Meet the Dubai fitness expert taking HIT to its fitness roots
High-intensity training is the latest buzzword in gyms across town, with group and one-on-one workouts now being tailored to include high-intensity and high-activity exercises in a variety of configurations. From classic circuit training to CrossFit, classes aim to get you using as many different muscle groups in as many different planes of movement as possible in just one workout.
Lots of these sessions describe themselves as high-intensity training (HIT), but when Dubai personal trainer Vijay Ramburuth, a sports nutritionist and managing director of PAS Sports & Lifestyle Services, uses the term, he’s talking about the original discipline. This, he explains, is a method of training that tends to stir up discord from certain more widely-marketed courses that describe themselves as HIT, but don’t necessarily fit the original mould. The idea is to work out for short periods of time, in a controlled environment, on only one or two muscle groups to the point of absolute failure – reps are painfully slow (quite literally), maximising their intensity and stress on the muscle. ‘In some training studios, it’s about doing something as fast and as hard as possible, for the longest period of time, with as many repetitions. It’s more, more, more, more. With this method of intensity training, less is more, and the focus is really on quality.’
If you’ve heard about tabata, an interval training discipline that focuses on four-minute fat-burning, this is nothing like it. The focus is on strength and conditioning, which is why it originally found popularity among bodybuilders, after its creation by ArthurJones in the 1970s. Jones was often credited with the invention of modern gym equipment. This approach was then developed further by American bodybuilder and author Mike Mentzer.
‘If you mention [Mentzer’s] name to any experienced bodybuilder over the age of 30, he was like a god in terms of training. A genius,’ Vijay says.
But he’s quick to explain that it’s not all about bulking up. Though the method is mostly forgotten and now only practised in small gyms and communities around the world, it’s an excellent way for athletes to work out. When performed in a controlled way, using the right machinery (apparently resistance machines are the key to these exercises), the chance of injury is apparently greatly reduced. ‘It can be applied to any type of athlete. I followed it myself for a good few years while I was playing competitive basketball, and it had great advantages, keeping my workouts to a minimum amount of time, putting no extra stress on my joints and allowing me to focus on my sport while still doing strength training.
‘Bruce Lee is a prime example of someone who followed HIT by the book. This is a guy who probably never did a stretch in his life: he followed the principle of just warming up properly. He’s one of the leanest, strongest athletes you’ve ever seen, and probably the most flexible martial artist,’ Vijay explains. ‘He trained about three times a week for 15 to 20 minutes with weights. Lee had the three core tenets of training: stretching for flexibility, weight training for strength and power, and cardio for his respiratory system – he was the original cross-trainer!’
Unlike many of the interval training sessions around town, however, Vijay stresses that HIT isn’t for everyone. ‘It’s all very well trying to encourage people to do everything, but it’s not realistic. This kind of training has never prescribed itself as something anyone can do, and that’s why it has never had much publicity. It has always been very specialised.
‘If I were to start coaching you, I would start with the psychology, because you have to get your head around it. The concept of failure is very different between individuals. Some people think, “That last set when I’m in the gym is always a max set,” and I’d say it’s not, to 99 percent of those people, because they’ve never really pushed themselves. That’s why this method is impossible on your own – you have to have a partner.’
That said, Vijay has found a handful of clients who have what it takes – mentally as much as physically. ‘I’ve trained my wife before, and she gets really into it, because she understands the focus that’s necessary,’ he says. If you think you have the mental nerve (and a thirst for controversy), it might just be worth taking a stab at HIT. From Dhs550 for one-on-one sessions with full assessment and consultation. firstname.lastname@example.org (055 230 9888).
Before you start: recommended viewing
‘These videos are a bit old-school,’ Vijay explains, ‘but they will give you an idea of what to expect, and what HIT looks like.’
Mike Mentzer’s Hit: Chest & Back (YouTube) Dorian Yates: Chest & Biceps (YouTube)