An overview of Hypertrophy Specific Training
Hypertrophy Specific Training is a bodybuilding program with a sole focus on muscle gains as opposed to strength gains. I am not saying that gaining strength isn’t necessary in the muscle building process, but the main goal of this type of programming is to maximize hypertrophy.
Bryan Haycock is the author and founder of this training method. He first wrote an article for ThinkMuscle in 2000 about a method, backed by research, he believed would yield the best possible gains in muscle mass. Shortly after, the readers of the ThinkMuscle newsletter had begun testing his methods and getting results. In 2002, he started his website Hypertrophy-Specific.com. Through his site, he provides a detailed description of the HST principles, articles, supplements, and a message board for trainees to ask questions and interact with others in the bodybuilding community.
– What are the HST Principles? -
Simply, without getting into a bunch of scientific jargon, weight bearing exercise increases activity within a muscle cell making them sensitive to incoming nutrients for repair. This usually peaks somewhere in the 36 hour period post training via protein synthesis and then returns to normal. If training intensity is managed, and fatigue of the CNS is prevented, one will be able to train again in about 48 hours or so.
Acute vs. Chronic Stimuli
The main idea here is to provide more opportunities for growth via more frequent training sessions. Your typical bodybuilding split consists of working 1 muscle group (usually 12-15 sets per session) 1x per week and resting 5-6 days before repeating the process. Using the HST method, you will training a body part 3x per week whilst staying within the same amount of volume (or slightly less) of a typical bodybuilding body part split routine. By training in this fashion, you are given 3 opportunities per week to grow as opposed to just 1 opportunity. Since protein synthesis returns to baseline in about 36 hours (some variance for level of trainee), and a muscle can recover in about 2 days time, training a muscle group with a low to moderate amount of volume is possible and very effective. Of course the intensity MUST be managed carefully due to an inability to fully recover in between sessions. The consensus here is that the more taxing a training session is on the CNS, the more time needed for optimum recovery. Therefore, this is the reasoning to focus on sub maximal loads.
This one is simple; if you aren’t adding weight to the bar over time, you most likely aren’t going to make the best possible muscle gains. This principle is especially true for natural trainees. When steroids are added to the mix, things can get really complicated in terms of what it actually takes to produce gains in muscle mass. So make sure that your training is effective in terms of consistent strength gains. Keep a log book to check progress.
This is a period of time where one takes a planned break from training. The HST guys recommend 9-12 days after 6-8 weeks of focused training. The reasoning behind the deconditioning is to allow just enough time for some reversal of the adaptations that took place during the last 8 weeks of training, those adaptations being strength gains as well as muscle mass gains. After returning to training, one will obviously be detrained to some extent, and will most likely be unable to use their previous maximal loads they achieved during their last week of training. In theory, this will enable one continued growth whilst consistently using sub maximal loads.
A glance at the HST Bodybuilding Programming
- 3 full body workouts per week.
- 3 non consecutive training days.
- rest on the off days,or do some brief low intensity cardio.
- total of 9-12 sets/week for large muscle groups.
- total of 3-6 sets/week for smaller muscle groups.
- use compound exercises to maximize the overall load on the muscles.
Using this method, one must add weight to the bar every workout, therefore it is important to know your current 15, 10, 5 rep maxes and adjust your workouts accordingly.
Training can be grouped into 6 to 8 week cycles. 2 weeks of 15 reps, 2 weeks of 10 reps, 2 weeks of 5 reps, then another 2 weeks at 5 reps or negative work. The training phase is followed by a strategic deconditioning period, then for the next scheduled 6-8 week cycle, add 5 to 10lbs to each lift respectively.
Below is a look at what the second 2 weeks of what a Hypertrophy Training cycle looks like.
Have you used HST? How did it work for you? Do you still use these principles in your bodybuilding training?