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Ramp up Your Results With HIT

Discover the Benefits of High Intensity Strength Training
  -- By Dean Anderson, Fitness Expert
Has your normal strength training routine gone a bit...stale? Tired of putting in hours at the gym but not getting the expected results? It could be time to ramp up your workouts with high-intensity training, or HIT.

Originally developed in the 1970s by trainers and coaches of professional athletes, HIT is a specialized approach to strength training that has shown to provide better results in less time and with less risk of injury. These perks make HIT suitable for many people, including non-athletes and those simply trying to lose weight and become more fit, regardless of age or gender.

HIT is demanding, both physically and mentally. As with any form of high-intensity exercise, you need to be in good basic health and free from any significant cardiovascular risk factors and muscle or joint problems that could limit your capacity to exercise safely at a more demanding level. If you have any doubts or concerns, consult your doctor before trying any of these techniques. 

Principles of HIT

So, how exactly does HIT differ from traditional strength training? There are two primary differences.

1. The Secret to Achieving Perfect Form

While traditional training methods focus on the quantity of repetitions (eight to 15), sets (two to three), and weight lifted, HIT focuses on quality: form. By using ideal form, you can achieve better and faster improvements in strength and muscle growth with just one set of exercises for each muscle. Proper form and fewer sets virtually eliminate many of the injury risks associated with multiple sets that are performed with less than ideal form.

The basic characteristics of a "perfect" HIT repetition/set include:

You're doing it right if the target muscle is trembling, shaking and burning during your last repetition. Pain in a joint or a non-target muscle is usually a red flag that your form is wrong. Implementing the perfect form principle is mainly a matter of focus and concentration. You need to pay close attention to the “rules” of good form at all times during your workout (including proper breathing and body position) and to your timing. <pagebreak>

2. The Triple Progressive Overload Principle

Traditional weight training relies on a “double progressive overload principle," which involves progressively adding weight and increasing the number of repetitions to keep overloading the muscle and produce improvements in strength and size. HIT adds a third factor to this equation: increasing the time spent with the muscle under constant tension.

Depending on your individual genetic potential, you can train your muscles to produce maximum power for up to three to five minutes at a time. To accomplish this, you need to keep increasing not only the amount of weight and number of repetitions you can lift, but also the total amount of time that your muscles are under continuous tension during each set and each workout session. The best way to implement the triple overload principle will vary depending on your training goals and priorities. Competitive weightlifters, bodybuilders and endurance athletes all need specialized approaches based on the requirements of their sports.

General HIT Guidelines

If you're pursuing modest or general fitness goals, follow these strategies:

Everyone, from marathon runners to competitive power lifters to 58-year-old guys trying to stay in shape, can use HIT to achieve their goals, but you may need to adjust the general approach to suit your needs. If you’re interested in HIT, I highly recommend the book, "High Intensity Training" by John Philbin. Also, check out our related article about high-intensity interval training.