Yes. Arthur's business plan was brilliant, and it was carried out even moreso. It's no wonder that the religion has persisted to this day, so stauchly converted were his disciples.
Meet Some Of The HIT Disciples
There is a small (but utterly vocal) band of Arthur Jones disciples who have, since the early seventies, clung desperately to the oft discredited notion that one high intensity set to failure is all you need to achieve your maximum potential in growing stronger or bigger. In fact, the contemporary biblical interpretation (below) admits that one may profit from three sets, although one set is just as good as three. I say "desperately" for good reason.
These guys (who like to call each other "HIT Jedi") invested their hearts and souls (and, quite often, funds from their respective organizations) in the superiority of both Jones' equipment and his theories on how best to use it. Others have been or are "sponsored" by Arthur. It almost seems as if they are afraid of losing face (if not their jobs) if they were to back away from the tenets of the HIT theory now, despite the huge volume of scientific studies discrediting many of its tenets.
Response: And where is this "huge volume" of studies?
From a social-psychological view, it's utterly fascinating to watch the HIT men scramble. It brings to mind the great movie, "Lord of the Flies," in which a bunch of shipwrecked boys, left to their own devices, created a sort of Pagan society amongst themselves. Some of the Jedi who are more vocal than most, having written many passionate articles or books on their own cute little variants of the old Jones theory, bear mention. How they refer to each other as "Jedi" (which, I'm assured, means "priest") is yet more proof that HIT is a Pagan religion. I must say, however, I admire their zeal for lifting!
Response: Ahhh, attack the person. Forget the scientific basis of HIT, let's make fun of these people for being Star Wars freaks, ha ha! Yes, please do compare us to the Lord of the Flies, we are a pagan society that follows HIT only to fulfill our own needs. Are you aware that your last, oh, 10 paragraphs only attacked the people behind HIT and not the actual scientific basis of it?
Meaning to cast no aspersion on these well-meaning gentlemen by identifying them to the readership of this magazine, and acknowledging that not all those listed may care to admit to their Pagan beliefs, here they are in alphabetical order (this is neither an exhaustive listing, nor is it mine -- it came from their web site):
- Matt Brzycki (strength coach at Princeton University);
- Ellington Darden, Ph.D. (Jones' longtime science advisor);
- Ken Leistner, D.C. (New York chiro who runs a gym there);
- Ken Mannie (strength coach at Michigan State);
- Stuart McRobert (publishes a "Hardgainer" newsletter); View His Articles
- Mike Mentzer (now deceased, former bodybuilder who fabricated his own "Heavy Duty" interpretation of Arthur's disproved tenets);
- Dan Riley (strength coach of the Washington Redskins);
- Rob Spector (keeper of a HIT web site); and
- Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. (a YMCA fitness director)
- Kim Wood (strength coach of the Cincinnati Bengals)
- The Jedi also claim as disciples, bodybuilding converts such as Dorian Yates, Ray Mentzer and Casey Viator.
Just as Protestants split from Rome, some Jedi have gone their own way to create their own denominations of the HIT religion. The religious wrinkles provided by the various denominations after their split from Rome are quite interesting reading. I mentioned Mike Mentzer's "Heavy Duty" system of training in last month's Part One of this series -- really no different than HIT with a few funky wrinkles added.
There's also the "Superslow" system created by the Protestant HIT Jedi Ken Hutchins, who actually provides a fitness trainer certification in his system (which can be yours for as little as $495.00). His peculiar wrinkle to HIT theory has to do with friction. Says he:
"When you pull a trigger on a rifle or gun, you're supposed to pull with a slow, steady squeeze to the rear - if you jerk the trigger than the shot will be off. Same thing when lifting weights - each repetition should be a slow, steady squeeze of the muscle with no jerking.
"...if an exercise has little friction, it's better to use a longer negative as you don't get the "partial respite" that you would from an exercise with lots of friction."
Response: So? What's so wrong with what he said? Of course pulling a trigger and lifting weights aren't the same, it's supposed to serve as a metaphor.
Now I'd like to introduce you to the HIT commandments and some pointed comments on each relative to the seven grand daddy laws.
The Ten HIT Commandments According To Jedi Brzycki
1. Train With A High Level Of Intensity.
"Intensity," according to HIT dogma, "relates to the degree of the "inroads"--or amount of fatigue--you've made into your muscle at any given instant. In the weight room, a high level of intensity is characterized by performing an exercise to the point of concentric muscular failure: when you've exhausted your muscles to the extent that you literally cannot raise the weight for any more repetitions. Failure to reach a desirable level of intensity--or muscular fatigue--will result in little or no gains in functional strength or muscular size. After reaching concentric muscular failure, you can increase the intensity even further by performing 3 to 5 additional post-fatigue repetitions. These post-fatigue reps may be either negatives or regressions and will allow you to overload your muscles in a safe, efficient manner."
There is no question that going to failure can constitute a more "intense" workout. But, in the real world -- in the gym -- intensity is so much more than that. Webster defines intensity as having or showing the characteristic of strength, force, straining, or (relative to a bodybuilder's focal point) other aspects of his or her effort to a maximum degree. The words intense and intent both have the same Latin root, intendere "to stretch out." If one is intent on doing something, he does so, by definition, with strained or eager attention -- with concentration! That intensity of effort is largely a function of the mind is not this writer's opinion. It is true by definition as well as by practical usage of the word!
Response: Well obviously Webster knows everything about biomechanical use/growth. Webster certainly is an all-knowing being who cannot be wrong. Webster simply wrote the definition of the word, intensity is used by HITers because it best fits the technique. I saw no real comments in that paragraph, you simply said a bodybuilder can have "intensity" while training. Obviously. HITers talk about the intensity at the muscular level, not some bodybuilder jumping up and down with excitement about training.
"Intensity" Is Increased By:
- Amplification of mental effort -- getting "psyched"
- Approaching your training with a burning passion, as though it were your LIFE
- Adding reps
- Adding weight (this is the common definition of intensity)
- Decreasing rest between reps
- Decreasing rest between sets
- Increasing the number of exercises per body part
- Increasing the total number of exercises or body parts trained at one session
- Increasing the number of training sessions per day
- Increasing the speed of movement
- Increasing the amount of work done at the anaerobic threshold (maximum pain tolerance)
- Increasing the amount of eccentric work your muscles are required to perform.
Perhaps most importantly, going to failure is NOT a prerequisite to adaptation!
The SAID Principle is violated by the first commandment of HIT. Their idea is to go to failure all the time, but certain "specific" training objectives mitigate against it (e.g., speed training). And, the GAS Principle, which states that there must be a period of low intensity training or complete rest following periods of high intensity training, is violated. These guys go to failure all the time!
Response: Whoa whoa whoa... hold it there. I won't go into speed training, but HIT isn't supposed to cover speed training! It's just a weight lifting protocol. Of course you can't go to failure running, HIT never said you should. HIT said you should reach failure whenever you lift weights, not in every area of your life.
As for the GAS Principle, you left out a major factor. That "period of low intensity" does not have to be during the workout! The "low-intensity" is when you are on your off days and are resting. The GAS principle is fulfilled whenever you end your workout and rest. Would you consider lying down after a workout a "period of low-intensity to complement high-intensity training?" Of course you would!
2. Attempt To Increase The Resistance Used Or The Repetitions Performed Every Workout.
"...every time you work out you should attempt to increase either the weight you use or the repetitions you perform in relation to your previous workout. This can be viewed as a "double progressive" technique (resistance and repetitions). Challenging your muscles in this manner will force them to adapt to the imposed demands (or stress)."
The SAID Principle is violated. Sometimes, lighter weights done rapidly is required. And sometimes heavier weights done for 3 reps is required. (If your training requires that you go to failure with a weight that's so heavy you can only do three reps, you are BEGGING for a MAJOR injury if that takes you to failure!) The GAS Principle is also violated. Alternating periods of high versus low intensity is a better way to go. If you wait until total recovery is accomplished in any given muscle, atrophy place.
Response: Why are lighter weights done rapidly required? Guess you forgot to answer that part.
Wait... you're the one who just said to do 3 reps and then followed it with a sentence that said not to do 3 reps!??!?! Which should I do??? Average HIT says "8-12" or "15-20" on bigger muscle groups.
"If you wait until total recovery.. atrophy will take place." Wait, so while a muscle is recovering it can atrophy? If that's so, you can't do anything about it...
3. Perform 1 To 3 Sets Of Each Exercise.
"...numerous research studies -- which I once again am probably viewed as dreaming up--have shown that there are no significant differences when performing either one, two or three sets of an exercise..."
Yep! You're dreaming pal! Dr. Richard Berger (my mentor during my doctoral studies at Temple) years ago showed that there IS a significant improvement in gains with three sets as opposed to one. Other studies have shown the same results. Nowadays, many athletes (bodybuilders included) do as many as 10 or more sets. Even Arthur Jones --the original HIT man --showed that people with white, fast-twitch muscles require fewer reps, sets and workouts per week than people with predominantly red, slow-twitch muscles.
Response: No, he's not. Numerous studies have shown that if you do the SAME training for 3 sets it's no better than if you did it for 1. You are right about one thing. Yes, more than 1 set is required if YOU DON'T REACH FAILURE ON THAT FIRST SET! If you don't reach failure then yes, you do need to make a better inroad and get a higher intensity with more sets. But why bother? Just do the one set to failure and you won't have to spend all that wasted time. As for "many athletes do as many as 10 sets"... So? Many people still believe that white men with brown eyes are superior to all other beings. Does that make them right?
Apparently, all HIT men are white muscle fiber guys? I think not! So, while none of the seven laws are violated here, some (especially the overload principle and the SAID principle) are not being applied to their maximum potential.
4. Reach Concentric Muscular Failure Within A Prescribed Number Of Repetitions.
"Repetition ranges differ from body part to body part and from coach to coach. In the course of training hundreds of collegiate athletes over the past eleven years, these are the ranges I usually assign: 15 to 20 (hip exercises), 10 to 15 (leg exercises) and 6 to 12 (upper body exercises). Other HIT strength coaches are pretty much in that neighborhood, with a few electing slightly lower ranges but not less than six."
Woah! You guys should be blushing on this one! The SAID principle is quite specific in recognizing that not everyone is alike. Not everyone responds in the same way to any given rep/set scheme. Look again at my response to Commandment Three.
Response: No, but most people can do quite well with that. And if I believe there are many ways (many ways created by HIT people) that say how to figure out exactly how many reps you should do. I believe Mentzer wrote an article on this.
5. Perform Each Repetition With Proper Technique.
"A quality rep is performed by raising and lowering the weight in a deliberate, controlled manner. Lifting a weight in a rapid, explosive fashion is ill-advised for two reasons: (1) it exposes your muscles, joint structures and connective tissue to potentially dangerous forces which magnify the likelihood of an injury while strength training, and (2) it introduces momentum into the movement which makes the exercise less productive and less efficient. Lifting a weight in about 1 to 2 seconds will guarantee that you're exercising in a safe, efficient manner. It should take about 3 to 4 seconds to lower the weight back to the starting/stretched position."
First, I grow weary of the HIT business of being "safe." Where in the book does it say that going slow and deliberate with a heavy weight is safer? I think otherwise. And, certainly, these slow, deliberate movements are not as effective as other methods in many instances. SOME reps are well performed in the manner described above. However, this commandment clearly disregards the importance of cheating movements, explosive lifting (e.g., the Olympic lifts), and many other techniques of lifting.
Further, slow, deliberate movements are nowhere NEAR as effective for forcing an adaptive response in connective tissues as are more explosive (and yes, often "ballistic") movements. So much for their claim to "safety!" Deinhibition of the Golgi tendon organ's protective feedback loop can be moved back far more effectively with controlled ballistic movements than with slow, deliberate movements. Clearly, this commandment is in violation of the Overcompensation, Specificity and SAID principles.
Response: Where in the book? How about the part that says that if you apply a massive amount of force to a joint it can hurt it. How can you make this force higher? Speed up the weight. Then you not only have the force of the weight, you have the force of the weight plus all of its inertia! Ouch!
Yep, it does disregards the importance of cheat movements... HITers don't like being injured. As for HIT not being as effective in forcing connective response... Reaching failure is as high as you can go. You can't get any higher except for negative failure, at which point you can only get higher by negative breakdowns. With the explosive lifting, yes, you can get a response with your tissues, but not without risk. Think of it this way. If you bashed your head every day with a shovel, you'd get a better chance of being able to withstand a bash to the head with a shovel, but every time you did it you'd be exposing yourself to danger! Why?
6. Strength Train For No More Than One Hour Per Workout.
"If you are training with a high level of intensity--and you should--you literally cannot exercise for a long period of time. ...Training with a minimal amount of recovery time between exercises will elicit a metabolic conditioning effect that cannot be approached by traditional multiple set programs. Don't ask me why cause I've been makin' all this stuff up as I go along."
Ol' Jedi Brzycki continues to put his sandalled foot on top of his golden tongue. Here, I think (one can't really tell) he's claiming that doing one set of squats, then one set of benches, then one set of pulldowns, then one set of curls, and one set of 3, 4, 5 or so additional exercises, and you're outta the gym. C'mon!
Response: C'mon? C'mon why? You can't just say something is wrong without backing your claims up...
Clearly, this commandment is in violation of the Overcompensation, Specificity and SAID principles. Re-read my response to Commandment Three. People are DIFFERENT!
Response: People are different, but muscles are pretty close to the same. Yes, some people have more Type I fibers than Type II and so on, but muscles are really close to the same. And, how does it violate any of those principles? Again, claiming failure and not backing up claims.
7. Emphasize The Major Muscle Groups.
"The focal point for most of your exercises should be your major muscle groups (i.e. your hips, legs and upper torso)."
Oh? Have we lost sight of training weaknesses first? Bodybuilders know this instinctively. Most athletes do as well. Clearly, this commandment is in violation of the Specificity and SAID principles.
Response: You failed to reach the point this made. If you train weaknesses first, your bigger muscles will fail to reach proper intensity. If you train your forearms and not your chest, do you think your bench press will go flying? Do you think you'll gain much weight? The major groups do most of the work, and weight the most. If you want to increase your strength and weight, major is the way to go. But wait! We never said to not do the little muscles at all, we just said to emphasize the big ones.
8. Whenever Possible, Work Your Muscles From Largest To Smallest.
"Exercise your hips first, then go to your legs (hams, quads and calves or dorsi flexors), upper torso (chest, upper back and shoulders), arms (biceps, triceps and forearms), abs and finally your low back."
Duhhhhh! Am I missing something? In the Eighth Commandment, you told us NOT to focus on smaller muscles! In addition to violating one of your own commandments, this commandment is in violation of the Specificity and SAID principles.
Response: Right now, I am watching TV while typing on my computer. I am not "focusing" on the TV, but I can still watch it. "Focusing" on muscles and "not working them at all" are two different things. Again, you twisted words around that were just fine. Why should you work from big to small? OBVIOUS! How can you complete a bench press if your triceps are already wasted? How can you do squats if your low back is already gone? You need to think about the "weak link."
9. Strength Train 2 To 3 Times Per Week On Nonconsecutive Days.
"...a period of about 48 to 72 hours is necessary for muscle tissue to recover sufficiently from a strength workout. A period of at least 48 hours is also required to replenish your depleted carbohydrate stores. ...Performing any more than three sessions a week can gradually become counterproductive due to a catabolic effect. This occurs when the demands you have placed on your muscles have exceeded you recovery ability. Recovery time is adequate if you continue making gains."
Sometimes 48-72 hours is sufficient, and sometimes it's not. Depending upon the muscle involved it may be less or it may be more. Remember:
- Big muscles take longer to recover than smaller ones
- Fast twitch muscles (your "explosive" muscles) take longer to recover than slow twitch muscle fibers ("endurance" muscles);
- Guys recover faster than girls;
- You recover faster from slow movements than from fast movements;
- You recover faster from low intensity training than from high intensity training.
- The older you get, the longer it takes to recover
Response: Not all HITers believe in the 48 to 72 hours, and not all HITers work 2 to 3 days. Many HITers only train once a week. And, how can you talk about us not resting enough?? You recommend twice a day to many people! The main reason 48 to 72 was said was just to get people to slow down and not train every day.
By carbohydrate stores, do you mean glycogen? Not 48 hours...something closer to 2 or 3 hours!
Response: "A period of 48 hours is also required to replenish the depleted carbohydrate (or glycogen) stores (Pipes 1989). Reasurch by Piehl (1974) demostrated that almost 46 hours were needed to reach pre-exercise glycogen levels -despite a carbohydrate enriched diet and without physical activity for as long as possible."
So did Pipes and Piehl lie to us?
I, and every athlete I've ever trained, often trained twice a day! The Russian athletes do, the Bulgarian weightlifters train 3-6 times a day! And, even if there were (as Bryzcki put it) a "catabolic" effect, wouldn't that call for a "periodized approach to training?
Grand daddy laws violated with this one are the SAID, GAS and Specificity Principles.
Response: Ah, so that obviously means they're right. If I trained 4 times an hour, would that mean I was right? If there was a catabolic effect would that call for a periodized approach? Certainly if you trained twice a day! If you trained twice a day you would need light days and heavy days or you wouldn't be able to work out. Solution: Don't work out twice a day. Work out up to 3 days a week at high intensity. Then you don't have to bother with that ineffective heavy day and light day crap!
10. Keep Accurate Records Of Your Performance.
"Records are a log of what you've accomplished during each and every strength session. Record keeping can be an extremely valuable tool to monitor progress and make your workouts more meaningful. It can also be used to identify exercises in which a plateau has been reached." OK. I'll give the HIT men this one.
On the other hand, HIT folk will have to use their logs to refer back more often than other (non-HIT) trainees. They're bound to be hitting plateaus a lot more than others.
Response: Why will they hit plateaus? I can give you one answer, their training is more effective so they'll hit plateaus more often, because they are making better gains!
Jedi Bryzcki ended his "Sermon On The Web" with these words:
"Don't be misled by the brevity or simplicity of a program that calls for one set of an exercise done with a high level of intensity. Strength Coach Ken Mannie has stated that HIT is "the most productive, most efficient and without a doubt, the most demanding form of strength training known to man [and woman]." Of course, I read that in Nautilus magazine. And Mannie was drunk at the time."
Response: Yes, certainly, let's just make fun of Mannie if we can't think of a real response. If you don't like this article, just say I was high or drunk or something if you can't think of a real answer.
Response: Yes. On several occasions you simply wrote that this or that was "bad" without leaving your examples.
HIT Jedi Matt Brzycki posted these gems in the HIT Web Site:
"...HIT received a lot of attention--and created quite a controversial maelstrom--in 1970 with the publication of numerous articles written by Nautilus founder Arthur Jones. Although Jones didn't invent HIT, there's no question that he certainly was the one who popularized it and formally suggested guidelines and principles for its use.
"Jones has mellowed with age but I got some laughs a few months ago when I saw him insult a group of unsuspecting sportsmedicine people with his trademark brash comments and demeanor. Anyway .
"...what was seen was rarely a pretty sight. In fact, it was kinda ugly. Rarely were more than two sets of an exercise performed--and never more than three. You really couldn't do much more anyway. The level of intensity suggested by Jones was performing each exercise to the point of muscular failure.
"If you were too exhausted to crawl--which was sometimes the case--you were physically grabbed and dragged to the next exercise. Jones' opinion of an acceptable level of intensity might best be summed up with one of his many colorful quotes: "Have you ever vomited as a result of doing one set of [biceps] curls? If not, then you simply don't know what hard work is. Ahh, those were the days."
Response: Brzycki's a funny guy isn't he? But what's wrong with these "gems?"
BTW. I have to say this, or people might assume it. No, I am not a god of HIT (or as Fred would put it, a "priest" of HIT). I do not speak for all HITers or all people in general. I just defend this pagan religion that I hold on to because I will lose money if I don't. Ha ha ha.