T Nation

HIT and New Research

Hello Dr. Darden,
First of all I congratulate you on your new forum.
I was not very active on the old site, but I hope to have more participation in this new forum.
One thing I wanted to ask you is, since you come from an academic background, what do you think about the muscle building research that has emerged in recent years?
Much of it ascribes training volume as the primary driver of the muscle hypertrophic response, and also the beneficial role of higher protein intakes up to ~ 1.6 g / kg / day.

I wanted to know your take on the matter, since you advocate brief but high intensity workouts and more moderate protein intakes.

All the best,

All the new studies do not supersede my personal research that I did for more than a year at Florida State University during 1970. And I’ve trained too many people successfully with my concepts that reinforce my practices.

But, you as a trainee have to BELIEVE that I know what I’m doing and writing about. None of it will work well if you don’t believe.


I have observed this myself.
But you need to ask HOW they come to this conclusion.
Then when they point you towards the research and studies , I can confidently assure you that these studies (for numerous reasons) will actually PROVE nothing about anything.

To reinforce my last point.
In every single study in which one set protocols are compared to others as less productive in terms of results, you will find that not any experienced or respected HIT practitioner was involved in training the single set group.
I make that point not to promote single set training as superior, but to highlight an example of how meaningless these studies which compare different training protocols are.

Dr Darden,
thank you so much for your answer.

What strikes me the most is that articles published in peer-reviewed journals fail to replicate the results obtained in your programs. I think 17 Lbs. of lean mass in 8 weeks is the biggest gains published in a peer-reviewed article.
The results of your programs far exceed those results.

Do you have any thoughts on why this may be so?

All the best.

Hello Mark,
I agree to some extent that many of the published studies “PROVE nothing about anything”.
On the other hand, I do think that many of the published studies are more to proof concepts than to give definite guidelines.
However, I do not believe that as of today the superiority of any specific protocol (as in single vs multiple sets) is established.

I refer you to this paper:


All the best!

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Out of curiousity, I looked up your PhD dissertation. It seems to have been a study comparing the personality characteristics of body builders vs weight lifters. That doesn’t seem like the kind of research that would have given you a lot of insights into optimal training protocols. So you must have been doing some other studies independent of your PhD work. Was any of that other work published?

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average al,

The primary research I was referring to was not my dissertation, it was research done in the food and nutrition department at Florida State. I shared some of it on pages 229 and 230 in my book: The New High Intensity Training.

Even more is discussed in my The Nautilus Nutrition Book from 1981.

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Carpinelli is the go-to guy for references promoting single set protocols. He has published a large number of papers critiquing other people’s conclusions in the S&C field. But I haven’t found many studies that he himself has conducted on strength training protocols, especially when it comes to single vs multiple sets. Not quite sure what to make of that…

Recently, I listened to a round table discussion on strength and hypertrophy involving Brad Schoenfeld and James Fisher, hosted by Discover Strength. James Fisher has long been in the “single set” camp. But in this discussion, which I think is worth listening to, Fisher conceded that there is likely a volume effect. (Apparently this earned him some hecking from a few die hard HIT folks in the audience?)

Part of his rationale was kind of interesting: If there truly is no difference between single and multiple sets, then by random chance, some studies should show that a single set is superior, some studies would find no differencs, and some studies would find multiple sets superior. But, according to Fisher, the studies typicallt show either no difference or some benefit to multiple sets. Ergo… it is likely there is a volume effect, albeit small, and perhaps difficult to quantify.

Personally, this question is starting to feel a bit like beating a dead horse, just keeping alive an argument that Arthur Jones had with the rest of the training community a very long time ago.

The HIT argument has always been a single set, if done right (to “true failure”), is all you need. But then you get into the weeds and ask: what is true failure, how do you know that set was intense enough, or that it was done right? And if that set wasn’t intense enough, then you must have left something on the table, and therefore another set should be of value. And maybe not everyone can get to the intensity level required, or not everyone responds to intensity and volume in the same way, or can sustain the requisite intensity level over a training career. The whole idea that there has to be a narrowly defined optimal stimulus that works for everyone might be a faulty starting assumption.

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OK. So this was primarily research on nutrition, and especially protein requirements?

Hello there average_al,

That´s right. You can find some of Carpinelli’s original papers at his researchgate profile page.

That´s correct. As Carpinelli points out in the paper I posted above, at the moment there is no a standardization of the hypertrophic stimuli, which precludes an accurate interpretation of results among studies or among groups within a specific study.

That seems a reasonable argument. Thing is, you do find random effects, specially when you check the individual responses. Some in the single set group gain more size than some in the multiple sets group.

I don´t think the superiority of multiple sets is established at the moment. Both protocols will get you to your genetic ceiling at some point or other.

There are some good books on scientific techniques. Carl Sagan gets into it and so do Stephen Barrett, Victor Herbert, and Gabe Mirkin.

Arthur Jones always said science in exercise with people is impossible to do. There are too many variables that you cannot control. Jones’s best science was done logically in his head.

The history of science is always right, left, up, down, and then middle . . . and repeat. Years later, a consensus occurs. Or as someone said: Maybe, Maybe Not!

Ah…. Now I see that the paper Ignagb26 linked to is a very recent (October 2020) contribution by Carpinelli. I didn’t realize he was still active.

I haven’t tried to read the article carefully, and I might not, just because it is exceeding long, and will almost certainly will not change anything I’m doing in my own training. But after skimming parts of it, I have to say that the overall feel seems quite nihilistic. Basically, we don’t know nothing about anything, (and probably never will)….

If what Carpinelli says is true, then science tells us nothing about the value of doing multiple sets. But then, again, science would also not be able to tell us anything about the sufficiency of single sets for achieving one’s genetic potential. If the studies are all flawed, how can Carpinelli be sure that one set is enough?

What are we left with? The alternative sources of information (bro science, coaching experience, self proclaimed gurus, one-off personal anecdotes) don’t seem to hold much promise for being any more objective, systematic, or free of bias than the published science.

Doug Hepburns take on HIT type training.
In chapter 4 he talks about his extended trial on such a routine.


Thoughts anyone?

I cannot see anything in Chapter 4 which mentions or describes HIT training

Arthur Jones always said science in exercise with people is impossible to do. There are too many variables that you cannot control. Jones’s best science was done logically in his head.

If that is true, then what is the value of all the testing and studies he did at Nautilus and MedX? Logic is a wonderful tool, but conclusions derived by logic are only as good as the assumptions and facts that you start with. A logical argument constructed from bad assumptions and questionable facts can look very compelling and be completely wrong.

Mark, in chapter 4, he talks about taking the reps to the max. I assume he went to failure and did either one or a limited amount of sets due to the max effort. It seems like an HIT type of method.

Jones thought that most of his studies were demonstrations more than hardcore research. He understood the shortcomings of his University of Florida funded studies, but he still supported them for their overall impact with most purchasers of MedX equipment.

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Interesting that Jones saw the scientific studies as mainly demonstrations. I wonder how many current HIT studio owners know that? Many of them market their programs as science-based or evidence-based.

I’ve been doing this stuff for over 50 years and I never have paid any attention to studies! I never found any correlation to getting more muscle by eating more protein . All it did was make my wallet thinner! I found one set of 8-10 worked as well as multiple sets of 30-15-6. With either one I would stagnate if I stayed on it very long so I found changing up my routine quite often worked the best.