanisms set up so that I can't hurt myself. For example, I do all my bench pressing in a squat rack where I can position the safety bars to catch the barbell just above my chest when I fail.

As an aside, you can do this with a workout partner but you need to tell them that you want to fail and they are only there to catch the weight, not help you move it.

Now, during each exercise, use a 5/5 cadence for 5 seconds up, 5 seconds down. This keeps my muscles under constant stress throughout the exercise. It is extremely important when doing this to make sure you are not cheating and resting the weight on your tendons and ligaments at the top of the exercise (think of the top of a bicep curl - you should be squeezing the bicep rather than letting it rest).

During each exercise, I aim for 7 reps (as Tim suggests). If I can do more, it's time to increase the weight by 10%. Once I actually can't perform another rep properly, I take the weight to the half rep position and try my hardest to keep pushing and complete another rep.

This is the most important part of the exercise. This is where all muscle growth will occur. This can last from 5 seconds to 20 seconds or a full minute.

At this point, it is insanely easy to give up early. Your body will be screaming at you to drop the weight. Don't. You can definitely keep going. For every second you think you need to drop the weight, you have at least another 3 that you can keep pushing that weight.

This is where the mental game of working out comes in. You need to keep telling yourself to keep pushing. This is also where a great workout partner comes in handy - they should be pumping you up, telling you to keep pushing and making you do more.

Don't Stop Until Your Muscle Fails

And when your muscle does fail, then thank god you set up proper safety mechanisms to catch the weight.

After you finish the set, your muscles will be on fire and it'll be painful, but only for a couple seconds. After that, the blood will be rushing into the muscle, you'll looked jacked and the body will be producing endorphins to give you a natural high. This is the best time to be at the gym.

After you complete the first set, take 3 minutes (as Tim suggests) and rest. The point here is complete exhaustion and we want the muscle ready for round two only when it has had ample time to rest.

That's it. Working out like this will drastically cut down your time in the gym and you'll probably want to do more. Don't. Try this out for a while and gauge the results.

Lastly, a key factor in doing this is nutrition. You need to make sure you are consuming enough good calories to completely repair the muscle you'll be shredding. This can come from shakes, high protein foods, whole milk, etc. Just avoid filling the calorie void with junk food.