What Is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

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In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a super-huge bodybuilder named Mike Mentzer was using a weight lifting method called high-intensity training (HIT) to build his already massive muscles into jaw-droppingly massive muscles. He referred to the lifting protocol as “Heavy Duty,” and it relied on using heavy weights paired with low repetitions. The idea was that using maximum intensity with minimum sets would produce massive gains.

It worked.

menzer lifting heavy duty high intensity

Years later, another massive dude named Dorian Yates — he’d become a six-time Mr. Olympia winner, which for those who don’t follow sports that involve men in their underpants flexing their muscles, is the biggest bodybuilding show in the world.

Anyway, Yates would take what Menzer did and kick it up a notch. Now, were these two guys the first to use this training style? Of course not. HIIT has been around for 40 years, but it works and can help guys like us — you know, dudes who aren’t super in shape — get bigger and stronger rather quickly: researchers from South Alabama and Baylor University determined that in trained subjects (read: guys who train regularly and often) both high-intensity and low-intensity training were equally effective at building muscle. Said another way: Mixing up how you train will sustain progress.

How intensely you train depends on your fitness level, but if you want to put HIIT to use, here’s how to do it right:

Don’t Go Crazy On Warm-Up Sets

Your working sets — the ones that you work hard and build muscle — are where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. The warm-up should get you ready for the work load. Aim to use 65-75% range of your one-rep max (1RM).