High-intensity training, or HIT, is a system of brief, brutal workouts that focus on training a limited number of exercises as hard as possible for maximum results.
If you’ve been around the iron game very long, you know that HIT is also one of the most polarizing workout strategies. Lifters can argue for hours about the merits or DEmerits of a given program, and HIT is one of their philosophical hacky sacks.
To add a little fuel to that fire, consider these five ways high intensity weight training is better than other routines.
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Because true HIT has you in and out of the gym in about 30 minutes each session, with just two or three workouts per week, you have plenty of recovery time build into your schedule. And recovery time is vital to your progress because you will NEVER get big and strong if you’re always rundown and tired.
Ironically, some HIT followers take recovery to the extreme and lift only once every week or two for less than 15 minutes at a time. This can lead to a softer, less conditioned physique, so you have to be careful on both ends.
When you’re training with HIT, you use slow rep speeds. This usually means no less than two seconds on the positive portion of each rep and no less than four on the negative, with significantly slower speeds not uncommon. The key is to remove all bouncing and swinging from your reps in order to really make your muscles do the work.
These slow reps are somewhat excruciating, but they also allow you to really concentrate on the muscles you’re working. What’s more, with only one set per exercise, you’re not tempted to “leave a little in the tank” and can focus on giving your all to each set.
Those slower reps also make HIT safer for your joints and connective tissue than most other training methods. When you bounce your reps or contort your body to help move the bar, you place tremendous force on your tendons, ligaments, and other more brittle “hard” structures that can lead to sprains and tears. By slowing down, you reduce the risk of debilitating injury that will leave you OUT of the gym for weeks or months.
At the absolute MAXIXMUM, a full-body HIT routine will have you performing about 12 sets total, three times per week. Each workout should last about half an hour, which means your entire training week will encompass 36 sets and 90 minutes of gym time.
And that’s at the very top end.
Compare that with many routines that have you doing about the same amount of sets and spending an hour or more in the gym EACH of 4-6 weekly sessions, and it’s easy to see how HIT is a winner in the efficiency department. Those high-volume methods would have to deliver about FIVE TIMES the results of HIT to even come close to justifying the extra time invested.
Needless to say, they fall short.
Despite the perception by many in the lifting community that HIT followers are sticklers for the dogma of the protocol, the truth is that the original high-intensity training as laid out by Arthur Jones and Dr. Ellington Darden is nothing but a framework. It provides the basis around which to build safe, effective, and productive routines, but there is very little that cannot be modified to suit a particular situation.
As long as you keep your workouts brief, relatively infrequent, and intense enough that your muscles grow stronger from session to session, you can apply any number of set, rep, and workout patterns and still fall under the general “umbrella” of HIT. Old-school HIT is a great starting point, but you can make high-intensity work for you almost indefinitely if you’re not afraid to adapt it to your needs.