What is High Intensity Training (HIT)

Do you follow the same training programme day after day hoping for muscle growth. Are you frustrated by the lack of success and tag on yet another training day and yet another exercise, etc onto your training schedule. But the results are the same? Why is that? Because your body has got used to the way you train. 

More isn't always better, especially not for so-called “hard gainers” who already have problems gaining weight and have a fight on their hands not to lose weight.

Of course, there are also training programmes where focus is more on volume than intensity, i.e. doing lots of exercises and training sets, but they are not suitable for everyone. Plus they take up a lot of time. Sometimes less is more, depending on the training intensity.

For hard gainers in particular, as well as any other advanced athlete, experience shows excellent results can be achieved by using short but highly intense training methods such as the HIT training method. So, while we're on the subject already. High Intensity Training – or HIT for short – was developed by Arthur Jones, an equipment manufacturer. His training equipment are known as Nautilus machines and are still used in fitness studios today.

HIT training aims to quickly trigger very intense training stimuli in the muscle in order to gain maximum muscle growth. It is ideal for building mass and strength and is usually performed as a full-body workout 2–3 times a week. Each training session lasts around 30–45 minutes.

More advanced athletes already experienced in the full-body HIT workout should switch to split training. HIT split training no longer involves training the entire body on one day. Instead the body is divided up into several training days per week and more training sets per muscle group (6–9 training sets) are then executed.

In a full-body HIT, 2–3 warm-up sets are executed per muscle group and per exercise. These serve to warm-up the target muscles and prepare them for the coming load. 6–9 exercises are executed per session (full-body HIT) and only one training set per muscle group.

The execution speed (cadence) of the exercise is crucial to its effectiveness. This is very slow and lighter training weights are required. The advantages: minimal risk of injury while training intensity is increased.

How do I structure a HIT workout?

First warm-up your target muscles with 2–3 warm-up sets per exercise. Increase your training weight from set to set. The warm-up sets should only warm up the muscles and not tire them out. This is then followed by the training set. Select a weight where you reach muscle failure after the specified number of repetitions.

Cadence:

Cadence describes the execution speed of the exercises with all their phases; concentric, eccentric and static.

The execution speed of the exercises is eccentric (4 sec), static/contraction (2 sec) and concentric (4 sec).

Example of eccentric, also called eccentric phase:

The muscle lengthens (stretches), e.g. when lowering the weight in a bench press

Example of static, also called static phase:

The muscle contracts to its maximum, e.g. in a bench press, the top position of the weight and when the muscle is tensed to its maximum.

Example of concentric, also called concentric phase:

The muscle shortens, e.g. when lifting the weight in a bench press.

Break:

Take a 2–3 minutes break after an intensive training set. Take just a 1 minute break during warm-up.

Exercises and training sets:

In full-body HIT only one exercise and only one training set is executed per muscle group.

Training sessions:

Execute three training sessions per week. See below for an example of a training plan. Be creative and after a while swap the exercises for new ones.

To download an example workout, click on example HIT workout below!

Example HIT workout

AuthorMultipower training and nutrition expert Stefan Riemenschneider.