Not all workouts are created equal, and “pushing yourself” is an incredibly subjective term. While something is better than nothing, consistently increasing intensity (in a safe way) during training is how you improve as an athlete both mentally and physically.

In order to get stronger, faster and increase endurance, it’s essential to push your body to a place where it needs to adapt. And unless you can work on the mental edge needed to drive yourself to come up against those limits, it will be difficult to do so with confidence.

If you’re ready to start truly challenging yourself in the gym, or want to check on how much you actually are pushing yourself, here are a few ways to increase intensity and efficiency.

Train With a Partner

A well-matched training partner is a perfect blend of support and healthy competition. Having someone to chase during a WOD or to share tips with to improve a skill can be a game changer.

Get Your Coach to Call Your Weights

Having an extra set of eyes can help you stay accountable and give you that push to throw on 10 more pounds. Sometimes things can feel tough, so getting a backup opinion is all we need to set small PRs in each training session or hit a WOD as Rx’d.

Take Videos of Your Lifts

Whether you train alone or not, filming your lifts is good for more than Instagram content. Having a visual log of your lifts allows you to check your form and recognize where you begin to see a form breakdown in a lift when things get heavier.

If you’re new to lifting, perfect form is definitely what you want to focus on, but upper intermediate and advanced lifters will often see some form breakdown as weights progress; for example, a knee valgus is commonly seen in heavy squats.

You can also track changes in bar speed. If your heavy sets move just as fast as your last few sets of warm-ups, then there may be room to throw a bit more weight on that bar.

Implement the RPE Scale for Strength Cycles

RPE stands for “rate of perceived exertion.” Since we can’t always max out in the gym every single day and actually recover from it, it’s important to understand the intended intensity for each lifting session and to effectively gauge your numbers accordingly.

For example, true max (RPE 10) is a lift where you literally could not do another rep, whereas with RPE 7, you could squeeze out another three or four clean reps at that weight. By understanding appropriate intensity, rather than just max intensity, you’re able both to train safely as well as know what “pushing it” really looks and feels like.

If you’re changing your training intensity, it may also be time to change your nutrition. A WAG one-on-one nutrition coach can help you with that!