First at the risk of endangering myself, I'd like to do a little HIT- bashing (nothing serious though). HIT was, as everyone knows already, started by Mike Mentzer. Mentzer's theories on Heavy Duty and HIT changed throughout the years, until by the end he claimed that 2 days a week for 30 minutes was enough to build muscle. Now, I'd like to be the first to call "BS" on that, because I will never believe that he ever followed his own principles to that degree. There are men now, who work out 4 days a week, and have lagging body parts. To be able to grow on such short and infrequent workouts, much less grow significantly, you'd have to be able to cause an incredible amount of muscle overload in 30 minutes, and have quite efficient recovery.
If either of these are true, then more frequent workouts would fare better for you anyway. Moreover I'd also like to dispel the rumor that Dorian Yates used HIT. Many HIT-ers throw around Yates as though he followed the principles. Simply put, Dorian Yates worked out 4-6 days a week, for more than an hour at a time. If that's HIT, then I'd hate to see what you consider volume. Also consider that no man besides Mentzer in the IFBB ever followed the HIT principles. This isn't to say that it doesn't work, but that it is FAR from optimal.
Now, onto volume. Here's an example leg workout that I'll do:
Leg Extensions - 2x20 (warmup) -
Squats - 5x8 - View
Hack Squats/Leg Press - x9 - View
Lunges - 3x10 (each side) - View
Leg Extensions - 3x12 - View
Sissy Squats - 2x9 - View
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts - 3x9 - View
Leg Curls - 4x9,9,9,20 - View
Standing Calf Raises - 4x12 - View
Leg Press - 4x12 - View
Now that's 33 sets for legs, and that's not my most extensive workout. I'll go up to 25 sets for back alone, then hit biceps afterwards. I'll do 15 sets for shoulders, follow that up with traps and then forearms. 30-40 sets per workout is generally what I do, and yes, that indeed can be done in 45- 50 minutes, heavy as I can go, full intensity all the way. I don't believe in resting for more than a minute under any circumstances.
What Does This Accomplish?
The obvious question is, what does this accomplish? Why would I want to go through so much volume? HIT-ers will often tell you that intense training at maximal weights stimulates the fast-twitch muscle fibers, and type Iia to be specific, which are most primed for growth. Now while this seems all well and good initially, the problem arises in the fact that a single set on any exercise, as much effort as you put into it, cannot fully tax a muscle. If I go to absolute failure in 9 reps on squats, and even crank out a partial or two with a spotter, I am not done. If I rest for even 45 seconds I could do maybe 5 more reps at that weight, and 9 if I lowered the weight a bit more. In order to FULLY take out a muscle, you NEED to take the muscle to the absolute limits, to where it is no longer capable of performing. It is not uncommon for after leg day for me to be unable to sit and hold my leg straight out, or to lay on my back and curl my leg back even with no resistance.
Now, many will also say that the famed bodybuilding "pump" is useless, but I disagree. If you fail to get a "pump" there's no cause for alarm, but now there is a stigma around it that seems to suggest the pump is to be avoided. When a severe pump occurs, fascia in the muscle tissue is stretched. When this tissue is stretched, the muscle can grow more easily, with less restriction to it. This is, obviously, a good thing. Moreover, I have yet to see anyone who can get more work out of a given muscle once a proper bone-crushing pump has been reached.
I believe the inherent problem in HIT is that while it is indeed seeking to avoid overtraining and cortisol, it goes too far. I believe that when you are in the gym, you should show no mercy to your body. You have upwards of 6 days to let a muscle recover, when you're in the gym you should under no circumstances rest for more than a minute. When you wait until you are fully recovered between sets, your muscles are healing and your sets become less effective. Pummel and pound the muscles for those 45 minutes and show no mercy.
Many people (but not all, so don't attack me) that I know resort to HIT because volume hurts. Volume hurts bad. Volume is not training with wimpy weights and waiting for "burns" to set in with 15 rep sets. Volume is unrelentingly hitting a muscle until it can barely contract at all. Reverse pyramiding is the ultimate volume tool. For instance:
Squats: 5x9, failure on all sets, 225, 205, 185, 175, 155. (
Failure is reached repeatedly, you see, and in order to keep hitting failure but still getting more fibers involved, the weight is lowered. After that first set you should be tired, and your legs may be a bit shaky, but there is no possible way that they cannot do more. If after the first set you feel you can do no more, then you're wimping out, plain and simple.
I do not mean to be an HIT-hater here, but I'd like to see some folks out there realize that the overtraining demon will not steal your hard-earned muscle if you kick a little volume into your workouts. Now hop to it, show no mercy, and don't wimp out. You've got a week to rest, don't do it in the gym!
Until next time,