The Rebirth of HIT

An Interview with Dr. Ellington Darden


The audience that day at Duke University was getting restless. They were also getting insulted. The speaker had begun the seminar with a lecture about ignorance and stupidity, implying not so subtly that those who didn't accept his ideas were of the former persuasion. He ridiculed the audience, ignored the scheduled break times, and threatened to "whip the ass" of a graduate student who dared question him.

This was, after all, a man who'd once jerked a young Arnold Schwarzenegger out of a car and told him to shut his yapping trap. He certainly wasn't going to entertain the criticisms of some skinny college kid.

The year was 1975. The speaker was Arthur Jones, inventor and founder of Nautilus and the father of high-intensity training. By all accounts, Jones was a genius on many levels, but no one ever called him a "people person."

Finally, Jones was whisked off stage and one of his assistants was asked to save the day and explain this new training concept... without kicking anyone's ass. The employee of Jones was a young Ph.D. who'd won the Mr. Texas and Collegiate Mr. America contests a couple of years before.

Ellington Darden

In 1972, Ellington Darden, author of The New HIT, won the Collegiate Mr. America. When this photo was taken, Darden was 5' 11" tall and weighed 195 pounds.

Nervous but competent, he pulled it off. During the impromptu presentation, the young man referred to high-intensity training using the acronym HIT. The abbreviation stuck, and Dr. Ellington Darden took his place in bodybuilding history.

That was almost 30 years ago and today Ell Darden is still the modern voice of HIT. He's written more than a dozen books on the subject, but hasn't focused on the hardcore bodybuilding market since 1993. Disappointed with the state of modern bodybuilding training, he decided to revive and update HIT, the revolutionary and controversial training method that once changed the face of muscle building.

The HIT resurrection started with the publication of his new book, The New High-Intensity Training. T-Nation decided to sit down with Dr. Darden to discuss the book and what's become known as "New HIT."

T-Nation: There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about HIT. Can you sum it up for us?

Dr. Ellington Darden: High-intensity training, in a nutshell, is getting maximum results in minimum time. I credit Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus exercise equipment, with this definition. Jones, who lived life in the fast lane, had little time to waste on exercise– unless it provided him with efficient results.

Arthur Jones

For many years, Arthur Jones traveled the world filming and capturing wild animals for his documentary television programs. Here, he is shown in his African base camp in 1968 feeding a baby elephant. In his left hand is one of his favorite means of protection: a lightweight M2 carbine.

T-Nation: What's the difference between HIT, Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty, and New HIT?

Darden: Let me put it this way, the 1970s' HIT routines are too long, Mentzer's Heavy Duty routines are too short, and the New HIT routines are just right!

Jones initially recommended as many as 16 exercises, each performed one set to failure, three times per week. This eventually proved to be too much overall exercise. Mentzer went the other extreme: consolidated routines, some of which required only 3 or 4 exercises to failure, once every 10 to 12 days. This was too little for maximum results, at least for the average trainee.

My New HIT routines apply between 7 and 12 exercises per routines, one set to failure, twice a week.

T-Nation: Gotcha. One of the underpinnings of HIT is outright hard work and intensity, but how is that defined? By going to failure? Contracting hard? Perceived effort? Making war faces?

Darden: Going to "momentary muscular failure" is the guideline, but you have to learn how to reach failure correctly. Under the best conditions, this process requires about two weeks of gradually easing into understanding and applying an intense, all-out effort on each exercise.

In the early days at the Nautilus headquarters in Florida, Jones had little patience with most trainees. He always preferred to "bust their asses" right out of the gate. As a result, they got a hell of a workout– if they could make it through the routine. And if they couldn't, they still got their systems shocked to a degree that they hadn't experienced previously.

Either way, most guys left with the impression, "Wow, that Nautilus HIT feels different from my previous training."

T-Nation: HIT is also known for stressing good form as in "train to failure but use good form." However, in your book you describe a set of HIT barbell curls with "loose form" and cheating the last few reps up. I'm confused.

Darden: Good form involves the application of many fine points around the performance of each exercise. Again, this requires appropriate teaching techniques and time.

Jones figured that most bodybuilders, if they knew anything at all, knew the difference between strict and cheating repetitions on the barbell curl. Thus, he frequently used the curl to demonstrate his point of "outright hard work." I saw him cause many bodybuilders in the 1970s to become nauseated from one set of curls, progressing from very strict form to a looser style–but always carried to failure.

That's why I begin Chapter 1 with this dynamic description of barbell curls the Arthur Jones way. Later, I point out that cheating repetitions must be incorporated responsibly. You should use them only occasionally, and only in a controlled manner.

T-Nation: Most HIT programs involve full-body workouts. Why is full-body training such a cornerstone of HIT?

Darden: When I became interested in bodybuilding in 1959, most of the Mr. America winners in the muscle magazines used whole-body routines. Men such as John Grimek, Allan Stephan, Steve Reeves, Jack Delinger, Steve Klisanin and Ron Lacy–they all practiced whole-body workouts, and each in his own way influenced Jones, as well as me.

I remember reading and applying the routines of Red Lerrille, Mr. America 1960, in a series of articles he wrote for Strength & Health magazine, after he won the contest. Then, I recall meeting Red personally in 1963. Throughout the conversation he stressed whole-body training, three times per week. My best gains were always accomplished with whole-body workouts.

Many champion bodybuilders of the 1940s and 1950s applied whole-body routines for the majority of their workouts. Pictured above are Steve Reeves (Mr. America 1947), John Grimek (Mr. America 1940, 1941), and George Eiferman (Mr. America 1948).

But back to the question, whole-body training is far more efficient than any type of split routine. Why? Because it reduces the probability of overtraining. As a result of the indirect effect, you can't work your lower body without involving your upper body–and vice versa. It just makes sense physiologically, to work the muscular system as a whole, briefly–and rest it as a whole, too.

Or, as Jones often said, "Split routines make about as much sense as sleeping with one eye open."

T-Nation: He did have a way with words. The cover of your new book, The New High Intensity Training, contains the blurb "Add up to 18 pounds of muscle in just two weeks." Is that even possible?

Darden: Hey, wait a minute. Reread that promise. It says: "Add up to 18 pounds in two weeks," not "Add 18 pounds in two weeks." I've had three trainees who've built 10 to 11-1/2 pounds of muscle in two weeks. And one, David Hudlow, whom I feature in the book, who actually built 18-1/2 pounds of muscle in two weeks.

So, yes, it's possible, but not probable, unless you have a large amount of genetic potential and the determination to work in a very disciplined manner.

Also, I show before-and-after photos of Casey Viator, who during Jones's Colorado Experiment, added 39.87 pounds of muscle in two weeks. This has to be a world record for muscle gained in that time period.

T-Nation: Let me play devil's advocate. It's "muscle memory," it's water gain, it's fat gain... In short, is it real muscle? Are those who see such gains in any special situations, like coming back from an injury or using steroids?

Darden: I'm sure David Hudlow's gain, 18-1/2 pounds in two weeks, was mostly muscle. His before-and-after measurements, photos and resting metabolic rate tests are consistent with the adding of significant muscle mass. Examine carefully the photos on pages 202 and 203 of my HIT book and you'll see what I'm talking about. Furthermore, the pictures weren't retouched in any way.

In only two weeks, David Hudlow's body weight increased from 173-1/2 to 192 pounds. In this same time span, he added 1-3/8 inches to each arm, 3 inches to his chest, and 1-5/8 inches to each thigh.

Let me go on record by stating that the unique, creatine-loading procedures–which Hudlow used–were probably responsible for 25-30 percent of the gain. Overall, from six months of HIT, Hudlow built 39 pounds of lean body mass.

T-Nation: That's amazing. What's this unique creatine-loading procedure?

Darden: David Hudlow and I, along with Tim Patterson, designed a formula for mixing creatine monohydrate and sugar into a gallon of ice-cold water. Hudlow then consumed the solution according to our 11-step guidelines, which are detailed in chapter 26. I believe this is the best way to load and pack creatine into your muscles. It certainly worked well for Hudlow. Combined with HIT, it helped him add 18-1/2 pounds of lean body mass in two weeks.

T-Nation: You mentioned the infamous Colorado Experiment with Casey Viator. What happened there?

Darden: Approximately 18 months after Viator won the 1971 Mr. America contest, a serious accident at a wire-extruding plant caused Viator to lose most of the little finger on his right hand. Several days later, he almost died from an allergic reaction to an anti-tetanus injection. He was nauseated and depressed for the next three and a half months and didn't train. He had little appetite. His muscles atrophied, and he lost more than 33 pounds, with 18-3/4 of the pounds being attributed to the near fatal injection.

Jones had planned on doing a large, negative-training study in 1973 at a major university. But when Viator became injured, he decided instead to do a case study with Viator and his new Nautilus machines at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He trucked his latest Nautilus machines to Fort Collins and assembled them in the exercise physiology laboratory of Dr. Elliott Plese. Then he and Viator flew there and commenced training on May 1, 1973, with the study to conclude on May 29.

Jones personally trained Viator with one set to failure of 12 or fewer exercises, repeated progressively every-other day for four weeks. More than half of the total sets that Viator performed were done in either a negative-only fashion, where the resistance was lowered only, or a negative-accentuated manner, where the resistance was raised with both limbs and then lowered with only one limb. The results were truly astonishing.

Viator's body weight increased from 166.87 to 212.15 pounds, for an overall gain of 45.28 pounds. Body-composition analysis revealed that Viator had actually built 63.21 pounds of muscle, since he had lost 17.93 pounds of fat.

Jones was always careful to point out that Viator was rebuilding previously existing level of muscular size–but even so, such a rate of increase was nothing short of remarkable.

T-Nation: I know Arthur Jones was really opposed to steroid use, but is it possible that Viator just pulled the wool over his eyes? I mean, Arthur was in a position to where he would really, really want to believe what he was seeing.

Darden: It's evident you don't know Arthur Jones. Pulling the wool over Jones's eyes would have been a rare feat, indeed. If Jones even suspected Viator was into steroids, he'd have shipped him back to Louisiana COD, before the day's end.

T-Nation: You've written about how when Arthur trained Viator, he grew like a weed, but when Viator trained himself he lost muscle. Why exactly?

Darden: Because the vast majority of people who have the best genetic potential for building muscle can't train themselves efficiently. Why? Because they've never had to previously.

Even if these people never train, they're still significantly bigger and stronger than the typical man. With just a little training (even if it's incorrect), their bodies respond much better than average.

Viator had a damned good physique before he met Arthur Jones, but he had an absolute exceptional body after Jones trained him HIT style, on and off for 10 months during 1970 and 1971. During that 10-month period, Viator won the Teenage Mr. America, Mr. USA, Jr. Mr. America, and the biggest title, Mr. America.

In his best condition, at a height of 5' 8" and a weight of 218 pounds, Casey Viator won the 1971 AAU Mr. America. Of the 60 overall winners of this title, Viator at age 19, was the youngest

With Jones training him, Viator's body weight would increase to 218 pounds of rock-hard muscle, with hardly any measurable body fat. When Viator trained on his own, he gradually lost muscle and gained fat. As a result his body weight dropped to approximately 200 pounds. I worked around Viator at the Nautilus plant in Lake Helen, Florida, for ten years and this was typically the case.

Jones's workouts were brutally hard. He would always put on 25 to 50 pounds more on the machines than Viator used on his own. But observing, you couldn't help being impressed with Viator because he went at Jones's workouts with a vengeance. And he never complained. I doubt that there was another man in the world at that time who could've accomplished what Viator did.

T-Nation: Original HIT focused a lot on machines, and no wonder since it was associated with Nautilus. What about New HIT?

Darden: Initially, I believe Jones thought that the Nautilus machines would eliminate a lot of the typical cheating that you see in training with barbells and dumbbells. But he was wrong. Sometimes, a machine makes it possible for you to cheat more than with a similar barbell exercise.

Regardless of the tool, machines or free weights, there are still plenty of ways to make the exercise easier, as opposed to harder. That's why having a good coach or training partner is really helpful.

The New HIT involves all the basic machine and free-weight exercises. And it does so in such a way that you can train yourself. I'm all for a teaming up with a training partner, but there are plenty of times when that's not possible. The New HIT shows you how to do-it-yourself by applying salient guidelines, tips and motivations.

T-Nation: No one really knew the word "overtraining" until Arthur Jones began publishing articles in Ironman in the early 70's. Today we have strength coaches who think everyone is overtrained and strength coaches who think there's no such thing as overtraining. How do you respond to that?

Darden: It's no different today than it was in the 1970's. Few sports teams–high school, college, or professional–are really getting the most out of their strength training. Most of these athletes and teams are good, bad or in-between, in spite of the way they strength train, not because of it. As a result, you can cancel out the strength-training component. The team with the best athletes and the best coaches still wins.

In my opinion, most sports teams are overtrained–not by a little, but by a lot.

T-Nation: There also seems to be a lot of emphases on "functional strength" and performance in the weight training world, even for those that don't play a sport. I think this may be because many of the people writing articles and publishing books these days work with athletes, not bodybuilders. Has cosmetic bodybuilding been lost? Can HIT satisfy those in the "functional" mindset?

Darden: I think you're right. Bodybuilding has been lost with all the emphasis on functional strength, which is to imply that bodybuilding for cosmetic purposes is of no value. To look better physically, more than any single factor, is the primary reason people exercise. I'm all for bodybuilding for bodybuilding's sake alone.

But back to functional strength. Most athletes and coaches have completely missed the mark when it comes to functional or sport-specific strength. I realized this in 1969 at Florida State University when I studied motor learning under Dr. Robert N. Singer. The whole idea centers on transfer. What you do in practice must transfer productively to a game, or it shouldn't be included, right?

There are three types of transfer: positive, negative and indifferent. Positive transfer occurs when the activities of practice and competition are identical. Negative transfer occurs when the activities of practice are almost the same as those in competition. Indifferent transfer occurs when the activities of practice are totally unrelated to what happens in competition.

Indifferent transfer is where strength training and bodybuilding belong. You should build muscular size and strength generally, in the best-possible way with little regard to your sport. Then, you should apply that strength specifically by practicing your sport identically to the way you compete. Doing so produces the most positive transfer and the least negative transfer.

But most athletes and coaches try to perform their strength training in a way that simulates their sport–which means fast, explosive lifting and lowering, little of which transfers to their sport. Worse, it can confuse performance through negative transfer and it's dangerous. As I was saying earlier, if your competition is doing the same thing, then no one is getting an advantage and the best athletes and coaches still win.

T-Nation: Makes sense. Now, the subtitle of your book is "The Best Muscle-Building System You've Never Tried." I think I know what that's getting at. When I told people I was doing an article about HIT, I was met with a lot of resistance; it even ticked a few people off that I'd dare bring up the subject. Yet all these people admitted they've never read any of the HIT books and have never actually tried this method of training. What's going on here?

Darden: Make no mistake, Arthur Jones was a brilliant, creative individual. But as smart as he was, he was a reluctant leader. He hesitated repeatedly about being involved in machine manufacturing and he never wanted to franchise Nautilus centers, even though at one time there were more than 2,000 clubs in the USA that used Nautilus in their name. Furthermore, with great difficulty was he able to tolerate the stupidity among athletes and coaches in the strength training/bodybuilding field.

Yes, Jones influenced a lot of bodybuilders, coaches and owners of fitness centers. But he also pissed off perhaps even more of them. Jones always invoked strong feelings, both for and against HIT and his Nautilus machines.

While Jones started a HIT revolution in the 1970's, by the mid-1980's, he'd lost interest and it began to wither away. Now almost 20 years later, most young bodybuilders have just heard of HIT, but they've never tried it.

I'm no Arthur Jones type of personality, that's for sure. But I am motivated to bring high-intensity training back to the mainstream. HIT is much too valuable of a muscle-building system to be laid to rest.

T-Nation: It seems the new "fad" or way of doing things in strength training now is to not train to failure, which is the opposite of HIT. "Training to failure is training to fail. Do you want to fail?" ...that kind of mentality. Is training to failure really necessary for muscular gains?

Darden: Not training to failure isn't a fad. It's the predominant method of choice for most bodybuilders. More is better has a much greater appeal than does less is better.

Concerning the concept, "training to failure is training to fail," Jones will tell you that "most of learning begins with failure. Success merely reinforces myth and superstition." Just don't call your failure a success. Know the difference between the two.

"Training to failure," Jones says, "is the most important factor in stimulating muscular size and strength."

Casey Viator contracts his muscular arms and back.

T-Nation: What about rest between sets? I know that Arthur Jones often prescribed little to no rest and a heart-bursting pace.

Darden: Yeah, Jones liked to move people quickly between exercises. With his Nautilus machines, it usually took 5 to 10 seconds to get out of one machine and another 5 to 10 seconds to strap into the next one. We had a guideline of 15 to 30 seconds between machines.

After three machines, most athletes would have a heart rate of 180 to 200 beats per minute, and it stayed in that range for the majority of the routine. Training in this manner not only worked your skeletal muscles, but also your heart and lungs–both maximally.

In all my years at Nautilus, I remember only one athlete who was able to go through an entire workout of 12 exercises, without becoming nauseated, the first time he tried it with Jones supervising. That athlete was Olympic champion wrestler, Dan Gable. Gable was in peak shape when he visited in 1976. He impressed us all with his savvy.

After the fourth exercise of a Jones workout, most athletes would be unable to stand. And those who tried a fifth exercise would usually have to stop midway and puke. After puking, it was over. No one ever continued after that.

Wait, I take that back. Dick Butkus, the all-pro middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears, hurled midway through his eighth exercise, a set of shoulder shrugs. Jones pitched an insult his way and Butkus slowly put the weight down, wiped his mouth on his arm, continued the shoulder shrug in good form, and finished his last two exercises. Then, he lumbered to the front door, turned and threw Jones a couple of words to chew on, opened the door and left.

Gable and Butkus were a breed apart–at least in attitude–from the other champion athletes we trained.

The nausea that most athletes experienced, however, only appeared during the first or second workout. The bodily systems adapted quickly to such extreme demands. After three or four weeks of such HIT, most athletes were clearly at a superior level of metabolic condition.

That was Jones's goal: to get a team of athletes to a level of conditioning that would be frightening to an opponent. He almost pulled it off with the Miami Dolphins in 1971, 1972, and 1973, which Don Shula so expertly coached. Jones was a close friend to Shula and the Dolphins were the first NFL team to purchase Nautilus equipment.

With bodybuilding, however, there's no need to rush between exercises. Still, there's no reason to diddle around either. Most of the time, from 30 to 60 seconds between exercises is the target.

A 1975 photo of Don Shula, coach of the Miami Dolphins, observing Arthur Jones train an athlete on the Nautilus Multi-Biceps machine.

T-Nation: Another trend in strength training is to not pay much attention to the negative and focus instead on lifting hard and fast through the concentric. HIT really stresses the eccentric though, correct? Even using some all-negative days?

Darden: Before Arthur Jones entered the bodybuilding scene in 1970, negative exercise, or eccentric work, had been kicked around in the physiology literature for 50 years. But no one had taken it seriously. I read all the muscle magazines regularly from 1959 to 1972, and I don't remember even a mention of negative work.

Then, Jones, tired of reading advertisements from manufacturers of exercise machines that supplied only positive work, decided that he'd experiment with the negative part of the exercise. He performed many types of lowering-only exercises with various trainees for more than a year. I remember the first time I saw his series of Omni Machines, all of which employed a foot pedal that transferred a heavier-than-normal, positive load to your torso or arms. Doing so made it possible for you to do heavy negatives, without a spotter.

The Nautilus Omni machines were used during Jones's Colorado experiment, which proved so fruitful.

I think most exercise physiology people would agree that it's the negative portion of the exercise that's most responsible for the slight tearing of the myosin and actin units that make up the microscopically tiny myofibrils that are the primary growth threads of a muscle. Afterward, these frayed myosin and actin threads have the power to attract other growth elements. With adequate rest and nutrients, these units and elements are rewoven into thicker, stronger filaments with new branches.

As I point out in my HIT book, all muscular growth from weight training must be stimulated by preparing and then tearing at least some of the involved myosin and actin tissues. Without that slight tearing, they won't be receptive to developmental elements.

So, this slight tearing, which produces recognizable soreness, is a direct result of the negative part of the exercise. Negative work, as long as it's not carried to extremes, is very beneficial and instrumental in the muscular growth process.

T-Nation: Okay, here's a common criticism of HIT: "It works for a while, but then you need to switch to something else, just like with every other style of training." Is that true?

Darden: Personally, I've been training in the HIT style for more than 30 years. I've never felt like I needed to switch to anything else. But that's just me. I've always felt that variety in exercise was vastly overrated. If you've found something that obviously works, keep using it until it doesn't.

If it's variety that you want, however, my new HIT book contains 32 different whole-body routines that are described in detail.

T-Nation: Your new approach to HIT involves occasional not-to-failure or NTF (not to failure) workouts. Some diehard HITters are throwing fits about this suggestion. Why NTF workouts?

Darden: Jones originally hypothesized that a trainee required from 48 to 96 hours between HIT sessions for complete recovery to occur. On the one hand, training daily never allowed an individual's body enough time to become larger and stronger, at least not maximally. On the other hand, resting longer than 96 hours between workouts seemed to cause muscle atrophy to some degree.

The tried-and-proved, Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout schedule served Jones well, at least with beginning trainees. But soon, within six to twelve weeks, the trainee reached a plateau. Such an individual was now strong enough to make a much deeper inroad into his recovery ability. The solution to breaking the training plateau was more time between workouts.

At first we tried going from three times per week to twice a week. But that turned out to be too severe of a reduction. We solved this by directing our thinking into two-week schedules, rather than one-week periods. Instead of reducing the frequency from six times in two weeks to four times in two weeks, we went from six times to five times. This produced strength gains for a while, but then the training would plateau again.

Thus, we reduced systematically over time from five, to four, to three, to two times in two weeks, which also helped. After several years of experimentation, however, we found that smaller reductions in frequency produced fewer plateaus and better strength gains. Through multiple trials, we discovered that NTF training filled that smaller-reductions-in-frequency gap.

NTF training means not going to momentary muscular failure in any exercise during a workout. During a specific exercise, you use the same amount of resistance as before, but you simply stop the set two repetitions short of your best previous effort. For example, if you did 245 pounds on the bench press for 9 repetitions on Monday, then on Wednesday, you still use 245 pounds, but you halt the set after the 7th repetition.

NTF training, we concluded, actually facilitated some trainees' recovery ability. At the very least, it prevented a small degree of atrophy, particularly among beginning and intermediate subjects.

With advanced HIT'ters, I realize NTF training may not be necessary, especially if they've been getting good results from consistent all-out efforts. But then again, it may be just the concept that their bodies need for renewed muscular growth. They'll never know unless they try NTF with gusto!

T-Nation: Got it. One of the best things about your book is the stories and anecdotes of golden age bodybuilders. Do you have any new ones?

Darden: Thanks for mentioning my stories. There's an interesting one connected to a reunion of predominantly Texas bodybuilders and powerlifters from the 1950's and 1960's that I attended in June 2004 at the home of Ronnie Ray in Dallas. You better believe the tall tales were flying around at this gathering!

One of the highlights was the showing of a video that had been assembled by Terry Todd of the University of Texas. The video contained black-and-white movie clips of the winners of the AAU Mr. America contests from 1940 to 1954. What a treat it was to see the champions, which most of us had admired in our teenage years, in action. It was great to be reminded that there were some very well built men in the 1940s and 1950s–all of which were drug-free.

Sitting next to me as we enjoyed the movie clips was a 69-year-old lifter from Kansas. His name was Wilbur Miller and in 1964 he deadlifted 715 pounds while weighing 245 pounds, which was a world record at that time. The amazing thing about Miller was that he never worked out in a commercial gym and never had a training partner. For 90 percent of his exercising, he never used an Olympic barbell. He always trained alone, after finishing his day job. Miller was, and still is, a wheat farmer. Today, he weighs a lean 220 pounds and has muscular forearms, thick wrists, and a vise-like grip. He reminds me of the characters John Wayne played in his old western movies.

Miller can't understand why anyone interested in lifting and bodybuilding would want to get involved with drugs. "All it takes to get bigger and stronger," Miller says with his friendly demeanor, "is an understanding of weight-training basics and hard work."

Wilbur Miller of Cimarron, Kansas, in 1964 deadlifted 715 pounds for a world record. Miller is a staunch believer in applying weight-training basics.

As much as any of those Mr. America winners, I appreciate and admire Wilbur Miller.

And you know what? I believe there are perhaps a million or more men in the United States who are similar to Miller. These men haven't used drugs in the past and don't intend to in the future, but they're still interested in building muscular size and strength– to the maximum degree.

The New HIT can help them do just that–in a sane, sensible manner.

T-Nation: What do you think of modern professional bodybuilders and the direction of the sport in general?

Darden: Hey, I've been a bodybuilder for 45 years. I admire large, well-developed muscles. I admire broad shoulders and military posture. I admire leanness and symmetry.

In today's professional scene, I see bits and pieces of what I admire: Lee Priest's forearms, Ronnie Coleman's upper arms, Gunter Schlierkamp's chest, Chris Cormier's back, Ahmad Halder's abdominals, Jay Cutler's thighs, and Mike Matarazzo's calves. But I don't see a total package such as displayed by the physiques of Sergio Oliva and Arnold Schwarzenegger from the early 1970's and more recently, Dorian Yates from 1992.

After winning the 1970 Mr. Olympia, 23-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Arthur Jones at his Nautilus headquarters in Florida. Not only did Jones train Schwarzenegger, but he also took his arm measurements. Jones was a stickler for accuracy. The measurements had to be taken cold (not pumped), on the first contraction, with a thin newspaper strip marked with a steel ruler (to avoid the typical tape shrinkage), at right angles (not slanted) to the upper-arm bones, and with the newspaper strip pulled tight. Under these precise conditions, Schwarzenegger's right arm (his best) measured 19-1/2 inches and his left measured 19 inches

Instead, I see distorted biceps and triceps, deltoids pumped full of liquid something, bloated 42-inch waists, calves that don't contract, freaky muscularity, heads the size of beach balls, and very poor symmetry. Most of today's competitors aren't worthy of freak-show attention. It's even beyond that.

Enough is enough. There's got to be a return to something more pleasing to the eye, user-friendly, and civilized. Perhaps the New HIT can help in a small way. I hope so.

When the new HIT book became available on September 22, 2004, it immediately jumped to #33 on's bestselling list of "bodybuilding weight training" books. Several days later it moved to #12, then #7, and on September 30th, it was #5. Let's make it #1. Spread the word!

For more info on Ell's newest book, The New High Intensity Training, visit his website at