High Intensity Training Explained

In this article, I basically summarize just what HIT is about and discuss a few of my experiences with this workout technique.

An overview of HIT
I reckon that the main thing that sets it apart is the fact that when you are doing HIT, you only do one set for each exercise, each week.

No, I’m not kidding. As an example, if you’ve just completed a set of squats today (one single set, that is), then you wouldn’t be doing any more squats until this same time one entire week from now!

The idea here is that using high intensity training, you put your muscles under absolutely intense tension, resulting in a huge growth impulse, after which you give your body plenty of of time to recuperate and grow again.

Just how can you get such a formidable growth impulse with just one single set? HIT has 2 elements to it, that make it exceptionally intensive:

1. Perfect Execution
You need to do every repetition of every exercise with painstakenly ideal form and you also do the repetitions very slowly. Consequently: Zero cheating or pulling your weight load, zero excessive tension in any body parts not directly involved in the lifting and also tons of of pain in your muscle tissue.

2. Going Past the Point of Failure
Pursuing nearly all training methods, repetitions are carried out to muscle failure. I.e. you keep pressing until you just can’t move the weights any more, no matter how hard you try. That’s the point of muscle failure and the point where a set comes to an end. In HIT, you’re going beyond that point.

That second one needs some extra explanation. After all, how can you go beyond failure?

How to go Past Failure
There are a number of techniques used that will help you move beyond failure in HIT. Below are a few of these:

For some exercises, this can be quite a simple method. Everyone knows the spotter may help out just a little on that very last rep, when you’re doing bench presses. With HIT, the spotter can hold back until you reach the point of failure and then ever so lightly support you for an additional two to three repetitions.

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Lowering Weights
An additional technique is to instantly decrease the weight load right after muscle failure is reached, and squeeze in a few additional reps with the reduced weight load. With machines, you could employ a spotter who gets rid of a couple of plates for you and with free weights it is possible to prepare one heavy and one less heavy set and then transition between these as fast as (safely) possible.

Five Second Rest
This last one is a technique you can also employ all on your own: As soon as you have reached the point of failure, go back into a neutral (non-tense) position, wait for five seconds and then start pushing again until you reach failure a second time (usually after just one or two reps).

My Personal Take on HIT
Training according to the HIT method is a agreeable experience for around six and three quarters of the week and then a totally excruciating experience for the rest of the week, beginning with the beginning of the exercise routine and ending an hour or two after it is completed.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much power I gained throughout my time doing HIT. I sort of thought that performing just one set a week would lead to minimal gains, at best, but I made as much, if not more, progress as I did with volume training before. Another thing is that while the training itself is very intense, my body felt good and undamaged during the non-workout days of the week. With volume-training, I always feel some kind of an ache or pull, even during the rest-days.
One of the most interesting facets of HIT are probably the mental ones, though. For one thing, it’s simply extremely challenging to train as hard as is required. Without somebody spotting for you, and motivating you to keep going, it’s very difficult to push yourself far enough. I also noticed that my attitude approaching each exercise was effected by the fact that I constantly knew this one was going to be the only set for an entire week. You generally go in driven to push as hard as you can – and by the point where you’ve reached muscle failure and kept going, you generally regret you ever started…

Bottom line for me: HIT is an advanced workout technique, not very well suited for the beginner, but certainly effective when done right.

Visit the Workout Experiment blog to learn more about advanced workout routines.

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