Within the last twenty years, overtraining has evolved into somewhat of a fitness phenomenon. In fact, many show off the results of overtraining as a badge of honor. Men and women push forward in “beast mode”, working the same muscle groups over and over again as far as sets and reps, and everything is high energy and movement. This is considered normal in this day and age, but it can actually undermine the overall efficiency of an effective workout.
Greater, harder training has been associated with greater muscle development, but the two are far from synonymous, considering the dynamics of muscles and the need for healing to take place after each workout, allowing for muscle fiber development to rise based on lean muscle mass augmentation. Overtraining depletes the body of needed nutrients, water, and the necessary, time-sensitive hormones that increase muscle growth and development. Muscles break down; resting allows them to heal. When they heal, they heal tighter, firmer, and stronger. Muscle strength alone does not reflect overall muscle recovery, but rather muscle growth and muscle strength reflect the utilization of recovery.
The constant micro-tearing of muscles undermines progression and in many ways, impedes results by establishing a plateau – a point where we see no improvement. Once we hit a physical plateau, an emotional plateau will follow. The emotional plateau can lead to a downfall of self-esteem that further undermines both mental and physical fitness.
So what’s the solution? High Intensity Training (HIT) – not to be confused with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Popularized by Arthur Jones in the 1970s, HIT focuses on performing quality repetitions to the point of muscle failure.
HIT TRAINING EXPLAINED
In a nutshell, HIT involves:
• Single sets of each exercise performed to momentary muscle failure
• One to two weekly sessions per body part
• Shorter workouts that last 30 minutes or less
• Slow and controlled repetition tempo
HIT has been my chosen method of training for over 25 years and, in my experience, maximized muscular development far more efficiently than other techniques. It is not solely lifting that generates muscle mass, but the period of rest and recovery needed for muscles to grow and develop correctly and efficiently. HIT coupled with recuperation is the key to accelerated muscle growth, efficiency and density.
Here are three main keys when utilizing HIT:
KEY #1: Form and Technique
Without form, proficiency is compromised and the overall act of training is nullified as far as the desired results. Poor form and technique can result in a waste of time, money, and determination. With a technique based on precision and repetition, the muscle fibers are strengthened through a process that breaks down the fibers and then allows them to rebuild leaner and stronger.
According to numerous studies, lower reps are more efficient in building muscle volume and density. By performing 6 to 10 reps per set with 60 to 70% of the maximum weight you can lift, coupled with an effort to increase internal strength and concentration, muscle augmentation results substantially. Performing repetitions to the point of momentary failure, where weights need to be placed back down, is actually a good thing and forces muscles to adjust and compensate for greater challenges in reps and sets as well as increasing weight amounts in the future. Without form, technique, and structure, your physique will not improve.
KEY #2: Focus and Concentration
HIT demands concentration that incorporates the mind and the body to work as one. You can’t be an effective trainee and have your mind elsewhere when you are in the gym. The level of mental-physical focus and precision enables one to survive and thrive during the most painful and brutal workouts. Commitment is prized above pain, thus it literally is an example of mind over matter. When lifting becomes more of a mental endeavor than physical one, there is a rise in strength and power that is not solely rooted in the limits of our physical bodies; this is the source or epicenter of our focus and guided determination. Once we concentrate, we unlock the means to overcome obstacles that the uninitiated, novice, or absentminded face in bettering their physique and sense of well being.
KEY #3: Recovery
The biggest problem many of us face is the fact that we do not allow ourselves enough time to recover from a strenuous workout. Genetically, we are all wired to grow muscle fibers and improve strength, density, and definition; however, each of us recovers at different rates and frequencies. Therefore, it is best to shoot for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Research continues to display that longer recovery periods between high intensity training sessions increase growth and power.
Training a muscle group once a week allows for extensive recovery and thus the potential for greater growth without the conflict of overworking a muscle group and /or reaching a plateau with no improvement from that point. Over 25 years, when I have used this technique, essentially I have only worked out a muscle group four times within a month. Pushing for exhaustion/momentary muscle failure and the ability to overcome and endure the excruciating discomfort leads to unparalleled muscle development.