As a high intensity training coach for strength athletes I often, and sometimes on a daily basis, get questions about how to build a workout routine, how to advance a workout routine or what the next step is in reaching individual potential. I always keep it simple stupid using the basic theory of HIT.
I wish I could say it is just experience that allows me to answer these questions but it is actually a combination of critical thinking, experience and an understanding of how people around us including athletes, differ… based on their genetic makeup. What I am saying is that although high intensity strength training is probably the most effective training ever, because of it’s efficiency and the way our bodies are designed, we still all have different genetic fingerprints and in applying the theory of high intensity training properly, is the key to the puzzle.
It is no secret that we are all genetically different, from our fingerprints to the individual differences that make us up. If you look at color we have albinos at one end of the spectrum and Negros at the other. This difference also is directly related to tolerance to sun light where an albino can tolerate very little volume of sunlight where as a Negro can tolerate much more. These are genetics! Same applies to muscles, height, IQ and a list of others.
Same can be said for tolerance to exercise, although we are physiologically the same we are genetically different. This is the reason when I build an exercise routine I customize it to the individual using it. There is no One Size Fits All totally!
In saying there is no one size fits all, there are exercises that are very effective which turn on the growth mechanism of the entire body. These exercises are what I call the big exercises such as deadlifts, squats, rows, high pulls, dips, bench presses and their alternatives. When building any workout, I use a cross hatch of these exercises, based on the person’s goals and augment these exercises with other effective but less stressful exercises. By using the thermometer of volume and frequency to adhere with brief and infrequent workouts, I ask a number of questions to get a read of what their genetic makeup might be. This might include:
o What they feel their weaknesses are
o What their rate of progress has been for the past 3 months
o What their energy levels are at the moment
o What their current workout frequency is
o What level of intensity are they applying
o What their diet is like and what do they tend to eat
o What is their body fat percentage at the moment
o How long have they been training
o What training have they been initiating; high volume or high intensity
o Do they include aerobics or cardio training and why
These are just a few. In asking these questions I am painting a picture of who they are genetically, and the road they have traveled, to get to the point of where they are presently. If they are searching out a workout routine and find me, in most cases, the way they have approached their goals has been unsuccessful. What I find in many cases is that they are floundering. They have gone months and years without meaningful progress due to two things.
1- Not cooperating with their genetics
2- Not applying properly, the Theory of High Intensity Training, which stated simply is that exercise must be intense, brief and infrequent.
It is no secret that you can train either hard or long but you can’t train hard and long. The theory of HIT indicates quite simply this…
1- You must stimulate muscular growth with an intense contraction i.e. going to failure or beyond…
2- Your training must be brief as to
3- Allow the body to not only compensate but overcompensate or adapt to that stimulation.
Did you know that you can increase your strength beyond 300% however your ability to recover may increase on 50%?
The body only requires you to stimulate an adaptive response once, not over and over again and because any more than is minimally required takes away from the growth and recovery process and since the body systemically recovers, then whatever is left over goes into overcompensation, laying down muscle… then your training must be brief and infrequent. And all this hinges on one thing… genetics!
A properly designed program, including one for bodybuilders is really a strength program because muscle and strength are relative.
This means that it is necessary to do only what is minimally required to stimulate an increase. Any more than what is minimally required is overtraining! This means only one set per exercise… remember, you do not have to stimulate a response over and over again. Your goal is not to do more work, leave that to the distance runners!
There is also no reason to do a number of sets and alter rep range, every rep up until the last almost impossible rep performed that turns on the growth mechanism of the body is nothing more than a warm up.
The higher the rep range, the less stressful due to the weight being employed.
Big basic exercises, as previously mentioned, should be the core of your workout routine augmented with smaller exercises like curls, laterals, pull downs, triceps extension etc if necessary.
All big basic exercises do not have to be done in each workout, rather, performing just one or sometimes two per workout is plenty along with one or two smaller exercises.
In a split routine you can have up to 4 or more split workouts with rest days between each while experiencing amazing progress. You will not loose size but gain!
Rest days in general range most effectively between 4 days all the way to 14 days, based on genetics and the level of the trainee. A very advanced trainee who can generate very intense contractions thus strength may need 7+ days of rest as would a less experienced trainee who has a low tolerance to intense exercise. Both will advance, yet at different rates.
Advanced athletes require more intense contractions to advance, along with longer rest times. Higher stress intensity techniques are required and work very well in all exercises if managed properly.
Both beginners and advanced athletes require big core basic exercises to turn on the systemic growth process of the body.
Tracking progress means tracking your strength gains. You will either gain reps or strength or both which will result at a future point as a muscular bodyweight gain.
Diet plays a major role in performance, progress and recovery. There must be quality cement in place to build the house. Macro-nutrient manipulation in many cases is very beneficial, allowing the bodies natural systems to be used most efficiently. Processed anything should be limited.
Remember, you grow outside the gym not in it! It is an ends to a means. Use these factors when building your H I T workout routine and watch your progress speed along to reaching your genetic potential.