- Spending too much time BS-ing with their friends,
- Not being consistent with their rest periods,
- Or training at too low of an intensity.
- Increase the frequency/overall repetitions
- Add more weight
- Decrease the rest or recovery period
Some of you may be saying that by doing low reps, everything is going to be slow. As an athlete, you want to be explosive, right? It seems that I am contradicting myself, but I assure you that I am not. In order to get that explosive nature that you want as an athlete, I use a method that involves the action of doing plyometrics on the days that I do not lift. I will do any jump and any sprint that you can possibly imagine. I do explosive back squat jumps with 135 pounds. If I had a tire I would flip it and move it as fast as I possibly could. Also, anytime you do an olympic lift, you need to be explosive in order to complete the lift; and I don't care how much weight you have on the bar, you need to be explosive. My thought is that you should never do more than 5 repetitions per set. Unless of course you are a beginner. I would then take a different approach. I believe that high intensity, low repetition lifting is the optimal method to gaining optimal strength. High intensity, low repetition could also mean adding more weight. By increasing the weight, you increase the intensity of your workout.
The last and most important way to increase the intensity of your workout involves the rest or recovery period. Listen very carefully... keeping a consistent rest or recovery period is the key to getting stronger. I am a big believer in keeping record of my lifts, as well as the weight lifted and the reps/sets performed in a training journal. Have you ever heard of the saying, "you need to know where you've been, before you can know where you're going?" This saying is absolutely true. I implement this saying by increasing the weight that I lift every week. I look back in my journal to see what I lifted the previous week, and then I try to lift heavier the next week. Here's the deal though... Anyone can continually increase the weight lifted each week if the rest period is inconsistent. Think of it this way:
If I was to do back squat one week and I did a 5 rep by 5 set workout starting at 205 lbs. I would plan to go up by twenty pound increments so that it would look like this: 205, 225, 245, 265, & 285. Between each set I would have a two minute rest period. Next week, I would do the same 5 x 5 workout, but this time I would start at 210 lbs and increase by 20 lbs each set, so it would look like this: 210, 230, 250, 270, & 290. This week instead of having a two minute rest period between each set, I would have a two minute, three minute, four minute, and five minute rest periods. This inconsistency completely defeats the purpose of increasing the weight! You cannot possibly measure whether or not you were able to complete the workout based on strength gains or if it was the extra rest time. Do you see where I am going with this?
What consistent recovery period should I have between sets? Most sources as far as I know, usually recommend two to three minutes. I personally do one minute recovery periods. I'm not going to lie to you... it sucks real bad, and it is enough to beat the hell out of you. The reason why I do one minute instead of two or three, is because I like to mentally push the limits, and I also don't like spending any more time in the weight room than I need too. The amount of time that you choose, is really up to your discretion. But as long as it's consistent, it is golden in my eyes.
Having a consistent recovery period can be compared to the control group of an experiment. A control group protects your experiment from having any underlying variables, and gives you a more accurate measurement of what you're testing. Further, a consistent recovery period prevents you from having any underlying variables, and gives you a more accurate measurement of your workout. In other words, consistent recovery periods and control groups are interchangeable.
I never implemented the use of recovery periods until recently. Before the implementation of recovery periods, I would walk out of the weight room feeling as though I hardly did anything. Now, I walk out of the weight room wondering if I am going to be able to make it back to my house. I mean I am exhausted, both physically and mentally, dripping down puddles of sweat! I personally love this feeling. It makes me feel as though I did not waste my time in the weight room.
Back in the day when the big thing was "Call of Duty," my brother actually would get a set of lifting in, play a game of team death match or something like that, and then he would get another set in. Talk about inconsistent recovery times. No wonder why his strength gains were minimal at that.
I know of other people who go to the weight room, and then socialize for different periods of time in between sets. They end up spending two plus hours in the weight room. If that's not a waste of time, I don't know what is. The weight room is for moving heavy shit around, not for socializing. You want to socialize, go take a hike! End of story.