What is High Intensity Training with Weights
High intensity training is all about maximum muscle in minimum time. It involves creating an adaptative response within the body. The body gets stronger by having a stressor placed on it and having to build itself stronger to adapt. If you are not taking sets to failure, your body doesn't need to adapt to the stress because you can already complete it. Take for example, curling. Say you can presently curl 100 lbs. 10 times. You go to the gym and do 3 sets of 10 reps with 100 lbs. Now, why should your body adapt to this stimulous when you can already complete the task? If you took just 1 set to total failure, your body would say to itself "we need to get stronger and adapt because we have been called upon to complete a task we presently cannot complete." Then, the next time you go to do it, you will be stronger since your body had to adapt. This is where rest comes in. You should allow your body to adapt fully by giving it sufficient rest and nutrients to grow maximally. How can your body be expected to let your sore legs grow fully if you are off to the gym for chest the next day? How can you be expected to train your chest in this instance with the required 100% intensity of effort you need to get the most out of your training sessions? How can you be expected to do more than 1 set to total failure of a given exercise if you are using 100% of your available effort? You can't. If you are using all of your available intensity like you should be, you shouldn't want to do more sets than 1! If you do, it doesn't mean you're tough, it means you aren't training hard enough-no doubt about it. You should get stronger each week by going up on reps or in weight every workout. If you haven't gotten stronger, you haven't created an adaptative response within your body.
Many people often feel that 1 set of an exercise is not enough. Well, didn't it take 1 sperm from your father to create you? Wouldn't 1 bullet be enough to kill a man? The answer is yes to both. Think about this, if a being from Mars came to earth and you told him that 1 set to failure of an exercise, 1 time every 2 weeks or so per bodypart is all that is needed to get maximum muscle, he wouldn't doubt you or debate it with you. People in bodybuilding now have a hard time grasping the concept of 1 set to failure only because they have been misled by everyone else. They look around at the gym or in a magazine and see what everyone else is doing and copy it since they think that everyone can't be wrong. Well, for quite some time people were sure that the earth was flat, but it didn't make it so. You have to reaize that magazines are not the almighty authority and neither is Joe Weider. It's like the blind leading the blind.
I have developed an analogy to help people understand that 1 set to failure per exercise is all that is necessary. Say for example, you have a gun with 6 bullets in it. Your goal with that gun is to kill 1 man. Also, for every bullet you have left when you are done, you get 1 million dollars. You also have to stay there until the man dies and you lose 100,000 dollars for every 20 minutes after you fire your last shot that you are there. The best course of action would be to shoot the man in a place where he will die instantly so you can get out of there fast and lose no money and save 5 bullets so you can collect your 5 million dollars. Conversely, wouldn't shooting him 1 time in the stomach and 3 times in the back be a bad choice? You would have to stay there and watch him bleed to death for quite some time say 1 and a half hours, 90 minutes, and you also would only have 2 bullets left. So, you would get 2 million dollars, but you would have to subtract 450,000 dollars from that since you had to 90 minutes after you fired your last shot for him to die. So, man number 1 is left with 5,000,000 dollars and man 2 is left with 1,550,000 dollars and they both did the same thing. If that were bodybuilding, man 1 would be a high intensity trainer while man 2 would be a mindless volume approach trainer who thinks more is better. The bullets are your recovery abilty energy and how much money you are left with is how much you grew. Man 1 was in the gym for under 20 minutes, activated 100% of his muscle fibers(killed the man), had maximum recovery energy left, and grew maximally. Man 2 was in the gym for 90 minutes, activated 100% of his muscle fibers, but only had 1 fourth as much recovery ability left and therefore only grew 1 fourth as much as man 1. All in all, man 1 was there for way less time, worked out harder, and grew way more than man 2.
Also, when training with high intensity, low frequency, you're very motivated for your next workouts. This isn't just because you have been away for 3 days, it is because your body's nervous system has recovered fully and can now be expected to exert 100% intensity of effort. Then, every workout turns into a great one whereas before you often felt sluggish and had bad workouts. That was because your body wasn't ready to perform another training session since it hadn't fully recovered from the last one.
As far as how tired you should be, you should be dead! If you want to do another set, you aren't doing your first one hard enough. If you aren't almost seeing double after your sets, you aren't training hard enough. If you want to train the next day, you aren't training hard enough! This isn't a matter of laziness. It's your body telling you that you haven't recovered by making you tired and worn out. Taking days off isn't for the weak. It's for those who have trained so hard that they must take days off. Off days are when you grow. The training is mearly the switch that sets the growth mechanism into action. You wouldn't stand there by a light switch and flip it on and off repeatedly would you? No. Once the light is on, it is on. Any more than that is futile and a waste of time. That is the same as 1 set to failure. No more is needed!
Also, don't get caught up in this "everyone is different" idea. It is true that we are all minorly different, but not enough to have all of us on drastically different training programs. We all should be on the same type of program with minor modifications to adjust it to our body. We all have the muscle fibers, we all have the same physiology and biology, and we all are human beings. For some people to say that 12-20 sets is enough and another to say that 1 is enough is too great a discrepency. Therefore, we must look to the logic to find out the answer. If it is 12-20 sets, which is it? If 12 is sufficient, why do 20? If it is indeed 20, why wouldn't 30, 40, or even 100 be better since more is better? The truth is there is no theory. That is why the logic of high intensity, low frequency workouts are the right way. The logic is right. "More is better" is not right. There is no thought process behind it.
Effective weight training is the 100%, and no more, activation of the muscle fibers in a given area. This allows for maximum stimulation yet leaves your body able to use its resources to recover maximally. Training to less than 100% activation doesn't allow for optimal gains. Training past 100% activation forces the body to use energy it would otherwise be using to repair your muscles to finish unneeded sets and repetitions. Training to failure by utilizing high intensity techniques allows the body to activate 100% of its muscle fibers, yet still be able to recover fast and efficiently. Being able to train to failure is easier on some execises also. Training to failure on pressing movements is much easier than on bent rows for example. The more experienced you are, the more capable you are of truly reaching failure. For example, reaching total muscular failure on deadlifts is near impossible for a beginner without sustaining an injury. However, Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates does it every time he performs the exercise on back day. Training to failure is what HIT is based on. It involves performing correct repetitions until you can no longer perform them on your own with perfect form. If done poorly, training to failure can lead to injury. However, if performed correctly, it is the only way, in my mind, to achieving maximum muscle in minimum time.