Intensity Variations to Get You Sweating

Let's piggyback off the last post about workout variations and dig a little deeper into the different types of sets you can perform to work your muscles and get you sweating! Some of these will leave you sore for a good way! 

One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting the proper intensity out of your workouts in order to see results is to work with a knowledgeable and experienced trainer.  The training staff at Body Refinery Gym can help you achieve your goals, so when you’re ready, just ask at the front desk. If you decide to continue training on your own but feel that your workouts may be a little stagnant, try some of these intensity variations to improve your pump, fatigue your muscles, and get you sweating! 

Forced Reps

These are repetitions performed with assistance of a spotter after positive muscle failure has been reached. Once you can no longer lift (or pull) the weight on the concentric arc (the part you think of as actually being the exercise), you can use a spotter to help you squeeze 1-3 more reps out of the set, whereas you would’ve fatigued and not been able to lift the weight anymore. 


Negative reps are repetitions performed using only the negative (lowering or eccentric) portion of the movement.  A training partner helps lift the weight into position, then it is lowered in a slow, controlled fashion on the negative, or eccentric arc.  Muscles actually have more strength during the negative phase as they resist gravity. 

Descending Sets

Sometimes also called “down-the-rack” -- a weight (usually dumbbells) is selected for an exercise. Immediately upon completing the desired reps with the first weight, a slightly lighter weight is used to continue the set.  This pattern is repeated until muscular failure is reached, or you reach the lightest weights you have. Often 3 to 4 “drops” are used, but sometimes serious trainers will continue from wherever they start until they are at the lightest weight possible. By the end, 5 lbs may feel no different than 50 lbs!

Ascending Sets

Also called “up-the-rack” -- similar to above, but a lighter weight is used to start with, and you ascend up the rack using heavier weights until muscular failure is reached.  The rep range obviously decreases as you move up in weight. Normally, the lighter weight is used to simply pump the muscle, but not taken to total fatigue, otherwise you’d be incapable of lifting anything more. 


Cheat reps are repetitions in which the bodys momentum is used to help bring the weight up, a slight swing or rhythm is used to move the weight. Cheat reps are used when trying to get used to a weight that is slightly heavier than you are capable of handling for stricter form, or when you’ve reached fatigue at that stricter form but still want to get a few more reps. I like to use the term “body English” to refer to the swing and momentum used.  Cheat reps and forced reps are sometimes combined, especially on exercises like biceps curls. 

Buddy Sets

These types of sets are performed with a training partner. The first person performs the selected reps with a weight, then hands the weight to their “buddy” who performs the same exercise.  The same weight is offered back and forth until often only one (1) rep is done, but the “buddies” can decide how many sets or how few reps they’re going to go for beforehand. 

Max Singles

This is a way to continue with single rep sets after your maximum weight has been hit. It’s a good way to provide volume as well as strength to your exercise.    

1. Perform 4-5 sets x 5 reps each at 85-88% of your 1 Rep Max

2. Perform 1 set x 3 reps at 92% of your 1 Rep Max

3. Perform 1 set x 1 rep at 97% of your 1 Rep Max

4. Strip 5-10 lbs. off and rest 30 seconds

5. Perform 1 rep and strip another 5-10 lbs. off and rest 30 seconds

Repeat 4-7 strips total.


This is a great method to provide a maximal amount of volume to your set.  But it’s not for the weak of heart!  It will burn and burn badly, and your muscles will feel like they’re bursting out from you skin! 

1. Perform 1 set x 6 repetitions of the heaviest weight you can handle for 6 reps

2.  Strip 5-10 lbs. and immediately do another set of 6 repetitions

3. Strip off another 5-10 lbs. and perform another set of 6 repetitions

4. Strip 5-10 lbs., repeat another set of 6 repetitions

5. Then, without hesitation, strip 50% weight off and perform 1 set of 20 repetitions

6. Again, without hesitation, go back to the weight used for your last set of six and reduce it by another 5-10 lbs. and do another set x 6 repetitions

7. Immediately reduce by 50% again and finish off with your final set of 20 repetitions

You will hate me! ….or love me?!?! 

Volumizing/pump sets

In order to stretch the fascia and enable the muscle to have room for further growth (hypertrophy), you can perform volumizing sets at the end of your normal sets of the desired exercise. These will normally be anywhere from 4-8 quickly done sets with roughly a weight you can use 15-20 times. Do the sets in quick succession, maybe only 60 seconds rest and just pump as much blood into the muscles as possible. Make sure you stretch the muscle used in between sets. These are best used on isolation type exercises and not your heavy lifts like squats or deadlifts, but still could be if you don’t mind getting nauseous. 

Try out some of these intensity variations in your next workout, but don’t use them too frequently without a break, as they do really burn out the muscle and require more recovery than normal!