Over the years, there have been countless numbers of people getting exercise with the use of weights and weight machines in an effort to increase strength and muscle size. They know that training with resistance is the only way to accomplish this goal.
All too often, however, after a certain period of time, their progress seems to come to a halt. Suddenly they find that they can’t add any more weight to their exercises, even by 1 or 2 pounds without their repetitions going down.
Often when this plateau is reached, it is just assumed that they have reached their maximum ability in strength, and from there on out, they perpetually continue to do the same exercise routines using the same weights and the same amount of repetitions.
Well, this plateau not only can be overcome, but it can also be shattered! The first step is to understand why this plateau occurs. When you exercise with resistance and progress by adding small amounts of weight each week to each exercise, at some point (usually between 3 and 6 weeks), you will reach a point of approaching overtraining.
At this point, your muscles simply can not progress because they need a period of rest for a full recovery. This is where intensity cycling comes in. Once that plateau is reached, you need to take one full week off and not exercise with weights at all. After your week off, reduce the weights used for each exercise, and keep the repetitions the same as you were using, so you will not reach fatigue.
This workout should be done for around 2 weeks, then start progressing back to where you were when you hit your plateau. You should take about 1 to 2 weeks to get back to using the weights you were using for each exercise when you hit your plateau after the 2 weeks of light workouts.
If you take this 3 to 4-week cycle after your week off, the recovery time your muscles will have had will allow for you to progressively add more weight to each exercise than you were using before you hit your plateau.
Now keep in mind that this cycle will eventually come to another plateau, and you will once again have to take a week off and then begin another 3 to 4-week recovery cycle. By using this method you can make good gains in your exercise routine that will really add up in the long run.
Now while this sounds like ‘periodization’, there is actually one difference with ‘intensity cycling’. Periodization is where you start with an exercise routine of lightweights using high repetitions, then after 3 to 4 weeks you increase the weights used and reduce the number of repetitions and even the rest periods between sets and the rest periods between exercise days. Essentially you continue to vary the weights, repetitions, routines, and rest periods every 3 to 4 weeks to prevent the muscles from adapting to one weight and repetition scheme.
With intensity cycling, whether you are on your all-out cycle or your recovery cycle, you always stay with the same repetition schemes and also the same rest periods between sets and the same amount of rest days between exercise days. You also stay with the same type of routine throughout both cycles and the same routine for repeated cycles. Intensity cycling is excellent for muscle gains because if you exercise all out all the time, it will always end up in overtraining.