T Nation

What Do You Think Of HIT?


I was just reading E. Darden's book, The New High Intensity Training (ca. 2004) and I was wondering what people think of it and it's teachings.

My questions are as follows:

1)What is the reasoning of utilizing Nautilus machines over freeweights?

2)Why do we only perform one set of an exercise yet up to 12 exercises per workout?

3)Why is one set performed to failure with extremely high time-under-tension?

4)Why is it reasoned that more advanced lifters need less work frequency per unit of time and overall work volume per workout?

5)Why are explosive lifts "bad"?

I could not find any logical reasoning or studies to support these suppositions yet everything I have every read about strength training in the last decades tells me these suppositions may be unqualified. Anyone care to help me out?



i'm assuming those questions aren't answered in the book, eh? surprise surprise, another 'scientific' book about training without any science explaining WHY.

mind you, this is coming from a guy who wrote articles for this website about how to get extra inches on your upper arms and calves in less than 30 days. when i asked him in that thread about why he was recommending the training he was recommending, he couldn't give me an answer.

doesn't darden work for nautilus? what field did darden earn his PHD in? also, darden looks small and weak from pictures i've seen of him.


Actually, free weights are perfectly acceptable in the book. Some HITers prefer machines (doesn't have to be Nautilus) because you can set a weight very quickly and you don't have to rerack the weight (as most gyms require), so you can head for the next exercise in your workout with minimal rest.

Because you can't get a total body workout with only one exercise. It is actually 12 exercises for beginners and as few as 8 for more advanced lifters. It's not that much different from a HVT split that uses 4 exercises for 3 sets each, for example.

Why take multiple sets to failure, essentially beating a dead horse, when you can just take one set to failure? Same results, one set does it in less time.

The more advanced you are, the less exercise you need to be sufficiently trained.

Because the speed removes a lot of tension from your muscles. You only have one set, so you want to actually work your muscles rather than pushing big weights to make your ego happy.

What I am about to propose will sound stupid, but bear with me:

Let's say that you have a job that is 10 miles away. You have two choices of getting there: walking or driving. Which one would be faster?

There isn't a bloody study in the world that shows that driving is faster than walking to get to a place that is 10 miles away. But you drive to work anyway because you can use your brain and you don't need researchers in lab coats to tell you how to live. So why do you need researchers to tell you how to train?

I gave HIT a try more than a year ago and I haven't used another type of program since. It's not for everybody, but it is definitely for me. You'll never know unless you try it. It's just one bloody workout. If you don't like how you feel afterwards, hey, you only wasted 30-45 minutes of gym time. Get over it.

There is a better forum to answer your questions better than I can. I suggest you visit them and say hi: http://www.drdarden.com


HIT "science" is bogus. At least as far as strength training is concerned. Ever hear of a champion powerlifter, Olympic weightlifter, or Strongman that did only one set of an exercise each workout spending 15 seconds on each rep?


Actually, nothing in the book said that it was "scientific". Where did you hear that "scientific" description from? You wouldn't make up something like that just to discredit a training methodology, right? You're better than that, I'm sure.

Ph.D. in exercise science. I don't think he works for Nautilus anymore, but it doesn't matter because he doesn't shill Nautilus machines. He just likes some of their machines a lot.

Small and weak... well, I'm 26, have been lifting for 8 years, and his calves are still bigger than mine. At 60+ years old, he's no superman anymore. Get over it.

He has written 42 books on exercise and counting. He's using the arms, calves, and soon a shoulders programs to test-drive new routines with T-Nation readers as his willing subjects. What have YOU done to contribute to this exercise business?


Darden has a PhD in Exercise Science from the University of Florida as well as post-grad work in nutrition. He was also the Collegiate Mr America in 1970. What field is your degree in and what titles have you earned?

I am not a fan of Darden's version of HIT personally. It is very hard work, requires more motivation to make progress and is almost impossible to do by yourself.
I do believe in basic, compound lifts (fairly low volume(a la Ian King) and training to failure(or maximum voluntary contraction as Charles Poliquin says is a requirement for progress)at the end of each cycle.

My Masters degree is in Biomechanics. I am not a title winner though. Also at 6 feet and 210 pounds I am small and weak (Bench 340, Front Squat 395, Clean and Press 265)compared to Jesse Marunde and Ronnie Coleman or apparently everyone else who posts here.


this isn't correct. total work volume is a stimulus for muscle growth, not simply fatigue. and you will not be able to complete the same total volume of work in a given exercise session when sets are taken to failure compared to traing sub-failure for more sets.

fatigue is far from the be-all and end-all of hypertrophy stimulii.

wrong. more advanced trainees can often tolerate much more work volume and often require much more work. specifically in regards to size and strength gains.

speed does NOT remove tension from muscles. quite the opposite, actually. the faster the contraction, the more motor units get activated. check out EMG testing. explosive contractions is a great way to train your nervous system to activate as many motor units possible when training... and this is the primary stimulus for hypertrophy: simple activation of the fibres.



they're bullshit routines for noobs. any routine that isn't completely ridiculous will yield gains for the noob fanboys on this site.


at the end of the day, i won't completely hate on HIT or training programs oriented towards training 'til failure. local muscular fatigue is a stimulus for hypertrophy , but my beef is when people think that failure is the OBJECTIVE of every workout/set.

that failure is the goal-line that must be reached in order to stimulate a response in the body. do this kinda training day in and day out for months and years and you will limit your rate of progress.

there is nothing wrong with having training phases which emphasize local muscular exhaustion in order to capitalize on this stimulus for growth, but it's too draining on the CNS over time, and a less than ideal way to improve strength over time. and improving strength over time is a fundamental part of getting bigger over time.


I guess you haven't read the rebuttal to Dr. Squat?


Huey, you haven't even shown that you're right. You've only shown opinions, without the scientific references that you love so much, that are the total opposite of those espoused by HIT advocates.

Because I am making gains with HIT, following its principles, I have no reason to care about yours. I'm not even going to argue against yours. You seem as happy with your principles as I am with mine. High-five!


I have always been more of HIT guy. Over the years I have tried many variations of this approach. About a year ago I tried the routine proposed by Darden. While it seemed like a good routine, I can't say that it worked that well for me. I didn't really get stronger or gain much muscle. Although I tried to follow the program as best I could, maybe I missed something. So to be fair, I can't say that this approach is not something you should try. Have a go and see what happens.

As an aside, recently I used a high frequency approach that has me in the gym 6 days a week for about 45 mins, trainng each bodypart three times per week. Too my surpise in the last three weeks I have gained 10 pounds, with bodyfat about the same. Admittedly about 5 or 6 of this was probably muscle memory (I hadn't trained consistently for 3 or so months before this program), but Im still at an all time high bodyweight. I have also been using the anabolic diet of Mauro Pasquale (i think that is how you spell it).

What's the moral of the story? I guess you have to experiment and find what works for you.


A more accurate version of this would be that you should find what works best for you. A lot of things will work, but not be optimal.

It also depends on your goals. If your goal is powerlifting or oly lifting excellence, HIT would not work. If your goal is to build strength for another sport, HIT would not work simply because it is too demanding - leaves you too sore and tired for sport-specific training.

For bodybuilding, HIT does work for some people, but may not be optimal.


By Pete Sisco:

"The fact is, outside of a gym, there is virtually no human activity that involves going to failure. For example, a person who makes his living by digging with a shovel would never dig to the point where he could not lift one more shovel of dirt. He would never swing a pick ax until he could no longer lift it to complete one more "repetition". And yet, people who perform such manual labor can develop tremendous muscularity. How is it that they can develop above average muscularity without ever, in their entire life, going to failure?"

"Similarly, sprinters are distinguished by tremendous hamstring and quadriceps muscles compared to the nominal muscularity of a distance runner. This is because sprinting requires a great amount of muscular work in a unit of time. But who sprints to failure? Who crosses the finish line and cannot take one more step?"

"Indeed, you might even find a weight lifter in your own gym who made great progress in his size and strength gains without ever exercising on a program that prescribed sets to failure. All of these people have the ability to stimulate new muscle growth without every going to "failure". So how can anyone characterize failure as an indispensable requirement of stimulating muscle growth? All the evidence - not just some evidence - but all evidence goes against that assertion."[/quote]


"Quantitative Analysis of Single- vs. Multiple-Set Programs in Resistance Training.

Wolfe BL, LeMura LM, Cole PJ.

Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania 17815.

Wolfe, B.L., L.M. LeMura, and P.J. Cole. Quantitative analysis of single- vs. multiple-set programs in resistance training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 18(1):35-47. 2004.-The purpose of this study was to examine the existing research on single-set vs. multiple-set resistance training programs. Using the meta-analytic approach, we included studies that met the following criteria in our analysis: (a) at least 6 subjects per group; (b) subject groups consisting of single-set vs. multiple-set resistance training programs; (c) pretest and posttest strength measures; (d) training programs of 6 weeks or more; (e) apparently "healthy" individuals free from orthopedic limitations; and (f) published studies in English-language journals only.

Sixteen studies generated 103 effect sizes (ESs) based on a total of 621 subjects, ranging in age from 15-71 years. Across all designs, intervention strategies, and categories, the pretest to posttest ES in muscular strength was ( = 1.4 +/- 1.4; 95% confidence interval, 0.41-3.8; p < 0.001). The results of 2 x 2 analysis of variance revealed simple main effects for age, training status (trained vs. untrained), and research design (p < 0.001). No significant main effects were found for sex, program duration, and set end point. Significant interactions were found for training status and program duration (6-16 weeks vs. 17-40 weeks) and number of sets performed (single vs. multiple).

The data indicated that trained individuals performing multiple sets generated significantly greater increases in strength (p < 0.001). For programs with an extended duration, multiple sets were superior to single sets (p < 0.05). This quantitative review indicates that single-set programs for an initial short training period in untrained individuals result in similar strength gains as multiple-set programs. However, as progression occurs and higher gains are desired, multiple-set programs are more effective."


Not to take sides in HIT debate but that Pete Sisco bit is the stupidest shit I've ever heard. I don't even know where to start other than by saying that he is a fucking moron.


Darden seems to leave alot of explanation out of his books. Almost like you are supposed to know theses things. If you read enough of his stuff, or about HIT. Someone will usually cover it eventually. I used it and loved it. Great gains with minimal time in the gym. A hard to beat proposition. Just watch your food intake. The lack of volume and calories burned causes some people to gain a little fat.


I'm not really sure if this stuff works or not, but I remember when I used to go to the gym here in Gainesville, they had this setup called "the line" that was basically a set of 10 or so machines, nautilus-esque (forget the brand), where you'd go to one machine, do your reps to failure, tell the attendant how many you did, and they'd adjust the weight accordingly for next time. And you'd go through this fairly quickly, and feel like you'd done just about nothing by the time it's over. I don't know if it works or not because I quit after about 2 weeks and switched to free weights, all compound excercises, with multiple sets, NEVER to failure.

My rationale behind that is, as you've probably read many times on this site: free weights make your body stabilize the movement for you, and help develop control in that way. Compound excercises teach your muscles how to work TOGETHER instead of just isolated. Multiple sets let you do more work than one single set, because you can factor in rest. Training to failure essentially trains your body to fail, go figure.


You dumb kids who knock HIT becuase you don't like Ellington Darden's physique are fucking retarded...... hey huey, what the fuck do you think you're gonna look like in your SIXTIES?? still gonna be 'bulking' and eating five cheeseburgers a day? oh well i'm sure they'll have some great new heart drugs for you by then.....


My problem with most of these studies is the selection of participants(the group size and experience level of the paticipants, nutrition, rest and restorative factors) and the controls. In most disciplines these studies wouldn't get you a B grade in a college sophmore level science class let alone be published in a peer reviewed journal.
After reading the cited study, it seems to prove that 1 set to failure is almost as effective as multiple sets. To extrapolate it says one hour a week of training will get you to about 80-85% the results that 6 hours a week of training gets you. So which method is better? Depends on your goals. Everything works, nothing works forever.