H.I.T. (High-Intensity-Training)

Mike Mentzer


During my training career I have comeacrossmany types of training protocols. Thetwo major training modes that are usually being practiced today by many bodybuilders are the H.V.T. (High Volume Training) and H.I.T. (High Intensity Training). I have used both modes of training and have come to the conclusion what Olympic Strength Coach, Charles Poliquin, had stated, many times, in the past, and that is each training mode will work up to a certain point. Once the training program stops working it is time to change and perform a new training protocol. In the movie “The Roadie” the singer Meat Loaf states that everything works if you let it. When it comes to training theories and programs, many of them do work if you allow them to. You just have to get rid of conventional wisdom. (Note: Conventional wisdom is no wisdom at all. Conventional wisdom is taking somebody else’s word for the way things are. It’s the followers of this world who rely on assumption. Not the leaders. Richard Marcinko.)The late great Mike Mentzer believed that his training method, High Intensity Training, was the closest thing to training perfection in existstance.

Keep in mind, though, that Mike and Ray mentzer did not train in the fashion they espoused later in their life during their competitive days. The training they prescribed later in their life was so distorted that they had the athlete training once every week and to one extreme ten minutes every two weeks. Unfortunately, not many made progress with a program like that. How many top notch physiques do you see training in that fashion today? The answer is none.

When most people think of Mike Mentzer, they think of working out only every 4 to 7 days and doing only 1 set to failure for each muscle group and hitting each body part once every two weeks.But was this the way Mike Mentzer himself trained when he was active in competitive bodybuilding?

The answer is – No, he did not.

Yes, Mike Mentzer used High Intensity training, which he called Heavy Duty, but back in the 1970s, H.I.T. was very different than what it has become today.

Mike Mentzer’s workouts were done 4 to 5 times a week. Sometimes he trained Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Other times he did two days on and one day off, two days on and two days off, for example Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. And one other way he trained was one day on, one day off, etc, which was called the every other day split routine.

He did anywhere from 4 to 8 sets for a muscle group, and trained each body part twice every week.

Back then most bodybuilders had the “more is better” mindset, until High Intensity training came along and showed us that harder is better.

But, then something went wrong and over the next 30 years Mike and others got obsessed with a “less is better” mindset and took that concept to the barest minimum such as recommending 1 set workouts done only once a week.

Do you really think that if Mike did 3 or 5 sets per workout, only once or twice a week, he would have gotten as big as he was in his prime?

The answer once again is a big NO!

The bottom line is, High Intensity Training works when done right, but when done wrong it will produce little to no results.

There have been many great bodybuilding champions who took what Mike Mentzer was trying to convey and ran with it creating their own version of training with intensity with some volume. One of the most popular proponents of Mentzers teachings was six time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates. Yates trained his whole body within a four day week training chest and biceps on Monday, shoulders and triceps on Tuesdays, resting on Wednesdays, Legs on Thursdays, and training back on Fridays. He would rest on Saturday and then repeat the cycle on Sunday and so forth. He did not train exactly how Mentzer advocated. Lee Labrada is another champion who took what the Mentzers were trying to teach us and developed his own training concepts. You can see it in Labrada’s video “I want to pump you up,” or “Mass with Class.”

To fully understand High Intensity Training (H.I.T.), we must go back to the person who introduced it to us and that person in non other than the late great Arthur Jones.

Arthur Allen Jones (November 22, 1926, August 28, 2007) was the founder ofNautilus, Inc.andMedX, Inc.and the inventor of the Nautilusexercise machines, including the Nautilus pullover, which was first sold in 1970. He was born inArkansas, and grew up inSeminole, Oklahoma.

Arthur Jones
Jones’ ideas helped move the public’s notion of bodybuilding and strength-training exercise away from theArnold Schwarzeneggerschool of training, which involved hours in the gym using free weights, toHigh Intensity Training. This involves short, single sets with maximum intensity, which in thought would trigger maximal muscular growth. Famous individuals who trained under the rules of Jones includeCasey Viator(who participated in theColorado Experiment),Eddie Robinson(who worked with and participated in and trained under Jones’s nautilus leverage line which is now Hammer Strength;Mike Mentzer,Sergio OlivaandDorian Yates.

His publications include theNautilus Bulletins, which aim to dispel contemporary myths of exercise and training.

One of Arthur Jones’s students was a bodybuilder and Phd in exercise physiology and Bio-Chemistry, Ellington Darden. Mr. Darden is still publishing books on the subject of H.I.T. One of his most recent works was a book he put together for Mens Health fitness books titled “The NEW HIGH INTENSITY TRAINING” by Ellington Darden (www.drdarden.com).

Ellington Darden
The New High Intensity Training: The Best Muscle-Building System You’ve Never Tried

Like Arthur Jones, Ellington believe that training the whole body using HIT willyieldfaster results when executed properly. If we go back to the Coloradoexperiment, which was conducted back in 1970, that Casey Viator partook in, you will notice that he trained his whole body in one session, to failure.

For example: Casey Viator would begin his workout, as per Jones’s instructions, with leg extensions. Casey would do the leg extensions with as much weight that would allow him to get in 8 to 10 reps in and until failure sets in. Then he would move to the leg press machine, which was all on the same unit. He would do the leg presses until failure set in and moved to the leg curls and so on until the whole body was fully trained to failure. This program would be performed about three times a week. The workouts lasted about 20 minutes. This type of training would have a person vomiting into a bucket orcollapsingfrom the shock. But, the athlete was pushed to press on until the workout wascomplete. This style of training is fullyexplainedin Ellington Dardens bookmentionedabove.

Many bodybuilders of that time gave the High intensity training program a try and not many of them made it through. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger trained under Arture Jones, and according to Elligtone Darden, Arnold did not complete the 14 day protocol. After about seven days Arnold disapeared and did not come back. Elligton goes on to state that Arnold did not have what it took to go to complete failure in the HIT fashion. Arnold was used to doing a set of an exercise, resting a bit and doing another set and so fourth. High intensity dictates that you go to failure. For example; lets use the barbell curl. You would begin the barbell curl by grasping a barbell and curling it under complete control with no momentum to help you. Once you have exhausted the positive portion of the movement, you would have a training partner help you curl the weight up slowly while you lower it yourself under complete control. You would continue to do this until you can no longer lower the weight under control. Next, with your training partners help, your partner would help you curl the weight up to a certain point and you would hold the weight for a static control. In that curling session, you have exhausted your three levels of strength, which are your positive portion of the exercise, the negative portion of the exercise, and the static portion of the exercise. This would be done for one set because due to the intensity involved in the one set, a second set would not be nessesary. All of this makes sense if you can train in that fashion and handle the pain. Many guys performing curls in this fashion have vomited and passed out. That is how high the intensity is when taken to that extent.

The Mentzers worked and trained under Arthur Jones and Ellington Darden. Shortly after that, Mike Mentzer came up with his own training concept using HIT and called it Heavy Duty Training. Mike took what Arthur Jones was teaching as far as the training intensity was concerned, but deviated from training the whole body in one session. What Mike did was break up the muscle groups and trained them in a push pull fashion. For example; Mike would train Chest, Shoulders and Triceps (pushing muscles) in one sesion training each muscle group with about two to three exercises and trained them to failure. Mike mentzer managed to sore upwards in competitive bodybuilding. He succeeded so fast that in 1978, he won the Mr. Universe contest with a perfect score of 300. Mike Mentzer was onto something and quickly became a star in bodybuilding.

My personal opinion on H.I.T.

I truly believe that Arthur Jones, Ellington Darden and Mike Mentzer were (Elligton darden is) geniuses and their training concepts do work, but you have to understand that H.I.T. is not only a physical component to training, it is also a major mental one as well. You really have to prepare your mind to go all out to complete your training in the fashion espoused by Jones, Darden and Mentzer.Unfortunatelynot many bodybuilders have that type of mental focus. Many greatathletes can focus, but to focus the way you need to for HIT, not everyone can do that. Not even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger could do that, and from what we know about him, hepossessesgreat focus to the point where he hasbeen able to achieved many great things in bodybuilding and outside of bodybuilding.

I am more of a volume training guy with added intensity using many of the intensity techniques to make training harder. Once my body goes through its volume period, I do what Charles Poliqun advises, which is to change training modes. This is when I do about a month of HIT training the way mike mentzer did during his competive bodybuilding career, which has me in the gym four to five days a week.

I know that there are many bodybuilders and trainees reading this who may disagree because they have had great success with H.I.T. All I can say to that is, Great and continue to train in that fashion because if it works for you why change it? As for me, I need more work.

The reason why High Volume Training reigns supreme over High Intensity Training is because it is very basic in its nature and it does not scare anyone away. If you tell somebeginnerthat he may throw up during a set of curls or quitepossibly pass out, I think that that person would not come back for a second training session.

I would advise that anyone wanting to try HIT should get Ellington Dardens Book, read it carefully and give it a try.

Here is a podcast over at Danger and Play. The guys at Danger and Play are interviewing bodybuilding champion Markus Reinhardt on HIT training. He was personally Trained by Mike Mentzer himself. Copy and past link to hear podcast.


Mike Mentzer’s HIT: Chest & Back – Part I

Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty Training protocol

Mike Mentzer high intensity training part 1.

Here is an Article from Strength CoachextraordinaireIan King. I believe that both Volumetraining and HIT are both great ways tobody build. I have used them bothand will continue to do so, but I believe that there are many ways to train to build your body.

High Intensity Versus High Volume
by Ian King
In the red corner, we have high intensity. In the blue corner, we have high volume.

High intensity looks aggressive, ready to fight, but many ringside experts wonder if he’s a little too punch-drunk to put up a good fight. Mike Mentzer and Arthur Jones are in his corner, each carrying a spit bucket.

High volume, however, looks more relaxed, perhaps even philosophical. There are few cuts on his face. In his corner, you might find any number of 70’s and 80’s bodybuilders, such as the Austrian Oak.

High intensity’s robe carries the words “One set to value” on the back, while high volume’s reads “More is better.” This is the fight that had to happen, when the new kid on the block wants to knock off the old pro.

So, let’s get ready to rummmbllle!!!

A bit overly dramatic? Perhaps. But in the scenario above, we really do have two ends of the spectrum. And, yes, there’s been heated debate and conflict between the two opposing philosophies and their proponents.

Will a winner ever be declared? I doubt it. So where does that leave you? You’re going to have to make up your own mind, and the following will help you do just that.

When we talk volume and intensity in strength training, the interpretation usually goes as follows: “volume” refers to how many reps or sets are performed, and “intensity” indicates how much weight is lifted, which can also be expressed as a relative percentage of your maximum capability. For example, if you can do only one repetition at 200 pounds, then 100 pounds represents 50% of your one-rep maximum (1RM).

The universal sporting community perceives the relationship between volume and intensity as being inverse, i.e. the more reps that you do, the lower the weight that you can lift, and vice versa.

Is there a universally accepted definition of what high-volume and high-intensity training constitute? Not that I’ve seen. So, for the purposes of our discussion, I’m going to apply the following parameters, based on total sets per workout:

Ultra-high volume: 35-plus sets
High volume: 25-34 sets
Medium volume: 15-24 sets
Low volume: 5-14 sets

We’ve been led to believe that, historically, bodybuilders typically used long workouts with lots of sets. That sometimes equated to 40-plus sets, a workout that lasted over two hours. Irrespective of the accuracy of this perception, we’re sure that this was the image presented by mainstream bodybuilding of the ’70s and ’80s. Were the articles accurate reflections of the bodybuilders’ methods? Probably not, but they sure as hell made good reading!

Whatever was the truth, the reading public came to believe that if you want to bodybuild to develop physiques like those in the muscle magazines you need a high-volume workout. Did these ultra-high volumes work? I doubt it (or, at least, not for long).

This led the slow-learning public to come to their next conclusion: if you want to be a bodybuilder, you need a high-volume workout, and you must also take drugs! So, with this little icing on the cake, the workouts had a greater chance of working. Were these high-volume workouts optimal, even for the drug user? I doubt it.

It was only natural that some began to question the tradition of high-volume training. Industry icons, such as Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones, were among those to pioneer the popularization of an alternative:

Lower-volume, higher-intensity training

If you accept that lower volume allows you to lift heavier and it’s not a hard thing to do the only question remains, how low (in volume) should we go?

The high-intensity movement ultimately took it to the extreme, promoting only one set (to failure) for each exercise. Their rationale was that the greatest levels of intensity will be achieved if only one work set per exercise is performed. But will it? Probably not.

To achieve maximal effort, the body’s nervous system often requires more than this to “trick” it into firing at its optimal level. For sure, doing one set and one set only allows you to be “fresh” as far as how much muscle energy (ATP) is available for that set. Neurally, I think that high-intensity training misses the boat. Metabolically, though, I have to agree with them.

The underlying aim of the high-intensity “movement” was to lower the volume, allowing intensity to be raised. The theory is nice, but some forget that volume isn’t just sets per exercise, it’s also total sets per workout. So, if you do only one work set per exercise, but perform 20 or more different exercises, you may have negated the low-volume advantage!

The most common criticism of “one set to failure” training is the absence of an adequate stimulus (enough work sets) to adequately deplete the total pool of muscle motor units and, therefore, muscle fibers. Again, a fair theory. But I see that the benefits of one set to failure pretty much negate the possible limitations that this method presents.

I believe that training one set to failure is often inadequate for athletes, who benefit more from developing anaerobic work capacity (short-term explosive endurance) than one set to failure will typically provide. I also believe that it’s not the best choice for those who need to “learn” the skill of the strength exercise (such as weightlifters and other strength and power athletes). Low volume might not be adequate here.

The main question comes down to who might benefit from “one set to failure” methods of training. Anyone who’s come off a higher-volume program will, most likely, get an immediate benefit if for no other reason than because the “new” method won’t overtrain them to the same extent!

Anyone who’s recovery-impaired or time-challenged may also benefit from using this method. If, for whatever reason, you aren’t recovering well (improving) from training, reducing volume is one of my first troubleshooting recommendations. And, for those with limited time (e.g. only 20 minutes) during the day to squeeze in training, you might also benefit from using the “one set to failure” method.

For those people who may benefit from low-volume training, does this mean that they should only use this method? No!
There’s no type of training that will be optimal if variety is inadequate! And variety means more than just which exercise that you perform. I strongly recommend that you also vary your volume and intensity.

If I was to be the “judge” in the high volume versus high intensity “debate,” I’d declare them both winners a draw. Not because the fight promoter has my ATM PIN number or that I lack the courage of conviction and, therefore, choose to sit on the proverbial fence. Rather, I believe that there’s merit to both. It’s more a matter of knowing which one suits you, when to use either one, and so on. Don’t lose the possibility of benefiting from either method by joining the dogma society!

Is there a way to optimally use both methods in your training? The two main ways to exploit the integration of higher volume and higher intensity are described in the following tables.

The first table shows a variation of linear periodization in which the number of sets reduces in a constant manner, thereby allowing the intensity to raise in a reverse manner. This method has been popularized in American strength science literature for some 20 years, so it’s old-hat to some and not cutting-edge enough. Nevertheless, I find that it’s an effective method for those with less experience, and for those who need to carefully monitor changes in strength and skill through specialization in any one lift. This latter group includes strength athletes at all levels.

Table 1) Linear periodization of training volume
Total sets per workout* Sample reps per set
Weeks 1-3 20-25 12-15
Weeks 4-6 15-20 6-8
Weeks 7-9 10-15 10-12
Weeks 10-12 5-10 4-6
*Count only the work sets in this total, not the warm-up sets.

The second table, using a variation of alternating periodization, is more “hip” because it’s relatively new to American strength training. Despite this, West German sports scientist Dietmar Schmidtbliecher, one of its early proponents, was writing about this method some 20 years ago! So, in reality, it’s no more “new” than linear periodization. I find this method to be effective for those who have the necessary experience to handle more radical shifts in their program, and for those who are more interested in size than strength. It’s certainly effective in keeping the body continually adapting!

Table 2) Alternating periodization of training volume
Total sets per workout* Sample reps per set
Weeks 1-3 20-25 12-15
Weeks 4-6 10-15 6-8
Weeks 7-9 15-20 10-12
Weeks 10-12 5-10 4-6
*Count only the work sets in this total, not the warm-up sets.

If I had to choose between volume and intensity you know, “if you were stranded in a gym all by yourself and could only choose one training variable,” I’d go with intensity. I believe that intensity is more important to neural-based training (such as strength training) than volume. But this doesn’t mean that I’m going to throw out volume. It plays a role, too.

If you’re not stranded in a gym and limited to one training variable, you don’t need to choose between one or the other this isn’t a presidential election. You can enjoy the benefits that both have to offer.

Therefore, the judges have ruled this fight to be a draw!

God Bless.


  • Wow Great post! Keep up the good work man!

    I already did Mike Mentzer Heavy Duty, a couple of years ago. I did gain a lot of strength! I liked it!

  • Lewis

    Mike Mentzer had a great physique, but I do not think he trained in the fashion he advocated during his later life. His workouts during the peak of his competitive career was more frequent.