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A High Intensity Workout with James Steele

In the workout that follows, you will see James performing a High Intensity Workout.

It is worthy of note that this was the first time that James trained on this equipment, therefore the loads for the exercises were kept somewhat conservative, hence the length of the sets. This is particularly true of the leg press because James was also recovering from a sacroiliac joint injury at the time of this workout. With that said, here follows a detailed breakdown of James’ workout.

The first exercise James performs is a Lower Back movement.
The primary targeted muscles are those of the lumbar and thoracic spine.

It is imperative to keep the upload and first few inches of the initial positive stroke as slow and as controlled as possible. Note it takes James 4-5 seconds for the load to come off the stack. He does not make any sudden movements and does not rush any part of this exercise. James has fantastic neurological control over this exercise you can see that (although moving slowly) the movement never becomes segmented (a series of stops & starts). Whilst performing this exercise and this applies to any exercise within a HIT workout it is important to keep all uninvolved musculature relaxed, the aim is to never take any of the focus away from, in this case the lumbar and thoracic spine.

James demonstrates this well you can see his arms are very relaxed and as the exercise increases in intensity he keeps his feet still, it could be tempting for him to start shaking his feet, this would be the body’s natural reaction to distract and take away focus from those targeted muscles.

James perfectly blends/combines the negative back into the positive movement, he allows his musculature no recovery time and that needs to be our goal when training in High Intensity from the very beginning to the last exercise we need to keep loaded throughout the set. You will see that James controls the stack touch at the end of the negative perfectly there is almost an inaudible sound of metal on metal as he immediately yet with control starts the next positive allowing his muscles no chance of even the slightest break.

Just before the two-minute mark James noticeably increases his breathing, this is great work as it is crucial with regards to HIT, the holding of ones breath is known as the valsalva manoeuvre (which raises blood pressure) and must be avoided.

At 2:47 James reaches momentary muscular failure (MMF) he is maybe an inch off the stack and the muscles of his lumbar and thoraccic spine have maxed out against this load. James has done in one set what others training in another modality may take four sets to achieve. He controls the negative as best he can and the exercise is masterfully completed.

The next exercise is the Leg Press. The targeted musculature here will be the Gluteus Maximus, the Hamstrings and the Quadriceps.

Tip: whilst performing this compound movement place a high degree of your attention into driving through your heels, to engage all the desired musculature.

First thing to say is that James nails this exercise there is not a moment where he is not in control of every inch, this, one of the key factors to HIT it is most definitely achieved. Awesome work James!

To start the initial positive movement James gradually uploads and the selected weight gently rises off the stack, there is no sudden jolt into the movement and throughout the positive James keeps a great speed maintaining the uttermost control over the whole positive section. He loops and begins the negative portion once his hamstrings touch the pad, which is the physical marker to reverse direction.

It is important that we/James does not lock out the knees as it would result in the muscles becoming de-loaded along with placing too much force on the knee joints. There is no time throughout this whole set where James lets the negative build in momentum to any degree, let alone where he is unable to own every inch of it. After the last complete repetition comes the negative which again is fantastically controlled and it’s a safe assumption that James has nothing left to give however as this is HIT he attempts another positive, he now has the opportunity to break form in order to get another rep, this isn’t the HIT ethos (isn’t about reps or weight) and so James drives into the movement arm with focused control to ensure he has reached MMF.

Pull down.Targeted musculature: Latissimus Dorsi, Teres, (Biceps and Forearms).

The aim is to make the exercises as hard as you can on yourself, and only you as the trainee will know if you have done this. I believe James highlights this very well, look at how slow, yet not segmented, the positive movement is. He is very calm keeping uninvolved musculature and his face relaxed, in fact if we only had a shot of his face it would be tough to tell that his Lats, Teres, biceps and forearms are under consistent tension. After the two second contraction at the bottom of the positive James bleeds into the negative with awesome control we can hear HIT trainer Simon Shawcross tell James “Avoiding making the negative a rest keeping that tension as constant as you can”.

We are stronger on the negative and so in this instance James as an advanced trainee of HIT needs to ‘feel out’ this part of the set only he will know what is easier or tougher. Again the negative is very slow and controlled and James doesn’t allow it to become segmented. His neurological aptitude towards this type of training is that of a seasoned pro (he is) and he most definitely walks his talk. One crucial thing to mention is breathing. James keeps his breathing continuous throughout the workout however when the reps start to get really tough he elevates his breathing almost hyperventilating. This is because the holding of ones breath raises blood pressure and could also provide (in this instance) James with a mechanical assist and then it would not be his muscles doing all the work. This is a common trait throughout James’ workout and must be replicated by those training in general and especially when you train in HIT.

Chest Press. Targeted musculature: the Pectorals, Anterior Deltoids and the Triceps.

This was my favourite exercise to watch James perform, it is inspirational and an example I believe to all HIT trainees. As HIT trainer Vee Ferguson out of Exercise Inc says when instructing ‘get grimey’ and James’ chest press is the personification of ‘grimey’.

The bodies natural reaction to having the pectorals under such fatigue is for the shoulders to rise up which excessively brings the deltoids in to play, taking away the focus from the pectorals and yet James avoids this (its hard but also awesome training an individual like James, there is little coaching needed). Through experience you can judge how effectively your muscles are under load feeling out and actively seeking to make it harder and harder for yourself and apologies for repeating myself but James demonstrates this brilliantly.

The last is an isolation or ‘simple’ exercise for the Abdominals: We have recently started utilizing an improved way to engage the abdominals on the HITGYM AIO which in turn makes the exercise harder, this is by trying to break your pelvis out of the seatbelt at the same time blending in the curling over of the torso.

We hadn’t started instructing this technique when James trained (apologies James) but this technique helps engage the abdominals and wont let you get low enough that the load comes off the targeted musculature and onto the hip flexors.

Back to James, James controls the load back to the stack touch, which is inaudible and seemingly blends immediately into the positive. Personally I think he may be going too low for the two-second hold but again James will know where his ‘biting point’ is.

His controlling of any part of the set at this point (last dynamic exercise of the routine) is fantastic, when I perform this exercise I am literally just hanging in there trying my hardest not to allow the momentum of the weights to run away from me resulting in me breaking form.

I think all that needs to be said is: inspiring workout James, and each time we get on the chest press we think of James Steele’s intensity, focus and control. Perhaps you will benefit from doing the same.


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