Rant against HIT !!!
As I'm new here I thought I'd post up an old post in the hope of starting some discussion. This is my HIT rant....
In simple scientific terms HIT training violates the following universally accepted principles of training science:
1. Principle of individual differences - violated.
2. Principle of overcompensation - may / may not depends on the lifter.
3. Principle of overload - usually violated in HIT programs.
4. SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demand) - Violated.
5. Use / Disuse - Violated.
6. Specificity Principle - Violated.
7. GAS (general adaptation syndrome) principle - Violated.
In short the HIT guys are so concerned with pushing what they incorrectly call "intensity" (what they call intensity is actually correctly referred to as RPE or Rating of Perceived Effort) as the means to gains in size / strength that they blinker themselves to factors such as rep speed, load, volume, density, intensity (correctly defined - the % of a 1RM at which one works), rest times between sets, specificity of adaptation to different means of stimulation etc.
The HIT has such a shameful grasp of basic physiology that I am amazed anyone would actually follow their lead. In their anti-Weightlifting, anti-speed , anti-specificity of adaptation stance they alienate themselves not only from modern scientific rigour but from the respect of athletes who have even a gross knowledge of muscle function.
A few quick examples...
As noted in “Science and Practice” hypertrophy occurs in response to total work done. So, a hypothetical Newbie seeking a basis of size and strength could squat 140Kg for 2 sets to failure of 5 reps each = 1400Kg load. Or he could squat 125 Kg for 6 sets of 6, never going anywhere near failure and squat a load of 4500Kg.Which do you think has the greater potential for causing adaptation? Is fatigue accepted as a primary driver of adaptation? Nope. Is the amount of work done? Yes. So why would anyone train to maximise fatigue and minimise the work done?
HIT Jedi claim that Olympic lifting or any other lifting involving "fast" bar speeds preclude development as the lifter relies on "momentum" to "carry" the bar and that there is "insufficient muscular tension" to illicit an adaptive response. I have one question that so far none of the good disciples of Mentzer have been able to answer. Where did the momentum come from? Did the lifter pull it out of a special pocket in his singlet? Or did he create it by exerting so great a force on the bar that its speed increased greatly...the latter right? So if the lifter applied this huge amount of force to the bar then isn't that a stimulus for further adaptation? Of course it is.
This claim of the bar being “carried” by momentum during quick lifts also shows a gross misunderstanding of weightlifting (and even speed squatting / benching) technique. Anyone who has ever executed a full clean or snatch properly would be aware that the lifter has to push him / herself under the bar AS the bar is rising. The HITers seem to think that after the 2nd pull begins the weight takes on a life of its own allowing you to waddle off the platform and take a hot shower before coming back to ease yourself under the magically hovering bar! Hands up if you have ever stopped trying to accelerate the bar on your speed squats just after the bottom position but had the bar continue of off your back to lockout height? This is what the HITers are saying is happening - the bar is moving by itself and you are producing no muscular tension after the first few inches, just standing up.
The super-slow idiots are the worst for this, but the HIT Jedi get a close second place. The relationship between bar speed, length of moment arm and mechanical stress is a complex and ever changing one. To simply state that fast bar speeds preclude adaptive stress from being placed on tissues is moronic.
The 2nd point they make on Olympic lifting totally contradicts the first one. Some HIT Jedi like to say that OL and “fast” bar speeds put such a massive magnitude of stress on muscles, tendons etc that they will inevitably rip or tear. “Olympic lifting is dangerous”, “Speed squats are dangerous” etc. So lets get this straight - moving a bar fast reduces muscular stress, but it also increase musculotendonal forces so much that injury MUST eventually occur? Will somebody call these guys up and make them pick one argument or the other? Thanks!
My response to this 2nd piece of anti - quick lifting babble is simple. Anyone with a force plate can show you that the forces experienced by a human being jumping, running and rapidly changing directions are of similar (sometimes greater) magnitude than those experienced by an Olympic lifter. So if your going to stop OL or speed lifts in WSB cause the forces involved make it dangerous then you better stop running, jumping and rapid changes of direction - along with every sport that involves such things. Does this seem sensible?
HIT guys are now working a lift or bodypart once every 7 - 10 days, with each workout usually involving training to concentric “failure” for 1 set. They claim that this allows them to "fully recover" from the miniscule workloads they put themselves through. They also talk of how "sore" they get after every session and so forth. I hate to be the one to poop on the parade but training a muscle group once in 10 days absolutely ensures you will be sore every time you train because you will be so detrained by the time your next session comes along. Secondly, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) has very little to do with gaining size or strength. By ten days post workout HITers will have lost much of the tiny adaptive response offered by 1 set to “failure” and will be almost back to where they started.
This is why it feels "hard" every time you train...because you are detrained and have lost the benefits of your previous training session by the time you reach the next one. Train a muscle group every 48 - 72 hours. If you "cant" do this then its simply because you are not in sufficient condition and will need to SLOWLY increase your volume and frequency in order to raise your work capacity to the point where you can train each muscle twice a week at least. Incidentally, most world-class track athletes, powerlifters, weightlifters, throwers and strongmen train between 4 and 30 times per week without any problems. This is because they actually have a high level of strength fitness and are capable of enduring great workloads, which in turn leads to higher training frequencies as it is not possible to do all that work in one or two sessions a week.
This leads me to another point. Fatigue is specific to the means by which it is induced. HIT guys like to ignore this one coz to admit it is to admit the possibility of training more than 3 times in your lifetime.
To take an extreme example, say you had a very heavy leg training session on Monday, how does this impact on your pectoral training session on Tuesday? Very little if at all. In a similar way, differing motor qualities can be trained very effectively even if they affect the same muscles. For example it is possible to train jumping and bounding exercises 2 days after squatting with near maximal weights with little or no decrease in performance despite their utilising the same muscles. However, if you were to attempt a maximal squat on this day you would obviously find that your performance would drop substantially. This specificity of fatigue allows an athlete to train one motor ability whilst still fatigued from the training of another. It is this factor that allows for the frequency of training that is often seen in strength training circles.
Most low calibre athletes baulk at training a body part more than once or at the most twice a week, but if they realised that fatigue is specific then they would realise that it is perfectly possible to train most muscles several times a week as long as the workouts utilised are not overly similar in terms of motor qualities utilised or neural patterns of activation used. This enables the athlete to more or less simultaneously train several qualities ASSUMING that enough attention is paid to monitoring residual fatigue effects, avoiding overtraining and keeping tabs on total training volume. As many of you will know this approach to training is called the conjugate method and it seems to work pretty well for a certain Barbell club or two. HIT doesn’t allow for different means to be used - it demands the means is the same at all times and only allows for changes (increases!) in load - and therefore precludes the use of conjugate training or indeed almost any other way of training.
These facts alone tell us that HIT will not be a particularly effective training means but they do not render HIT “useless”. Nothing that provides a training stimulus is “useless” it all depends on the context in which it is utilised. What irritates me most about the “HIT Jedi” is they insist on HIT being the “best” way for all people to train, all the time. That is nothing short of moronic. There is no one best way to train. At each given instant in time there may be a best way for each individual to train but the chances of that being the same means, all the time, for all people, is practically non-existent. It is like betting on the same horse every time - even when it is isn’t running in that particular race - sure it might win eventually but you are going to lose out big time in the long run.
HIT and other extremely low volume routines can be utilised at times WHEN IT IS APPROPRIATE but it is POINTLESS to use HIT as an exclusive system of sports training. Some say a “medium” level of volume will be most suited for most athletes seeking hypertrophy. Id rather state that most athletes will get the best results by making use of the widest possible variety of stimulus over a long (many years) period of time - one of these stimuli might well be very low volume work taken to the point of muscular fatigue with low frequency of training i.e. HIT. Equally one of the stimuli might be a very high volume of work with very high training frequencies. So rather than say a "medium" level of volume used at all times will be most appropriate to maximise gains I’d rather say that most time should probably be spent training with moderate training volume. Almost all levels of volume / intensity / fatigue should be utilised but never at the total exclusion of one another from the overall training plan. Following HIT protocols as laid out by Mentzer et al automatically excludes all other set / rep / bar speed / frequency / rest period etc combinations and why would anyone want to do that?
So why is it that so many folks like HIT (at least for a while) ?
I think the gains made by HIT converts are down to a few factors that can be found in any training methodology as follows:
Change in volume / load / fatigue / some other parameter which results in temporary progress by change of means.
Change in work rate through mental change. "This is it! I’ve finally found the secret - now I am going to work my ass off" and Voila - the belief gives rise to hard work which in turn brings the progress via change in WORK ETHIC. Suddenly all is good in the world and you eat better, train stricter, sleep more etc.
HIT is good for generating both of these things. Low volume training is an unusual stimulus for most athletes.
Most athletes will work pretty hard on something they believe in. HIT, like all other marketed "systems" of BBing is well hyped, slickly marketed and well backed by anecdotal evidence...which generates belief before it is even tried so the trial is "biased".
After a while of this particular stimulus the athlete will become stale and HIT “stops working”. At this point if you believe Mentzer you need “more rest” or you must “call on reserves of deep energy” or some other pseudo-philosophical claptrap. The simple truth is you will have to mind a different training stimulus and it will undoubtedly involve greater training volume.