HIT (or high intensity training) is by far one of the most underrated and misunderstood training philosophies on the planet. It has been a virtual roller coaster ride in popularity for this once loved idea. From its marketing genius beginnings, to its untimely death and revival, it has been one of the most loved and hated routines on the planet.
Back in the early 20th century, two brothers named Joe and Ben Weider, were the bringers of the fire that would set the world ablaze and give way to bodybuilding’s rise from a sideshow act to a respected sport. With Ben starting what would become the dominating force in bodybuilding competition, the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding), and Joe making bodybuilding a viable business, they essentially became the godfathers of the modern sport. And no one in their right mind would challenge the dominance of these brothers. That is, until Arthur Jones made his first appearance.
I have heard Jones called many things, such as a saint or god, but in all reality he was a businessman. No more, no less. Jones found his niche in bodybuilding. He had found a business that had been monopolized by two men, but they had missed something that would make the business much more lucrative.
The Weiders had focused on a relatively small group of people that were willing to spend massive amounts of time in pursuit of an ideal in much the same way that a Buddhist monk pursues enlightenment. But Jones realized that by creating a workout that would take less than an hour, he could bring the masses into the fitness lifestyle and make a great deal more money than focusing on the same small group that the Weiders had focused on.
And so it was that Jones set out on his journey to produce a routine that would hold merit, and produce results in a much reduced time frame when compared to the order of the day. But he also needed to be radical in order to draw attention to the line of machines he was looking to sell and so it was that HIT was born. Let’s face it, a workout that took around 30 minutes, 3 times a week would be much more appealing to the general public than the 4 hour workout, 6 times a week recommended by the Weider brothers.
Now that Jones had the idea he needed 2 more things. One – he would have to find the face of Nautilus and HIT, and two – he needed a set of principles similar to what Joe Weider had produced years before.
He found his face in Casey Viator. Arthur trained him up to his Mr. America win where he made history as the youngest man to ever win the title at an astonishing 19. But by far Jones’ biggest name was Mike Mentzer. Mentzer was the first man to win the show with a perfect score.
These two men would lead the charge that would forever change bodybuilding. But the principals weren’t so simple. Ssure Jones could make a list, but that wasn’t his style. So instead, he wrote a few articles called the Nautilus bulletins, and though it wasn’t as simple to understand as the list from Weider, it allowed Jones to make a much more lasting impression on his readers.
The only problem with HIT was the fact that it that it had a tendency to attract radical thinkers, and turned into a cult of sorts. Today we know these people as jedis, because they hold such a die hard view on their training it would inevitably scare off more people than it would convert. Jones brought the fire that held the potential to revolutionize bodybuilding and fitness, yet due to his eccentricities and unwavering views, he would not be able to make hit anymore than a passing fad…
HIT the next generation and Heavy Duty
Dr. Ellington Darden was Jones’ right hand man for more than 20 years, and would be the one to carry the torch his mentor had passed on. He slowly made refinements to the principals and focused less on the advertising power than on the purity of HIT. Through the years, Dr. Darden would rise to become one of the most well known and best selling authors of fitness books in the world. But none the less, Darden’s high reverence for his mentor would cause him to become nearly blind in the progress of hit for many years. Darden still refuses to admit to the fact that certain principals are basically unneeded.
While Darden focused on the progress of the original ideas of Jones, another one of Jones’ “students” would begin to adjust and possibly make certain aspects better. This other student was none other than Mike Mentzer. And while he was so radical he made the Taliban suicide bombers seem sane, he would essentially make a new branch in the HIT family tree.
Granted, the majority of the ideas of Mentzer were still inline with Jones. He began experimenting with split routines, increased recovery periods, and also brought in the set extenders like rest pause. But none the less, much of his routines included one, or at most two exercises per body part. This was the same as Jones’ HIT. But through his other changes, Mentzer’s Heavy Duty training system would lay the foundation for the third and last (to this date) revision of HIT…
Dorian Yates, Mr. Blood and Guts
Dorian Yates was the first disciple of HIT to become Mr. Olympia, yet he was also the creator of the final version of HIT that would essentially bring HIT full circle. Jones and Darden had created and advanced the original version of HIT that was radically different than the routines of the day.
Mentzer brought back certain aspects of the modern routines and made HIT much more appealing to the hardcore bodybuilding crowd, but his radical ideas on time between workouts made most of these guys sick because they loved training more than results. But Yates, on the other hand, produced an unwritten system known as Blood and Guts. And it was the best mix of the circular routines and HIT, due to the fact that it was much easier to swallow.
But the biggest thing in favor of Yates’ training style was his body. The preceding Mr. Olympia winners had trained with higher volume routines. So the question had been, who would you believe – the Mr. Olympia, or the salesmen with a few good bodybuilders? It’s the guy with the best body that gets listened to.
In part 2 of my history of HIT, I shall make the case for HIT, and explain its short comings and strengths.