High-Intensity Training: A Comprehensive Guide

High-Intensity Training (HIT) is a popular form of physical exercise that's often associated with bodybuilding. However, it's not exclusive to this discipline and finds application in various other sports and fitness activities. Let's delve deeper into what HIT is, how it works, and how to effectively incorporate it into your training regimen.

Understanding High Intensity

High intensity refers to a level of physical exertion that is close to an individual's maximum capacity. In resistance training, an intensity level is considered high if it falls between 85% and 100% of one's maximum effort, often abbreviated as %1RMax or %1RM.

The concept of high intensity isn't limited to resistance training. In aerobic exercises, for instance, achieving certain milestones, such as raising the anaerobic threshold and developing lactacid capacity, requires training at higher intensities than race pace.

High intensity is also a critical component of metabolic training, which includes circuit training and interval training. These workouts mainly stimulate anaerobic capabilities, which are essential for endurance strength and speed resistance.

The Role of High Intensity in Strength and Hypertrophy Training

Since the early days of bodybuilding, high-intensity training has been a fundamental part of the regimen. It was initially used in routines before the differentiation between workouts for strength (typical of weight lifters) and those for muscle mass (typical of bodybuilders) came into existence.

Strength training focuses more on developing neuromuscular and technical skills to lift as much weight as possible. Here, intensity is the most crucial parameter, while density is the least relevant. On the other hand, hypertrophy training pays more attention to the biochemical and hormonal-metabolic stimuli induced by exercise. In this case, volume and density also play significant roles.

Calculating and Managing High Intensity in Bodybuilding

Calculating high intensity in bodybuilding involves determining your 1RMax and then working within 85-100% of that value. However, not everyone is capable of finding their 1RMax due to various reasons, such as being a beginner or having joint or tendon issues. In such cases, one can empirically estimate their maximum.

Increasing intensity usually requires a modulation of other training parameters, especially volume and density. For instance, if you increase your intensity from 70% of 1RMax to 85%, you'll need to reduce your reps, increase recovery times, and sometimes, decrease the total number of reps.

High Intensity and Training Frequency

Strength tends to increase more with frequent stimulation. However, increasing the frequency of workouts necessitates a division of the overall training load. For instance, if you decide to do squats twice a week instead of once, you'll need to distribute the number of sets accordingly.

Increasing Intensity in Bodybuilding

There are several systems and techniques to increase intensity in bodybuilding. However, if a bodybuilder wants to improve their 1RMax, they should aim to achieve at least 85% of 1RMax, switch to multi-frequency, reduce the number of reps, and increase recoveries to at least three minutes.

Choosing High Intensity Exercises for Bodybuilding

When it comes to high-intensity exercises, multi-joint exercises are often preferred. These include squats with a barbell, deadlift, flat bench press with a barbell, inclined bench press with dumbbells, pull-ups (with overload), prone barbell row, T-row bar, and military press.

Isolation exercises, such as deltoid raises, arm curls, and pushes, are also beneficial, especially when used on failure sets for pre-fatigue purposes.


High-intensity training is a versatile, effective method that can be applied across various fitness disciplines. However, it requires careful planning and execution to avoid injuries and ensure maximum benefits. Whether you're a bodybuilder or an endurance athlete, understanding and incorporating high-intensity workouts into your routine can significantly enhance your performance. Remember to always listen to your body and adjust your training regimen accordingly.

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