High Intensity Continuous Training

High Intensity Continuous Training

Preparing Former Army Ranger Nicholas Ige to Summit Mt. Denali- One Month Out Reading High Intensity Continuous Training 7 minutes

Resisted aerobic conditioning for First Responders and Soldiers

man holding rifle wallpaper

I have noticed many people believe that “conditioning” or “Aerobic” in their minds equals running, biking, interpretive dance, etc. Due to this misconception, I will describe a method that does not fit those categories above.

Strength Coach Joel Jamieson made “High Intensity Continuous Training” (HICT) popular about a decade+ ago in The Ultimate Guide to MMA Conditioning. I used it extensively in my prep before entering the military and later for Ranger School.

I read about HICT years before entering the military and because I thought I knew everything I needed to know, I never used it. I just didn’t see the value. At that time I thought high intensity intervals were the answer to everything. That was the era we were in.  Big mistake on my part.

When I decided to enlist with an Army Ranger contract, I read some of Craig Weller’s training articles and later hired him for my prep. Craig is former Navy SOF and is an outstanding coach. This was when I first saw a combination of strength and energy system training I had never even thought of, nor did I realize the power of these different methods for training the aerobic system.

I put trust into Craig’s experiences. Some worked great, and some of it just didn’t seem to be that beneficial for me.  The big takeaway from working with Craig over a decade ago was training the aerobic system doesn’t have to make you look like a marathon runner or make you weak.

I will describe a method both in Joel’s book and what Craig had me do that was extremely effective. I later tweaked this method for other applications.  The variation I use has been a staple in our We Go Home Human Performance Program for first responders and tactical populations.


HICT Step Ups/Sled

Photo by Samuel Girven on Unsplash


HICT has one use a high load/resistance and continuously repeat a movement pattern while staying under your anaerobic threshold. This requires patience, as your heart rate will spike when you first try this. Especially if you are not aerobically fit yet. For most, that means keeping your HR around 150 bpm, then when your aerobic fitness improves let it climb to 160 bpm for the duration of your set. If you go any higher, you are now probably doing anaerobic threshold work. Which isn’t a bad thing but not what we are trying to achieve here.  Remember: We need to build the engine first before we throw on a fancy exhaust system.

The Step Up is A practical movement for this method that will impact your conditioning, hone your ability to safely ruck long distances, and train bouts of repeated power. This can be loaded with light dumbbells, weight vest, rucksack, back pack, body armor, Fire Fighting gear, etc. If this new to you, I would suggest starting with your body weight.

Find a step. In your home this could be on your porch or deck, or even a bottom step on a stair case. In a gym setting it could be a low box. Park benches work if you aren’t concerned with looking like a psycho in public.

Don’t make this a super high step up. When starting out, measure to around the height of your knee. When you execute the movement, you will step up on the box forcefully, then drive the opposite knee up like you are kneeing someone in the face. Return and repeat with the opposite leg. Your goal is to rhythmically execute the movement like you are on a metronome (about every 5 seconds or so) for the duration of the set. At first, I would recommend 5-10 minutes. You can do multiple sets, later working up to sets as long as 20 minutes. You could also drag or push a sled following the same parameters. Take good strides and make every step forceful.

I would recommend doing this while wearing a heart rate monitor. For most this will be humbling at first. Keep your heart rate around 150 bpm-155 bpm, and when it goes higher slow down or even stop for a moment. Then return to the set. Don’t add time, your body needs a chance to adapt. In a few weeks you’ll smash through it without stopping.

What are we doing here besides scaring people at the park? In the simplest terms we are teaching our working muscles to generate force over time while staying aerobic. Like I have discussed earlier, the longer we stay aerobic as we generate force, the better. Once we start to become more glycolitic everything becomes more finite.  Please remember, HICT is still an aerobic training method, therefore we need to stay in the proper intensity zone.

In these examples we are also using low impact modalities. This typically keeps people’s joints healthier as we work into higher volumes (great for soldier/cop with some city miles on them, or heavier fat loss clients), and has less impact on recovery depending on volume.


HICT Circuit Method

A variation of HICT I surprisingly have not seen is using this method as a circuit. Myself and others I’ve worked with have had great results combining the concept above with different loaded movements while being cognizant of heart rate.

To stay within the parameters above, you have to keep the reps low, five or below depending on the movement. Example:

All completed with moderate load:

3-5 KB Swings

1-5 KB Goblet Squats

1-5 Hand Release Push Ups

1-5 Inverted Rows


This needs to be done at pace where you keep moving, but not so fast that this turns into a crossfit style throw yourself down a flight of stairs workout. Do your swings, take a moment (5 seconds or so), do your squats, move to the floor for push ups, saunter over to the bar or rings and do your rows, check heart rate, OK I am right at 150-155 bpm, repeat again until timer goes off at 10 minutes.

Complete each movement with some speed/power, and keep moving unless you need to slow down due to your heart rate or your form is suffering. If you aren’t ready for something like this, you can separate the movements. Do the swings and Goblet Squats at first, then do a separate timed set for the upper body work. Or combine lower and upper body movements. Choose your own adventure.

Original posting of this article can be found here.

Interested in this method? Our daily programming with these concepts can be found on the TrainHeroic App!

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