Monday, September 24, 2012

The Foundation of The HIT Strength System - By NSPA Staff

Originally posted on on May 20, 2003

The foundation of the High Intensity Strength Training System is the "perfect repetition". The HIT "slow controlled rep" will minimize momentum and maximize muscle tension, which in turn will produce optimal strength gains throughout the entire strength curve for the targeted (primary) muscle(s) performing the lift. In our opinion, the rep is the single most important component of any strength training system and is the most overlooked by most clients and coaches. If we were to randomly pick one hundred general weight lifters any where in the country and ask them to describe the "perfect rep" we would receive 100 different explanations. Most of them would have no specific guidelines or requirements and would explain that they really never gave it much thought or attention. The point is that most trainers do not have specific guidelines that describe the difference between a good rep and a bad rep, let alone the "perfect rep". In addition, all non-HIT trainers tend to focus more on how much weight is lifted regardless of form and good technique.

The HIT strength training system has been recognized as the only strength system that clearly defines the difference between a good rep and a bad rep. The HIT strength system has specific guidelines for performing the "perfect rep" in order to maximum strength results and does not except anything less. In fact, the HIT "perfect rep" protocol is supported by scientific muscle physiology principles as well as field-testing by thousands of successful clients over the last three decades. Learning how to perform the "perfect rep" is challenging and takes a great deal of discipline, concentration and practice. Our experience is that once the clients allow themselves to change their lifting style and try the HIT "perfect rep" they will never go back to their old lifting habits and techniques.

Once the client masters the HIT "perfect rep" they will feel the difference between their old technique and the new technique. In fact, when the client performs the "perfect rep" they will experience each rep becoming more difficult and much harder which indicates greater muscle fiber involvement (recruitment). The slow controlled rep will challenge the client's ability to not cheat and maintain perfect form. Eventually, the client will perform sets to MMF with perfect rep form. Our clients always tell us they feel this burning sensation deep into the "bone" and neurologically reach a momentary quivering and shaking. This type of physiological response maximizes muscle fiber recruitment, and dramatically increases strength. Performing the "perfect rep" and reaching the deepest inroads into the muscle during both the positive and negative aspects of the lift can only maximally experience if the client has the drive and ability to push himself to that level of intensity. The HIT system is only as effective as the effort and level of intensity put into each set and is directly related to the client's tolerance for muscular discomfort. In addition, the HIT system emphasizes the negative (lower the weight) aspect of the lift where greater muscle degradation (breakdown) can be achieved. Many strength systems do not emphasis the negative aspect of the lift and this is a huge mistake when trying to achieve maximum strength gains.

It is common for a client to go through a learning curve while learning to perform perfect reps and perfect sets to MMF. In fact, some clients with weight lifting experience will push themselves to the point of nausea (oxygen debt) during their first few HIT workouts. This response is a little different than what they are used to, but is normal for someone learning HIT for the first time. It is the body's way of responding to high intensity anaerobic work with minimum recovery. The body will adapt (GAS: general adaptation syndrome) to the physical stress with positive strength gains, greater recovery capabilities and increase anaerobic threshold. Eventually, the client will learn to fully appreciate that they are only as strong as the last "perfect rep" to absolute momentary muscular failure (MMF). The client will understand why the HIT strength system requires them to exceed their past reference for muscular discomfort while taking their strength training to another level. The HIT system will empower the client to reach their peak physical potential.

Executing the "Perfect Rep" 1) Once the client is in proper body alignment begin moving the weight with a slow and controlled concentric (positive) contraction using only the targeted (primary) muscle(s). The goal is to reach the end of the full range of motion of the targeted muscle(s) within 2 to 3 seconds.

2) At the end of the positive phase the targeted muscle(s) must perform a distinct pause according to the following types of movements:

"Double jointed pull movements - perform a distinct "isometric" squeeze for ? to 1 full second and the client should focus on increasing the tension of the targeted muscle(s) while performing the "isometric" squeeze.

"Double jointed push movements- perform a distinct pause at full extension while keeping muscle tension and avoiding the joint from locking out.

"All single isolation movements - perform a distinct pause for 1/2 to 1 full second at full range of motion.

The distinct pause will show complete control of weight and will ensure maximum fiber recruitment through the full range of motion.

3) Do not allow the weight to drift backwards into the eccentric (negative), not even 1/8 of an inch! If the weight drifts or travels back into the negative phase prematurely, then the weight was too heavy or there was too much momentum during the positive contraction phase or the client may not have focused 100% on isometrically squeezing or pausing the targeted muscle(s) at full contraction.

4) After the distinct pause at the end of the positive phase of the lift begin the controlled decent of the negative contraction of the rep. It takes less effort and fewer muscle fibers to lower the weight than it does to raise the weight. In fact, the negative part of the rep is approximately 40-60 percent stronger than the positive part due to increased muscular friction and not working against gravity.

5) There are two ways to increase muscle fiber recruitment during the negative part of the rep: 1) increase time of tension and or 2) add more resistance. For practical reasons we suggest slowing the negative down which will in turn increase the time of tension. The negative should take between 3 - 4 seconds.

6) During the transition from one rep to the next there should be a distinct pause while keeping the targeted muscles under constant tension. It is a common mistake not to pause during the transition from negative to positive. Many clients automatically cheat by bouncing the weight off the body or weight stack in order to perform pre-stretch recoil. This produces unnecessary momentum, which reduces muscle recruitment. It can also cause soft tissue damage (trauma) to the joint.

7) Transition from one rep to the next will take practice for some clients to perfect. The goal is to stop shy of full extension of the elbow, shoulder, or knee to avoid any reduction of muscle tension. Hold in this position for a ? to 1 second then slowly start the next contraction.

8) The client must understand that the same muscle(s) are used to raise and lower the weight. Both positive and negative phases are important for maximum strength to be achieved. However, the negative phase has the potential to create greater strength and hypertrophy.

9) Constant breathing is essential for maximum results. Breathe consistently throughout the entire set. Constant oxygen transport to the brain and heart are essential. Two methods of choice: 1) breathe out or exhale, during the positive phase and breathe in or inhale, during the negative phase or 2) constantly breathe with deep even breaths.

10) It is highly recommended for all clients to use a stopwatch when first learning how to perform the "perfect rep". Time the entire set from start to finish. This will enable the client to divide the number of reps performed by the total time of tension and then figure out the average rep speed. The goal is a minimum of 6 seconds to 8 seconds per rep.

During the "perfect rep" the joint should never be traumatized at the completion of either the positive or negative phase. Full range of motion can be achieved without hyperextension or an uncontrolled "lock-out" of the joint. If muscle tension is decreased at any point it is recommended to stop short of full range of motion. In addition, if the perfect rep is performed through the full range of motion, improved flexibility can occur in the targeted muscles.

The perfect rep protocol is used during power lifting competitions across the country. It demonstrates to the judges that the client is in complete control of the weight and that the target muscles are performing the lift without excessive momentum and bouncing the weight.

The "perfect rep" facilitates 100% accountability and reliability of strength gains throughout the full range of motion. Record only the number of perfect reps completed. Do not count reps that are not perfect HIT reps or have been assisted by a spotter during the positive phase of the lift.

Quality of the Rep

The client must understand that the quality of each rep is far more important than the quantity of weight being lifted. The HIT rep focuses on the targeted muscles versus a full body lift. The average non-HIT lifter completes a full rep in approximately 1 - 2 seconds. The HIT lifter will complete a full rep in 6 - 8 seconds. The time under tension for the HIT lifter is 3 to 4 times greater and has cumulatively greater overload through the full range of motion. This produces balanced strength within the target muscle(s) that cannot be produced if the rep is using excessive momentum which creates a muscle imbalance within the targeted muscle.

To gain maximum strength and power from the HIT system the client should never sacrifice perfect form. It is all too common to watch clients focus on how much weight they can lift using their entire body, with no concerns regarding their form or the technique used to isolate the targeted muscles of the lift. A great example of this would be the way a non-HIT lifter would perform the Olympic free weight bench press (bench). It is common to find a client perfecting the art of cheating while trying to move more weight. The focus of your clients training should be to isolate the primary muscle in the movement. Allowing your clients to cheat on a lifting movement causes the workload to be moved off the primary muscle onto surrounding muscles & joints not involved in the lift. Focus of training is paramount to muscle isolated work so that the muscle you are targeting gains maximum strength through the full range of motion.


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