What Is HST
What Is HST-How Is It Diferent
For those of you who haven’t heard of me or HST, some years
ago I wrote about a training method I put together based on a bunch of
physiology research. The method is designed specifically to induce hypertrophy
(a.k.a. growth), at times at the expense of other “performance” factors such as
strength, power, endurance, etc. I called the method Hypertrophy-Specific
Training for obvious reasons.
Please allow me to post a very brief treatment of
HST for those who are interested.
I have yet to find any program that didn’t incorporate (or
attempt to incorporate) at least one method or strategy designed to elicit
There are only three concepts that are truly unique to
1) The concept, and research indicating, that mechanical
load, rather than neuromuscular fatigue is the primary trigger of muscle
2) The concept that muscle tissue grows unabated in the
face of continued loading. In other words, if you load a muscle, it will begin
to grow and finish growing even if the load is never removed. This flies
directly in the face of the common belief that full recovery is critical for
optimal muscle growth. Think of skin being able to tan even while still exposed
3) The acknowledgement of the “repeated bout
effect” and the incorporation of a strategic way of overcoming its growth
inhibiting effects (i.e. Strategic Deconditioning)
Everything else is just using sets and reps to load the
tissue. Everybody has been doing that since they began lifting weights (Romans
were first to systematize it similar to the way we do it today).
One will notice however that these three points of
differentiation have a significant impact on the planning of ones “sets
and reps”. A brief summary of the implications must suffice for now:
1) If progressive load, rather than chronic fatigue, is
the primary stimulus for tissue hypertrophy, it isn’t necessary to “train to
failure” if hypertrophy is the objective. This makes the practice of “adding
more weight only after you can do more reps” terribly inefficient if muscle
growth is the goal. It also refutes the logic of the “muscle confusion”
practice, which is primarily a neurological phenomenon.
2) If muscle tissue is designed to grow even while the
loading stimulus is still present, loading (i.e. training) should be undertaken
much more frequently in order to maximize the stimulus. Create a high strain
“environment” for the tissue to adapt to, not just occasional assaults.
3) Because the tissue becomes resistant to further
load-induced growth as part of its adaptation to being loaded, growth will
eventually slow dramatically and/or stop. If continued growth is the objective
the tissue must be allowed to return to a more sensitive state before continued
growth is to occur from loading. This is called Strategic Deconditioning (SD).
This is often mistaken as “rest”, which deals with the CNS. Rest is designed to
allow adaptation to “catch up” to the stimulus. SD is just the opposite. It is
only concerned with the mechanical properties of the tissue. Rather than
allowing the tissue’s adaptive resources to “catch up” to your training
frequency, SD attempts to push the tissue in the opposite direction,
effectively making it unfit to endure frequent loading. As you can see,
periodic rest increases ones fitness, by allowing “recovery”, whereas SD
decreases one’s fitness by allowing adaptive changes to reverse themselves.
How to Set Up a Basic HST Cycle:
First: Find the most weight you can lift for 15 reps, 10
reps, and 5 reps for each of the exercises you want to use during the cycle.
These will serve as your 15RM, your 10RM and your 5RM. (RM is Repetition
What you are going to do is to start with weights BELOW
your RMs and work your way up to them in 2 week blocks or periods. For the
first two weeks you will be doing 15 reps on each exercise. For the second two
weeks you will be using 10 reps on each exercise. And for the final 2 weeks you
will be using 5 reps.
You will only reach “failure” on the last workout
of each 2 week block. This is because you will be using your Repetition Maximum
on that day for that particular rep range.
So, lets say your 15RM is 200 pounds on incline bench. For
the first 2 weeks your weights for incline bench will go like this: 150lbs on
Monday, 160lbs on Wed, 170lbs on Fri, 180lbs on the following Mon, 190lbs on
Wed, and finally 200lbs on Friday. This example is using 10lb increments, but
you could use 20 lb increments if you wished.
Once you have reached your 15RM, you will immediately
begin another 2 week cycle but this time using your 10RM and you will work up
to it in the same way as you did your 15RM. Once again you will use a fixed
weight increment from workout to workout.
Once you reach your 10RM you will immediately start a new
2 week block using your 5RM. And proceed in the same manner as before.
It’s ok if your starting weight for your 10RM block is
lighter than the weight you just used for your 15RM the Friday before. People
call this zig-zagging and its just fine. In fact, most people experience better
results with a bit of zig-zagg in their weights as they move from one two week
block to the next.
Usually smaller muscle groups do better with smaller
weight increments from workout to workout. So whereas for legs you might use 20
pound increments while working up to your RM, for shoulders or arms you might
use 10lbs or even 5 lb increments.
If the starting weight is too low, for example with
lateral raises for shoulders, it is ok to use 3 total weight increments instead
of the usual 6. Simply repeat the same weight for two workouts, still making
sure you end up using your RM on the last workout of that 2 week block.
Of course, there are many many details that come up as a
result of trying to apply HST to each individual’s circumstances. Add to that
the many details of mechanotransduction and the whole hypertrophic process
(physiology, training, nutrition, supplementation, hormones) and you have quite
a bit to chew on.
I hope you found this helpful.