The Evolution of High-Intensity Training

The Evolution of High-Intensity Training

The exercise philosophy of Arthur Jones was formally introduced by his 1970 book: Nautilus Training Principles, Bulletin No. 1. The war had provided unexpected lessons.

In 1948, Jones trained in a YMCA gym (Tulsa, OK) where he experienced both heat and frustration – some body parts grew, others did not. His workouts were long; his body weight stuck at 172 pounds. Following 10 years of trying ‘everything,’ Jones heeded the conclusion of several large-scale experiments conducted during World War II: “There is a definite limit to the ‘amount’ of exercise that will produce beneficial results – carried beyond that point, exercise will reverse its own previous results, leading to losses in weight, condition and stamina.”

He reduced his efforts to “three weekly workouts of exactly one hour and 20 minutes each” and performed “exactly the same exercises in exactly the same way, reducing only the number of ‘sets’ of each exercise (from four to two).” He added a half inch to the size of his upper arms and 10 pounds of bodyweight within a period of only one week – a result of three workouts.

Jones stopped training for more than a year, but didn’t stop thinking. “If cutting my workouts by half produced that kind of results,” he speculated, “what would happen if I cut my workouts even more?” When he resumed, he performed “only two sets of eight basic exercises and in seven weeks, “reached levels of both muscular size and strength that were far above anything previously produced.” Again, he was forced to quit for a year. When he resumed, he recovered his previous gains (using 16 total sets as before) and then reduced his training for six more weeks. At 5’7½,” he peaked at a lean bodyweight of 205 pounds with a cold upper-arm of 17 1/8”.

In the process, Jones attempted to determine the ideal training time for others and concluded: “In almost all cases, best results from heavy exercise will be produced by the practice of a very limited number of compound exercises that involve the major muscular masses of the body.” (1970)

His recommendation: Perform 4-6 compound movements, and “Not more than two sets of each exercise . . . three times weekly.”

By 1971, Jones reduced the ‘amount’ of required training to three 25-minute sessions per week and, using his new equipment, to one set of 10-12 exercises. Once again, less but harder exercise produced more results.

Toward the end of his career, the recognized father of high-intensity exercise concluded: “I firmly believe that my results would have been even better if I had used only one set of exercise and if I had trained only twice each week.”

You don’t have to live in a gym.

Author: Gary Bannister


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