My Return To High Intensity Training (H.I.T.)
In the early 2000's, I spent most weekend evenings in the Books-A-Million bookstore reading the latest Flex, Muscular Development, Ironman and Muscle and Fitness Magazines. When I finished reading all of the magazines published for the month, I ventured over to the health and wellness book section to check out whatever bodybuilding book caught my interest. I was a college student at the time, so I didn't really have the funds to purchase many of the magazines or books on the shelves unless one really stood out. My first major book purchase was Arnold Schwarzenegger's, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. The sheer size of the book is intimidating and I had trouble reading the book because every word I read translated into Arnold's voice.
On one unsuspecting evening, I stumbled upon a book by Ellington Darden called, The New High Intensity Training. On the cover, there is a caption that reads, "Add up to 18 pounds of muscle in just 2 weeks." Naturally, I was intrigued. At this point in time, I had been lifting seriously for 2-3 years and I had a decent physique...it was obvious I lifted weights, but I had not reached the level of muscular development I hoped to obtain.
As I read through the book, I learned of Arthur Jones and his connection to the Nautilus strength training equipment line, which I really liked using in the gym where I was employed part-time. I also learned of the Colorado Experiment where Casey Viator gained 45 pounds in 28 days after returning to training from an injury. A great deal of the book is spent criticizing Arnold Schwarzenegger, my childhood hero; however, I was captivated enough to make the purchase and continue reading at home.
I approached Darden's book with some degree of skepticism. However, I felt my progress in the gym had slowed down enough to where I couldn't really do any harm by switching from my high volume training routine to a low volume / high intensity routine. After reading the entire book and feeling I had grasped the concepts well enough to apply, I headed to the gym for my first HIT training session. As with any new workout, I enjoyed the novel approach to training and I was surprised by how taxing one set to failure for each major muscle group could be. The next day, most of my muscles, and my legs in particular, were extremely sore. Safe to say, I was eagerly anticipating my next workout.
Over the next couple of months, I continued to beat the logbook and continued to see progress; in fact, some of my fellow gym-goers even mentioned they saw a bit of a change. The recognition from others helped to validate my new training routine was working. As a result, I continued to learn as much as possible regarding HIT Training. I got a couple of books by Mike Mentzer and I purchased his DVD.
Into my third month of HIT Training, my enthusiasm was sky-high; however, my progress was about to take a hit (no pun intended). In hindsight, I should have taken a week or two off after the 2-month mark, but I loved being in the gym so much, I tried to continue training after the point my body was screaming for a break. Rather than listening to what the HIT advocates preached about overtraining, I tried to power through. Over the next couple of weeks, my progress started to stall and for some exercises I regressed.
Unfortunately, in my early training years, my passion for lifting overshadowed what was best for my training. As a result, within a day or two, I went back to a high volume program because I thought I reached my peak with HIT Training. This was a major mistake; luckily, in just a few short months; however, I would discover Dante Trudel's DC Training.
I took to DC Training immediately. The whole program made sense. Further, Dante Trudel is the best spokesperson a training program can have. Dante's no nonsense approach to training is contagious. Interestingly, in DC Training, there are a lot of similarities to HIT Training, which appealed to my desire to follow a more underground approach to training.
Over the next 15+ years, the bulk of my training was DC. Rarely did I deviate from the 2 Way Split, and, as a result, I experienced a 25-pound increase in body weight, which was mostly muscle mass. I was strong for my body weight of 185 pounds (5'9" at a relatively low body fat). I could easily dumbbell press the 100s for reps, I could load a hex bar all the way with 45s and perform deadlifts, I could top out most machines in the gym, and it was hard to find clothes that fit my body correctly.
In 2016, when I left commercial gyms for good, I tried to follow a DC Training routine at home, but it was tough with limited equipment. DC Training, done the right way, requires a well-stocked gym. Due to only having a few pieces of equipment, I dropped DC Training and tried High Volume Training again. With High Volume Training, I inevitably begin to experience joint pain mainly in my wrists and elbows after only a few weeks of training. Consequently, my return to High Volume Training didn't last long. Ultimately, I created my own hybrid style of DC Training, which would suffice until I could add the needed equipment to my home gym.
By the time 2021 rolled around, I was a few months into starting Home Gym Hacks and Reviews and I had amassed a decent collection of home gym equipment. Most importantly, I had a variety of leg machines, which would enable me to cycle my leg exercises for the DC Training 2 Way Split. I contacted Dante Trudel and asked for his permission to document my return to DC Training on YouTube and he kindly agreed.
I love training to failure; otherwise, I don't feel like I am training hard enough. Also, I loved my return to DC Training. Although I was no longer in my 20s or early 30s, I thoroughly enjoyed running the program again; albeit, it was much harder on my body than I remember in my younger years. The 3 rest pause sets taken to failure that are done for most exercises really took a toll on me this time. After my blast (8 weeks of intense training) and subsequent cruise (a short break from training) I returned to my own hybrid DC routine, which isn't quite as taxing as the original 2 Way Split.
As fortune would have it, about 3 months ago, I sustained a shoulder injury getting the dumbbells from a supine position back to a standing position. The injury wasn't major, but it was enough for me to alter my training. I knew what I needed to do: lighter weight, higher reps, and low volume. This injury got me thinking about HIT Training again. I wanted to lift close to failure (0 Reps in Reserve, RIR), limit repetitive movements, and still see results. I returned to some of my HIT Training books I had not opened for years. I familiarized myself with the HIT training principles again and I remembered how fascinating it is reading about Arthur Jones, Mike Mentzer, and Dorian Yates.
It was time to return to HIT Training. I fully immersed myself in all of the HIT Literature that is available. I re-read all of the HIT books that were in my library and I purchased all of the HIT books that I ever wanted (picture of book and DVD collection attached). I was about 1 month into my HIT routine and I was making steady progress. My shoulder was still aggravated but not to the point I had to eliminate many exercises. I posted a couple of pictures on Instagram documenting my decrease in body fat and my increase in muscle mass.
Unfortunately, just as I started to see some improvements, I got walloped by a three-week cold. I've had bad colds, but nothing like this. I didn't have the energy to train, I wasn't sleeping well, I felt horrible, and I could see I was losing some of the pop my muscles had just a few short weeks prior.
Fortunately, all things pass and I am now back to 100% (shoulder about 90%). During my downtime, I took advantage of reading about HIT Training more feverishly. Most notably, I read all of Mentzter's books, which I thoroughly enjoy reading. Mentzer makes a lot of sense. A few points I think are worth sharing from John Little's book, The Wisdom of Mike Mentzer, which summarizes many of Mentzer's points well:
a) "You can train hard or you can train long - you just can't do both." p.47
b) "For every slight increase in intensity there has to be a disproportionate decrease in volume." p.51
c) "Growth is only stimulated during the workout, but if you're working out too long and too frequently, you will short-circuit both the recovery and the growth process." p53
d) "The intensity of effort is the single most important factor influencing the rate of skeletal muscle growth." p.70
While I connect with and see value in many, if not most, of Mentzer's points, I think the one thing Mentzer doesn't take into account is the joy training brings, the stress relief training brings, and the therapy training brings. In Heavy Duty 2, Mentzer recommends training every four to seven days. Personally, I need to train more frequently than that, otherwise, my mood sours and I deny myself something I truly enjoy. If for example, I shortchange myself two to three pounds of muscle over the course of a year, but I train more frequently than Mentzer recommends, I think the tradeoff is worth it.
This brings me to my current HIT Routine. I have documented some of what I am doing on Instagram and I will eventually do another YouTube series. Aside from the three weeks I was sick, for the last couple months, I have been doing one work set of two to three exercises for each major muscle group taken to failure. My routine is Push / Pull / Legs. I am trying to limit myself to fewer training sessions per week, but it's difficult for me to take days off because I love training so much. However, as I learned in my younger years, and as all the HIT advocates pronounce, time away from the gym is the one of the most important pieces to the muscle growth equation. Sparingly, I have incorporated some advanced training techniques like negative only reps, rest pause, drop sets, and static holds.
I'm not sure if I will ever reach my top weight of 185 pounds or return to the strength levels I had in my early 30s, but one of the most important aspects of exercise adherence and sustainability is enjoyment. I have never really like High Volume Training - there is too much downtime between sets and I need to be mentally engaged so my brain doesn't wander. On the other hand, I love the simplicity of HIT Training; my goal is to increase in weight, reps, or both on each exercise from workout to workout.
Over the coming weeks and months, I hope to show improvements in size and strength, which I will document on Instagram, YouTube, and on this website.
Take care and thanks for reading,