In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a fierce debate plagued bodybuilding circles regarding just which training methodology was most effective for building muscle at the fastest possible rate. Bodybuilders such as the late Mike Mentzer were proponents of what was called HIT training, or High Intensity Training. This sort of training involved the use of the same exercises as everyone else, but far fewer sets. While bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger were training with high volume (20 to 40 sets per body part per day), Mentzer and his ilk were training with 2 to 4 exercises per body part, total. However, they were training much heavier and with a great deal more intensity than Arnold and friends were employing.
Thanks to sports technology (read: steroid use) at the time, proponents of both sides were able to achieve terrific gains in muscle mass and reach the pinnacle of their sports. Higher volume athletes won out most of the time in competition, but their numbers were much greater thus increasing their chances of winning. The muscle magazines declared higher volume training the winner, but that may have had more to do with politics and magazine ownership than actual results.
In the 1990s, past Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates, winner of 6 Sandow titles, swore upon the effectiveness of low-volume, extremely high intensity training. His results are unquestionable – as is his work ethic. Still, many lifters could strive for a lifetime to reach his level or training intensity and fail. He was the biggest and grainiest of his day, but many fans of the sport believe that given his work ethic and genetics, he could have achieved that kind of success – or greater – with a higher volume training methodology.
Today, the vast majority of top bodybuilders employ high volume training. It is, in effect, the status quo. Some of the top bodybuilders in the world will use heavy powerlifter style training from time to time in order to add slabs of beef to their bodies, but when it comes down to it, volume is the name of the game, just as it was in Arnold’s heyday.
Perhaps the recovery technology, supplements, and otherwise, has become so good that bodybuilders are able to recovery from just about any training, no longer how long and arduous it may be. Or, it would be the case that as greater amounts of better information are able to reach bodybuilders thanks to the internet, more people are learning about proper training methods. Whatever the case, HIT seems to be finding fewer and fewer supporters these days, even as more and more commercial gyms make such training an option.
For your personal use, HIT is a great option when time is limited and you wish to work to train quickly to maintain your existing muscle mass. Unless you are a chemically assisted athlete, you are probably not going to find great success with HIT. However, it does have its place from time to time in training rotations.