T Nation

Intensity When Training Alone

I am considering in the next few weeks a change in my routine from EDT to HIT. I am extremely pleased with the way EDT has worked for me and will return to it after a short spell doing HIT. However I dont know how to bring to my workouts the degree of intensity needed to do HIT properly.

I usually train alone and have no spotter so on the big lifts like Squat and Bench press I really dont know how I can do them to absolute failure. Is there a way that you can push these exercises to failure and beyond without a spotter being present?

Well, you could use dumb bells for the bench. With the squat, I have no idea.

Maybe superset the squat with another leg exercise… like leg presses.

Depending on who you talk to, HIT is defined differently.

I would recommend using Dr. Ellington Darden’s BIG routine for the prescribed six weeks. I’ve just completed the sixth week, and at the end of it all I put on 7lbs and all lifts went up.

You can find the program in his book, or on www.drdarden.com. Both of which are worth checking out.

There’s no bench in the program, so you won’t need a spotter. Dr. D recommends going to momentary muscle failure, meaning when you absolutely could not preform another rep in good form.

Just my two cents, good luck.

[quote]Sliver wrote:
Well, you could use dumb bells for the bench. With the squat, I have no idea.[/quote]
Hack squats?

Well, you could use dumbbells like someone already said. Or, do you have bench with catch bars? You could use that.

Does your gym have a power rack? If so, for squats, just go until failure and if you can’t get the rep, bail and let the catch bars do their job.

You could also bench in the power rack.


front squats
hack squats
deadlifts of all kinds
Dumbell lunges

unless your useing no weight on backs squats I wouldnt do them without a rack or a spotter especialy if you plan on going to failure

Bench from the squat rack. Set the pins so they are just above your chest. Sure, you won’t get full ROM, but big deal. There’s no need to touch your chest anyhow.

Do front squats. Set the pins at or just below parallel. That way if you need to dump your weight, squat down as far as you can and just “dump” the weight 3 or so inches.

Hell, you can dump the weight with a back squat too. Your knees wouldn’t be in the way then.

If by yourself, you do NOT take squats to failure. The only exception would be if you used a vertical rack and had a lower set of pins set right below (as in a fraction of an inch), the bottom of the ROM.

You don’t need absolute failre on Squats. Progression is the key here with a ‘do or die’ addition of weights or reps every workout.

As someone else pointed out, supersets are good. Follow the squats immediately with leg ext or leg press to failure.

Are you at a gym? You can always get a decent spot for benches (though I would trust 4 out of 5 people to spot me on squats).

If not, then progression is the key. Superset the Bench with some push-ups to failure. If you do it right, you BW will be plenty.


I’ve used adjustable sawhorses for “spotters” when I squatted alone, that worked pretty well. I just set them a couple inches below where I stopped on my squats.

I agree with the previous poster, that it depends on what your definintion of intesity is.

I always train alone without spotters doing full body workouts working up to max poundages.

Try starting with a 10x3 program working up to 1 rep max singles.

For squats, do box squats inside a squat rack or cage.

Same thing for standing overhead presses.

For benching do floor presses. You will know when you hit your max.

Rows, deadlifts, chins, dips, curls,and powercleans can all be worked up into 1 rep maxes safely without spotters.

You can have as intense of a workout as you want by manipulating the poundages and rep scheme without having to work to muscular failure.

I personally never work to muscular failure on a set because I concentrate on strict form, and my overall goal is to always increase the max poundage of a lift.

I don’t know if you’ve ever failed a rep in the Squat rack but it really isn’t a big deal. If you’re going to fail a rep it’s likely to be at the bottom and you should still have enough strength to set the bar down on the safety bars (assuming you’re flexible enough), then you just come out from under the bar.

As for the Bench Press either use DB’s or get on head nodding terms with someone who looks as though they could actually help you if you failed.