Member: Your Most Productive HIT Routine/Program?

We have occasionally talked about our individual successes in various threads, but if we are to learn from each other, or even direct a HIT newbie in the right direction - this can be a place to start!

Me, I got introduced to HIT by Dr Darden’s excellent “The new HIT” book about 3 years ago. Applying his ideas on 4/4 repping, two days a week full body program in high intensity (til failure) I gained a fairly lean 14 kg / 30 lbs in about a year. My later progress re this can be found in my early progress thread in this underforum.

I obviously am unable to repeat this on other routines, though I’m still making progress and keep returning to Dr Darden’s ideas in “The new HIT”.

This book is highly recommended as a great introduction to HIT, and also a very entertaining read as Dr Darden is a great storyteller.

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From Doctor Darden
Living Longer Stronger.
Also Upside-Down bodybuilding

I used Living Longer Stronger to get back into
better condition from my HD II extreme consolidation

My favorite was probably Upside-Down bodybuilding. I
did that exactly like it was laid out.

There will be many routines that are productive. It depends
on your age at the time and your goals.

But those two stand out.

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I like the routine from “Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body”. But I like the diets from Darden’s books for fat loss.

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Do HIT (non-Darden/Jones) derivatives like DoggCrapp or Fortitude fit this category?


I’d guess that is more that most people get, regardless of program used. (I’m sure there are plenty of T Nation posters who have done as well, or even better. But this site likely attracts a high percentage of above average individuals. There is likely a strong self selection bias to participating here.)

I can’t help but wonder if your gains were more due to beginners gains for someone with half decent genetics, than to the program used. But I don’t know what, if anything you tried before then.

Way way back (1980’s), I trained at a traditional Nautilus club, full body routine, 10-12 machines in the circuit, 2 or 3 times a week for about 1.5 years. I may have put on 10 lbs max before my progress stalled. I was about 29 at the time, and in the best physical condition of my life. But gaining a lot of muscle? Just never could make that work, regardless of the programs I tried.


If yes, then I’m changing my answer lol

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Killing fat…lost 25 lbs, my coworkers say i look solid :muscle:lol

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Good point, Al! I have been thinking about this. In 1994 I was at my peak in bodybuilding, being 20 years old having trained hard for 4 years, with probably good genetics. Over the years I did other HIIT or CrossFit related activities, losing a lot of the previous gains.

Going back into bodybuilding through Darden and “The new HIT” I re-gained all the lost weight - and also added some. BUT - We are talking a 25 year window in time! Is it possible to call it regained muscle in my case? Perhaps.

I’m not sure how long muscle memory persists, but I suppose it could be a factor. In any case, if you had demonstrated good potential at age 20, that would not have all disappeared by age 45. Scaling back HIIT and CrossFit metcon’s in favor of lifting would also make some difference.

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I gained about 30 pounds my first year (late 1990 to late 1991), most of it muscle. Hell, most of it probably the first six months. It was a stunning transformation. For example with strength, I started out only getting 8-10 reps with the 45-pound Olympic bar on the bench press to get 225 pounds for reps before the end of that full year of training. But, I am over 6’2" and was extremely thin and had almost no prior athletic experience. I was also only 18 years old. I was using volume training during that time (initially a basic two way split training each muscle 2X a week, 4-8 sets a muscle months later ramping up to training a muscle 2X week but training 6 days a week,12-15 sets a muscle with no additional benefit). Gains became super slow after that first year no matter the routine. I would say I have average to slightly below average genetics for size, but somewhat above average for getting lean.

The best HIT routine I used? My first HIT experience was when I was 20 years old with two years of experience. Not gaining at that point at all. I stumbled across Dr. D’s “100 HIT ways…” book in the bookstore. I used the leg-arm emphasis routine as my legs were not in proportion to the size of my upper body. That changed within a month (3X a week, 14-exercise, full body, to failure). Big gains in my legs and calves. I mean shockingly good results in such little time. However, upper body stayed about the same. BUT, I was completely burned out from doing that much failure training. It was the most brutal training experience I’ve ever had as I was truly pushing every set as hard as I could. Way too much work with that level of intensity.

I moved to various Mentzer routines in the early to mid 90s including phone consults and conversations. It seemed like I gained strength, but only a little for size - and lost size on the real infrequent stuff (ultra consolidated). I think it was just too little…especially training a body part so infrequently. Tolerable workouts though. Started doing better again going to sub failure, more volume, and frequency - close to “Hardgainer” perhaps or routines similar to it. Two to three sets a muscle, once a week or a little more.

In more recent years, I mix it up a lot more including more cluster/CTF/Gironda style training with short rests between sets and lighter loads. I do enjoy the rhythm and feel of these workouts - almost an endorphin effect too like cardio can give. Although sometimes I will do regular straight 10-12 rep sets with a bit heavier load (not not ‘heavy’), controlled, longer rest, again…more Hardgainer style again. I use WAY less load compared to my younger years. Turning 50 in May, so it’s really about maintaining, health, and continuing to enjoy training.


The transformation from skinny teenager to full grown adult can be quite impressive in some guys.


Dante hates the association of DC with HIT so I don’t know if I would count it. And Scott Stevenson’s Fortitude is not even remotely HIT.

That said for me the most productive HIT routine for me was Mentzer’s HD 1 routine. I ran it from my last contest prep back in 2014. I managed to maintain my muscles which is a success during prep. I’ve tried bulking with about every HIT routine imaginable over the years and just never got anything out of any of them compared to more moderate volumes.


Beginner transformations for teenagers of untrained adults should never be used to gauge a good routine. They’ll grow on anything and especially take a teenager that’s already under weight. Get them eating enough and it will look like an impressive before/after even without training.


Have made the most gains in my life using my current plan which is loosely similar to Dorian Yates’ ‘Blood and Guts’ routine, but with more emphasis on slower controlled reps (typically 4-2-4), rest pause and clusters.

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I remember visiting my doctor for something after that initial gain. He asked me if I was doing steroids. I’ve never done them, but even other people were asking just because that size gain made me look so different in such a short time. It was so heartbreaking to me that the very strong rapid gain stopped when it did. I thought it would continue for a long time…but reality set in quickly. :frowning:

I also agree that almost anything half reasonable would have worked that first year for me.

BUT, there is no question that Darden leg-arm emphasis routine worked better for my legs or sparked new growth. Maybe it was the focus and higher intensity compared to the volume training for my legs. But that Darden routine was like 3-4 exercises for legs…3X a week. Far cry from doing one set every 10-14 days like some of the Mentzer stuff.

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Fair enough, tis why i asked.

To volume junkies like myself though, DC and Fortitude are very much geared towards 1 important set per training session. And DC goes to great lengths to increase stimulus frequency without impacting recovery.

Again, to volume junkies like me - these are VERY much a form of high intensity training, but maybe not to the loyal HIT crowd.

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I agree. Even if it’s a matter of opinion in the eyes of the beholder - I do consider Fortitude Training a HIT derivative. As DC is an inspiration to FT, it would also pass under HIT to some extent.

Cluster sets were used by Mike Mentzer, who also is said to have invented rest-pause sets. And then you have Brian Johnston as a HIT proponent, applying pumpsets, density and volume to the equation. Where does it end?

Let’s keep an open mind.


Find cluster sets to be absolutely amazing for building strength in particular. On the lifts I use them, I found within a matter of months the weights I’d use to warm up would be invariably more than my PB’s prior to introducing them.

Personally, I really like the Mentzer method of rest pause, especially when taking the “one set approach” as it’s basically just a bunch of mini-sets until you can’t budge the weight for another rep. Simple and effective. That style of doing things isn’t necessarily for everyone though – more than one way to skin a cat, as they say – it just kind of meshes well with my personality.

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Have you tried Trudel’s method? I’m a huge fan of this method for a lot of movements, but not so much on the heaviest of them. I do like the Mentzer method I like a lot more for lighter movements though (which is mentioned as a part of Fortitude Training, I should add).

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