MB Madaera
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Chris Madaera
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Keelan Parham
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Jeanenne Darden
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"Doing more exercise with less intensity,"
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MUCH of that "something."


This is one of 93 photos of Andy McCutcheon that are used in The New High-Intensity Training to illustrate the recommended exercises.

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Darden Interview, Part 2
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Drew Baye

Ellington Darden’s Straight Talk
About The New High-Intensity Training Part II
By Drew Baye

I received many positive comments about the first part of this interview. Most of you were fascinated by by Ell’s descriptions of Arthur Jones and Casey Viator during the 1970s, and more recently, how Dave Hudlow gained 18 pounds of muscle in two weeks. Several days ago, I welcomed an advance copy of The New High-Intensity Training. Large-sized, well-designed, clearly written, excellent routines, and inspiring photography — it’s easily the best HIT book on the market today.

In Part II, Ell discusses his early strength training with Ken Hutchins and he voices his opinion of SuperSlow. He answers questions about Mike and Ray Mentzer (there’s a funny story here), timed static contractions, negative work, and specialized routines. Then, he details why and how his new HIT book is different from previous HIT approaches.


Question: Ken Hutchins, the architect behind the SuperSlow philosophy, and you grew up in the same town in Texas. Was their something in the environment or education system that motivated you guys into weight training?

Answer: It’s interesting that both Ken and I were raised in Conroe, Texas, which is 30 miles north of Houston. I was 8 years older than Ken and I didn’t really didn’t have much contact with him until my fourth year of college. When Ken started high school he became a friend to one of my classmates, Philip Alexander, who was in medical school. Ken’s dad was a physician in town and Philip visited him often to gain practical knowledge.

In late 1967, Alexander invited Hutchins and me to his wedding and at the reception afterward, Ken began talking to me about strength training and bodybuilding. Hutchins was a beginner and I had been training seriously for a number of years. He had a lot of questions for me and I had to dig pretty deep for some of the answers.

Concerning the environment and educational system in Conroe, small-town football was big in Texas. Some of the football coaches, who encouraged me to lift weights from 1958 to 1962, also encouraged Hutchins in the late 1960s.

Hutchins and I both has access to weights through the school system in Conroe. Plus, I had a fairly good setup in my parents’ garage, and when I visited my parents during the holidays and summer, Hutchins would often join me for workouts. During one of my stopovers in 1970, I introduced Hutchins to several Nautilus-styled HIT routines and I could tell he was impressed. As a result, I gave him some articles by Arthur Jones to ponder. Ken always came back for more, and perhaps most importantly, asked intelligent questions.

When Hutchins was a senior in high school, Conroe had one of the best football teams in Texas. The team was composed of several all-state players, each of whom weighed well over 225 pounds. Ken’s parents would not permit him to play football. But Ken often strength trained with the team and was significantly stronger than the top players in most of the basic exercises.

The head football coach, who had been in Conroe for 10 years, told me that Hutchins bench-pressed 50 pounds more and dealifted 100 pounds more than the strongest guys on the team. Hutchins’ lifts, he said, always motivated the players to get stronger, but none ever exceeded Ken’s poundages.

When I graduated from Conroe High School in 1962, I was the strongest student athlete in most of the basic strength-training exercises. In 1970, when Hutchins graduated, the high school was five times larger and Ken was the strongest male in school. Furthermore, he bench-pressed and deadlifted significantly more weight in 1970 than I did in 1962.

In a local physique contest, however, Hutchins would have been pressed to finish in the top 10 (just kidding, Ken). Make no mistake — Ken Hutchins was one strong, Texas teenager.


Question: When Nautilus hired you, did Ken visit you in Florida?

Answer: When I joined Arthur Jones and Nautilus in 1973, it wasn’t long before Hutchins drove to Florida to see for himself what was happening. After multiple visits, Hutchins was hired in 1977 by our sports-medicine orthopedist to be his assistant. Hutchins was mostly involved in the physical therapy side of Nautilus, which finally led to his supervisory position in a Nautilus-sponsored osteoporosis research project at the University of Florida Medical School in 1982. It was during this project, which continued for four years, that Hutchins tested and applied the initial SuperSlow protocols.

During the 10 years that Ken worked at Nautilus, he and I were involved in four major strength-training and fat-loss projects, as well as dozens of Nautilus-related seminars and workshops. Today, I live approximately 25 miles from Ken. We remain great friends and I try to see him once a month.


Question: What’s your opinion of Hutchins’s SuperSlow?

Answer: I like SuperSlow. I apply many of the techniques in my workouts each week. Without getting into the finer points of the SuperSlow philosophy, I want to say simply: Ken Hutchins carefully studied repetition form, which was and is a subset of HIT, and turned it into a full-fledged business. And I’m glad he did.

If Arthur Jones’s specialty is intensity, then Ken Hutchins’s forte is form. I’m grateful that I’ve spent as much time as I have with both Jones and Hutchins.


Question: Do you have an interesting story about Ken Hutchins that you could share with us?

Answer: The first thing that pops into my mind happened in Atlanta, Georgia, one night in February 1980. Ken and I had been involved in a Nautilus seminar and we were waiting to fly back to Daytona Beach. It was about 20 degrees outside and the Atlanta airport was the middle of an ice storm, so all flights were delayed. There we were with thousands of frustrated people and a couple of hours to burn.

Ken was sitting next to me and we began sorting through our strength-training slides, since we had both given talks using a 35mm-slide projector earlier in the day. After a while, Ken asked me what I thought about his new section, which he called "Exercise Versus Recreation."

A little background is necessary here.

Ken and I, for several years, had tried various approaches during Nautilus seminars to debate people who believed they needed daily aerobic activity to be healthy. Proper strength training, we always felt, was more than an adequate way to work the muscles and heart. And strength training was a lot safer than the most popular aerobic activities, such as jogging and aerobic dancing, which were the latest crazes. Ken’s exercise/recreation section explained how to define exercise (which involved disciplined overload and was not fun), and then how to separate it from recreation (which required no overload and was enjoyable). His conclusion was to accept exercise for what it is, hard work, and not try to make it recreation or fun.

I told Ken that compartmentalizing exercise and recreation was on-target and I thought his new concept was going to help our cause. As we discussed the topic further, I glanced across the lobby, which was in the center of four departure-arrival gates. Sitting about 30 yards away was a man who was also examining slides and arranging them in a carousel. As I focused on the guy, I recognized him. It was Dr. Kenneth Cooper.

At that time, Cooper was the #1 running guru, as a result of a couple of best-selling books on aerobics. Furthermore, he was generally thought of as being anti-strength training, anti-HIT, and anti-Nautilus.

A couple of years earlier, at one of the industry’s annual fitness conventions, Hutchins had been involved in a panel discussion that included Cooper. Cooper, answering a question, knocked strength training. Hutchins wanted to respond, but didn’t. Since then, he’d regretted not speaking up.

As a result, Hutchins and I improvised a plan.

We figured Cooper did not know how to define exercise clearly, at least not in the vernacular that Hutchins had conceived. Hutchins was going to ease over and take a seat beside Cooper. After some small talk, he was going to ask him bluntly to define exercise. We then expected some locking of horns to occur.

I was going to watch the deliberations from my angle for 10 minutes, and join the action. We’d effectively double team Cooper — and help him understand exercise, generally and specifically, and then share with him the advantages of strength training on Nautilus equipment.

With the plan in mind, Hutchins hurried over — but just as he approached, an older woman took the seat beside Cooper. No problem, he simply dropped down on one knee in front of Cooper and continued.

I noticed that Cooper was being very animated and seemed to be expressing himself well. But since Hutchins had his back toward me, it was difficult to gauge what was happening on Ken’s side. At the planned 10-minute mark, I walked over. The lobby was even more crowded, so I had to kneel on the floor beside Hutchins.

There we were: Ken Hutchins and Ellington Darden kneeling at the feet of Dr. Kenneth Cooper, while he lectured to us on aerobic exercise. We both tried at least a half-dozen times each, to wedge a comment into Cooper’s dissertation. But it was no use. The man seemed to project a mesmerizing spell on us and we soon found our heads nodding to concepts that were directly against what we believed. After another 30 minutes had passed, all the seats in the lobby were overflowing with people, and we had little to do but keep kneeling and nodding. It felt like we were in the middle of an old-fashioned tent revival.

Finally, the ice storm cleared, and the three of us boarded the same plane to Daytona Beach. (Cooper was speaking at a hospital’s grand opening the next morning.) Thank goodness, Hutchins and I were not seated near Cooper, as our heads and necks needed rest.

Our double-team plan had failed. We had been steam-rolled, and worse — captivated somehow by what we heard. In fact, we ended up chauffeuring Cooper to his hotel. We bid him good night and invited him to visit us the next day at the Nautilus headquarters, if time allowed. We never heard from him.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Four years passed . . . and a mutual friend told me that Cooper still didn’t care for strength training. But he had recently signed off on the purchase of two lines of Nautilus machines for his Aerobics Center in Dallas, primarily because of two hospitable Nautilus guys he’d talked with one stormy night in the Atlanta Airport. One thing Cooper appreciated, our mutual friend noted (and this was no joke), was that we had not raved to him about Nautilus.

Sometimes, being unable to express yourself is a blessing in disguise.


Question: Thanks, that’s a fascinating story. I’ve heard Hutchins blast Cooper’s philosophy, but I never knew he had an influence on the Aerobics Center in Dallas purchasing Nautilus. To change the subject . . . timed static contractions have become popular with some instructors for use with clients who can’t perform certain exercises through a full range of motion due to physical problems or injuries. Since they involve no movement and have no potential for negative work, which hypothetically would produce little microtrauma, what do you think of their value for stimulating muscular size increases relative to full-range exercise?

Answer: I certainly think timed static contractions have value. I’ve tried then several times and I’ve definitely felt them. Someone somewhere should be doing a large-scale research project to help us understand more about their place in short- and long-term exercise.

Compared to full-range exercise, I’d have to say that full-range exercise — given that you’re dealing with healthy trainees — would supply many more benefits. For example, full-range exercise provides more thorough muscular strengthening, more stretching for flexibility, more work for the cardiorespiratory system, and more calorie-burning ability from the overall workout.

Arthur Jones noted more than 30 years ago that negative-work potential was perhaps the most important aspect of the muscle-building process. Studies since then have confirmed what Jones believed concerning negative work. So at least from that perspective, static contractions are lacking.

As you stated, however, there’s a place for timed static contractions in exercising people who have certain limitations.


Question: In your book, you discuss the importance of negative work in building muscle. Was Arthur Jones the first person to introduce negative work to bodybuilding?

Answer: Negative work (eccentric muscle action) was kicked around haphazardly in the physiology world before Jones came on the scene. But it wasn’t until Jones started experimenting and writing about negative work in 1972, that any bodybuilder took it seriously. I read all the bodybuilding magazines from 1959 until 1972, and I never came across anything remotely similar to the emphasis and guidelines Jones placed on lowering a heavy weight.

Today, if you walk into any serious gym in the United States (or in the world), "doing negatives" is a regular part of a lifter’s vocabulary. We can thank Arthur Jones for that.


Question: In chapter 9 of your new HIT book, you talk about meeting and working with Mike Mentzer. I thought Mike would have thrived being around Nautilus and Arthur Jones. What happened?

Answer: Mike moved to Lake Helen, Florida, in 1983 and worked for Nautilus approximately 6 months. And you’re correct, you’d have thought that with his devotion to hard training, he’d have been on cloud nine.

When I was around Mike, we got along fine. Mike and his girlfriend, Julie McNew, came over to my home several times for dinner and we had some far-reaching conversations, none of which had much at all to do with bodybuilding.

The strange thing was that the entire 6 months Mike was at the Nautilus headquarters, I never saw him take an intense workout. There were several times when he appeared to be interested, but it quickly faded. He seemed to be in a perpetual training drift, looking for someone or something to take his oars and row him to shore. But when someone or something emerged, Mike would jump overboard or make himself invisible.

After Mike left Nautilus and returned to California, I heard he experienced severe depression and went through lengthy periods of drug therapy. I also read that much of his depression was related to Arnold Schwarzenegger defeating him in the 1980 Mr. Olympia, a contest Mike thought he should have won. (By the way, I agreed with Mike’s assessment.) During the competition, Mike and Arnold had a bitter argument that was never settled, and worse, continued to fester.

None of that helped Mike’s health, and unfortunately, he died of a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 49.


Question: What did you think of Mentzer’s Heavy-Duty books?

Answer: I was a fan of Mike’s books, especially the ones that chronicled his training for the 1978 Mr. Universe and the 1980 Mr. Olympia. Who knows? If Mike would have won the Olympia, the world of professional bodybuilding might now be significantly different.

Generally, Mike Mentzer’s writings, success in contests, and inspiring photographs influenced bodybuilders everywhere to train harder and briefer. In 1978, at Sean Harrington’s Nautilus club in Los Angeles, I witnessed Mike go through a true HIT workout. He handled almost the entire weight stack on every Nautilus machine and his workout was almost equal to what Casey Viator could have done in his prime. I was impressed.


Question: In your book, you also mention Mike’s younger brother Ray. Ray Mentzer was even stronger than Mike, right?

Answer: Yes he was. While Mike showed little desire to train intensely in Lake Helen, Ray was just the opposite. He was frequently up for a hard workout. I trained him multiple times. After a while, we would have to pin additional weight on most of the Nautilus machines. He was that strong. Ray handled the entire weight stack, 500 pounds, on the Nautilus duo-squat machine with ease. I never witnessed anyone else get a single rep with the entire stack — and there were a lot of big, strong athletes who tried.

Ray was the first bodybuilder I ever saw who weighed 250 pounds or more, in fairly lean condition. There are a few in that category today, but there weren’t any in 1983.

Joe Mullen, a former Nautilus club owner, recently told me that he saw Ray go through a HIT workout in 1999. "On our Nautilus leg-extension machine, Ray did 290 pounds for 10 good repetitions," Mullen said, as he paused and cleared his throat.

In my mind, I’m thinking . . . "290 pounds on the leg extension machine, I believe I’ve done that much."

Having cleared his throat, Mullen continued . . . "With one leg."

That’s right, Ray Mentzer did single leg extensions in a normal positive-negative manner with 290 pounds, which is equivalent to handling 580 pounds with both legs.

That reinforced to me that Ray Mentzer was the strongest man I’ve ever trained, and I’ve been training people for more than 40 years.


Question: I’ve read that Ray Mentzer was somewhat of a comedian. Did he ever do any amusing things around Nautilus?

Answer: Ray did have a sense of humor and he often had a joke up his sleeve. He prided himself in being able to "keep a straight face," which threw you off, until you figured out his style. Arthur Jones had some of that ability, too.

One of the funniest Ray Mentzer/Arthur Jones stories occurred during the summer of 1983. At that time, Nautilus had three, state-of-the-art television studios in Lake Helen. Jones had an interest in producing how-to videos on many aspects of sports medicine. It wasn’t unusual for Jones to discuss various deals with well-known athletes, or their agents.

One day, Martina Navratilova, the famous tennis player phoned. She was intending to do a series of instructional videotapes and wanted to check out the studios in Lake Helen. Could someone from Nautilus pick her up at the Orlando International Airport the next day at 11:00 AM?

Maybe it was Martina’s tone of voice, or maybe she forgot to say please, whatever it was, it didn’t set right with Jones. The next morning he instructed Ray Mentzer to meet Martina at the airport and escort her back to Lake Helen. Ray had massive 20-inch arms and 30-inch thighs. He was so big that all he could wear to work were stretchable Ban-Lon shirts and Bugle-Boy pants.

Arthur told Ray to put on his brightest, horizontal-striped shirt (he didn’t want Martina to miss him) and be sure and drive the old, unwashed car, which had a broken air-conditioner (that meant he’d have to roll down all the windows so air could circulate).

Finally, Jones informed Ray that once he was back in Lake Helen, to give the lady a tour — starting with the barn. In the middle of the Nautilus compound was a non-descript, 30- by 50-foot, metal building, which was the home of 40 large crocodiles that Jones had brought in from Jamaica.

By now, you should get the picture.

According to Ray, he got more attention at the airport than Martina did, the dirty car turned her off, and the ride back to Lake Helen was hot, both in temperature and in conversation.

Then, there was the tour through the barn. Ray neglected to tell Martina that there were dangerous crocodiles inside. Instead, he announced that combating successfully what was on the interior was the final test of a Nautilus obstacle course, and let her enter ahead of him. That curveball sent Martina scrambling for a phone. Evidently, her interest in seeing the video studios had vanished. She called a cab and within 15 minutes, was on her way to Orlando.

"I offered to drive her back — even told her I’d run the car through a Jiffy Wash," Ray deadpanned afterward. "She had promised to help me later with my tennis game. I don’t know what went wrong."


Question: How is your book, The New High-Intensity Training, different from other HIT books, such as those written by John Little, Stuart McRoberts, Brian Johnston, and Matt Brzycki?

Answer: I cover some similar topics, such as intensity, form, and progression. But my book’s differences can be grouped as follows:

  • History: In my opinion, Arthur Jones, more than any single individual, developed HIT. Thus, I spend about half of my 272-page book relating the stories and experiences of Jones. No other training book has this type of history or background material, which I believe is worthwhile and meaningful in understanding the why of HIT.

  • Photography: To illustrate the history, I also have more than a hundred photographs from the 1970s that are placed throughout the text.

  • Whole-body routines: To quote Arthur Jones, "Split routines make about as much sense as sleeping with one eye open." Each routine in the new HIT features at least some exercise for both your upper body and lower body. Why? Because organized properly, you get better results. All the other HIT books eventually have you performing split routines.

  • Not-to-failure (NTF) workouts: Several chapters and a detailed chart illustrate precisely how to integrate NTF workouts into your standard HIT routines for best-possible results. Furthermore, the chart and routines extend for longer than a year. No other HIT books covers NTF training.

As you can see, my book is distinct from the others.


Question: I also think that the bodybuilder you use to illustrate your HIT exercises has an outstanding build. Who is he?

Answer: He’s Andy McCutcheon and he’s been using HIT principles since 1988, when he trained at Dorian Yates’s gym in Birmingham, England. McCutcheon placed high in a few contests in Great Britain and relocated in 1992 to Portland, Oregon, where he became an engineer for Novellus Systems. I first noticed McCutcheon six years ago, when close-ups of his arms and torso were featured on the award-winning Bowflex commercial.

"Who is that muscular guy?" I thought to myself.

I found out in 2001, when Andy was selected to demonstrate the exercises for my book, The Bowflex Body Plan. After working with McCutcheon for week, I knew he’d be ideal to use for The New High-Intensity Training. When we took the HIT photography, 38-year-old McCutcheon weighed 184 pounds, at a height of 6-feet even, and I personally measured his body fat at 3.4 percent.

Shoot straight with us. Does McCutcheon actually train on Bowflex?

Answer: People ask him that all the time, and I’ll shoot straight with you. McCutcheon trains by himself at home in his basement. He has a Bowflex Ultimate machine and he uses it two or three times a week. He also has several bars and 400 pounds of free weights. His overall routines include about 50-percent Bowflex exercises and 50- percent free-weight exercises. McCutcheon believes in simple, get-as-strong-as-you-can, basic exercises. And, he’s into the martial arts, so he does some of that several times a week.


Question: In part IV of your book, you devote a chapter to each of eight different specialized routines. As examples, you have a routine for thighs, calves, chest, arms, and waist. Out of curiosity, which one do you like the best?

Answer: To paraphrase Arthur Jones, "Rather than the best, I’ll tell you the one that I like the least, which will be the routine that I need the most."

That being the case, then I must go with chapter 16: shocking your hips and thighs. This chapter describes a three-exercise leg cycle. The last of the three exercises: extremely slow leg presses, 4 repetitions in 120 seconds, will rock your world but good. I’ve experimented with all styles of leg presses and this one is the hardest of all.

First, you need to have access to an efficient leg-press machine, one that you can adjust by moving the seat forward to prevent you from locking the knees. Use about half the weight that you’d normally use. Important, you must have a clock or a watch with a second hand that you can place in plain sight. Or a training partner with a watch can talk your through each phase.

Your goal is for each repetition to take 30 seconds: 15 seconds on the positive and 15 seconds on the negative. The entire movement needs to be fluid and controlled. Pay particular attention to the bottom turnaround. Stay focused and keep the tension and the movement smooth and slow. That fourth repetition will be a bear, but you should be able to finish it — which will build your confidence for your next workout.

For your next workout, I want you to increase the resistance by 25 percent. Now, you’ll experience some of the reasons why this is my least favorite routine. If you can accomplish 4 repetitions with this weight in 120 seconds, you’ll be ready to add the two pre-exhaustion exercises before you do the leg press.

Anyway, review chapter 16 to find out all the how-tos.


Question: The publisher of your new HIT book is Rodale. Rodale also is behind a number of magazines, such as Men’s Health and Prevention. How were they to work with? Are they planning anything special to promote your book?

Answer: Over the last 25 years, I worked with a lot of major publishing houses, such as Little Brown, Simon & Schuster, Contemporary Books, and Putnam. Rodale is the best of the bunch.

They have a New York City office, but the majority of their publishing house in located in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, which is a quaint community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

My initial contact with Rodale occurred 5 years ago when Ken Hutchins introduced me to a Bill Stump, an editor from Men’s Health, who was in Orlando interviewing Ken. Stump later introduced me to the guy who eventually became the editor of The New High-Intensity Training.

When I visited Rodale’s main photography studio in Emmaus, I met with my editor, Lou Schuler, who also is the fitness director for Men’s Health. I assumed one of the Men’s Health design team would be assigned to do the layout of my book. Instead, the book was assigned to Carol Angstadt, of Rodale’s women’s publishing group, who had never before been involved with a bodybuilding book. In the past, with my bodybuilding books from other publishers, I had always worked with a man on the design and layout. I was a bit worried.

Halfway through the photo shoot, I could tell that Carol was quickly getting a handle on the subject matter. Once I saw her creative design and layout, I realized that she had leapfrogged significantly my other bodybuilding books.

Thanks to Lou Schuler, who did a superb job with editing my words, and Carol Angstadt, who made the format and illustrations pop with excitement, The New High-Intensity Training is going to be, in my opinion, my best book yet.

Rodale’s marketing team assures me that the book will be:

  • Excepted in Men’s Health MUSCLE magazine (September issue).

  • Advertised in Muscle & Fitness and Ironman magazines (November and December 2004 issues).

  • Targeted to fitness and bodybuilding press, newsletters, and Web sites

  • Promoted with an extensive Internet media campaign.


Overall, I’m very pleased with what’s happening with the book.


Question: How many bodybuilders do you figure are interested in HIT?

Answer: Lou Schuler, who was recently appointed editor of Rodale’s newest magazine called, Men’s Health MUSCLE, asked me the same question a while back. We researched the HIT interest and here’s what we concluded about our audience:

In the early 1980s, when HIT was at its height of popularity, about 16 percent of bodybuilders in the United States were involved with it. Today, that percentage of involvement has shrunk by half, which leaves approximately 8 percent.

The latest statistics from the Sports Goods Manufacturers Association reveals that approximately 20,000,000 males in the United States are actively involved in bodybuilding and strength training. Thus, taking 8 percent of that number indicates that 1,600,000 males are into HIT.

But perhaps more importantly, research shows that with that sliding 8 percent, if there was a unified HIT push, it could rather quickly increase back 16 percent, or 3,200,000 trainees.

It would be impossible to sell a book to each of those existing, 1.6 million trainees. But I believe it’s a reasonable goal to aim for one-tenth of that number during the first year after publication. That would amount to 160,000 copies sold of The New High-Intensity Training in 12 months.

My original Nautilus book, initially published in 1980 and revised five times, sold more than half a million copies. A goal of 160,000 for The New HIT seems reachable.


Question: If you place those potential HIT users on the far left side a normal, bell-shaped curve, what would you label those on the far right side — high-volume trainees?

Answer: Yes that’s precisely what we were thinking. As HIT decreased its following from 16 to 8 percent, high-volume training (HVT) increased its numbers from 16 to 24 percent. All of us should strive to win back those previous HIT believers.

And of course, let’s not forget about that middle 68 percent, the wishy-washy majority, who have trouble believing seriously in any training philosophy for very long. Surely, with the correct instruction and motivation, we can turn a reasonable percentage of them into HIT believers.


Question: Are you currently working on anything new and exciting?

Answer: I have a couple of projects in the formative stages. One deals with a follow-up to my 1995 book, Living Longer Stronger, which was written for men between the ages of 40 and 60. This new one will be directed to men over 60 years of age. Why? Because that’s now my age and someone needs to write sensibly for this group of men. The other project is best described by its working title: Accentuate the NEGATIVE: The Negative Way to Positive Fat Loss.

When I talked with Arthur Jones on July 29, 2004, some thought-provoking discussion took place concerning a brand-new HIT routine. It involves a very unique way to vary the repetition number, as well as the slowness of each repetition. I’ll report on the discovery this fall, so I encourage interested readers to visit often at www.DrDarden.com.

Discuss this article | Text Version

Richard Smith

Ontario, CAN

Great interview.

It's a pleasure to find a place where HIT, Bowflex, Heavy Duty, Drew Baye, and Brian Johnston can all be represented.

After reading about Dr. Darden's involvement with Bowflex I quit the gym and bought one. I'm very pleased with the results.

I consider myself lucky to have grown older along with Dr. Darden as his research and books have been very age appropriate for me. My only regret is that I listened to Arnold as a youth and wasted many years.

Thank you Dr. Darden for being open minded about equipment and continuing your research and writings

Hopefully with your new book and this site we can get the HIT bodybuilders above the 18% mark.

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Ellington Darden


Your comments are meaningful to me. Thank you very much.

Ellington Darden
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I would be interested in your thoughts on an appropriate HIT approach for a 60 year old guy.

A friend of mine has asked me to recommend a fat loss program for him. He has been a keen runner for the past 15 years. He also trains with weights but not HIT.

My initial reaction was to encourage him to perform a program similar to the one in Living Longer Stronger, but after I read your comments about one of your new projects for 60-year-old plus trainees, I thought I would reserve judgement.

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Ellington Darden


My book, Living Longer Stronger, is a fine place to start . . . at least for now. Soon I hope to do a version of it that applies to men over 60 years of age.

From my own personal experience, I've noted differences in my recovery ability and my metabolism over the last ten years (from 50 to 60). I can no longer train with as many exercises, nor as often, as I could a decade ago. And I can't consume as many calories per day either.

Perhaps, (and this is a big "perhaps"), I need to explore doing less intensity and more volume? I'm going to be experimenting and thinking about these factors over the next year.

Stay tuned.

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Thanks for your reply. I will look forward to your findings.

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Nevada, USA

I have had my Bowflex for about 9 years now and I love it. Although the leg press is terrible in my opinion and the pull down tower add on flexes inward during use.

The Bowflex and a set of Powerblocks aloowed me to gain about 20 pounds of muscle in about 2 years of haphazard training and poor nutrition. I was a competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter, both in the 165 class. I was up to about 205 pounds in the fall of 1992 but my wife's Hodgkins disease came back and we had a newborn baby girl. So I quit working out and went from 205 down to about 145. In 1995 I bought the Bowflex and the Powerblocks and haven't stopped working out since and am back to a somewhat lean 185.

Some of the guys at the gym sneer, laugh ar belittle the Bowflex but I know the truth...with enough intensity and determination you can a will get a good workout with it.
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Thank you for returning to your writing career and upgrading your web site. I have been reading your publications since first purchasing The Superfitness Handbook in 1980.

I consider Living Longer Stronger to be the definitive health publication for men, regardless of age.

Currently, I am performing the following ten exercises schedule ever third day (72 hours) for 1 set of 8 to 12 repetitions, using a controlled repetition speed. This schedule results in the performance of seven workouts every three weeks.

Virtical plate loading leg press
Plate loading lever type leg extension
Full Squats
Standing lateral raises
Military press
Nautilus plate loading pullover
Parallel grip behind neck pulldowns
Bench press
Nautilus plate loading curl machine
Nautilus plate loading triceps machine

Note: Even though the sequence of exercises has single-joint movements followed by multiple-joint movements, a pre-exhaustion protocol has not been deployed.

Once I achieve my first major weight loss goal of reducing my bodyweight to 220 pounds, I will switch over to a maintenance schedule. At that point, I will alternate between an A schedule and a B schedule.

With regards to bodyweight reduction, since following your recommended nutritional plan in May of this year, I have lost over 45 pounds (from 275 pounds down to 229 pounds at a height of 6 feet, 1 inch).

Now for my question, what recommendations would you suggest for a 61 year old trainer with above average ability (due to longer than normal muscle bellies)?

Thank You for all your guidance over the years.

Jim Carlin
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Ellington Darden


I recommend that you continue to do "more of the same." It's obvious to me that you understand what you're doing.

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great interview! I enjoyed reading it.
Ray Mentzer must have been one of the stongest men ever. Does anyone know what kind of result he would have done in a powerlifting contest (Squat, Benchpress, deadlift)?
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Ontario, CAN

Great interview and great new site, it was nice to read more about Ray Mentzer. I always thought he deserved more exposure.

My main tool for training clients is a Bowflex Sport? and it is simply great. So good in fact that I won IART 2004 Fitness Clinician? of the Year with a case study based solely on the Bowflex?. Furthermore, I won another Bowflex? for my efforts (The Ultimate?). I love it and because I use the Sport? to train folks in their homes, I leave the Ultimate? at my home where the wife and I get tons of use out of it. Considering how efficient it is, the variety it offers and its overall compact nature I think everyone should own one.

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Ontario, CAN

Sorry the question marks that appear in my previous post were trademark symbols. Not sure what went wrong. I revisited this post and caught the discrepancy because of something I wanted to add. I just leafed through the Bowflex Ultimate exercise manual and Dr. Darden's program detailed at the back caught my eye. I initially skipped through it very fast out of habit I guess. It seems 9 times out of 10 programs that come with equipment are all but useless or are far to generalized. As a professional trainer, I put together programs for a living and more often than not gain little if anything from such material. It may sound as though I am speaking from a 'high horse' but the fact remains that generic programs most often range from the ridiculous to sublime.

Until my recent peruse through this site it had been a while since I had revisited any of the good Doctors work in the field of exercise. I have been pleased with what I have seen here and naturally this encouraged me to take a moment and read the program in detail. Furthermore, I really think very highly of the Bowflex in general and fancy myself a bit of a 'go to' guy in the field of exercise. I can't always work hands on with clients at least not all the time or forever. As such, I greatly appreciate finding resources to recommend, resources that will continue to keep my hard earned reputation alive. That said I am more comfortable than ever recommending the Bowflex Ultimate considering the high quality of Dr. Darden's program. I was pleased to find a smart, straightforward program encapsulated in the manual and thoroughly enjoyed seeing as part of the package.

Good work Sir and good to see it.

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Ellington Darden


Thanks for your kind comments.

I recently visited the Bowflex/Nautilus headquarters in Vancouver, Washington, and Bowflex has several new machines that will be introduced soon. They are progressive in their reserach and I was impressed with their attention to education.

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Florida, USA

I'm wondering if Mike mentzer's fourth place in 80' was on purpose by Joe Rat Weider. Knowing well that Mike trained HIT style. If he would have placed higher or would have won it would have changed bodybuilding. What do u guys think?
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I wonder if Ray Mentzer performing one legged leg extensions with 290 lbs was done back in the late 1970s instead of 1999 when he had health problems?
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chris mason

Virginia, USA

Dr. Darden, you were an early influence in my training and a powerful one at that.

It is very interesting to me to see that you and I came to an independent, but similar conclusion about NTF training.

About 3 years ago (maybe 4) I read an article which discussed CNS fatigue and training to failure. At the time I was training legs in a HIT fashion (concentric failure and 2-3 working sets). I had gotten to the point where I literally had to wait 20-21 days between sessions for my legs in order to see progress (I had been training for 13-14 years and was quite advanced in size and strength relative to being a drug free trainee).

After reading the article I thought that the excessive recovery period was due more to neural recovery than muscular recovery and that the prolonged rest periods were certainly preventing any realized hypertrophy from the previous session carrying over to the next.

It was then that I decided to start alternating failure and NTF workouts. I enjoyed success with this method and it was the genesis for a further alteration of my thinking about training.

I have subsequently come to the conclusion that training to failure for certain movements is best avoided the majority of the time. I now avoid failure for most pressing movements for the upper body and all movements which target the lower back, hip, and upper legs. I will still train to failure on occassion with single joint movements and with body parts that are a hereditary "strength" (such as my lats).

I still advocate low volume training.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this matter.

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Ellington Darden


I believe much of your reasoning is correct . . . especially as a trainee ages and moves into his 40s and 50s.

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chris mason

Virginia, USA

Very good. Thanks for your reply.

I am 35 years old and I definitely see recovery decline as I age (not that I am old, but there is a definitive difference from my early 20s).

I'm curious, do you have much occassion these days to interact with anyone in the powerlifting community? I remember your references to Ronnie Ray and I am aware that you competed several times when you were younger.

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Ellington Darden


No, I don't have any contact with the current powerlifting community. But I do talk with Ronnie Ray and Terry Todd a couple of times each year.

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chris mason

Virginia, USA

Ok, thanks.

I have had the occassion to meet Dr. Todd at an AOBS function a couple of years ago. Both he and his wife are very nice people. I had spoken to his wife previously via email and on the phone as well.

I love Dr. Todd's old articles in MD that he co-wrote with Paul Anderson.

I was asking about the powerlifters because of the fact that my interest lies much more in strength sports these days than bodybuilding (for many of the same reasons you don't care for modern bodybuilding).

In fact, my company sponsors several powerlifters to include Phil Harrington the all-time squat record holder in the 181 lb class.

Anyway, thanks for your response. Perhaps one day you might like to work with a top tier powerlifter to see what HIT principles might do for them?

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EllingtonDarden wrote:

My book, Living Longer Stronger, is a fine place to start . . . at least for now. Soon I hope to do a version of it that applies to men over 60 years of age.

From my own personal experience, I've noted differences in my recovery ability and my metabolism over the last ten years (from 50 to 60). I can no longer train with as many exercises, nor as often, as I could a decade ago. And I can't consume as many calories per day either.

Perhaps, (and this is a big "perhaps"), I need to explore doing less intensity and more volume? I'm going to be experimenting and thinking about these factors over the next year.

Stay tuned.


Ellington, I was curious. Did you explore less intensity and more volume? What does your training look like today? Looking forward to your new book. Any update on when we can expect it to be out? Thanks. Dave
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I'm having pretty good luck training 3x/wk, but holding the WO to just 8 exercises. I train sort of by feel, that is, if I lose ground on an exrcise, (I've started to on a couple) I don't go to failure for 1 or 2 workouts after that. I usually bounce back. I know this is unorthodox.

But I do feel better training 3x/wk, but not getting trashed. This is true on "big" movements especially. I have really trashed myself on the LP and db deads, and couldn't train for about 5 days once. No more.
I don't really know if at 56 it makes much difference than training TF 2x/wk, but it feels good.

I know that is subjective, but it seems to work for a guy who doesn't figure to put on any real mass, but who wants to stay active. (Hiking, yardwork on the new house, etc.) and strong.
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Hello Dr. Darden, I have recently been using your training techniques from the New HIT and after two weeks my partner and I have experienced sharp, shooting pain from the base of the neck up to the head back of the head creating a very intense headace that continues mildly for about an hour or so. We always start with a set to failure on leg press and then to squats where at about 2 or 3 reps short of failure this intense pain has occurred in the last two workouts. Any suggestions? By the way, love the results we are seeing already, and do not want to see them come to a halt. Thank You.
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Ellington Darden


Try doing your leg exercises last, rather than first. That should help.

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Hey Dr. D,

Did you reach your goal of 160,000 books? They are fantastics books and worth the price.

Best regards,

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