Beginners make gains no matter how they train. As such, the best way to train when you begin to lift weights is to follow a standard system of training, just doing regular sets and reps with nothing fancy added. Indeed, attempts to employ more advanced training techniques when you first begin to train can easily result in a lack of progress because your muscles are not ready for such intensive training. But after a year or two, gains in muscular size and strength often slow down. What's needed there is a way to prod muscles into new growth. Over the years, a number of these advanced training techniques have been developed, and they are popular not just with bodybuilders, but with anyone who lifts weights. I can attest to the effectiveness of many of these techniques since I have used them myself. But the question arises: is there any science to prove that such advanced techniques are more effective than just straight conventional training? In recent years, with the advent of scientific journals that are more specific to exercise, some of these techniques have been evaluated for their efficacy. More importantly, the advanced techniques have been compared to conventional training using the same volume of exercise. That latter point is important because simply doing more exercise can make a difference.
Indeed, the volume needed to promote maximal gains in muscular size and strength remains a heavily debated area in exercise science. On the one hand, you have the high-intensity school of thought. The primary promoter of high-intensity training or HIT was Arthur Jones, an eccentric inventor who produced exercise machines called Nautilus machines beginning in the early 1970s. Along with his machines, Jones espoused a limited volume of training that mandated a high-intensity training level. High intensity meant doing each set to complete muscular failure. Jones wrote about limited exercise recovery ability, which when exceeded, led to slow or no gains in muscular size and strength. He pointed to the typical progress displayed by most advanced bodybuilders, whose gains were slow and irregular. Jones suggested that the cause of those slow gains was overtraining. As such, Nautilus training involved doing only 1 or 2 sets per exercise and training the whole body no more than two or three times a week.
The primary problem with HIT is that unless you truly train to total muscular failure, you are doing only one set, which isn't enough to prod increased muscular gains. The entire concept of training to failure involves activating as many muscle fibers as possible in one set, and that can only be accomplished if you train to true muscular failure. Most people are not capable of that level of training intensity and will stop the set long before muscular failure ensues. They are not training the maximum number of muscle fibers, and even worse, are not providing enough stimulation to promote muscular gains. Most studies that . . .