Add Intensity to Your Workout In 5 Steps

Have you ever seen that guy in the gym who does 2 or 3 reps of an exercise then just sits there on his phone for 5 minutes?

Or that girl who lies on the ground with her feet on a Swiss ball while she find the best dog filter for her next selfie?

They come to the gym for about an hour, but do maybe a minute of work?

You know a few of these people, you might even be one of those people.

They will be the first to complain that their body isn’t changing and the first to remind people how often they “go to” the gym. 

They never accomplish anything because they are incredibly unfocused.

In the fitness game distraction and laziness are equal sins. Here’s how you can avoid those two disasters:

1.       Buy Wireless Headphones.

You know what's terrible? The earbuds that come with your iPhone.  
They get tangled as soon as you take them off.  

When you're wearing them they get caught on everything and rocket out of your ears.  If you workout with them in you can be sure that they'll fall out as soon as you touch the barbell.  

Don't even get me started on wearing them while squatting.


It's really annoying, and it throws a lot of people off their game.
Buy wireless headphones.  They're not even that expensive anymore.  Once you put them in they will not fall out.  You'll avoid pointless frustrations that can effect your workout. 

I know as little about headphones as I know about Armenian farming culture.  I don’t know what is a good brand or a bad brand.  I probably can’t even tell you which sounds better.  As long as you can keep your phone away from you and not have to worry about your earbuds interfering in a lift you are golden.

2.       Strategically Arrange Your Playlist

I am a big believe in having a “Fight Song”.  I don’t mean that cheesy song in the car commercials.  I mean a song that is on your playlist that pumps you up.  A loud, aggressive song that signals to your brain that it is time to work.

Right now mine is this:


Last month it was this:


Before this “Fight Song” on every play list I have two warm up songs.  I want them to last for about 10 minutes total.  I know that my warm up has to last the length of these songs.  It makes my warm up imperative, but short enough that I don’t get distracted from my main purpose.  I tend to use orchestral songs for these.  Anything from Braveheart or Gladiator does the trick, but the odd Dubliners song works just as well.

You can strategically arrange your playlist to match your desired level of intensity.  Why just put it on shuffle and pray for a good draw?

3.       Only Change Songs on Your Playlist Once

Our phones are amazing devices.  They do everything, but what they do best is distract us.  Next time you’re at the gym count how many people in the weight room are looking at their phones.  It’s probably a lot.

Keep your phone locked away somewhere you won’t reach for it.  If it’s in your front pocket don’t allow yourself to touch it more than once per workout.  Don’t get sucked into the social media hole.  Focus on what needs to be done, then you can go back to your normal Twitter life.

4.       Have A Plan.  Write it Down.

Do you know what your plan is when you’re walking to the gym?

Is it to do cardio for 30 minutes then lift weights for 30 minutes? 

That’s not good enough.  That is such a vague plan that it is almost useless. 

What lifts are you going to perform? How intense is your cardio going to be?   How many reps and how heavy will your lifts be?

There are too many variables.  This will limit your improvement in the long run.

Don’t just make things up as you go along.  You will never progress that way.

Have a plan.  It can be as simple as “Run 3.5 miles.  Do lifts for shoulders.”  That is a plan that is focused enough to limit your lifts.  You won’t be walking around the weight room looking for whatever machines are free and hoping for the best. 

Once you master the basics of following a simple plan you'll need to individualize your program for your needs and goals.

If you want to put on muscle you need to plan for the correct amount of volume, intensity and the correct frequency to grow.

If you want to lose weight you need to manipulate those same variables while correcting for an energy (caloric) deficit. 

Focus on one or two things per workout.  You want to illicit as much change as possible in each training session, so don’t jump around and work 5 different body parts or mechanical functions.  Make it simple and determined. 

Write this plan on a piece of paper, not on your phone.  If you can't make your own plan, I already have some ready for you.

5.       Include Finishers

This is my friend and client Dan.  He is performing a finisher at 7:00 AM on a Friday.  It may look like I’m asking him to pretend to be a lumberjack, but....ok.  That's exactly what I was doing, but it's hard as heck.


This is the tail end of Dan’s workout.  We did this for about 10 minutes total.  30 seconds on, one minute off.  He is pushing himself past the fatigue that has accumulated over the past 50 minutes.

A finisher is simply a really damn hard set or exercise that you perform at the end of your workout.  They are supposed to make you hate your life and hate whoever suggested you do them.  They shouldn’t last very long (5-10 minutes) and they should be in line with your current program and goal. 

They don’t have to be as unique as the one that Dan is doing.  You don’t need any special equipment.  Here are some simple finishers.

1.       Goblet Squat x 10

2.       Squat Jump x 10

3.       Plank x 35 seconds


1.       Push Press x 10

2.       Push up x 20

3.       Curl x 10


You shouldn’t leave the gym clean and fresh.  You should look like you just worked.  That’s why it’s called working out.  If at the end of your workout you still feel great and have a bunch of energy you need to include a finisher.  Make it fun, make it fast and make it hard. 

Intensity is lacking in most people's workouts.  It can mean the difference between great results and great frustration.  

Working out should be hard.  You need to push yourself.

 Try to follow at least two of these tips the next time you're at the gym, and unleash your inner monster.

Need more intensity?

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