Fitness Articles

Ramp up Your Results With HIT

Discover the Benefits of High Intensity Strength Training

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:

  • Slow, controlled movement. Without bouncing or using momentum, take two to three full seconds to lift the weight (positive phase). Before lowering the weight, pause for half a second and squeeze the contracted muscle. Finish one rep by taking four to five full seconds to lower the weight to the starting position (negative phase). The key here is to keep the muscle under constant tension, without allowing the weight to rest on the machine or on your body at the bottom of the negative phase.

  • Full range of motion. Each exercise should be taken through the complete range of joint movement, but don't fully straighten or "lock out" your joints.

  • Momentary muscle fatigue (MMF). The goal is to feel the burn in the target muscle by the end of your set, without sacrificing ideal form. You will defeat the purposes of HIT by arching your back, rocking your body or using momentum to squeeze out another repetition or two. You will also limit training effectiveness by stopping at a predetermined number of repetitions per set if you could do more without sacrificing form.

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. Continued ›

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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

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