“Intensity” is one of those terms that's as subjective as it is ambiguous, if not just completely downright misconstrued. It is, however, the apex requirement in your list of things you're going to have to learn to generate if you intend on using your tine in the gym to increase your strength/ performance. Every athlete knows this. In fact, it is widely accepted among the fiteratti that the best athlete is the one who can focus the hardest, concentrate, and generate the most intensity. Every single world class athlete known to man is prone to this formula. There are literally no exceptions.
The problem with intensity, particularly maximum intensity, is that you can't just tell someone to go do it – lift with intensity. Unfortunately, it's as vitally important to athletic success, as it is difficult to describe. When asked to define intensity, you might want to offer to define something easier instead, such as love, hope, God.....
Intensity is on another level. Mostly because the more you generate, the more it hurts. Your brain's inclination is to make you stop doing what hurts. In this case, the notion to stop must be replaced with “keep going,” “Don't' Stop!,” “Five more!” And so on. And that right there is the difference between the champs and the also-rans. Suffering. Intensity hurts. High intensity hurts a lot.
But what's “a lot?” Surely one man's “a lot” is not another's. If you ask a woman if child birth hurts “a lot” she'll probably say it does. Yet, we see women with seven kids. So, it can't hurt that much, or can it? So, it depends on what you can tolerate. Now, I'm certainly not comparing a high intensity workout to child birth (a true high intensity workout should make childbirth feel like a rough pedicure) however the underlying pain threshold is just as confounding. Some women breeze through it while some women – if you've ever spent a few hours in a delivery ward – seem to have a bit more of an issue with it.
Now, the wisecrack I made a second ago about the pedicure goes to subjectivity. Surely childbirth is excruciating, however, the point is, you've got to make some kind of imaginary threshold, because “intensity” is far more a mental infliction as it is a muscular one.
No matter how big and strong you are, eventually, gravity is going to win any battle with the iron. It is at that moment – when will is overtaken by physics - that the peak deployment of intensity has been reached. Think of hanging off a bar on a tower crane 1,000 feet in the air. Eventually, gravity is going to be responsible for decorating the concrete below with a nasty splattering of your blood and guts. The moment before that happened, its safe to say that 100% intensity was applied to your grip strength.
So, childbirth, popping off a crane tower to your death and training intensity should be thought of in the same breath. Metaphorically, of course.
But in practice in the gym? Back in the day, a typical leg workout has many times ended with a lifter being crushed in the power rack, dragging himself across the floor on his elbows, heaving his last seven meals into the garbage can and writhing on the floor until his nose stops bleeding (I have pics). Extreme? Yes. Intense? No question. But, is it necessary?
And therein lies the rub...
As far as the human body goes, strength/ muscle gain is a survival mechanism. The body is not interested in the muscle you want, it's only concerned with the muscle it needs. The way to convince the body it needs more is by generating intensity. The greater your training intensity, the stronger the message the body receives. That, and that alone, is the stimulus for muscle growth.
What are some of the signs you're exhibiting maximum intensity?
1 – vomiting during workouts
2 – nose bleeds during heavy lifts
3 – intense soreness in the days following a workout
4 – Cramping
5 – Difficulty walking or going up and down stairs after legs
6 – Profound muscle growth and increased athletic performance
So, forced reps, negatives, partials, rest-pause, drop sets, static holds..... Whatever you can employ to drive your intensity to the point where your muscle literally fails – like right before you pop off the 1,000 foot tower crane. Or, for you ladies, the searing pain of childbirth. The point is, while the pursuit is physical, the game is mental. The brain decides what's enough, not your body. It's you job to do the convincing.
Greater intensity = greater results. How you generate it is your game.