- HIT, HIHF, and DUP are three different training methods with their own strengths and weaknesses. I summarize them here.
- Interestingly, they can be combined to alleviate some of the potential issues with each. This creates a hybrid program which is a good mix of strength and size training, while requiring minimal time in the gym to see results.
- I've been using this program for a few months and seen awesome results for strength, despite minimal time to train. This method is definitely not for beginners, but is an effective, time-saving method for training both strength and size for intermediate and advanced lifters.
- ~2400 words, a roughly 12-15 minute read.
Chances are that, if you’re not a regular lifter, you have no clue what any of those letters refer to. So, let’s do a quick refresher here for anyone who’s already lost:
HIT, or high intensity training. This is a method of training for muscle in which the goal is to perform fewer, shorter workouts, but with more intense work. A typical HIT approach is to pick a series of 6-10 exercises, perform one set to failure at a self-selected weight on each, and then leave the gym. This method results in very quick (30 minutes or less) workouts, which makes this method very desirable for those without a lot of time. In the past, HIT advocates have claimed that HIT provides results superior to the kinds of results you’d get from longer or more frequent workouts, but this isn’t really supported by the research. Typically, you make a HIT workout harder over time by completing more reps per set, or working with a heavier weight over time, but progression isn't strict. HIT resurfaces every few years under a different name, popular among “biohackers” and anyone who wants to get in high efficiency, short workouts. The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss is an example of this.
HIHF, “high intensity high frequency”, also known as the Bulgarian system, or going by many other names such as Squat Every Day or my own Deadlift Every Day. HIHF refers to a method of training for strength in which you perform only single repetitions, building up to a near max in a variety of lifts and repeating daily. This method is great for building strength in the short term with skilled lifters, but isn't a great long term solution and is too difficult for beginners. HIHF programs have been very popular lately, thanks to stuff like Matt Perryman’s Squat Every Day and Greg Nuckols’ Bulgarian Manual.
DUP, or daily undulating periodization. This is a fancy term for any kind of periodization in which you train the same lifts, in different rep ranges, within the same week. So, if you train bench press one day with sets of 10, you might train another day with sets of 5, or even a third day with sets of 15. This is not mutually exclusive with other kinds of periodization, and is frequently used in conjunction with other styles of periodization to progress the program from week to week. DUP has become very popular recently, in part because research supports that it’s the most effective way to build strength.
If you’re a seasoned lifter, you may be starting to see where this is going. To simplify everything in terms of the kind of work it involves:
HIT - A set to (near) failure at any rep range.
HIHF - A set to (near) failure using a single rep.
DUP - Training that involves training multiple rep ranges per week.
It may be clear that these different kinds of work are not mutually exclusive. Combining HIHF and HIT solves some of the characteristic problems of each:
HIT - Low frequency plus low volume means that your results can be limited compared to higher volume programs. Lack of heavy work can mean limited strength results compared to a strength program.
HIHF - Working exclusively in a single rep range means very low volume. This is partially offset by the high frequency, but as a result this style of program is very strength-oriented, and not great for building size.
Combining the two in a DUP format still isn’t quite ideal in terms of serious mass/strength building. As I’ve written about a lot previously, low volume programs are great for maintenance for serious lifters in between cycles, or for non-serious exercisers with minimal time to spend in the gym but a decent amount of experience. Combining HIHF and HIT in a DUP format helps make a more well-rounded program: you’re practicing both strength and size, while still minimizing time you spend in the gym.
There’s one more issue to discuss before I give an example of this kind of program: training to failure. Both of these programs involve different styles of training to failure (or realistically, training close to failure, since most people stop short of true failure), and training to failure can be hard to recover from, despite not really causing any additional gains.
In short, if you can avoid training to failure, this is a net positive for your results because you can recover quicker and hit hard work again sooner. However, this is challenging in a program like HIHF or HIT, where training to failure is a part of the name of the game.
I’ve been using exactly this kind of training style for the last couple months as part of a personal experiment. As a result, I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks to get around this issue.
The best way to do this is simply to know your limits. If you have an accurate idea of how strong you are, you'll start to know how many reps you can handle at what weight, and appropriately be able to cut out a rep or two here and there so that you're not hitting failure.
|Heavy Squat/Bench||Heavy Deadlift/Overhead||Light Squat/Bench||Light Deadlift/Overhead|
|Upper||Bench 1x1-3 plus backoff||Strict Press 1x1-3 plus backoff||Bench or other chest exercise 1-3x8-15||Strict Press or other shoulder exercise 1-3x8-15|
|Lower||Squat 1x1-3 plus backoff||Deadlift 1x1-3 plus backoff||Squat or other leg exercise 1-3x8-15||Deadlift or other hip hinge 1-3x8-15|
|Accessory||Back Exercises, Arm Exercises, other accessory work as desired, 3x8-15/exercise.||Back Exercises, Arm Exercises, other accessory work as desired, 3x8-15/exercise.||Back Exercises, Arm Exercises, other accessory work as desired, 3x8-15/exercise.||Back Exercises, Arm Exercises, other accessory work as desired, 3x8-15/exercise.|
The base of the program is centered around a 4x/week training format. You don’t have to stick to a 4x/week format, and this is an extremely loose recommendation. It’s more accurate to say that you’re training 4 separate workouts on a rolling basis - once you feel like you’re recovered from the previous workout effectively enough to do a new workout, go for it. Over time, with consistency, you’ll find that recovery improves and you’re able to train more frequently. So, you may actually get in more or fewer workouts than 4x/week, depending on how fast you’re able to recover.
This gives you a rough idea of the structure of the program, but how do we progress it from week to week? In this case, a bit of trial and error is necessary. I recommend that you know your 1RM (or estimated 1RM) to begin with. If you haven’t been lifting heavy for long enough to know your 1RM, chances are you need at least a couple months training with a traditional strength program before you start this program.
Here’s how I managed it:
Heavy Days: On your first heavy day, warm up and then start off with a single rep at about 80-85%. From there, add 5-10lbs each time you repeat this workout until you fail a single (that is, hit a true 1RM). From here, drop back down to around 80-85%, and build your way back up, this time with doubles. When you fail a double (can only complete a single rep) you drop back down to 80-85% and repeat the process a third time with triples. Once you fail a triple (can only complete 2 reps), switch back over to singles and start over
Since you’re only completing a single heavy set, it’s important to warm up properly for this set each day and take all necessary precautions in case of failure, so that there’s minimal risk of injury. Once you’ve completed your heavy set for the day, it’s cool to drop a bit of weight (15-20% off your working weight for the day) and complete a few more sets of the same number of reps, if you want to get in a bit more practice. For example, if I hit a 300lb single on my bench, I might drop down to 275 or 250 to perform a couple more singles before being done with the bench for the day.
Once you’ve finished upper body, move on to lower body. I’ve found that combining upper/lower in this way is easiest for me, but it’s also possible to combine squat/deadlift and bench/strict press instead if you’d rather have dedicated upper/lower days.
If performing a mixed upper and lower day as I’ve laid out above, I put the upper body first for one main reason: the strict press. The strict press requires a good deal of stability in the torso to properly perform, and I don’t recommend pressing right after a heavy squat or deadlift session, which will tire out your low back and core. So, I put upper first to avoid this issue. Perform the same process with your lower body, and move on to accessory work.
Accessory work isn’t set in stone. I recommend a lot of back work, including rows and pullup variations, and some additional work for any muscle groups you want to focus on - primarily isolation exercises for the arms, glutes, quads, pecs, or shoulders. These can be done within the traditional 8-15 rep range, 3 sets per exercise.
Light Days: On the light days, you may want to introduce a bit more variety into the major movements. A squat could be replaced with a front squat, a leg press, or something similar.
One thing I found while using this format is that this frequency for deadlifting can be a bit rough. As a result, I often found that swapping out lighter hip exercises (hip thrusts, hyperextensions, kettlebell swings, etc.) on the light day helped make the whole thing more manageable. Likewise, you can swap in bench or overhead press variations for the primary lifts if you want a bit more variety.
Whether you’re using the same lifts as the heavy days or not, the approach is mostly the same. Start off with sets of 15 at a weight that feels appropriately challenging for 15 reps. Then, on the next light day, add 5-10lbs. Once you can no longer hit 15 reps, you have two options: either continue adding weight or split the set in two.
If you add weight, you’re steadily adding weight, dropping reps until you can only perform 8 reps per set (roughly 80% of your 1RM). Then, once you can’t complete 8 anymore (can only complete 7 reps at a given weight), you drop back down, and start building back up again with 15’s, this time shooting for a new 15RM.
If you split the set in two, you’re then doing 2x7 at the same weight - from here, adding 1-2 reps to each set each week until you can hit 2x15, then split it again into 3x10 and build back up to 3x15, before adding 5-10lbs and repeating the process. Essentially, just splitting the same number of reps up over additional sets.
Naturally, these progressions are very slow. It can take a long time to hit a new 15RM with either of these progressions. That’s the idea - making small, incremental changes over time.
The process is the same for both light and heavy days - upper body work first, then lower body, then accessory exercises. Accessory exercises don’t have to be carefully progressed or exactly the same from workout to workout or week to week, but keeping the same exercises and implementing some minimal linear progression does help so that your body can properly adjust and adapt.
Methods for avoiding failure: As I mentioned above, one of the problems of this style of training is that it involves frequently training to failure. Since it’s (realistically) only a couple sets to near failure per training day, this hopefully won’t impact your recovery too much. However, you want to avoid form breaking down - especially on the heavy days - since this could cause injury or help ingrain poor habits.
At the same time, it’s usually possible to avoid failure if you get used to using the RPE system and stopping when you hit an RPE 9. If you’re performing singles and you feel your bar speed start to slow, your reps start to struggle, and your form start to give way, chances are that it’s time to drop back down and switch to doubles. Likewise, if you’re performing doubles, it’s usually best to stop just short of truly failing on a 2 rep set - and if you’re used to using RPE, you can probably figure out where to stop. I highly recommend getting some practice using RPE.
This method is no miracle program, but it has helped me hit several new squat PR’s plus a bench PR over the last couple months. Since you’re working within multiple rep ranges (1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and 5-15’s,) you can set some realistic markers on your progress - if you’re seeing an improvement in your 1, 2, or 3RM versus a previous cycle, you know your strength is improving. If you’re seeing improvements in other RM’s on the light days, that’s just icing on the cake.
One huge benefit of this program is that, while it’s a bit complicated to figure out in the beginning, it’s very simple once you’ve had a bit of practice. I show up to the gym, check my previous notes, and know exactly what weight/rep scheme to attempt this week. As a result, I can see consistent progress without needing to do a ton of math or other work: each week, I just bump up a number slightly and keep going. This does absolutely require good tracking, but that’s a bare minimum for being a serious lifter anyway.
This method has also been helpful at seeing results despite the fact that I’ve struggled to get in a lot of gym time over the last few months. With the holidays, two major travel periods, and an unusually large number of colds to deal with, I’ve still managed to see improvement despite sometimes being only able to train 2x/week.
I’m also a person who likes very small but consistent improvements and minimal variety, so this method has worked very well for me, hammering the same work over and over. I’m also experienced with using RPE, so I have minimal issue with form breakdowns on heavy days, and know my limits and when to hold back.
This is definitely an intermediate/advanced training method, but it may be useful for you, especially if you don't have much time to train but still want to see good results.
If you're looking for a program more for beginners, check out my GAINS program, or if you want to know more about how to program for yourself and make long term progress, in addition to plenty of resources on self-improvement in general, I recommend checking out my Better books.
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- Training VS Maintenance
- The Colorado Study: An In-Depth Review
- Periodization For Beginners
- 6 Ways to Save Time at the Gym
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