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HIT, Spit, and Bullshit: An Interview with Ellington Darden


When Ellington Darden, Ph.D., learned I was from Montana, he convinced me, in his laconic Southern drawl, that Clint Eastwood was a friend of his. But before I had a chance to be impressed, he corrected himself. Turns out, it wasn't Clint Eastwood, but some guy named Clint Walker who starred in some hundred-year-old TV show called Cheyenne.

Was Dr. Darden having a senior moment? Was he just playing loose with the facts? Or maybe it's just that the man has forgotten more stuff than most of us will ever know, so he might be forgiven for screwing up an actor's last name.

I'm sure virtually all HIT disciples will claim the former.

HIT, of course, is the system of high-intensity training developed by Arthur Jones and codified and popularized by Darden, who was director of research for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries, the company Jones founded, for more than 20 years. He's also the author of some four dozen fitness books and an accomplished bodybuilder.

More important, for the purposes of this interview, Darden is a man who's seen and heard it all over the past four decades. He's just betting you haven't.

darden

The good doctor

T-Nation: You hitched your wagon to Jones and HIT back in the early 1970s. Since then, HIT has been more and less popular, but it's never been overwhelmingly popular. So I'll throw this out there for starters: Is HIT really the shit? I mean, what can it do for the average Testosterone reader? Why should he care enough to read about it?

Darden:

T-Nation: So if it's not for everybody, who is it for?

Darden:

T-Nation: So what you're telling me is, "No jack-ass kids"?

Darden:

T-Nation: You had me going on the Clint Eastwood thing, but I'm not buying that.

Darden:

T-Nation: Um ...

Darden:

T-Nation: But you didn't start out with HIT. You won bodybuilding trophies before you ever heard of Arthur Jones. Back then, you trained like everyone else, and it worked.

Darden:

darden

Darden in '72

T-Nation: I'd love to do it in a week. But some of your articles seem kind of gimmicky, like your "Big Arms Challenge". Can people really gain three-eighths of an inch of muscle in 10 days? Won't it just be swollen tissue?

Darden:

T-Nation: If it truly is muscle, can people maintain it?

Darden:

T-Nation: I know you practice what you preach. But when was the last time you went to true, vomit-inducing failure?

Darden:

T-Nation: What about the people who don't get good results from HIT?

Darden:

T-Nation: That's quite a caveat, isn't it? I mean, can a typical lifter in a typical gym succeed with HIT if he doesn't have someone like you coaching him?

Darden:

T-Nation: So what if you don't have a coach?

Darden:

T-Nation: Blasphemy! But is it still considered HIT training if you're doing multiple sets and not going to true failure?

Darden:

T-Nation: Let's get back to something I touched on earlier: You've done both high-frequency training and high-intensity training. You've built muscle with both. How can you say one works better than the other?

Darden:

T-Nation: How has HIT evolved from the days of Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer?

Darden:

arthur jones

Arthur Jones

Mike Mentzer

Mike Mentzer

T-Nation: So what do you say to people who think that Arthur Jones's intention was to make exercise more marketable to the masses — fast workouts in assembly-line fashion? Do you think the Nautilus philosophy was, at least in part, a sales gimmick to sell more machines?

Darden:

T-Nation: Wait. You mean he'd catch wild animals and sell them?

Darden:

alligators

Jones and some of his friends

T-Nation: So what you're saying is that Arthur always found a way to "get" people?

Darden:

T-Nation: Speaking of Arthur, I heard he actually called the sheriff on Mike Mentzer once. What's up with that?

Darden:

T-Nation: Was that typical behavior for Mike?

Darden:

T-Nation: So why was he even there?

Darden:

Mentzer

Ray and Mike Mentzer

T-Nation: They sound kind of like children, just needing to be told what to do all of the time.

Darden:

T-Nation: What about Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Darden:

arnold

The one and only Governator

T-Nation: It's no secret that Arnold was known for his big ego. Tell me a story that didn't make it into Pumping Iron.

Darden:

T-Nation: Whoa.

Darden:

T-Nation: So Weider was being Weider? 

Darden:

Franco Columbu

Franco Columbu and some people who don't lift weights

T-Nation: So HIT worked well for Franco, but I heard you got some horrible results with Eddie Robinson. Didn't he actually lose muscle and gain fat when you were training him for the Mr. America?

Darden:

T-Nation: Wait. Shouldn't a professional bodybuilder know when and how to cycle his drugs?

Darden:

T-Nation: How'd he do that?

Darden:

T-Nation: There was a quote I read on your site a while back that said, "Have the look of a lion in the presence of a herd of sheep." What does that mean?

Darden:

T-Nation: Sounds like good advice to me. Thanks Dr. Darden!

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