I was asked by a reader to comment further on so called HIT Training. For those of you who do not know this is characterized by one set to failure on machines that isolate single joint movements. In essence they are training muscles not movements. As far as I can see the main benefit of this methods in significant in muscle hypertrophy. I question whether this transfers to performance. I am presently consulting with two teams at the University of Michigan whose strength training staff are longtime advocates of HIT Training. The coaches who brought me in recognized that that HIT methods was not making their athletes better. There is no doubt that as far as a method for training athletes in is not of value! One of my concerns is that it does not address intermuscular coordination. Consequently the ability to use the strength gains garnered from the training is difficult if not impossible to apply. Research has shown that multiple sets are superior to one set to failure. HIT is fine for body builders whose main objective is to gain muscular size. There is another aspect of HIT Training that is seldom mentioned, it that of efficiency and cost. You need a different machine for every exercise and you can only have one athlete on a machine at a time. This takes time. In addition the need to have so many machines is very expensive. For the cost of three or four of the larger machines I could go a long way toward equipping a full strength training facility with tools that would transfer to the field. One of the main arguments in favor of HIT Training is that it is ‘safe.’ They argue that free weights are ballistic and therefore dangerous. That may be the case if proper progression is not observed. Frankly is 37 years of coaching I have never had an athlete get hurt in the weight room using free weights. I know one HIT school several years ago that had seven hamstring injuries in their Football winter conditioning program. There is no doubt that the neural confusion caused by the hamstring curls coupled with high speed treadmill training were major contributing factors. So much for safe!
Frankly I feel the same way about all machine training. My experience with machines goes back 40 years to my freshman year in college. The big innovation was the universal gym. It was the first selectorized weight machine. I trained religiously from the end of freshman football and to the start of spring practice. I got strong and bigger. The only problem was that I could not move. I could not use the ’strength’ that I had gained. This lesson has stayed with me over the years. I know I was not a very good athlete, but that mode of training did help me.