It was last December when I started up a super slow HIT program. For those unfamiliar with High Intensity Training (HIT), it differs from traditional weight lifting in the following ways:
- 1 set to failure
- slower movements – the goal is to remove momentum from the lift
- as little as 1-2 exercises per body part
- shorter workouts
- fewer workouts
The common element is taking the targeted muscle to complete failure and then allowing sufficient time for recovery to take place. Additional sets or longer workouts, necessitate a reduction in intensity, which is not ideal to stimulate maximum muscle growth. Also not allowing your body time to recover from the previous workout short circuits the repair process when muscle is built. High Intensity Training is about hitting it very hard, very brief and then resting. Or as James Brown would say, “hit it and quit it“.
My HIT Protocol
There are several different HIT training protocols and they differ slightly from one another. I mostly used The Big 5 Workout plan outlined in Body by Science and used by Ideal Exercise. Often I would add two additional arm exercises. During a second workout at Ideal Exercise, I learned how to incorporate a technique called pre-exhaustion into my workouts. That method is covered in detail in The New High Intensity Training by Darden. In addition, I did some experimenting with John Little’s static hold techniques, which I plan do more of after I finish reading his book Max Contraction Training.
Most of my workouts last just 10 minutes and I only workout every 5th day.
Leg Press by Oliver DelaCruz. I used to believe the leg press was a worthless exercise. Once I learned to really slow the movement down and not lock out, I became a fan. 99% of the people in the gym use this piece of equipment wrong. SLOW DOWN!
Was HIT successful for me? Before I can answer that question, I wanted to define what success means. Given my age, training age and the fact I’m an ectomorph, I do not think it would be fair to expect noticeable muscle gains. If I were a 25 year old newbie mesomorph, my expectations would be much higher. So for me, I will measure success with these metrics.
- Do I Feel Good? – Yes. Unlike traditional weight lifting, I never get shoulder or back pain. My muscles are more sore, but my joints feel great. Using machines and slowing down the movement has taken the fear out of lifting. For the past five years, I’ve always held back in the gym on the last few reps out of a fear that I was going to injury myself.
- Am I Getting Stronger? – Yes. Especially in the arms and legs. I am 6 foot 2.5 inches tall and I can tell you that Dr. Doug McGuff was dead on correct in the book Body By Science when he made the case for machines with taller athletes.
- Is this style of lifting holding my interest? -At first it didn’t. It was tough getting the right mindset in the beginning. I had to undo the hesitate style I had been using for so many years. Visiting Greg Anderson at Ideal Exercise really helped me understand what is meant by intensity. Clarence Bass felt HIT was too tedious for him. I didn’t. I enjoy it more each week.
Show Me the Numbers
I violated a core HIT rule. I didn’t record any workout. Times and weights are very important to HIT. Since you are typically only doing a few exercises for a single set, you don’t have the luxury of dialing in the weight across multiple sets. My training philosophy is the Minimal Effort Approach. As long as I feel I’m moving in the right direction, I wont try and complicate things. For me the first 6 months of HIT were about unlearning old habits, practicing slower movements, better breathing techniques and listening to my body.
At some point if I feel my progress is stalling, I’ll start recording things.
In the post Training To Failure or Training To Quit, I theorized that I might cycle between periods of High Intensity Training and a more traditional Pavel style workout program. Well, I am going to stick with HIT for now. Every week that passes I become more convinced that HIT is right for me.
This is an early photo of me striking a bicep pose. 🙂