When To Use Intensity Boosters In Your Workouts

By now you've probably heard about intensity-boosting techniques like dropsets, rest-pause, and supersets. You know they can be beneficial for increasing muscle. But if you're relatively new to the iron game, you'll need to know when to add them into your workout and which equipment will do the job better than others.

Get the intensity-boosting answers you've been looking for and a quick breakdown of how each of these techniques can help you elevate your lifting game.

Intensity Booster 1: Rest-Pause Sets

A rest-pause set is performing a set to failure, resting 10-15 seconds, and continuing until you reach failure again. This technique is often used so you can perform more reps with heavier weight.

For this reason, you should add rest-pauses to your first exercise, when you're at your strongest and can handle the most resistance. A barbell or a Smith machine works best because you can load up a lot of weight but still easily rack it or set it down for a quick pause before you continue.

The only time rest-pause sets may not be beneficial is on a heavy back squat, since racking and unracking the weight takes time and control. Instead, consider using rest-pause on isolated leg movements, such as leg extensions and leg curls.

Intensity Booster 2: Forced Reps

Forced reps call for assistance from a partner or spotter. You knock out as many reps as you can do on your own, and when you're on the verge of complete muscle failure, your spotter assists you on the lifting (concentric) portion of the rep, thereby forcing your muscles to continue. One important note about forced reps: It's on you to control the negative (eccentric) portion of the rep. When you can no longer control the negative, the set is done.

I like working forced reps in near the first half or middle of the workout. You'll be warmed up by this time but still strong and full of energy, which you'll need.

As for equipment, you can do forced reps with just about anything without too much trouble, since the spotter is there to assist. The exception for forced reps might be any version of the deadlift, since there isn't really a safe or effective way to "spot" this movement.

Intensity Booster 3: Supersets

Supersets are when you take two exercises and perform them back to back with the goal of maximizing reps and pump in minimal time. Work supersets into the middle of your workout when your blood is pumping and your muscles are primed and ready.

The best equipment for supersets are dumbbells or two machines that are in close proximity to each other. With dumbbells you can stay in one area and not have to worry about someone getting in your space. This is also true when the machines you need are right next to each other.

A cable station with multiple pulleys is the best example of this.

There really are no exceptions when it comes supersets, as just about any exercise or piece of equipment can work.

Intensity Booster 4: Dropsets

Dropsets are when you reach failure and reduce the weight you're using so you can extend the set without rest. There's no limit on how many times you can reduce the weight, but most athletes go with one or two drops per set.

Your goal with the dropset is to go until you can't go anymore. I believe dropsets are the best way to finish a lifting session, which is why I recommend incorporating them at the very end.

Since you'll want to be able to quickly change the weight, go with machines or dumbbells that isolate the muscle you're training for your workout grand finale. Simply change the pin or grab a new set of dumbbells and you're ready to go. Barbells don't work quite as well for dropsets because it can take too long to safely strip the plates.