For Best Fitness Results, Mix Exercise Intensity

resistance training training intensity
Man. Strength training. Leg press exercise.

Do one set of each exercise. Start with heavy weight and complete six reps. Decrease weight and do six more. Repeat this cycle until you reach a light weight – about 30%. This is single set mixed intensity training and very effective to build and tone muscles.

Here’s how it works and the research that supports it –

 Along with how much you train, how much you lift is arguably the most important strength training programming variable. Although heavy loads are undoubtedly effective to build muscle and develop strength and power, research (Ozaki 2018) has shown that mixed-intensity training is very effective.

In the Ozaki study, researchers wanted to know how effective mixed-intensity training is for muscle endurance, mass and strength. They looked at the biceps muscles to get their answer. They assigned participants to one of three different training groups: three high-intensity (80% 1RM) sets, three low-intensity (30% 1RM) sets, and a single high-load set (80%) with an additional drop set (that means continuing to do the exercise and progressively decreasing the weight) without recovery reducing weight to 30% 1 RM (mixed-intensity training).


Note: The number of reps for the mixed group was about 2/3rds of what the others did.

In the study, nine young previously untrained men performed one of the three strength programs two to three days per week for eight weeks exercising the elbow flexor muscles only. The results of the study showed that a single mixed-intensity set can be as effective as either three sets of high or low-intensity loads to develop elbow flexor muscle cross-sectional area, a direct indicator of muscle mass – muscle cross sectional area increased similarly in all three training groups. However, maximum isometric and 1RM strength of the elbow flexors increased from pre to post in the three-set high-load (80% 1 RM) and mixed-intensity training groups only, indicating the value of the high-intensity of strength training on muscle strength and power development. In contrast, muscle endurance as measured by maximum repetitions at 30% 1RM increased only in the low-intensity load (30% 1 RM) and mixed-intensity groups demonstrating the value of low loads to muscle endurance.

Overall, the results of the study showed that a single mixed-intensity set strength training program has multiple benefits – it can simultaneously increase muscle mass, strength, and endurance when compared to traditional three set high- or low-intensity training models that yield either mass, strength, and power or endurance only. And mixed-intensity training saves time – when compared to the traditional three sets training programs the mean training time per session, including recovery intervals, was lowest in the single high-load training group.

These results are timely and applicable to sports and fitness training because they show that even with less time spent training and with lower training volumes, a mixed-intensity protocol is as effective as a typical resistance training protocols using three sets of high or low loads. The data supported that even with less time spent training and lower training volumes, a mixed intensity protocol is an effective, time saving training method to develop muscle mass, strength, power, and endurance.

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Ozaki H, Kubota A, Natsume T, Loenneke JP, Abe T, Machida S, Naito H. (2018). Effects of drop sets with resistance training on increases in muscle CSA, strength, and endurance: a pilot study. Journal of Sports Sciences. Mar; 36(6):691-696.



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