Physical Culture

Evolution of the High Intensity Approach

High Intensity Proponent, Dorian Yates

My last update on my blog concerned my discovery and implementation of HIT concepts to my training.  Just like anything else, a steady progression of understanding through trial and error has occurred and I’ve continually refined the approach to optimize my results.

I first dipped my foot in the High Intensity waters by copying a workout Dorian Yates followed, exercise for exercise.  Dorian’s approach was HIT in the sense that it was always one set to absolute failure per exercise.  Dorian included 3 exercises per muscle with a 4 day split.  I enjoyed the intensity, but after roughly four weeks I was unable to continue to progress on any of the lifts and felt a general sense of exhaustion and lack of drive.  I’ve learned over time that these are indicators that its time to change up my workout program, and oddly enough it always tends to occur at the four week mark.

I then moved on to the High Intensity program Mike Mentzer popularized in his books.  Essentially this workout was broken out as follows:

  • Chest and Back
  • Legs
  • Shoulders and Arms
  • Legs

I failed to apply this approach correctly, however, as I worked out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  This translated to way too much frequency for my recovery ability.

My latest training was inspired by the workout followed by High Intensity trainer Drew Baye.  I alternate between two workouts tailored to my physical needs and based on big movements with some assistance movements.  I’ve found that I require much more rest than I previously believed.  I now workout once every 5th day (if I work out on Monday, I’ll go back in for the next workout on Saturday) and have found this allows me to improve consistently without feeling run down or grinding to a halt on progress since December of 2010!

Workout A

Leg Press

Incline Chest Press

Weighted Pullup

Barbell Shoulder Press

Dumbbell Forearm Curl

Day 2

Deadlift

Weighted Dips

Nautilus Lateral Raises

Reverse Drag Curl

Standing Calf Raise

I use a 4 seconds up, 4 seconds down rep cadence and do most exercises in a rest pause fashion with five full seconds between each rep.  I do 5-8 reps for most exercises except for leg press (8-12) and calf raise (10-15).  Once I reach the top limit in the rep range, I increase the entire weight by 10% and start to climb the rep range again.

I workout extremely infrequently,  30-45 minutes roughly twice a week, but this isn’t an easy workout whatsoever.  The one big work set makes each exercise feel like a strength event.  Before each exercise I feel nervous as if I’m about to run a race.  This gives me an amazing mental focus and a sense of immediacy as I train.  I am working out extremely intensely and providing a deep inroad, but then exiting the gym as quickly as possible so that I can fully recover.  I believe the reason I’d progress for 4 weeks and then halt was because the accumulated workload eventually would overwhelm my body’s ability to recover and cope.  This workout has served me well for months now, and I believe its because I’m allowing my body to fully recuperate.

This approach has allowed me to get better benefit from my workouts while dedicating far less time to it.  The time I spend in the gym is much more satisfying since I get to lift heavy and intensely, I’m always “hungry” to train when I get to train, and I also have far more time outside of the gym to dedicate to other fulfilling endeavors.  I won’t promise that I’ll only use HIT for the rest of my life, but it will be tough to beat the cost-benefit ratio.

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