High Intensity Training (HIT) - Bodybuilding

High Intensity Training (HIT) is a form of bodybuilding and strength training that emphasizes on the quality of repetitions and momentary muscle failure. It's believed that only one intensive set is necessary in order to stimulate muscle growth and strength. HIT was popularized in the 1970s by Arthur Jones (Founder of Nautilus). One of the most famous HIT advocates was Mike Mentzer. Find other training forms and exercises at weight training and bodybuilding.


  • Who HIT is for:
    People who don't react well to common bodybuilding routines (hard gainers), often react better to high intensity training. Others use a HIT routine to break a plateau when a normal routine stops giving results.
  • Workout description:
    • Workouts per week:
      HIT advocates do 1 to 3 workouts per week. The average workout demands 60 to 90 minutes.
    • Body parts per workout:
      Mos HIT workouts are full body workouts, but some people also do split-body workouts (one day upper body, one day lower body).
    • How many exercises per body part:
      Only one intensive exercise is done per body part.
    • Sets per exercise:
      Do one Set per exercise. However, you can do 2 or 3 warm-up sets before the actual set. These warm-up sets should not go too close to muscle failure. Keep your warm-up brief and purposive. You can also take a back exercise as a warm-up for the biceps -> Go to the intensive biceps set directly (without and additional warm-up)
    • Repetitions:
      Repetitions are very slow and concentrated. The last repetition must go to muscle failure. Right technique is very important. Don't create momentum, don't bounce or swing the weight. A typical HIT cadence is 3-1-4-1. To clarify this, here an example: Let's say you do barbell rows:
      • 3 seconds pulling the barbell up (positive movement)
      • 1 second squeeze the barbell onto your chest (full contraction)
      • 4 seconds return (negative movement).
      • 1 second rest. Let the barbell hang.
    • Intensity:
      After the last repetition, you can apply different techniques to make the set more intensive. For example negative repetitions, isometric holds etc.
    • Rest:
      Rest is very important. Sets are very intensive, so you need more rest between sets and exercises than when you do a normal routine. You also need more rest between your workouts. HIT advocates usually only work out once or twice a week. The workouts are more intensive than common workouts and therefore require more rest.
    • Overtraining:
      In HIT it's believed that when you reach muscle failure, you are telling your muscle that it has to improve. Sending this signal 3 times in a row is too much => overtraining. However, the one and only set where you are telling your muscle that it needs to grow/get stronger, has to be very intensive.


  • Not everybody agrees that high intensity training was found by Arthur Jones.
    Around 1880 Gustav Zander, a swedish physician, advocated similar training principles and constructed exercise machines that were very similar to those built by Arthur Jones more than 100 years later.

Famous HIT advocates

  • Arthur Jones
  • Mike Mentzer (Heavy Duty)
  • Dorian Yates
  • Aaron Baker


  • Choose heavy free weight exercises: Barbell Bench Press, Barbell Squat, Barbell Row, Barbell Curls etc.
  • Concentrate on right technique and don't create momentum.
  • Overtraining is the biggest enemy of HIT and starts when you do a second set to muscle failure. You should only do one set per muscle. Make sure you get enough rest between exercises, sets and workouts.
  • Target a single muscle group with one exercise and one set.
    Do 6-10 reps for each muscle of your upper body and 8 to 20 reps for the lower body muscles.
    Exercises and Repetitions - Examples:
    • Barbell Deadlift: 5 to 8 reps
    • Barbell Bench Press: 6 to 10 reps
    • Barbell Squat: 12 to 20 reps
    • Calves: 1-2 sets to failure 15 to 20 reps