What is High Intensity strength Training (HIT) ?


“You can train hard, you can train long but you can’t do both at the same time”.

Most of people know that athletes were the first to adopt strength training principles into their routine to enhance performance, so it is not a surprise that even today many people still view it as yet another sport discipline, but it is really far from that. High intensity strength training is an evidence based approach of improving physical performance characterized by progressive resistance exercise and high level of effort in rather brief and infrequent workouts. It is well described by pioneer of Nautilus strength training machines Arthur Jones as “… train harder, but train less often”.

So how to increase muscle strength? Many still hold on to the idea that all that is needed is some form of activity or movement. That is the reason why there is so much talk about the danger of sedentary lifestyle and lack of moment people supposedly suffer from. However, in reality we mostly lack resistance not just movement alone. Most of movements are done against random resistance caused by Earth’s gravitational pull and although staying active every day is important “less is more” when it comes to strength training.

Train harder

Overload is the most essential part of exercise. In order to increase muscle strength you must work your muscles harder than they are accustomed to. The more effort or intensity you put into an exercise the greater the extent of muscular overload, therefore exercise becomes more effective. Most of high intensity strength workouts are typically performed in slow and controlled manner with as many repetitions as possible in good form. The point when another continuous repetition is no longer possible despite the greatest effort is called momentary muscular failure. (MMF). It ensures that you have worked all muscle fibers available in a given exercise. To avoid overtraining appropriate training duration and frequency is necessary.

Train briefer

You can train hard, you can train long, but you can’t do both at the same time. If you would attempt to train hard and long the inevitable consequence of it would be overtraining. A typical high intensity strength workout involves around 5 to 12 exercises and takes roughly 30 minutes to complete with only 1 demanding set per exercise. Depending on trainee genetics, goal, age, lifestyle, profession and other factors volume of training will differ to avoid overtraining. Despite quite low volume of exercises per workout it can be used for beginners and advanced trainees alike with the emphasis on adjusting training volume to avoid overtraining.

Train less frequently

Since workout is demanding on the body it will need time to recover and adapt to a new stimulus. Working out to frequently with not enough time to recover will hinder it, causing lack or loss of progress (overtraining). Most of people will get best results with at least 48 hours break to fully recover between workouts and some will do better with 72 hours rest or more to avoid overtraining.

Fundamental recommendations for High Intensity strength Training.

Below you will find some recommendations for high intensity strength training (click here for more info). Every workout specificity should be designed around trainee body and goals.

  • Training volume – perform only 1 set of one to two exercises for every large muscle group
  • Training frequency – beginners no more than 3 workouts per week, with minimum 48h break. More advanced trainees may need more time to recover not less.
  • Number of repetitions – a broad range of repetitions can be effective from as little as 1 to as many as 20, however to keep a good balance of muscle strength, cardiovascular conditioning.
  • Range of motion – Pain free full or partial range of moment, isometrics can be effective when used properly.
  • Repetition speed – since strength training is not power lifting move slow enough to keep strict control over your body position, path of movement and change directions smoothly between lifting and lowering to avoid jerky movements.
  • Progression – Beginners should increase the weight used by no more than 5% when the upper repetition number or time under load can be performed in a good form. Moire advanced trainees should progress the weight by even smaller increments.

Machines, Free Weight or Body Weight?

Despite the fact High Intensity strength Training is mostly related to machines (Nautilus and MedX) promoted by Arthur Jones, it can be conducted with any type of equipment and even just only body weight. How you exercise however is far more important then the equipment you use.

Full body workout using MedX Kieser Training machines

Kieser Training
  1. Leg Press B6
  2. Pull Down C3
  3. Seated Dip D7
  4. Seated Row C7
  5. Overhead Press E3
  6. Lower Back Extension F3
  7. Abdominal Flexion F2
  8. Heel Raise J1
  9. Neck Extension G5
  10. Neck Flexion G4

Full Body workout using free weights and body weight

  1. Barbel or Body Weight Squat
  2. Chin up
  3. Bench Press or Parallel Bar Dip
  4. Bend over or body weight row
  5. Overhead Shoulder Press
  6. Stiff Leg Deadlift
  7. Crunch
  8. Heel Raise
  9. Time Static Contraction Neck Extension
  10. Time Static Contraction Neck Flexion

Who is it for?

When High Intensity strength Training is performed properly it can be beneficial for variation of different fitness and health goals.

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