My Years with HIT

TAGS: high intensity training, maximum hypertrophy, blood and guts, HIT training, bodybuilding competition, driven, Dorian Yates, Mark Dugdale, bodybuilding

 In The Beginning

I attended my first bodybuilding competition in 1992 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. The guest poser nicknamed “The Shadow” hailed from Birmingham, England. Aside from Arnold Schwarzenegger, I wasn’t super-familiar with many professional bodybuilders. Dorian Yates’ physique utterly shocked the crowd that evening. He instantly inspired this teenage boy and fueled my training for the next decade.

Blood and Guts

Dorian’s training philosophy slowly spread to the masses upon his first Olympia victory later in 1992. Despite non-existent social media, it took off like wildfire after his astounding transformation from ’92 to ’93 en route to his second Sandow trophy. A book detailed his approach to maximizing muscle mass published in paperback that same year under the title Blood and Guts. I revered it more than Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. It became the bible in regards to my training approach.

Science aside, Dorian’s blood and guts style of training also labelled high intensity training (HIT) took him to six consecutive Mr. Olympia titles. I say “science aside” because modern day training science largely disputes the efficacy of HIT for maximum hypertrophy. In Dorian’s case an all-out assault on the iron, blood and guts style, trumped exercise science. Dorian once told me, “I trained in such a manner as to ensure that on the day of competition it was physically impossible for any of my competitors to have out-trained me.”

 HIT Driven (Sample Program)

I recently previewed the first DVD I produced back in 2006 titled, DRIVEN. I watched it mostly to walk back in time to see my daughters at the ages of three, five, and seven – wow, have they grown up! Anyway, DRIVEN provides a glimpse into the second year of my professional career and specifically my prep for the IRONMAN PRO in Pasadena, CA. It closely follows the training routine I used for the better part of the 20’s and early 30’s.


Here is the breakdown:

Monday – Chest & Biceps

  • Incline Bench Press
  • Flat Dumbbell Press
  • Machine Press: Two working sets
  • Machine Fly’s
  • Unilateral Machine Curls
  • Preacher EZ Bar Curls
  • Cable Curls

NOTE: After warming up every exercise consisted of two working sets. First set to failure and second set to failure plus forced reps or drop set.

Tuesday – Legs

  • Barbell Squats
  • Leg Press or Hack Squats (alternating weeks)
  • Walking Lunges
  • Leg Extensions

NOTE: After warming up every exercise consisted of two working sets. First set to failure and second set to failure plus forced reps or drop set. Only exception was walking lunges.

Wednesday – Off

Thursday – Back & Hamstrings

  • Supinated Grip Lat Pulldowns
  • Neutral T-Bar Row/Smith Row Superset: Two rounds
  • Hammer/Dorian One Arm Rows
  • Wide Lat Pulldowns Superset w/Rope Straight-Arm Pulls: 2 rounds
  • Lying Leg Curls
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

NOTE: After warming up every exercise consisted of two working sets. First set to failure and second set to failure plus forced reps or drop set. Exceptions were supersets.

Friday – Shoulders & Triceps

  • Dumbbell Side Laterals
  • Cable Front Raises Superset w/Machine Press: 2 rounds
  • Rear Delt Machine
  • Barbell Shrugs
  • Close Grip Bench Superset w/ Machine Dips
  • One Arm Supinated Grip Triceps Pushdowns
  • V-Bar Pushdown Superset w/Overhead Extensions: 2 rounds

NOTE: After warming up every exercise consisted of two working sets. First set to failure and second set to failure plus forced reps or drop set. Exceptions were supersets.

Saturday & Sunday – Off

NOTE: Overall variations existed in regards to exercise selection. Constants were volume, reps (6-8), training days, intensity techniques, etc. Basically I alternated between a few exercises, but I went hard and heavy every single workout. No waving volume; no deloading.


The Good

A number of benefits correlate with HIT training. First, brief workouts mean less time in the gym for those pressed for time. Sure maximum intensity is required, but 43% of the training week is an off day which reduces the chances for CNS burnout. With one or two working sets per exercise you become acutely aware of how much you save or pace yourself with higher volume programs. It requires some mental adjustments, but your body quickly learns that 100% effort is required because you only get one or two balls-out opportunities before moving to the next exercise.

DRIVEN

The Bad

DRIVEN documented the first of my final three years in which I subscribed to HIT. Coincidentally missing from the DVD: leg training. I suffered a slight tear to my right quad a week before we planned to shoot the leg workout for the film. Dorian suffered a biceps tear in 1994 and a career ending triceps tear in 1997. HIT worked well for both of us, but eventually the intensity and heavier weights catch up to you. You can’t go balls-to-the-walls for too long before something snaps. My pec tear in 2009 on my second rep with 500 pounds on bench press was the nail in the HIT coffin for me.

Conclusion

I’ve never been much of a science guy. What works in the gym matters more to me than a scientific journal. I firmly believe HIT took me to the pro level, but it also nearly ended my career. John Meadows’ Mountain Dog Training breathed new life into my workouts by affording me the opportunity to train intensely with less chance of injury.  It simply makes way more sense for me at 40 years old.

I still get emails from guys pissing and moaning about how I abandoned HIT. My response: Dorian retired at 35 from a devastating injury. I’m tilling new soil still banging away at the weights at 40. There’s a time and place for various training methods and HIT’s not what’s best for me at this stage in my life. Find the program that works for you, but be receptive to changes over the next couple decades if you want to be lifting, enjoying it and making progress years later.

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