I've been doing a lot of reading over the last few days and I've come across "HIT: High Intensity Training".

Now I like the idea of only having to do 1 set (albeit with slow reps) and there seems to be a lot of evidence supporting this method so I think I'm going to try it for myself and test after a month of doing it by going back to my traditional routine to see if I have made any strength gains.

My question is, how do I emphasise strength development in HIT over hypertrophy (bodybuilding)? Do the same rep ranges apply to HIT as with traditional training (i.e. 1-5 reps for strength)?

I recently got an answer on this site to another question I asked where it was said that rep ranges are not important, it is the time under tension that is important: 7-10seconds for strength (because this utilises the ATP-PC energy system). So this would mean that I should do 1 set and only 1 rep to get the right amount of time under tension to develop strength in HIT? Doesn't seem right...

  • 1
    High intensity training isn't restricted to {1-set, slow reps}, search on this site. Maybe you are mixing it up with "slow strength". For strength, you should aim for exercises that engage large muscle groups (e.g. deadlift, squats, burpees, kettlebell swings)
    – FredrikD
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 9:49
  • I don't mean that slow. Just slow enough to be controlled and with good form: more like 6/8 seconds per rep. As described here: baye.com/what-is-high-intensity-training/
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 9:58
  • And my workout will consist of bodyweight exercises with the exception of deadlift: one-armed push-ups, assisted one-armed pull-ups, handstand push-ups etc.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 9:59
  • I don't agree with the statement that rep ranges are not important because time under tension is the relevant variable. Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 18:30

3 Answers 3


The "HIT" you describe is a very specific kind of HIT, in that they're specifically advocating one set of as many repetitions as you can stand:

Almost all high intensity training methods involve only performing one, all-out work set per exercise.

That's contrary to the sports science definition of intensity in the context of lifting, which I've usually seen construed to mean "percentage of 1RM". It's also not true of a variety of high-intensity training protocols, which use intervals or multiple sets to sustain high intensities of work output. Regardless, let's use Drew Baye's definition of HIT for the purposes of your question.

From the article you're using as a basis:

Bodybuilding or Strength Training?

High intensity training is not exclusively for bodybuilding or strength training or any one aspect of fitness. High intensity training may be used for a variety of exercise goals, by properly manipulating the relevant training variables. In addition to building muscular strength and size, high intensity training is highly effective for improving cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning along with numerous other measures of health and fitness.

The relevant training variables for focusing on strength rather than bodybuilding are the weight used and the number of repetitions. I am not convinced by the idea that time under tension or energy systems are the relevant variable instead of rep ranges. Controlling the rep range to focus purely on strength rather than metabolic conditioning, endurance, or hypertrophy just means that you should do all-out sets using weights or exercises for which you can only do five or fewer reps. I don't think that's going to be enough training stimulus with bodyweight work, even if you manage to find the exact exercise that is exactly hard enough without being too hard.

If you want to try this approach, I would first notice that nearly all the exercises in the recommended programs on Baye's site are weighted, not bodyweight. That's because a large number of bodyweight exercises make it difficult to get enough training stimulus for continued increases in strength and size with just one set. That said, one set to failure (while maintaining impeccable form) work strike me as sufficient and productive with deadlifts and pull-ups. I would be wary of this approach with one-arm chin-ups, handstand work, and one-arm push-ups. Those exercises involve some skill work and stabilization effort, which mean a significant degree of injury risk when doing sets to failure.

  • The thing is, if I'm doing reps slowly at 6-8secs per rep, and doing that at 5 reps, I won't be able to lift the same amount of weight I would if I was doing normal reps. If I did 5 reps on this HIT program, I'd be lifting a much lighter weight for 30-40secs - which looks more like a bodybuilding exercise as opposed to strength which is what I'm aiming for. And he does have quite a bit of content about bodyweight exercises using this method - presumably they're made much more difficult this way.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 7:58
  • @Dan That's all correct. I think you need to choose between this training program and training specifically for strength. You don't need to train for strength--other attributes like endurance, muscle size, connective tissue health, and conditioning are important and worthwhile--but training specifically for strength is not really the same as super-slow reps and doing one set of max reps per exercise. Maybe you're tripping over the difference between the technical definition of strength and colloquial usage of the word strength? Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 8:41
  • I did mean maximal strength which I think is what you're saying too - there seems to be a lot of evidence that 1 set to failure is just as good as multiple sets which although it flies in the face of traditional training, it seems to have more studies behind it so I'm going to try it for about a month and half or so.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 13:54

Please check out the book "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe. Rippetoe teaches five basic barbell exercises where you can linearly progress, i.e. you add weight to the barbell every time you visit the gym. After a few months, when it's too difficult to jump in weight, you progress to the intermediate stage which typically lasts a longer duration than the novice phase.

In Starting Strength, you typically do your heaviest weight for three sets of five reps before jumping up in weight the next workout. This is sufficient to get stronger and be able to lift more weight. The only exercise where you don't do three sets of five is the deadlift; in that exercise you only do one set of five reps.

The great thing about the book is that it's backed by physics, anatomy, etc. and it explains in great detail how to do each exercise and WHY it's done that way. The results speak for themselves -- many people following the method have gained lots of muscle and strength; young, old, weak, strong, etc.

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    I didn't ask for a training program, I wanted an answer to my question about HIT training...
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 15:11
  • My answer is in response to your question -- it's definitely high intensity, not bodybuilding that is outlined in Starting Strength. I mentioned the number of sets as well as rep-ranges. Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 15:48
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    sure it's high intensity but it's not "HIT" as in 1 set etc. (see the link I posted in the comment section of the question - that's what I'm talking about)
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 17:53
  • Three sets of five is not high intensity in the technical sense. Even SS proponents will note that "high intensity" generally means one-rep maxes, doubles, or triples, and usually lower volume than 15 total reps. Nor is 3x5 high intensity in the context of Baye's definition, which Dan is using. Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 18:43

First off slow rep training is only one method of HIT. Standard HIT (since the 70's) uses a 6 sec rep which is a 2 second positive followed by a 4 second negative. Time under tension will range from 40 seconds up to 120 seconds depending on who you talk to or which muscle groups you are working. 40-70 seconds is typical for strength and hypertrophy whereas 70-90 seconds is more for hypertrophy with less strength. Just like normal training, less reps for strength, more reps (within reason) for size. Anything beyond 90 seconds is for endurance. Typically upper body exercises use 40-70 seconds whereas lower body exercises use 70-90. There have been various rep speeds used in HIT but the key factor is time under tension. So, if doing a 2/4 or 3/3 rep speed you would be doing 8-12 reps or roughly 48-72 seconds of TUT. If doing a 5/5 rep speed which some HIT advocates use that would be a rep range of 4-7. Get the idea? Original Super Slow was a 10/5 rep speed and later was changed to 10/10. They also increased the TUT to 90-120 seconds. However, most have found that more than 90 seconds isn't ideal for either strength or hypertrophy. So, if using original 10/5 that would mean a 4-6 rep range, a 10/10 would mean a 3-5 rep range.

My suggestion would be to follow the original guidelines- 1 set of each exercise 2/4 rep speed 8-12 reps for upper body 12-15 reps for the lower body and core Perform each set to momentary muscular failure No more than 12 exercises per workout Training no more than 3 days per week Using full-body workouts Using the double progression method (when you can complete the high rep range on each exercise, add 5% or more to the bar or machine- generally 5-10 pounds for compound exercises and 5 pounds for single joint exercises) if performing bodyweight-only exercises you will need to learn how to modify the exercise to make it more progressive (changing leverage, etc) or add weight via a weight vest or something similar. Using HIT intensity techniques like pre-exhaust, rest pause, stage reps, etc can make an exercise more intense without adding weight.

"Get A practical Approach to Strength Training" by Matt Brzycki for more info on HIT.

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