Bodybuilding & Intensive Repetitions

Bodybuilding & Intensive Repetitions

In this lesson you will learn how to do intensive repetitions (intensives). Intensive repetitions are similar to half reps, but they are done at the end of a regular set. Apply this technique in order to go beyond failure and exhaust your muscles even more. The animation above illustrates intensive repetitions with the barbell biceps curl. Intensive repetitions can be applied in any exercise. Similar techniques to intensify a set are: negative repetitions, isometric repetitions and supersets. Find more bodybuilding training methods and exercises at weight training main.


  • Before you do your first intensive rep, do a regular set with 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • In this example Mavi is doing standing barbell biceps curls. Only the last regular repetition is shown in the animation.
  • In the next repetition you reach muscle failure. You are not able to lift the barbell again.
  • That's where the normal set ends and the intensive repetitions begin. Try another repetition without losing form. Right technique in this example: Don't lean back, keep your elbows close to your waist, don't move your shoulders and don't create momentum. Curl up the barbell as far as you can. This time you will reach the point of muscle failure even earlier. Keep in mind that you should exhale during the positive part of each repetition (contraction) and inhale during the negative part. Move the weight slowly and concentrated.
  • Then try another repetition. In every attempt you will reach the point of muscle failure a bit earlier, until you can't bend your arms at all. That's when you reach total muscle failure. -> Your biceps are 100% exhausted. After reaching this level of exhaustion, you wouldn't even be able to do a single controlled negative repetition with a spotter. If your training partner helps you up again, you won't even be able to lower the weight slow enough and probably injure your elbows.


  • Intensive repetitions begin at the lowest position of an exercise and end at the point of failure. Not the other way around. If you started at the highest point, and went to the point of muscle failure once, you would not be able to get up again. The weight would fall into the lowest position, the first time you reach muscle failure.
    For example:
    • Barbell Bench Press: Start with the bar on the chest and push it up as high as you can. You will need a training partner for intensive barbell bench press repetitions.
    • Leg Extension: Start with your legs bent and extend your knees as far as you can.
    • Butterfly (chest muscles): Start with your arms opened and close them until your reach muscle failure.
  • When you hold the point of muscle failure, that's an isometric repetition.
  • Stop immediately if you feel pain in your joints.
  • Intensive repetitions are often used by HIT advocates.