HIT: Acronym Acrimony

27 comments written by Joshua Trentine

HIT: Acronym Acrimony
By Joe Anderson

High-Intensity Training (HIT) is an inadequate moniker for the concept of exercise and needs to be decommissioned. Additionally, the HIT ‘community’ has all but stalled toward the advancement of exercise and dissociation seems prudent. I’ll admit I’m probably not the one who should be writing this. Further, it is unfortunate, albeit obvious, that such lines must be drawn.

However, if the goal is to advance exercise, then I submit that those advancing it must be willing to make the necessary distinctions in order to sufficiently distinguish exercise from ALL other activities (including and especially those which are similar and related). I believe the RenEx associates have done this well, the lingering HIT association notwithstanding. It is time to part ways.

This may seem disrespectful to those who have forged the path that we continue to travail, but I assure you it is not. We honor their contributions by advancing beyond them. In my opinion, it is disrespectful to simply enjoy the fruit of their labor, content with “if it was good enough for them, then it is good enough for me.”

bridge buildThis reminds me of a poem entitled The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole. An old man decides to build a bridge across a formidable chasm he proved crossable. He took the time to build the bridge so that those following after him, possibly less capable than he, could similarly cross it.

You can read the entirety of this piece here.

While I’m sure some will disagree with the nature of this old man’s intention, the point remains: a bridge was built. Some may approach the bridge and simply stand in awe of it. Others may cross the bridge just to try it out, with no desire to travel beyond. Still others may decide to find alternative ways to cross the same chasm or improve upon the design of the bridge. Yet others, upon crossing the bridge built for them, travel onward, charting new territory.

I believe the associates of RenEx are the latter. It is time to move forward.

High-Intensity Training (HIT)

There is not a clear description of HIT, at least not one that I’m aware of, which makes this critique challenging. To better understand HIT, it seems appropriate to start with its inception.

Dr. Ellington Darden was the first to describe a method of exercise as High-Intensity Training, coining the HIT acronym. HIT was in reference to Arthur Jones’ vision for proper exercise: a preference for a progressive application of “outright hard work” performed for the entire body, which necessitated a relatively low volume of exercises and frequency of performance (as compared to the bodybuilding ‘norm’ of the 1970s)…and rest.

  • Outright hard work
  • Full-body routines
  • Relatively low volume of exercises
  • Relatively low frequency of performance
  • Progression
  • Rest

That was perhaps the clearest explanation of HIT there has ever been. It seems that from this point forward, HIT has been used to describe dozens of different (and often conflicting) ‘methods’ of strength exercise. A genesis of unfortunate word choices spawned an ambiguous concept, which has been bastardized as needed to the liking of whoever chooses.

thomas reid

There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.
Thomas Reid

Does the phrase “high-intensity training” improve or impede understanding of what is attempting to be described?

Consider the term “intensity,” which means the degree, volume or magnitude of a thing.

Presumably, intensity is in reference to the concept of “outright hard work”; the degree, volume or magnitude of the effort involved. The descriptor “high” is then added to further convey the concept. “High-intensity” is suggested to mean a full effort; exhausting one’s ability to perform (i.e. training until muscular failure).

Given enough background and context, the use of this phrase to express to-failure training becomes more comprehensible. However, the phrase “high-intensity” already has an established meaning in exercise science literature. In reference to resistance training, intensity is a percentage of one repetition maximum (1RM). Typically, high intensity is expressed as >80% of 1RM. [Note: scientific literature often uses the phrase “resistance training.” It too is a worthless descriptor of the exercise activity, but I digress.]

In a recent paper, James Fisher et al. discussed intensity as “the percentage of momentary muscular effort being exerted” and suggested other authors follow suit. I applaud their effort, however in the meantime high-intensity is widely accepted as meaning a heavy load. Such ambiguity is unnecessary since we have the ability to simply refrain from using this term or choose a more precise one.

“Training” was another poorly chosen word by Dr. Darden. The term has a sports or performance connotation, commonly used as the preparation necessary to acquire the skill or proficiency for an event. This is understandable, in that HIT was born out of the bodybuilding culture, where athletes were preparing for competition.

ElephantTrainerMannyCeneta270However, with the conversation moving toward exercise as a means to improve health and function, this lingering connotation is undesirable. Exercise is not training; performance is not the point; competition is not the goal. (Tangentially, the term “Trainer” is not an appropriate way to identify a person who instructs exercise; neither is “Coach”. Circus elephants have trainers; sports teams have coaches; exercising subjects simply need an “Instructor”).

Further, the use of “training” is counterproductive toward developing the mindset and corresponding behavior appropriate for exercise. Not surprisingly, this training mentality is common in HIT and errant terminology is culpable.

High-Intensity Training does not describe exercise in a meaningful way. Rather the phrase is ambiguous and an impediment toward advancement. It is an obstruction in communicating, understanding and developing the appropriate mindset for exercise. It is time to remove it from our vocabulary.

An error is the more dangerous in proportion to the degree of truth which it contains.

The problems with HIT extend beyond semantic inferences and are firmly rooted in the philosophical foundation. There are two specific trains of thought that seem to have derailed HIT:

  • Train for muscular strength in order to build muscular size
  • Exercise for increasing strength should be brief, infrequent, and intense

Strength Training

“The strength of muscle is in direct proportion to its size.” Arthur Jones took that statement and noted the following:

  1. To increase the strength of a muscle, you MUST increase its size.
  2. Increasing the size of a muscle WILL increase its strength.
  3. If all of the other factors are known and allowed for, then an accurate measurement of the size of a muscle will clearly and accurately indicate the strength of the muscle —and vice versa.
  4. There IS a DEFINITE relationship between muscular strength and muscular size.

Once the above points are clearly understood, the implications are obvious;

a)     bodybuilders, who are primarily interested in muscular size (with or without actual muscular strength) MUST train for maximum-possible muscular strength in order to build maximum-possible muscular size

b)     weightlifters, who are interested only in strength, MUST train for maximum-possible muscular size in order to build maximum-possible strength  (Size or Strength, The Arthur Jones Collection)

This line of reasoning led him to the following conclusion regarding exercise performance:

“You should perform as many repetitions as momentarily possible without sacrificing good form. Do not stop at 10 repetitions merely because that is the upper limit of your guide figures, continue for as many repetitions as possible…12, 15, or whatever number you can perform in good form…if you can reach or exceed your guide figure, then that is a signal to increase the resistance; the fact that you can perform more repetitions than you anticipated is proof that your muscles have grown, so you are stronger, and need more resistance.” (The Relationship of Muscular Mass to Strength,

In the absence of the ability to control enough variables and thereby standardize exercise performance, I’m not sure what, if anything, can be deduced from the event. “In good form” is insufficient for any meaningful comparison to be made.

I am sure that exercise performance improvement is not evidence of muscle mass increase. It is neither a sign of progression, nor is it a sign to progress. When “strength” is measured by exercise performance and the goal is simply to improve it…baddabing, badda boom- the assumed objective of exercise.

HIT seems to promote the belief that “doing more than last time” is both the stimulus for adaptation and the signal that adaptation occurred. This line of thought promotes the need to “get more reps” in order to “add more weight.”

It has always seemed odd to me that HIT prided itself on working harder, not longer; yet the intent of each exercise was an attempt to do more. The measure of “progress” unfortunately becomes a sign that a subject figured out how to work longer, not harder. This intent and the resulting behaviors are exactly opposite those of proper exercise, yet they are rampant within HIT.

This is not to say that progressive loading is problematic or to be avoided. Rather, progressive loading needs to be distinguished from progression. Whereas progressive loading is a decision, progression is an adaptation; it is a consequence of a stimulus. The decision to progress loads in order to increase exercise demands should not be done haphazardly, nor is it the only means to increasing exercise demands.

Brief, Infrequent and Intense

Arthur Jones correctly observed the relationship between effort, volume and frequency of exercise; that these variables influence one another. For productive exercise, he viewed effort as paramount, which was a shift from the volume-dominated thinking of the times. If effort were great, the resulting volume and frequency would not be. HIT exercises were performed to failure (his view of 100% intensity), with much less volume and repeated much less often than the bodybuilding norm. “Brief, infrequent and intense” became the HIT mantra.

Somewhere along the line, “brief, infrequent and intense” ceased being an acknowledgement of the influence effort has on volume and frequency and became an aspiration unto itself. What was once a consequence was now a cause. The variables became ends unto themselves, as if the point were the brevity, the infrequency or intensity. A person can develop the ability to effectively exercise themselves in a brief, infrequent and intense application. However, you can’t simply decide to work out infrequently or decide to work out briefly, simply because you worked to “failure” on your sets. An oversimplification of the exercise variables basically degraded Arthur’s astute observation into a peculiar HIT logic:

High intensity                       =          train to failure

Muscular failure                   =          weight won’t move anymore

Hard work will be brief       =          only perform one set

Fully Recover                       =          come back next week

Progressing                            =          added a rep (or TUL) OR moved more weight

Not Progressing                    =          genetic limitation

“Brief, infrequent and intense” is a description of productive exercise, not the prescription for it. Without any real means of discerning the influence and affect these variables have on a subject, I’m not even sure a relevant prescription is possible. Yet, with exercise performance improvement (lifting proficiency) as the judge and jury of progress, HIT seems to embark on a journey toward ever diminishing volume and frequency, trying to evade the overtraining boogeyman as “intensity” (load) rises.

This HIT Logic has led some on the quest for super-intensity, ultra-brief and extremely infrequent exercise. I find it humorous that attempts at “least amount necessary” have mostly produced “least effective possible.” Trying to force these variables into being only leads to the behaviors that prevent the activity from actually necessitating them!

There is no need to manufacture a brief, infrequent and intense scenario; proper exercise most certainly will become relatively intense, brief and infrequent as the exercising subject hones in the ability to inroad himself, as adaptation improves the level of output, as lifestyle influences recovery (nutrition, stress, sleep, etc.), and, most importantly, within the constraints of the paradigm one is exercising. And, if you find yourself in need of a tagline for exercise, I would suggest, “safe, effective and efficient.”

A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value.
– Isaac Asimov

HIT was a step in the right direction at one point in time. However, the advancement of exercise requires a divergent path.step in the right direction

The missteps of HIT provided the quandary that has given rise to more fruitful inquiry. Exercise will only advance to the degree we are willing to relinquish these errors (despite any sentimental attachment) and discover where the current inquiry leads. It is time to put aside anything obstructing our objective, including HIT associations that prevent it from being taken seriously as a method of exercise.

Let’s move exercise forward without pandering to a Bodybuilding audience, without the baggage of the Paleo and Low Carb communities, without mentioning Ayn Rand.

The renaissance continues…


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Joshua Trentine September 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Internet world has been pretty boring lately so I’m gonna open the comments back up for this one.


avatar Bill Sipes September 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm

For me, one of the most successful insights into exercise comes from Dr. McGuff stating that economic science is instructive towards the understanding of exercise. Economics as a body of thought is also not a closed system of universally adopted principles. In economics, a great divide occurs between logicians (Austrian School) and empiricists (pretty much everyone else). Chicago School economics popularized by Milton Friedman is a great example of a line of thought that comes to many conclusions empirically that mirror the logicians. My reading of many great HIT thinkers leads me to believe that it is birthed from an empirical process. I feel Arthur Jones fits this role. HIT has done a better job of applying logic to prior empiricism than any other system of exercise thought that I have encountered but mostly holds empirical data as a starting point.
The Austrian School (logical) begins with a priori assumptions. No prior sense experience. Then the vastly larger subjective world is held up against these principles. This results in a systems that claims to know very little for sure but what is known is indispensable. The best application I have found is Ken Hutchins’ development of SuperSlow. The first question is how does one develop exercise that will help build bone density while being safe for the patient. This is the goal, now to find the method. I feel this may have been a mindset that allowed for the questioning of strongly held yet subjective beliefs. It lets you say as Nicholas Taleb puts it, “What do you do when you know nothing? And most of the time you know nothing.”

My limited understanding may fall short in this context but I do feel this is a framework that can help exercise thinkers claw their way out of the dilemma presented above as well as aid in the development of application. Anyone interested in this idea may find great use in the economics and philosophy of the very benevolent Ludwig Von Mises.


avatar Dennis Beckman September 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm

This is spot on, Mr. Sipes. Well stated.


avatar Joe A September 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm


Dr. McGuff can correct me if I’m wrong…but I believe Brian D. Johnston may have been the first person to draw insight from Economics and apply them to exercise theory (though perhaps in a different context than Doug). Not that you were implying otherwise, but more so to give credit where it is due. Brian was certainly the first person I’d seen broach the topic.


avatar Richard Stutsman September 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm

You wrote: “Let’s move exercise forward without pandering to a Bodybuilding audience, without the baggage of the Paleo and Low Carb communities, without mentioning Ayn Rand.”


And thank you, Joshua.


avatar Liran Shoham October 11, 2013 at 4:24 am

Well if we include T. Reid as a thinker we should definitely include the philosopher that did answer Hume (Ayn Rand).
A method of gaining knowledge is indispensable for a field of any endeavor. No subsequent philosopher has offered a fully consistent philosophy for gaining knowledge about reality. I must say that although Ayn Rand finished the method Aristotle started it and made the greatest achievements to progress a system for knowledge.
No exercise should not be Atlas Shrugged. But no one can dispose of a method for gaining knowledge and needs to acknowledge the foundations of such method. There is no need to mention philosophical issues when not needed but it is disastrous to ignore such issues. When said issues are addressed it is only just to mention their source.
“The truth or falsehood of all of man’s conclusions, inferences, thought and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions.” – Ayn Rand.
Just one crucial, relevant and philosphical point.


avatar Joe A September 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I was made aware of the following comments by Paul Marsland on Facebook, in response to this article. I’m not on FB, so I brought the conversation here…

“Good article Joshua Trentine but if HIT is not the answer, then the obvious question must be “what is”. More frequent lesser intense workouts of greater volume? Or is it simply that the manner in which HIT is performed is ineffective?”
“HIT has never truly been defined Josh its merely a set of principles, so if these principles are wrong, whats the answer? Where exactly is it flawed its method or its application?”
“Josh, if Ren Ex , is not an application of high intensity principles, then what is it?”

Paul is correct that HIT has never been clearly defined. This is a major flaw, in that these ‘principles’ that were identified as relevant toward exercise are left up to interpretation in application. How can one study exercise in this manner? In order to advance exercise, we have to be able to study it. This requires clear language, standardization, relevant measures, etc. Basically, you have to establish EXACTLY what you are trying to study, and then put it to test. The process must be objectively reproducible or your conclusions become murky. This process will spawn discovery and IF one is willing to accept the discovery, they can pursue it and continue to chip away at the assumptions and lore that dominate this field. This is RenEx.

Let’s assume the starting place of RenEx was wrong. It is in the pursuit of that clearly defined objective that errors will surface. The attempt to solve one problem will likely reveal others. RenEx represents a focused commitment to see where this goes; to go until we hear glass. At some point, there will not be room for opinions or interpretation. RenEx should probably be viewed as a journey, not a destination.

HIT is a problem, not because it is ineffective as a method, but because there is no where to go. The principles are perhaps logical, and empirically, they may even prove relevant. The point is to expose the flaws, not hide behind the nostalgia of the good ole days. We should not seek to feverishly defend HIT, Arthur Jones or these ‘principles’. If we want to be taken seriously, if we want exercise to be taken seriously, we must be serious about it. No ties. No friends. No compromise. We should seek to establish an exercise event that can be studied rigorously…and then study it.


avatar Patrick September 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Great article, hopefully wakes up some in the HIT community. The vast majority are still chasing load.


avatar Joshua Trentine September 17, 2013 at 4:22 am

another facebook comment:

Nautilus Fitness-Center I am completely clueless why this high intensity community is so concerned with labeling their exercise…..and I am just as baffled by this obsession with wanting to claim a “best way to exercise”. Obviously, those selling a website, books or equipment have an agenda……so of course there will be debates….but concerning high intensity exercise in general, why the never-ending argument with one strict method? Every individual is different and has individual preferences. What difference does it make what the exact details of your workouts entail….or what equipment is being used? If you are exercising safely….and maintaining a physique that gives you confidence…..that’s the end of the story. I honestly believe many of these guys just like hearing themselves talk…..almost 90% of the time, the arguments are not even comprehended by the average individual. I don”t care how smart you are…..if you aren’t able to be understood, how is your intelligence being appreciated? There is no right way….or an only way. The fighting among all these individuals is out of control….it’s not even entertaining to have a discussion anymore…..a person immediately gets told they are wrong and gets their physique personally attacked! This makes zero sense!! If you are doing or training crossfit…and risking injury, on others or yourself……it’s open season. However….everyone in this group uses safe methods to exercise and believe in the same basic fundamentals. The exact same arguments go on all over the web…regarding specific exercise topics, surrounding exercise using high intensity. Nothing ever gets solved…..the conversations go in a circle…..sides get taken and associations/friendships get destroyed. This has simply become ridiculous….no different than the various social sects we were all assigned to….in our early years of school. Only the juvenile behavior and squabbling may possibly be worse in these high intensity discussions. Stop worrying about labeling yourself….be your own person and exercise in whatever manner suits you best…..and keeps you looking good….


avatar Joe A September 17, 2013 at 11:03 am

I’m going to try to add perspective…

The field of exercise is is in the dark ages. There aren’t many serious fields that are content with such inprecise language and inept tools. The field pretends to be a science but lacks any real attempt at elevating itself as such. There is no standardization, no meaningful attempt at controlling variables necessary toward honest conclusions. There is no innovation; there actually seems to be a distaste for technological improvement. This is the only field I know of that has designed tools that impede the intended process. “We” happily accept technology that we must “work around”. Think about the insanity of that; we are content to work harder trying to accomodate tools that should make the process simpler, easier. What other profession does this, knowingly or unknowingly??

HIT perpetuates the above problems. The mindest of trying to get the most from the least (which has become trying to get something for nothing) has halted progress. We’ll advance exercise to the degree we are unwaivering in trying to extract the most from the best.

As for HIT ‘priniciples’, consider for a moment that HIT seems to have stopped trying to prove these principles stand up to the rigors of real reasearch and have moved the conversation toward genetic reasons for the prinicples not ‘working’? Please let us consider that the principles are wrong (or that we don’t understand the realtionships well) before commencing the excuses.

For example, as I mentioned in the article, the strength training progression model assumes a relationship between exercise performance and muscular adaptation. IF our understanding of this relationship is wrong it effects every other HIT ‘principle’. If getting more reps or adding more weight is not indicative of ‘progress’, then the assumptions made about frequency are wrong (waiting long periods of time between exercise bouts to accomodate the need to add weight/reps). If we are wrong about frequency, then how does that impact our ideas about volume? And so on and so forth…

My point: we have yet to employ the standards and controls to exercise that would allow for our assumptions to be confirmed. We are playing pin the tail on the donkey and no matter how good we may get at it, we still have on a blindfold. Are we really content with that? Are we seriously arguing that close enough is good enough? Does anyone really think they are better off absent sight (metaphorically speaking)?

HIT did not change the ratio of success/failure in physique enhancement, or any other exercise outcome. For every person who figures this thing out, there is one (or three) that can’t. Advancing exercise so that the playing field is leveled should not be met with contempt. The fact that this particular endeavour is met with such resistance by the HIT community only serves to confirm the need for distancing from it.


avatar enlite September 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Interesting article here , but i wonder if there truly is anything new under the sun so to speak . HIT is in my estimation the most logical and sensible method of exercise available , with respect to it’s fundamental principles . there is ambiguity in how HIT is applied however , e.g.: full body three days per week as opposed to two days per week or one . twelve exercises per session , five or six exercises , two or three . I think the major flaw with ” HIT ” lies in how it’s being applied by certain people , which usually means too much volume and exercising too frequently . If you gentlemen feel that ” HIT ” and some of it’s tenets are flawed , i would inquire as to what you see as a plausible alternative . I also find it curious that some individuals have joined HIT with the PALEO diet which boggles my mind . Why anyone would think that a diet primarily based on consuming meat and animal byproducts is desirable or healthy is absurd .


avatar Joe A September 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm

A comment from another forum about this article:

“The Article is also an Insult to Arthur Jones and represents an Incomplete Comprehension of what Jones eventually discovered – Totally Ommits it and therefore sets a Foundation where the derivatives of which are then Useless. ”

The article was not intended to document Arthur Jones discoveries or his evolution of thought. The examples used should not be taken as insulting to Jones, but rather as evidence of where HIT got stuck. IMO, the current state of HIT is insulting to Jones, not me pointing out where the train went off tracks.

The points made relative to Jones are clearly evident within HIT. Is that his fault? Certainly not. But, even a cursory review of the dominant HIT-related work (books, website articles, etc.) will validate the criticisms made…and I think this is a step in the wrong direction.

Also, it should be noted that this an opinion piece…my opinion. An outside observation of two entities that seem attached but serve no benefit to each other. I can’t see how RenEx can advance its cause while entangled with HIT (or anything else that distracts from its purpose).


avatar Joe A September 17, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Another comment:

“would like to know how you can diverge from high intensity training…medium, low?

I like to see both sides and there is nothing wrong with arguing definitions or particulars but… where is there a definition of HIT that needs to be diverged from?”

I’m not suggesting exercising in any particular manner. I’m suggesting there is little benefit, and a whole lot of baggage, that comes with being affiliated to a fringe group that is content unto itself.

The fact that there isn’t a clear definition of HIT only help make my point. Everything is HIT; nothing is HIT. No one is taken seriously if boxed into that.

If the HIT community seemed willing or capable to advance what is already established, then that would be a less bumpy path. I, personally, have seen zero evidence suggesting this is the case. So, why try to carry it kicking and screaming? Cut the cord and move along…


avatar Steven Turner September 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Joe A

You have taken on a monumental tasks in trying to advance exercise by writing this article. I have been doing some form of “training” for nearly forty years. I have seen all the fads and trends come and go and often rehashed as a new fad or new trend. In reality the fads and trends have provided us with no advancement and in fact have probably put us backs hundreds of years. I think that even Arthur Jones said words to the effect that if nothing is done to improve the advancement of exercise that he feared for the future of exercise and we would be back in the dark ages. Arhtur also said once the medical community shuns the exercise community than it will take hundreds of years to get back to where we are. What I see as exercise in most fitness centre is disgraceful nothing in the way of client safety.

The gym I visit has a huge array of Nautilus equipment what do the trainers do walk past the Nautilus equipment take their clients through an hour of tyre flipping, rope flapping, hitting pads and some other form of high force activity – so much for Newtons three laws of motion and the Nautilus equipment.

Details in your workout should make a huge difference to the individual paying customer or do we have an anything goes mentality. If you go to buy a new car or a new computer “detail” make a huge difference the same should go when you are buying exercise. Effectively that is what people are doing they are buying exercise a product that should have detail attached to it. With exercise that detail may need to be greater than when purchasing other products – you only have one body.

When it comes advanced research often I have no idea what they are talking about or saying as far medical, engineering, physics, scientific research does that mean they have to stop because the average “Joe” doesn’t know what they are talking about. If we didn’t have people who questioned previous learnt theories we would probably never had the wheel invented.


avatar Carl September 17, 2013 at 11:35 pm

If there is some particular aspect of exercise that you wish to study, just go ahead and do the damn study. If you guys feel that you are being held back in your research in some way by the existence of the phrase “High Intensity Training”, a group of words that is just a marketing term coined decades ago, then there is something very wrong about your approach.

Why waste time trying to craft a narrow and limiting definition of anything that is just a label of convenience? Save your angst about precision and definition for the actual details of the studies being conducted: worry about precisely defining the objective of the experiment, worry about the validity of the methods used, worry about whether the experimental design is adequate to address the question being tested, and worry about the precision and reproducibility of measurable and quantifiable outcomes. Those are the only things that really matter.


avatar Joshua Trentine September 19, 2013 at 6:56 am


Quoting Richard Mitchell:

“For a usable language, each word’s meaning must be delimited. In fact, to define actually means to delimit meaning or to give meaning bounds. We define a word more, not by stating what it represents, but more by restricting what it means.”

I would be curious what you specifically disagree with in the article.



avatar James Steele September 18, 2013 at 11:17 am

“In a recent paper, James Fisher et al. discussed intensity as “the percentage of momentary muscular effort being exerted” and suggested other authors follow suit. I applaud their effort, however in the meantime high-intensity is widely accepted as meaning a heavy load. Such ambiguity is unnecessary since we have the ability to simply refrain from using this term or choose a more precise one.”

I enjoyed the article Joe and thanks for the gracious comments regarding our attempt at changing the use of ‘intensity’ within the scientific literature. I don’t know if you are aware but James Fisher and Dave Smith have published a letter in European Journal of Applied Physiology discussing this further ( as have I in an article in British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year ( Let me know if you would like copies of these at all, just drop me an email. I’m hopeful that if I keep shouting at the scientific community by publishing in outlets with wide readership they will eventually listen.


avatar Ed September 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm

“The field of exercise is is in the dark ages. There aren’t many serious fields that are content with such inprecise language and inept tools.”

With all due respect, I’ve read the post twice and I’m still trying to understand the point. Exercise isn’t in the dark ages and there’s probably a reason for the imprecision…there are too many variables. If one were to try to apply any laws of physics or even economics to exercise or training or whatever vague term we want to apply, it won’t work. Think of the variations:

1. Muscle length
2. Muscle insertions
3. Muscle composition
4. Neuromuscular factors too many to list
5. Hormonal factors too many to list

…and on & on.

Add other intrinsic variables: is the person tired? Recovering from an illness or a personal family issue.

And what is the end goal? Bodybuilding? Which is nothing more than a highly subjective endeavor. Weight training, getting stronger? But HIT in and of its own approach is a highly finite and limited approach to training. You don’t use HIT to prep for Olympic weight training or powerlifting. Strength training for competition is working on a skill, which is not the definitions that have been used with HIT.

HIT, SuperSlow, et al, are simply applied forms of training using an applied methodology, that is, one set to muscular failure, etc., etc. Nothing more, nothing less. Does it work, that is, does it improve size and strength and provide other benefits? Certainly. Are some forms safer or more effective that others…eg SuperSlow vs. the standard Nautilus 3 times/week? Again, it is dependent on the individual.

But, trying to overhype HIT, SuperSlow, etc., is akin to the Kettlebellers and their esoteric overhyping of their chosen form of training, the yoga silliness (just read some of Bikram’s writings), etc.


avatar Joe A October 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm


I can appreciate the points you make, but consider the variables that can be controlled, but aren’t. How can anything be studied in this manner? Consider equipment that actually impedes the ability to carry out the primary objective of the exercise process. Why are so many content with endeavoring to work around such limitations?

You say exercise is not in the dark ages, and maybe your are correct. But I look around and see more people aware of the supposed benefits of exercise than at any point in history. I see likely more people “exercising” than at any point in history. Yet, I see more people failing miserably to obtain any of these supposed benefits. I see more exercise-related injuries than we should ever be OK with. I see more people whose health is declining despite the inclusion of exercise activity. I see more people doing the complete opposite of what is required for safe, sustainable, productive exercise.


I, personally, have never been so ashamed to be associated with the field I chose professionally. If not for Renaissance Exercise, I’m certain my interest in “exercise” would have been completely squelched. If you are content with the current state of exercise, I’m unsure what would even attract you to this blog?

I see no benefit in continuing to be associated with anything that is a hindrance to advancing Renaissance Exercise forward, HIT included and especially.


avatar Ed October 14, 2013 at 9:12 pm

” If you are content with the current state of exercise, I’m unsure what would even attract you to this blog?”

I am always interested in learning new training techniques and approaches that I can incorporate, whether it is SuperSlow or another method. From time to time, I’ll find useful information on this as well as other sites, which is truly appreciated.

At the same time, I’m not really sure what trying to assign an esoteric description such as the post would provide many benefits, especially for those new to HIT or seeking the benefits of approach.

“But I look around and see more people aware of the supposed benefits of exercise than at any point in history. I see likely more people “exercising” than at any point in history. Yet, I see more people failing miserably to obtain any of these supposed benefits.”

But, this is from your perspective. How many people were turned off by the expense or approach of the old Nautilus clubs? How many people see the costs of training at a SuperSlow club vs. simply doing push ups at their home. And on & on. As I suggested, the benefits gained by SS, HIT are specific to this type of program. Perhaps they extend into bodybuilding or helping people seeking a brief strength training program.

Using your definition, I’d have to suggest SS, HIT, etc., would also fail miserably. Why? How many HIT’ers could complete a military obstacle course? A Spartan Run? etc.? Probably very few. In fact, I’d suggest there wouldn’t be an HIT trainer that would be in the same ballpark as Crossfitter Rich Froning.

Where am I going with this? Simply, there’s really not a “wrong” way to train…what is appropriate for Froning or the Spartan Run types simply isn’t a good fit for SS advocates. And I can’t judge the success or our perception of non-success of a person working out any more than you or the next person. What is that person’s status..sick? Recovering? Just starting out training?

We need to be careful about passing judgement, as this is nothing more than a subjective perspective where we really don’t have all of the facts, nor, understand what the individual is/isn’t trying to accomplish.


avatar Ondrej September 29, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I actually came up with the acronym WTF (Weight Training to Failure) about a year ago. James Steele can confirm this. Problem solved, you can thank me later:P
The problem of HIT, or objectivism, is that it’s deeply rooted in Appolonian thinking. And Appolonian thinking is does not describe reality, which is especially true in biology. Philosophers describe objectivism as naive, trainers describe HIT as naive, and often rightfully so.
HIT linear recovery model, black or white thinking – 3 sets can’t be effective because 1000 sets aren’t either – constant quotes of gurus from 1960’s…prevent it from gaining respect.
It is still considered efficient (and suboptimal) by current mainstream scientific coaches like Brad Schoenfeld, though,this is what he wrote to me a year ago:

Hello Brad, I read your latest book. You say HIT may be effective for those pressed for time. Do you think it’s possible to incorporate all those three main factors of hypetrophy you talk about, muslce tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress, into two 30-minute workouts a week? I think so, because, to quote Drew Baye, “Most exercise research on single versus multiple sets doesn’t specify or standardize repetition cadence, and when it does it is usually not supervised and timed to ensure strict compliance. Instead, subjects are often self-supervised and most people without proper instruction will use relatively poor form, moving in a fast and sloppy manner not representative of what is often recommended for high intensity training. I have trained bodybuilders and professional athletes who were convinced they had already been training with a high level of intensity comment after a workout with me how much harder it was, so I am also highly skeptical of the average subject’s ability or willingness to push themselves to train as intensely as is often recommended for high intensity training.
The majority of published research and an even larger amount of unpublished research shows little or no difference in results between performing one or more sets of an exercise (research showing no difference in the effect of independent variables tends not to be published). Considering the above, what this really means is there is little or no difference in results between performing one or more sets of an exercise with crappy form.
If we were to compare either a single or multiple set protocol performed in typically sloppy, quick fashion with a single set protocol performed in strict, slow, fashion I suspect the results would still be similar assuming both were done with a high intensity of effort. However, in the long run the group performing a single set of strict, slow reps would suffer less wear and tear and fewer training related injuries.” So can moderate rep range to failure, with cadence of about 4/4 – controlled but not superslow, with TUL of about 60-120 s (6-12 reps) ande overall volume of about 10 (different exercise) sets to failure twice a week be effective and what are the downsides?
Did you experiment with HIT and how would your optimal, but minimalist training in terms of equipment and time look like if you had just dumbbells/bench? I am talking mainly about dropping the “vary exercises as much as possible” aspect. Could you generally talk about some real downsides of reasonable HIT? Because as much as I find your programme well thought, I can’t help but thing lot of the things make very little difference abnd can be worked around while using the same, let’s say, 20 exercises for full body, and double linear progression. Are the results really different in the real world for most people when they apply the 3hour/week, varying exercises, intelligent periodisation” style like outlined in the book? Thanks.
trvalý odkaz
[–]bradschoenfeld[S] 5 bodů 6 měsíců před
Lots of stuff to delve into here. First off, I’d disagree that the majority of studies show little to no difference between single vs. multi-set protocols. To the contrary, the majority show a clear hypertrophic advantage for multi-set training. James Krieger did an excellent meta-analysis of the topic a couple of years back that you can read here:
The cadence issue is one that has not been well-studied. I’ve not seen convincing evidence that a slower cadence is beneficial, and the reduction in load associated with slow tempos may be at least somewhat detrimental. Tanimoto et al. conducted a study that looked at a 3/3 tempo vs traditional tempo (1/1) and found no significant differences between groups. However, the faster tempo actually produced a 34% greater increase in hypertrophy–the fact that results did not rise to statistical significance was likely a result from it being underpowered from a small sample size. Thus, at best I think it’s reach to use slower tempos as a basis for hypertrophy.
The point about less wear and tear on the joints is a reasonable contention. Training is always about risk/reward and cost/benefit. I’d contend that in healthy individuals the impact of increased volume, at least within reasonable limits, should not be detrimental provided the person trains with proper form. If someone has an injury or joint-related condition, then certainly reducing volume may be a viable strategy.
I did experiment with HIT quite a lot back in the mid- to late-90’s. I’d read several of Ellington Darden’s and Mike Mentzer’s books and had a chance to speak with Mentzer in person for a lengthy conversation on the topic. I used the approach personally as well as experimenting with a large number of clients during this time. Certainly it produced results, but they were not as robust as with multi-set protocols. The compelling body of research indicates that a positive correlation exists between volume and hypertrophy. Now high volumes ultimately hasten the onset of overtraining, which is why I’ve found it best to periodize the variable so that volume is progressively increased over the course of training cycle.
In sum, I think HIT is a viable strategy for those who are time-pressed or simply want a good physique. It will accomplish these goals. But as far as maximizing muscle, I would contend based on both research and experience that higher volumes of training are needed.
So it’s not like often presented. HIT isn’t a gem hidden from coaches…at the same time even ACSM sometimes takes their fluid approach too literally, which means doing jumping jacks and burpees as metabolic training or overly complex workouts where you vary everything for the sake of it. Hard to see where the truth lies.
No camp is as scientific as they lead you to believe.


avatar Steven Turner October 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Hi Joe A,

Go to most gyms and people are training with a high level of intensity and a high level of effort even training with a high degreee of momentary muscular effort. You could say that they are training brief and infrequent. I think that if you ask those people they would say that they are training HIT almost any stupid training method could become HIT.

Watching the way many people dangerously train I can appreciate your efforts to move HIT to what I think Arthur inteded HIT to be safe, effective and efficient. I think that he originally called HIT “Proper Exercise” before Ellington Darden used HIT.

I applaud your efforts lets move on, I have leant so much from the RenEX team.


avatar Steve N October 10, 2013 at 6:18 am

If you don’t want to be associated with HIT why do you and your people frequent HIT sites all over the web to post your drivel?


avatar Steve n October 10, 2013 at 7:23 am

Nice to see only those that agree with you can post.


avatar Steve n October 10, 2013 at 7:25 am

After your poor showing in the up coming BB contest what will be your excuse? In the past you complained everyone was on steroids. Is that how you’ll comfort yourself once again?


avatar Ed October 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Who is Steve n and why is he saying these things?


avatar Pete Collins October 18, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Good posts Jamie/Joe A

The full circle of the Catherine Wheel just keeps on spinning in a pool of academic babble. Josh is trying to delimit nominalizations and multi-ordinal words but alas the poor fella is up against it.

I am dangerously close to analysis paralysis with all this. RenEx protocol workouts keep me grounded.



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