High Intensity Training H.I.T

Updated: May 22

If I have learned anything in my 30 plus years as a strength coach, it is, there is no wrong way. Some ways may have more to offer, but in the schematics of success, championships have been one using various forms of strength training. One of the popular methods when I was a high school and college athlete was High Intensity Training or HIT for short.

I was actually exposed to this style of training while I was in high school but didn’t realize it until later. We would do the “big lifts” for sets and reps and the auxiliary work was done for 1 set to failure. Our program was a combination of what the University of Maryland was doing as well as Penn State. It wasn’t until I reached college that I was exposed to the true meaning of HIT through our strength coach, Joey Bullock. This form of training originated early on when the inventor of Nautilus, Arthur Jones and Ellington Darden developed the training system to go with it. The goal of the program was to achieve maximum results in a minimum effective dose with the least amount of time expended. This was a whole-body program of 6-12+ exercises, usually specific body parts done for 1 set to momentary muscular failure. By pushing the athlete to failure, it was believed that this would be beneficial for muscular growth. This programming was generally a 3-day plan, every other day or in some cases of extreme delayed onset muscle soreness between 5-8 days per session. Repetitions per set were usually high 10-15 plus with a very strict movement tempo, 6-7 seconds per set. The two most popular tempos were 3 count eccentric/3 count concentric and a 4 count eccentric/1 count midpoint pause/2 count concentric action. There were times when the coach would push the athlete past exertion, using drop sets and negatives at the end of the prescribed set. Prolonging the agony as I remember. It would not be uncommon to see leg press sets between 20-100 reps for 1 set. YES 100. Legendary Strength Coach Kim Wood of the Cincinnati Bengals was notorious for this. I believe my best was 400 x 50 on the old AMF Hip Sleds.

Although not as popular in the main stream as traditional models, former Washington Redskins strength coach Dan Riley, who popularized this style of training at ARMY in the 70’s won 3 Bowl Championships with this method in the 80’s. Mike Metzger brought it to the bodybuilding scene and it exploded when Dorian Yates won 6 Mr. Olympia titles utilizing a version of HIT. Dr. Ken Leistner utilized this method when training athletes as well as powerlifters and was a huge advocate of this style of training. It should be noted that the training being done with this model is based on Intensity of Effort where load is increased when the athlete achieves the maximum number of prescribed repetitions (majority of time reaching failure) without the loss of technical efficiency. The more common practice of utilizing training intensity is based on a percentage of a repetition maximum (70% of 400 pounds). The whole-body method was a key point of emphasis in the development of my programming for athletes. I believe there is a place for this type of training to stimulate new adaptations in the late Rejuvenation Stage or a secondary Transition period of the annual training plan. Depending of the length of your Developmental Stage, this could be a very good 3-6 week strategy to start the stage.

Sample Routine - Wake Forest Mid 80's

As a bonus to this week’s blog and 60 Second Strength Coach, we will be hosting an Instagram Live Discussion on the HIT on Thursday, April 30th at 3pm EST on the Dynamic Fitness and Strength Instagram Page. During this 30-minute program, we will discuss the design of HIT programming.


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