My interest in High-Intensity Training continues.
The New High-Intensity Training: The Best Muscle-Building System You’ve Never Tried by Ellington Darden Ph.D. is an outstanding book on the principles of High-Intensity Training. It starts with a history lesson on the early days of HIT with Arthur Jones, Casey Viator, and the Mentzer brothers. At first, I wondered why it was important to put the history of HIT inside a training program, but it made perfect sense after reading those chapters. Much like the nutrition book Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, it really is essential to understand how we came to know information that ended up being completely wrong.
Darden does an excellent job of covering the genetic potential for muscle growth. I already knew that as an ectomorph, my somatype was the least ideal for gaining muscle. After doing the two tests in the book, I confirmed that my physique has the absolute worst potential for size. I’ll share those tests in a future post.
For those unfamiliar with High-Intensity Training, it differs from traditional high volume training in the following ways.
- Shorter more intense workouts.
- 1 set to failure.
- Slower more controlled movements.
- Fewer workouts with a focus on recovery.
There are different methods for High-Intensity Training, but those are some of the most common principles. The New High-Intensity Training covers a lot of different HIT methods.
The New High-Intensity Training is beautifully edited. The book is packed with very tight writing. It has excellent photos that clearly demonstrate each exercise. While reading this book, I was inspired by the photos to try out a few exercises. Last Friday I did negative dips and negative chins using a weighted belt. I used 90 pounds for the dip and 45 pounds on the chin. My arms still haven’t recovered.
My only complaint with this book was the nutritional advice. It was awful. Darden recommends calorie counting and eating nutritionally empty foods such as whole-wheat bread, low-fat dairy, snack bars, and microwave dinners. This book was written in 2004. I hope his thinking has evolved on this topic. I was misguided back then myself.
One of the key components to the success of High-Intensity Training is recovery. My belief is that eating highly nutritious whole foods would help facilitate that goal. What should bodybuilders eat? The foods outlined in the book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, with a bias towards more calories and carbohydrates on training days and less during recovery.
The New High-Intensity Training, despite the few pages on nutrition, was excellent. I read lots of books on fitness. Very few will ever make it into my personal library. This book will.
2020 UPDATE: Darden was likely more correct than I gave him credit for on nutrition. Taubes turned out to be less credible to me.
May 10, 2011 — 9:01 am
Enjoy the site. We share a similar fitness history, although I’m a bit older. Running, triathlons, weights, injuries, lol. I also posssess very little potential for strength and size for someone so dedicated to training and its lore and history.
Darden is unlikely to change his views on nutrition even though paleo is now part and parcel of the HIT doctrine. I’ve been following him a loooooong time. He came under the influence of one of his college professors who basically defended junk food and claimed everything came down to common sense and calories.
HIT has a certain appeal, but many of its followers are very unattractive to me. There is more than a whiff of arrogance in a few of them, and I pick up a strong right-wing vibe, which speaks a little to the cultish nature of (some) HITers.
Again, I enjoy your posts. Keep them coming.
May 10, 2011 — 10:03 am
@Al – Thanks for the comment. This was my first exposure to Darden. It is excellent and whoever edited this book deserves major props.
I’m sure if I ever shared a coffee with him, I could explain how the same power law variations in training intensity that HIT embraces can easily be applied to nutrition. (with props to Art De Vany for helping me grasp this concept)
May 10, 2011 — 5:30 pm
In your opinion, and after reading the book, can body weight exercises play a role in building muscle?
May 10, 2011 — 5:45 pm
@Greg – Other than outlining dips and chins, this book does not dig into bodyweight exercises. My opinion is that they can help you build muscle. The problem is progressive overload is much easier done with weights. Adding 2% to a push-up is going to be harder than adding 2% to a press movement.
Drew Baye recently covered that topic in the post Bodyweight Versus Weight Training.
One last thought, if all one has is bodyweight options, then reducing the speed of the movement and/or increasing the reps would be a valid strategy of making do with what you have.
May 11, 2011 — 12:02 pm
My impression is that HIT is the easiest way to build muscle and conditioning quickly and effectively; spending only a small amount of time in the gym.
What I’m reading is that in terms of gaining as much strength as possible is that HIT is not nearly as effective, but can be used to get over plateaus.
May 11, 2011 — 3:57 pm
@Matthew – Please share with me what you are reading that states HIT is not nearly as effective for strength gains. Everything I’ve read suggests it is as good or superior.
May 13, 2011 — 4:34 pm
How does this book compare to BBS? Would you recommend one over the other for a beginner? Thanks!
May 13, 2011 — 4:40 pm
@bgt – BBS is probably the best book on fitness I’ve ever read. This book has more photos and is an excellent compliment. It is less technical. BBS gets the nutrition side correct as well. I like them both.