Saturday, May 31, 2008

Methods of Training for Improving Fitness - Part Four

High Intensity Training

During the late 1960’s, early 1970’s a gentleman by the name of Arthur Jones popularized a style of training that was a radical change from “traditional” training philosophies. Jones, who was the founder of Nautilus® exercise equipment and the Nautilus Principles (know today as High Intensity Training), observed that trainees, in particular bodybuilders; trained too frequently, used too much volume of work and lacked a level of effort to warrant increases in strength and conditioning. Jones felt that to produce the greatest physical changes an individual needed to have a high level of effort or intensity for each and every exercise. Intensity, as defined by Jones, is “one’s percentage of momentary ability.” This means an individual should perform an exercise in an “all out” effort (in good form) to gain the most benefit for the muscular and cardiorespiratory systems.

This was Jones’s viewpoint: instead of having a participant stop at a specific number of repetitions or when a certain time was achieved, he instructed each individual to continue each set until they reach “momentary muscle failure.” In using this style of training the lifter does not terminate the set because a desired number of repetitions are obtained or a certain time has been achieved. The premise behind this type of work is to stimulate the maximum number of muscle fibers within a specific muscle group. Due to the intensity of this type of workout, participants are not able to perform a great deal of exercise in any one training session. Generally, a training session would include approximately five to ten different exercises performed for one set to “failure” and involve all the major muscle groups of the hips, legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms.

Another key point with this style of training is that rest periods or recovery intervals are generally short - usually resting just long enough to move to the next exercise and adjust the resistance. As a general guideline, the most rest one should take between sets is 60-90 seconds. Of course, as your fitness level improves, strive to decrease the rest time between exercises. You could say that High Intensity Training is where the “rubber meets the road” as it is one of the most difficult forms of training and offers an extremely efficient and effective approach to developing muscular strength, hypertrophy (increased muscle mass) and cardiorespiratory fitness.

High Intensity Training is very similar to circuit training in the fact that you will perform exercises for the entire body in a single training session and move quickly through the workout - the difference being that each set is taken to momentary muscle fatigue. As a guideline, a high intensity workout can consist of as little as three sets and preferably not exceed more than fifteen total sets for one single training session. Generally, only one “all-out” set for each movement or exercise is used with limited rest periods between exercise movements.

The following workout may reflect a conventional high intensity workout using machines.

Leg Press
Leg Curl
Chest Press
Lat Pulldown
Shoulder Press
Seated Row
Calf Raise
Back Extension
Abdominal Crunch

Because Jones had created the Nautilus® machines and the Nautilus Principles (along with developing “The Nautilus Circuit”), people in the past thought that high intensity training could only be used on Nautilus equipment or other similar pieces. Obviously, that is not the case since working hard or with a high level of effort isn’t limited to specific equipment. So, if you don’t have access to machines or prefer to use the standard barbell and dumbbell; here is an example of a “free weight” based workout you can try.

Standing Overhead Press
Stiffleg Deadlift
Bicep Curl
Side Bend

When the ideas behind what constitutes a high intensity training sessions are understood - which in essence is training hard and striving for improvement on a few basic movements that encompass the entire body - the possibilities for designing a productive workout are endless. Modalities such as stones, ropes, kettlebells, sandbags, as well as body weight calisthenics can all be used to build a better body. Here is a sample workout using such “odd training” modalities.

Kettlebell Squat
Sandbag Overhead Press
Layback Row with Rope
Push Up
Stone Deadlift
Sandbag Hammer Curl
Stone Carry