HIT with IRON, The Fairy Tale of HIT: Part I
You probably opened this document expecting me to praise HIT, but your dead wrong… Im here to bash it! Every man feel's god put him on this earth for one reason or another, my reason is this right here. Over the days since the Jones and Mentzer era have HITers been bottle feeding the public with stupidity and idiotic methods. This piece is going to be rather lengthy in explaining these fallacies and some of the dumbest ideas and stupidest things you'll hear an HITer say. Do I totally hate HIT? Yeah pretty much. Coming from a background of olympic lifting (the dangerous lifting per say by HITer's) and Powerlifting, why would I not hate it for putting such dogmatic views on every other training style, and their unwillingness to accept their much superior value then that of HIT. Now enough personal views, lets get to some of the science (something they know nothing about) and practical work.
One set or one set to failure is better then multi-set training.
Oh let the bashing begin! Lets take a moment here and get an understanding of what a muscle fiber and hypertrophy is. Our body contains thousands upon thousands of these little devils. We have two major classification groups, your ST fiber (slow twitch) and your FT fiber (fast twitch) plus thousands of hybrid fiber forms that contain mixture's of each. Now for the hypertrophy part. Two well known forms of hypertrophy occur in the body, Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and Myofibrillar hypertrophy. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is what a bodybuilder trains for. Its the formation and build up of semi-plasmic fluid in the fiber which exerts weak contraction force. Hyofibrillar are the big bad boys what are what you find in olympic lifters that does not show much of an increase in diameter but has more myofibril's then that of sarcoplasmic, meaning it has a stronger contraction force.
Well now that you have a good and very broad idea of muscle fibers and hypertrophy lets talk about the fallacy here. HITer's believe that they can accomplish the same in one set as you can in three sets. They've even claimed to have studies to support this, but I have yet to read or find them. I do have quotes by some of your famous HITer's that speak of these studies yet they must never have been published in our great journals. This is one of the most miss-leading fallacy of HIT. Studies (1,2,3,4,5,6,7) show that single set training is not superior to multi-set training and that multi-set training has shown better results or has shown that training to muscular failure is not necessary.(8)
As you see all HITer's appear to believe that all muscle fibers are the same and that is the only reason why they would train like this, which I showed you above (yes I can go into much greater detail!) isn’t true. Yet you see, on some fibers mostly your type IA fibers, your one set to failure isn’t enough to place the respectable amount of tension on them long enough to recruit and fire each individual one because they use ATP at a VERY slow rate.(9) As a matter of fact they are so slow at firing that only about 20-35% of them are fired during the day, and these are the fibers that are responsible for keeping your body erect and supporting your lumbar spine. The only way to even come close (if its even possible) is to work with sets for up to 10 or so minutes. Marathon runners cannot even recruit and fire all IA fibers, and they are made up of mostly ST(slow twitch) fibers. We know how much time means to HITer's so spending 10 minutes on something is out of the question. Train with as many force reps as you like, your never going to fatigue all fibers. Your going to recruit and fire your IIx and IIA fibers but since your using such a light load and lifting so slow you’ll never utilize them effectively, meaning they will never do anything BUT behave like IA fibers (10). This is possible because it is easier for a fast twitch fiber to act and behave much like a slow twitch fiber with prolonged low intensity (load) training.
Fast explosive lifting is dangerous to the individual.
This I find is the worse of them all. HIT has always spouted this dubious information like it was the universal law, yet have never provided evidence to back it up. There are plenty of cases of individuals who have injured themselves and gained very little with HIT in the process(I have some of these). Could it be the un-optimal training method or could it be they didn’t know what they are doing? How about both? It’s the poor training method, unless you want to say Dorian Yates doesn’t know how to train. How many injuries did he have during his bodybuilding career using a method of HIT.
Now back to Olympic lifting. I think its a given fact that anybody that just wants to pick up Olympic lifting and doesn’t have a clue what they are doing gives them a higher injury risk. The same goes for ANY MOVEMENT. I'll say it again and again. It’s not the movement that hurts people, its the people that hurt themselves. I wish people would see this and stop putting a dogmatic view point on strictly Olympic Lifting, especially when they can’t supply any scientific evidence to support what they've said. Yet you have HITer's saying "I pulled hamstring during a squat clean, so don’t do it, its dangerous!" Maybe if the HIT’er would have taken the proper amount of time to warm up and not jump into the heavy load work right off hand they wouldn’t have injured themselves. The movement didn’t hurt you, you hurt yourself with your inefficient execution of the exercise.
People must forget about the Hamill study (11) where it showed that Olympic lifting per 100hrs trained was shown to have LESS Injuries then that of bodybuilding and powerlifting training styles. This is amazing to say the least, but the complete opposite of what the HIT’ers claim. That isn’t all the evidence there is to support the safety and effectiveness of Olympic lifting. Take some time out, and read through the research done by British and American Scientist’s on the back's of weightlifters which shows around 8% total of all injuries in Olympic lifting occurs to the back, this is amazing when you notice the mechanics of the movement and the 'pulling' during them. There are more injuries happening on super slow executions of dead lifting, squatting and bench pressing movements than Olympic Lifting. What about the great amount of lower body injuries happening during aerobics class by instructors hoping to avoid sudden quick movements? Does that make it safer then Olympic lifting? Did you know that around 25% of the injuries occurring in Olympic lifting are knee injuries, which is LESS then the amont of knee injuries you find in distance runners. Should we stop running long distance to save our knees? Its also been shown that cross country running has more injuries then Olympic lifting.(12)
Another interesting point, they claim that Olympic lifts are so stress full on muscles and connective tissues that it could cause them to break down and become weak because of the great force and magnitude they put on the lifter’s body. Lets look at the results of the following experiment using a force plate. Jump up and down, then do a snatch(Olympic Lifting movement). Which do you think is going to have a higher force reading on the force plate? The person JUMPING! You get more stress from jumping then you do on most if not all your Olympic lifts. Should we stop running, jumping, changing direction and skipping because it places so much force on our body? No! Your going to put more force on your body during an athletic competition then you will during a training day. WHY is that endangering your soft tissue and connective tissue?. Its NOT! By doing this your allowing to control the amount of stress placed on the joints and muscles. This will help your body (especially your joints) adapt to this and decrease the injury chances during sports competition. Its true that stress is a part of life, we have to have it to adapt!
That puts Part I in the books, expect more to come from me on these amazingly ineffective method called HIT.
(1) Schlumberger A, Stec J, Schmidtbleicher D.J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Aug;15(3):284-9.
(2) Paulsen G, Myklestad D, Raastad T. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Feb;17(1):115-20.
(3) Rhea MR, Alvar BA, Ball SD, Burkett LN. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Nov;16(4):525-9.
(4) Kraemer WJ, Ratamess N, Fry AC, Triplett-McBride T, Koziris LP, Bauer JA, Lynch JM, Fleck SJ.Am J Sports Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;28(5):626-33.
(5) Kraemer, W.J., Newton, R.U., Bush, J., Volek, J., Triplett, N.T. and Koziris, L.P. (1995). Varied multiple set resistance training produces greater gains than single set program. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 27, S195.
(6) Kramer, J. B., Stone, M.H., O'Bryant, H.S., Conley, M.S., Johnson, R.L., Nieman, D.C., Honeycutt, D.R. and Hoke, T.P. (1997). Effects
of single versus multiple-sets of weight training: Impact of volume, intensity and variation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 11, 143-147.
(7) Stone, M.H., Plisk, S., Stone, M.E., Schilling, B.K., O'Bryant, H.S. and Pierce, K.C. (1998). Athletic performance development: volume load - 1 set vs. multiple sets, training velocity and training variation. Strength and Conditioning, 20, 22-31.
(8) Stone, M.H., Chandler, T.F., Conley, M.S., Kramer, J.B. and Stone, M.E. (1996). Training to muscular failure: Is it necessary? Strength Conditioning, 18, 44-48.
(9) Edstrom L & Grimby L (1986) Effect of exercise on the motor unit. Muscle & Nerve 9:104-126
(10) Siff M C (2000) "Supertraining" Fifth Edition; Supertraining Institute
(11) Source: Brian P. Hamill, "Relative Safety of Weightlifting and Weight Training," _Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, Vol. 8, No. 1(1994): 53-57
(12) Siff M C (2002) "Facts and Fallacies of Fitness" Fifth Edition, Denver USA
The position you maintain about HIT is, on the surface, well reasoned as well as supported by research. However, several aspects of your position need to be addressed: the fallacy of one set training; training form and speed of training repetitions; and the failure to address training frequency and recovery adequately.
Though you cite a number of studies that invalidates the superiority of one-set training compared to multiple-set training, a number of other studies indicate that one-set training is as effective, if not more effective, than multiple-set training (Fincher, 2001; Hass, Garzarella, de Hoyos, & Pollock, 2000; Teixeira, Siva, Santos, & Gomez, 2001; Wolfe, Vaerio, Strohecker, & Szmedra, 2001). In brief, these studies found that even though both the one-set and multiple-set (three sets) training protocols resulted in significant strength gains, the one-set per movement groups exhibited substantially greater gains than the multiple-set groups.
Proper training form and repetition speed have always been considered a necessary component of effective training by the HIT enthusiasts. For instance, at no time have I ever encountered a HIT follower to advocate that explosive repetition speed is dangerous. Instead, HIT advocates maintain that proper form is a necessary condition of safe lifting, regardless of repetition speed. Nonetheless, there is evidence that repetition speed plays a role in strength gains. A study by Wescott, Winett, Anderson, Wojcik, Loud, Cleggett, & Glover (2001) found that super-slow reps (10 s concentric, 4 s eccentric) resulted in 50% greater strength gains than regular speed training ( 2 s concentric, 1 s contraction, 4 s eccentric). These results notwithstanding, the HIT advocate will maintain that proper form is as important, if not more important, than repetition speed.
An issue not addressed satisfactorily in your post is training frequency and recovery, i.e., avoid overtraining. A major tenet of the HIT method is that brief, infrequent workouts of high intensity will reduce the risk of overtraining while simultaneously enabling the trainee to make gains in both strength and size.
In conclusion, I find the HIT method to be a viable and worthwhile training style. Furthermore, HIT can be utilized in a number of ways: super-slow, heavy duty ( a la Mike Mentzer), full-body routines, and split routines. Nonetheless, the HIT trainee must follow certain principles in order to use this style effectively, namely, short, intense workouts with adequate recovery time and continual progression, either in reps, poundages or both. Moreover, I personally have had greater success from the HIT method of training than from a multiple-set style of training. However, I do believe that everyone must follow his or her own beliefs with respect to training.
Fincher, G.E. (2001). The effect of high intensity resistance training on sustained anaerobic power output among collegiate football players. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(5).
Hass, C.J., Garzarella, L., de Hoyos, D., & Pollock, M.L. (2000). Single versus multiple sets in long term recreational weightlifters. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
Teixeria, M.S., Silva, E.B., Santos, C.B., & Gomez, P.S. (2001). Effects of resistance training with different sets and weekly frequencies on upper body muscular strength in military males 18 years of age. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(5).
Westcott, W.L., Winett, R.A., Anderson, E.S., Wojcik, J.R., Loud, R.L., Cleggett, E., & Glover, S. (2001). Effects of regular and slow speed resistance training on muscle strength. Journal of Medicine and Physical Fitness, 41.
Wolfe, B.L., Vaerio, T.A., Strohecker, K., & Szmedra, L. (2001). Effect of single versus multiple-set resistance training on muscular strength. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(5)
Well put--I use HIT because of the demands of my schedule and my age. I rarely have time for more than 2-3 workouts per week, which take no longer than 20-30 min. to complete, and I have made excellent progress following this style of training. Nonetheless, I believe that everyone needs to find his/her own training niche.