T Nation

High Intensity Training


Hello All--

I was wondering if anyone has done HIT? I'm considering pairing down my workouts and this seemed like a good option. Any advise or feedback would be greatly appreciated.



Well, I am certainly no expert in weight lifting, but for me HIT turned out to be the most productive approach I tried in my life.

I trained 2-3 times a week, no longer workouts than 45 minutes; squats, DL, dips, chins, military presses, chins and curls. Usually just one set to failure. Squats and deadlifts in the 15-25 reps range.

I was 49 when I did HIT style, but improvements exceeded those of my teens. Some examples: I could do 20 solid squats with 200 lbs (my bw) when I started and 12 dips with 25. Six months later I squatted 300 for 23 and used 100 lbs for sets of 10-15 in dips.

There are however some drawbacks:

1) You need time to recover. I felt constantly stiff and sore which made it difficult for me to do other nice things like taking karate classes.

2) You really need good training parners when going to failure in heavy lifts. Good spotters are not always available.

3) There is indeed an injury risk. That was in fact the main reason for abandoning weight lifting. I injured my lower discs for the first time in my life. Lost my focus a fraction of a second while deadlifting and OUCH!


HIT sucks. Period.


Ten years ago (I recently started lifting again after a 8 year cessation) I used a 4 week HIT cycle a couple of times a year, and it worked well that way. After the four weeks I would take a week to ten days completely off, and then resume a higher volume program. IMO it can be a useful part of a program, but I have my doubts about basing ones entire workout program on it.


I used to be a devout HIT student. My recommendation to you is to not do it for too long or not at all. It sounds great but it does not live up to the billing. I lifted very intensely for a few sets for many years and wasted my time. I used to laugh at people doing too many sets but the joke was on me. For me now, being almost 35, doing more sets with lower reps works best for strength and size. HIT burns me out and I then need to recover for a week only to start all over instead of building on the last workout.


I have been doing HIT for nine months and it definitely does not suck. I have gotten excellent results with it (in terms of hypertophy) even though my caloric intake is quite low by T-Nation standards.

Most people are zealous to discredit HIT. It is definitely not the only way to train, and may not be appropriate at all for some purposes. But it definitely does not suck for hypertrophy.


It's a huge waste of time. Years ago when I did it, i got no stronger and saw minimal muscle mass increases.


I have been doing HIT for the last five weeks. Its far better than any high volume routine I had performed for years before.

It does require dedication, and you need to be able to go to failure while using a strict form.

Pick up The New Hit, by Ellington Darden. It will set you down the right path.


Please don't.
I like Darden's books myself as I almost own all of them. I trained like that for years and I know I could have been bigger if I had not. Now, if you compare it to a program that has too much volume then it is better. If you are comparing it to a program that has the right amount of volume for you then HIT isn't ideal. The thing with HIT is that you will also lose a lot of work capacity, not to mention you will not get real strong. There are a lot of better ways to train if you take the time to read any of the articles.


Ok, just completed day 3 which I am using as a final prep. Today, I jotted down my reps and weights used. Here's how it went:

6 minute warm up on the treadmill. Not fast just a steady walk to get the blood flowing.

Leg Curl: 90 lbs for 10 reps with a 4 up 4 down speed. Felt like I was at failure.
Leg Extension : 180lbs for 17 reps 4up 4 down. I could have probably down more. I will up the weight on Monday.

Leg press; 255 for 16 again 4 up 4 down. More weight on Monday.

Straight arm pullover w/ one dumbell: 45 lbs for 10. I have some doubts on my form here, but it felt good, 4 up 4 down

Here a grabbed a quick drink. dripping with sweat.

Bench press on machine 180 lbs 4 up 4 down for ten reps. While it felt like faliure, I think I will take it down 10 lbs for form. ( I felt a little shakey.)

Bent over row with barbell: 80 lbs for 11 reps. Nice burn, felt like faliure. (I am using an easy curl bar thats preset to save time)

Overhead press: 70 lbs 4up 4 down for 10 reps. Tried for 11 reps, couldn't press it up.

Bicep curl: 80 lbs 10 reps 4 up 4 down. tried for 11, no can do.

Tricep ext. with one dumbell: 45 lbs 10 reps 4 up 4 down. Gotta tell ya, right after the overhead press and bicep curl, this kills..

Wrist Curl: 70 lbs for 10 reps, 4 up for 4 down. couldn't do 11.

Calf raise: 270 lbs, 4 up 4 down 10 reps. My right calf is killing me...

Trunk curl: 15 reps 4 up 4 down. I could have down more I think, if I paused for a small rest.

Overall it took me less than an hour (about 50 minutes).

Here is Monday, five weeks later on a Mon/Wed/ Fri schedule:

Leg curl: Friday 105 for 12, Monday105 for 11. Massive leg cramp in my calf on rep 7. Fought through it, though.

Leg ext:Fri:120 for 13 Mon 120 for 14

Leg press:Fri 330 for 14, Mon 340 for 12. Moved to the leg press with free weights. Back in the day, I was squeezing out 800lbs rapid fire on this machine. Now, I am moving at a slower pace, and getting more from it.

Straight arm pullover:Fri: 60 for 13 Mon:60 for 13

Bench press Fri:210 for 10 Mon 210 for 8

Bent over row:Fri 100 for 13 Mon 100 for 13

Overhead press:Fri 85 for 11 Mon 85 for 10

Bicep curl:Fri 75 for 10 Mon 75 for 11

Tricep ext.Fri 55 for 11 Mon 55 for 9

Wrist Curl: Fri 85 for 12 Mon 85 for 11

Calf raise:Fri 330 for 12 Seated calf raise 160 for 9 (Switched machines as the standing calf raise didn't go any higher. I guess I will take it back a bit to compensate for not using my full body.)

Trunk curl:Fri 40 reps Mon: Ab Machine 80lbs for 45 reps.

I have already had to swap out two exercises as the machines didn't go any higher. I am leaner, showing more definition and feeling stronger, all on 45 minutes a workout. My forearm is measuring in at 14 inches, and my upper arm is a solid 17 inches. My bicep curl dropped, after an injury, which I went down to 65 and am now back up to 75.

Every new article I have been reading lately has discussed using a slower cadence, and more controlled technique. This is the basic principle of HIT. Going to faliure is difficult, and if you don't take it there, you won't acomplish your goal.



I trained using various forms of HIT for over two years. My results were good at first, but poor after a couple of months. My advice would be to not believe the hype, and don't believe everything that HIT proponents tell you about it being the one best system and that if you aren't doing well on it you either aren't trying hard enough or you have shitty genetics.

Now that I understand a bit more about trainin theory, I know why it works so well for people at first. Basically, if you are a newbie, you will gain on anything. If you are advanced and have been training in a more volumous fashion for a while, the decreased volume allows your fatigue to dissipate and your strength gains show through. In this respect, it could be useful to cylce HIT with higher volume periodically, but I certainly wouldn't rely on it long term.

The HIT promise that one can gain linearly in strength for years at a time is nonsense. If that were the case, then new world strength records would be getting set every couple of weeks and people would be lifting stupidly heavy weights after only a couple of years of training. It doesn't work like that.




Perhaps mdm has said it best!
I would also like to add that moving the weight 4secs up/down in my opinion only teaches you to be able to move weight 4sec up/down. Lift fast, not bouncing, and lower under a controlled speed. The former only makes it more complicated but what do I know!



Five weeks is too little to claim a program works. Just because it worked during that time doesn't mean it will continue to work.

If you're doing 15+ reps with 4/4 cadence, you're using a weight way too light. Going for 1-2x8-10 rep max is one thing, but you're using about 50% of 1RM, even if so. The way your program is structured is also a far cry from some other HIT routines (like Dr Ken Leistner's).

And ditto to what mdm and summa have said.


I was never able to get much out of total-body HIT workouts, since the squats alone would kill me. More than once I'd squat 'till I was ready to heave... and frankly, you're not getting much effort in the rest of your workout after that.

I liked Stuart McRobert's approach, which was to split up the work, but still use HIT principles. I made pretty good gains off that. Not my best, but pretty good.


I actually believe that I have burned out my CNS recovery ability by training too intensely for too many years. This is more of an observation and not based on any science or studies. My joints are also completely in pain 24/7.
If lifting to complete failure was the key to awesome strength and a massive physique, I would be the biggest MOFO on this board. Maybe.


If I was never in a gym before, yeah, five weeks would be too short. I have been lifting HVT for years, so I have an idea of what my limits are.

The plan I am following is straight from Dr Dardens book. Its a 24 week program for beginers in 6 week intervals. I have played around with the weight, because at first, I was focusing on technique, and knew I wouldn't be just tossing the weight around.. But I have seen results from HIT and I do believe it has worked out better for me than HVT. Maybe 6 weeks from now, I will find out I was wrong. But unlike so many who say it has failed, or it sucks, I am at least trying it.

I was just showing him my results for five weeks. I am not saying its the greatest results, just giving some insight as to what I, personally expierenced and have acomplished.

If you can show us how it has failed for you after five weeks, then we can see the differences. But every person who says HIT has failed for them never shows the training results of that failure. They just say it failed.


I would not say my many years of HIT training failed. It is more of a plateau.
I still like to train that way but I know that it is not the ideal way to train. The promise it gives you is an exageration.
You can train any way you like. Nobody really cares but if you are asking for advice from people who have tried it then mine is to 1) do more sets 2) lift a little less intense 3) vary the reps. You will never get real strong for YOU if you never use low reps. If you follow the HIT doctrine of one set only, then how much do you think 1 max lift every few days will improve your strength over time?



As I said, I'm still new to this myself. But when people simply say it doesn't work, I can't always believe they have tried it.

I personally am seeing gains in my chest, legs, shoulders and lats after 5 weeks. I am not saying everyone who does it will, but for me, its working.

Dr Dardens book has NTF days listed as part of the training, so there will be days when you get in some good reps, without taxing the system.

I just found that people tend to knock the system, without ever even trying it, which is all I am doing. Maybe a year from now, I will be agreeing with the naysayers, but for now I have to disagree. At least you have tried it and when you reached your plateau, moved on. I always thought when you reached a plateau, thats what you were supposed to do.


It is a short interval anyways. I'm not trying to discredit your hard work and goals, but from a purely logical perspective, I'm saying that it is wrong to conclude that if something worked for 5 weeks than it will continue to work indefinetely. It is because many other factors come into play.

It is a very good thing you have an open mind. However, I would like to point out that there is no HVT. Not all "volume" programs are the same. Magazine BB programs suck, and they don't deserve to even be considered in any serious discussion. Serious "volume" programs employ many principles that are completely unheard of in the world of HIT.

This isn't my first post here, you know :slight_smile: I have detailed my bad expiriences with HIT multiple times on this site. Just google "slotan HIT" :slight_smile:


I think you two are talking past each other, agreeing on more than you're disagreeing. You both seem to agree that there's at least some efficiency in HIT and that plateaus are a very real risk.

It helps to bear in mind that, like volume training, there's far more than one interpretation of HIT out there. Leistner's work different than what we see from Darden. McRobert's is a shift away from either of those.

The best thing any of us can do in approaching this site and the information it presents is to keep an open mind. Individual bodies react differently to stressors. The trick is in finding what works for us as individuals.