Arthur Jones and High Intensity Training

Colorado experiment

Casey Viator before and after the Colorado experiment

Arthur Jones was one of the giants of modern body building, and his ideas are still controversial in the body building world today. He was famously the originator of High Intensity Training.  A training method he developed in the 70’s  that relied on short, single sets with high intensity (always to failure), which, according to Jones, triggers maximal muscular growth.

Jones was a highly unconventional man. Born on November 22 1926 in Mrilton, Arkansas, both his parents were doctors. Jones taught himself to read and by the time he was 5 he could understand both German and English Newspapers [1]. He started flying planes at the age of 13 and maintained a log of every flight he ever made (14,090 flights, 17,393.6 hours, across every state in America and 56 countries [1]. He joined the Navy in 1941 (at only 15) with almost a perfect test score on the entry exam. After the war Jones lived in Mexico, South America and Africa, before returning to America where he invented several weight training exercise machines and most famously created the Nautilus company to produce and market his Nautilus machines. He then went on to founded MedX Corporation, in which he invested millions to develop medical-based exercise and testing equipment. Jones was also the creator of the “Jumbolair” estate, 350 acres (1.4 km²) of wildlife sanctuary for orphaned African elephants and other wildlife.

He had great success with his training methods, and many famous world-class body builders, including; Casey Viator, Mike Mentzer, Sergio Oliva & Dorian Yates credit his methods with their success.

The Arthur Jones HIT method

1. Load the barbell with a weight you can do for 10 repetitions in good form and then decrease the weight by 10 pounds, because you probably over estimated your strength.

2. Grasp the bar with an underhand grip and stand erect.

3. Anchor your elbows firmly against the sides of your waist and keep them their.

4. Lean forward slightly, look down at your hands, and curl the bar smoothly and slowly. Don’t move your head.

5. Pause briefly in the top position, but don;t move your elbows forward. Keep your hands on the bar in front of your torso, as opposed to over your elbows.

6. Lower the bar slowly and smoothly. Again, keep your elbows stable against your sides. The movement is very deliberate, and each repetition takes approximately 3 seconds going up and 3 seconds going down.

7. Repeat the curling movement using this exact form. You’re aiming for 10 repetitions, but in reality, with this strict form, you hit the wall at 6.

8. Jones would now tell you to loosen your from slightly, by moving your elbows out and backward and forward a little. You want to get the weight up, then focus on lowering it slowly. Sure enough, you get another repetition, but you can;t get the next one. At this point, your biceps are very fatigued and your forearms and hands are getting tired.

9. “Loosen your arm even more,” Jones would say, instructing you to lean forward and then backward while curling. Yep, you can do another and with Jones challenging you, you get one more – again concentrate on the negative, or lowering phase. Those were reps 8 & 9. Now your lower back is killing you, your legs are shaking, your lungs are burning, and your heart rate is more than 180 beats per minute. Lucky for you, you’ve lost all feeling in your biceps, forearms, and hands.

10. “Get one more rep,” Jones would inform you now. He’d be standing in front of you, telling you he’ll help you get the last one. Slowly, the bar starts moving. You feel as if you’re almost power-cleaning the barbell, using every muscle fibre to pull the weight to the top. When it get there, Jones would give the final command.

11. “Bring the bar half way down and hold for a count of five. That’s it – five, four, three, two, one! Now, ease the barbell to the floor”

In something less than 1 ½ minutes, you’ve experienced outright hard work from one set of 10 repetitions of the barbell curl.

From, The New High Intensity Training, Ellington Darden, PHD.

That short excerpt form Ellington Darden’s book on Arthur Jones and hit HIT training principals pretty much sums up the Arthur Jones approach to weight training:

  • One brutal set, full on to complete failure.
  • 8 -12 repetitions .
  • Move slowly (a set should last approx. 1 minute).
  • Emphasise the negative part of the movement.
  • Continual progression (2 – 5 % increments)
  • Train the whole body at each session
  • 7 – 12 exercise per training session (each session should last less than 40 minutes)
  • Train 2 – 3 times per week

Even today, more than thirty years after Jones started to train body builders this way the method is still controversial. Jones’s ideas on training I think have much in common with many modern proponents of Primal/Paleo training principals today. The idea of brief intense training, instead of hours and hours of set/reps and cardio was being taught by jones thirty years ago. He always said his approach to training came from his years working with animals in Africa. He owned a 400 pound gorilla and kept many lions over the years. Jones’s idea was that lions and gorillas spend most of their time relaxing and do almost no hard activity, but when they do they go at it 100%. Have you ever seen two male gorillas charge at each other? Gorillas are five times stronger than men pound for pound with an adult male gorillas able to lift over ten times their own body weight. And a male Lion (according to Jones) could jump over 10 foot fence with a 400 pound cow in it’s mouth[1].  Jones idea was that exercise had to be hard, brief and infrequent and believed that if a lion or a gorilla was exercised as much as many body builders train, they would die from exhaustion [1].

The Colorado Experiment

The Colorado experiment is highly controversial. In May 1973 Arthur Jones conducted an experiment on himself and another body builder Casey Viator. The experiment lasted 28 days during which Jones gained 15 pounds and Viator a simply astonishing 63.21 pounds.


First subject (Casey Viator), 28 days
Increase in bodyweight……..45.28 pounds
Loss of bodyfat…………..17.93 pounds
Muscular gain……………..63.21 pounds

Second subject (Arthur Jones),22 days
Increase in bodyweight …….13.62 pounds
Loss of bodyfat……………1.82 pounds
Muscular gain……………..15.44 pounds

The main criticism made is that both these men were rebuilding previously gained muscle. Casey Viator and lost over 30 pounds following an allergic reaction to a tetanus injection that almost killed him. Jones had previously been a regular body builder and had at one point weighed 190 pounds, however he was far below this weight at the start of the experiment and had not trained for at least four months before the start. Even so, allowing for the fact that several other studies have demonstrated that it is considerably easier to rebuild previously built muscle, the results are still very impressive.

Thanks for reading.

Further reading:

Arthur Jones’s Nautilus Bulletin #1
Arthur Jones’s Nautilus Bulletin #2
Ellington Darden’s High Intensity Strength Training


1.The New High Intensity Training, Ellington Darden, PHD.

2. The Colorado Experiment by Arthur Jones. Published in IronMan , September 1973, Volume 32 Number 6


About thegymmonkey

I'm a fitness junkie,interested in injury rehab and get back into competition. View all posts by thegymmonkey

4 responses to “Arthur Jones and High Intensity Training

  • Drew Baye

    Although many criticized the results of the Colorado Experiment because both Arthur and Casey were regaining previous levels of muscle size, Arthur never claimed otherwise and was very up front about this fact. Many people have had success putting on new muscle mass using the same method, including myself and many people I have trained, with the record being 8 pounds of muscle in less than a month. While this is nowhere near as impressive as what Arthur or Casey accomplished in the Colorado experiment, the individual who gained the 8 pounds was an experienced trainee gaining new muscle.

    Most people make the mistake of doing too much work, and not training nearly hard enough, but if they try following Jones’s HIT principles of training harder but briefer they’ll find it to be highly effective.

  • Kevin Cory

    The Colorado Experiment proved one thing to the naysayers: that this type of training does work. I think the prevailing notion at the time (and even today) is that one set of an exercise can’t possibly work. How can it because Arnold and everyone is doing 20 sets per bodypart and training seven days a week…right?

    Well, Arthur proved them wrong. True, Casey was gaining back muscle after recovering from a near-life ending infection but if brief, high intensity training didn’t work, then Arthur and Casey would’ve gainined no muscle at all. They would’ve seen their strength and size not budge. Regardless of the circumstances, I believe that most people realized, “Wow…this type of training can stimulate size and strength.”

    Arthur’s contributions to exercise are all but ignored by the general public and science and that’s truly unfortunate.

    In my opinion the West Point Study (A.K.A., Project Total Conditioning) was fundamentally a more important project. Training three times a week for 30 minutes yielded phenomenal strength and size gains for all of the West Point cadets. Most surprisingly, these same individuals exhibited dramatically improved cardiovascular conditioning, which most experts at the time contended was impossible.

    Anyone looking for more information on Arthur Jones and his training principles can go to

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    […] I try really hard to a) over estimate the food eaten, and b) underestimate the exercise taken, but I still end up with a read out that says over the past month I’ve eaten 1,582 calories less than I need and scales that tell me I’ve added 8 lb of muscle. They can’t both be right. Now the one thing I do have on my side is that I am rehabilitation muscle, not growing “new” muscle, which many studies have shown is much easier (most famously the Colorado Experiment). […]

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