Mike asked this question...
"Nick, can you please describe HIT training in a posting, or can you redirect me to a posting you may have already done on it? Thanks!"
As some of you know I was doing HIT workouts recently in a bid to lose weight but maintain strength. In the past I have used HIT style training intermittently and have always found it a great change of pace in my training.
HIT is a HUGE subject and one that I am not going to delve into too deeply. My friend, Jay Trigg, could tell you much more about it's origins and who espoused it's use over the years but this is not a history lesson. This is my take in HIT.
The way I began doing HIT was from the writings of Dr. Ken Leistner. Dr. Ken, as he is fondly known, would write accounts of brutally hard workout in his articles in Hard Training, HIT Newsletter, The Steel Tip, MILO and Hardgainer. At the time I discovered Dr. Ken's training methods in 1990-91 I had already been training for 5 years. My routines were not great and I really knew very little. What I learned over the next few years was how to train truly hard. During this time I put together brief, intense routines of 4-8 exercises twice per week and trained - HARD! All that I knew back then was the harder the better. I pushed others through such ferocious training sessions too. Some stayed but many went. This is not a training method for the weak of mind or body.
Here's a quote from Dr. Ken from the 1994 edition of HIT Newsletter (Vol 5 No1+2),
"Training has to be purposeful to be effective. Every rep and every set has to count for something. I believe that one can make progress on almost any type of routine if he or she works hard at it, but training should be efficient, providing maximal gains in the briefest period of time."
I believe that HIT training is about getting the most bang for your buck. Read the quote above again and then simply pick the best compound movements you can to achieve the results you desire. Now go to the gym. Warm up with a light set of each exercise. Then start your workout. Go to failure on each exercises. If you can do a few forced reps or negatives. This will increase the intensity and the overall difficulty of the routine. Go through each exercise like this. Rest MINIMALLY. Ideally there should be no rest but this is hard, if not impossible, if you are not conditioned for it. It is better to take an adequate rest than to not have anything left in the tank to correctly and safely perform the next exercise(s).
One exercise you will find throughout the history of weight training and gym culture is the king of exercises, the squat. Indeed the squat has been written about time and time again and for good reason. It truly will make you into a better athlete no matter what your sport or goals. Dr. Ken writes about the squat so often and has performed the exercises even more often that you will find it in 99% of his routines. I am no different.
I recently was performing my exercises in superset fashion for two and occasionally three sets. I like to pick groups of exercises that either appose each other or compliment each other. For example, I may choose a squat and a leg curl and a calf raise to fry my legs with. Or, I may choose a bench press with an apposing muscle group exercise such as the dumbbell row. I would do these two or three exercises back to back with only the time it takes me to get from one exercise to the next. I would already have the dumbbell or bench or whatever I need ready.
The first workouts are extremely difficult. You may feel sick. You may feel dizzy. Your muscles will cry with pain. You may even want to sleep as soon as you finish. So, why would you do this to yourself? It is nothing more than a challenge and a way of conditioning your body and mind to withstand extreme amounts of physical discomfort. I think the reason that HIT was so popular with training teams of players is because it forced them into nasty places they wouldn't normally go. The athlete will not want to give up in front of his peers or his coach and so he pushes himself to the limit. The workouts are usually over within 30-40 minutes too which is another bonus of this type of training. Again, go and read the quote above and you'll see just why HIT and this type of training is worth doing from time to time.
However, I also believe you can do too much HIT training. Due to the ball busting, mind numbing nature of HIT, you can and will get mentally and physically worn out if you do too much HIT. If you look back I did less than 3 weeks of HIT recently. I would have loved to have done more. My weight was dropping and I was getting better conditioned. However, I was also beginning to feel tired a lot. You must be careful of doing this too much, especially when you are a 37 year old trainee trying to lose weight and working long hours like I was during that period.
For me HIT is exactly what Dr. Ken says in the quote above. It's not about exercises or machines verses barbells or one set to failure any other specific thing to do with training. HIT is about brief, intense and purposeful HARD WORK.