An Introduction To High Intensity Training

Heard about the method and want to learn more? Go ahead…

    An Introduction to High Intensity Training
    High Intensity Training (HIT) is a form of weight training with a scientifically-proven track record. Created by a man named Arthur Jones (the inventor of the Nautilus and MedX machines so widespread in health clubs today), the approach focuses on training the body as a single complete unit, rather than the traditional split routine favoured by many bodybuilders over the years.
    When the method first became widespread, it revolutionised bodybuilding and weight training opinion. The widely accepted notion was that muscle building was directly related to the amount of time spent in the gym- the longer you trained, the bigger you became. The HIT method was a complete opposite approach, and like most new concepts or ideas, was met with scepticism from the old school. The results spoke for themselves though and the method still thrives to this day.
    The concept is remarkably simple- train each muscle to failure, using limited sets- Jones is a great believer in less-is-more and the system reflects this. Training the body to complete failure, and allowing a full and thorough recovery facilitates the muscle growth process. Dr Ellington Darden’s book, The New High Intensity Training, claims that the system will allow a trainee to add 18lbs of muscle in just 2 weeks. Personally I am sceptical of such an amazing claim and would have to see the evidence first-hand to be convinced, but all the same it is a system I know works very well and I use the principles myself in my own training, and the training of my clients.
    HIT is a proven muscle-building protocol. The only downside is the sheer effort, will and determination required of the trainee to make the system work. One set of an exercise, to complete failure is a very physically demanding task and takes dedication and effort that without practice, most trainees will probably fall short of. For this very reason, I would suggest that before starting a HIT programme, a trainee should get used to resistance exercise and how their body feels when lifting weights. They should learn to maximally contract a muscle during a repetition, otherwise they will not be able to work as hard as they should, and generate the maximum benefit from the method.
    The HIT system works because of its balance between muscle breakdown and recovery- if this balance is not achieved then progress is at best limited, at worst non-existent. This is the major difference between the traditional split routine and the HIT method. By training a maximum of three times per week, you are allowing full recovery in between workouts, which in turn provides the anabolic (growth) response you are hoping to achieve.
    When looked at objectively, the whole body routines make perfect sense. There is no movement we can make that uses only one single muscle- the human body is a complex network of systems, and the muscles are no different. If the body is designed to work by spreading load over multiple muscles, why would we train muscles individually? Surely the body should be trained in the manner it was designed to be used- as a complete unit, not specialised individual parts?
    The science of muscle building is discussed (here- link to science of muscle building article), so without going into too much detail I will offer a very basic overview of the process.
    A muscle is stimulated by weight training. This causes microtears in the tissue, breaking it down. The stimulus tells the body that the muscle needs to increase its capability, so it grows in size and strength. The more times this cycle occurs, the bigger the muscles grow and the stronger they become, providing the stresses are right and the muscle is well-nourished and allowed to recover fully.
    So, the more times you repeat the breakdown-recovery cycle, the bigger the muscle grows. Make sense?
    With a high volume training (HVT) split routine, the trainee will split the body into different sections, traditionally…
    Chest, triceps
    Back and biceps
    There are variations on this theme, but this is the most commonly used.
    The problem here is that each muscle group is only trained once per week, so the breakdown-recovery cycle occurs once. With the whole-body routines used in HIT, the cycle occurs three times per week. Let me rephrase that- using HIT, each muscle is stimulated for growth three times as often as a muscle trained using the HVT approach.
    The proponents of HVT argue that when you train a small amount of muscle, you can focus more effort onto the one area specifically, forcing a more complete breakdown of the tissue. Whilst this may be the case, the fact that the muscle group remains untrained for around 7 days means that in many cases, the muscle has been rested too long, meaning some gains may be lost- the total opposite of the goal they wish to achieve.
    Another thing to consider is intensity. Countless studies have highlighted the importance of training intensity to weight training progression. If then, you are training the same muscle group over and over again for a whole session, how hard can you really be training? With smaller muscles such as biceps, calf muscles and the shoulders, is it really possible to train to failure, using perfect form every time, for a whole session? I am not sure it is. If you are going to train intensely, you have to train quickly- nobody training with a high enough intensity could last more than 40 minutes in the gym.
    With a whole body routine, you train using limited sets, but you give your absolute all into every exercise you perform. This means each muscle is fully stimulated, the training is intense meaning the hormone response is sufficient for muscle building, and the workout is brief which allows your body more time to focus on the all-important recovery before your next session!
    A basic, sample HIT programme looks like this (taken from the New HIT book)
    Leg Curl
    Leg Extension
    Leg Press
    Straight-Arm dumbbell Pullover
    Barbell Bench Press
    Bent-Over Barbell Row
    Overhead Barbell Press
    Barbell Bicep Curl
    Dumbbell Triceps Extension
    Barbell Wrist Curl
    Standing Calf Raise
    Abdominal Curl
    Each exercise is performed with one set, to complete failure. You get out of training what you put in- if you work hard and recover properly, you will see the results you aspire to!
    I hope this article gives you an initial insight into HIT. The article will be progressed into a series, giving you further information on the training methodology and new ways of incorporating the system into your own training.

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