Is Load Progression Necessary For Hypertrophy?

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST)' started by mikeynov, Jun 29, 2019.

  1. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Ah yep cheers, so it's more about getting those last ones to recruit, experience tension/strain, and subsequently grow. I guess I was under the impression that it was more about the fatigue angle (and also with the higher rep stuff the emphasis being on all the metabolic components to growth), but then I guess in myoreps the aim is to get those latent fibres working for more time (via spending more time at that end of set period).
  2. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    Yes that's the idea of rest pause scenarios... use fatigue to keep all fibers active, then give them more TUL...
  3. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Ah yep, like Borge said, using fatigue as a means or tool to achieve that end/means, rather than having fatigue as the goal.

    So I guess that's why higher rep/density/myo-rep style training achieves similar results to heavy, low rep progressive load work.. just trying to tie it in in my own head hehe. Both achieve that, but still leaves me with the question of tissue condition, and stress/adaption able to be incurred at lighter loads not close to failure.. (Eg HST).

    If it was only about using fatigue to reach those dormant fibers/effective reps, then you'd only want to gear all your training close to or at failure. Perhaps this is simply the metabolic stress route, which I thought had more to do with metabolites and so on creating some swelled up and occluded environment etc but I guess it is about reaching those fibers that would usually kick in with heavier work.

    So the current condition of the tissue dictates what you do with it, and even if you're using a load that creates more stress than it's current resistance levels (RBE), then growth can occur.

    Just trying to see how these approaches fit together and trying to make sense of it in my head how it practically works haha..

    (And I'll have to go back in this thread, haven't had a chance to read the last 50 posts or so haha...)
  4. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    And are the mechanisms of hypertrophy mechanical tension and metabolic stress completely different pathways of hypertrophy, are they complimentary, or are they essentially the same thing but done in a different way?


    I feel mechanical tension (through progressive load primarily) addresses the issue of RBE and condition of the tissue in the present time, eventually leading to heavier work which gets full stress of all fibers.

    Metabolic stress achieving the level of stress without the concern for the current condition of the tissue? Just doing the 'most effective work' right from the bat?

  5. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    Here is how I think about it...
    • Anytime you do more than 'a rep' you have fatigue building
    • I myself think metabolic is just a side effect, I think high activation causing high intra-cellular calcium is the stimulus, it fits both mechano and work pathways
    • Obviously, if I and others, have grown more changing from heavy to more density with light, it's not load per se that beats tissue condition, it's more 'work' related
    • So on the above, example would be going from 2x5 with 6RM to 4x8 higher density with a lighter load, would be a step UP and exceed tissue condition.
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  6. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    Circuit and/or superset style workouts don’t seem to be the most successful, historically speaking, for non-enhanced lifters.

    I suggest like most things in life, it’s somewhere in the middle; load and volume both drive hypertrophy in my experience.

    Greg Nuckols has an interesting (at least back then) take a few years ago when discussing ye ole classic myo vs. sarco hypertrophy - who says you can separate them at all?
  7. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    Circuit for sure... cardio hampers 'muscle work' too much.

    Well Cody's study separated sarco to myo hypertrophy... for sure we can alter the balance somewhat, but even just fibril hypertrophy seems, it's more 'work' than load related. Like load is just one part of the equation....
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
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  8. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Just a quick thought on the ideas contained in this thread, particularly the idea of chasing overload in the form of adding weight to the bar.

    I think the contention that the ability to add weight or reps to the bar being a function of having already achieved progressive overload is probably correct. I.e. you don't increase the weight on the bar and expect better results just because you're lifting a heavier thing. But I do think there's nuance being lost in why people still "chase" performance increases.

    I refer to this as Doggcrapp's Law, courtesy of Dante Trudell, who once said something to the effect that the best proxy for the amount of muscle you gain is your increase in strength in bodybuilding rep ranges.

    Reverse engineering this for a second, on its face, that seems wrong in the sense that it would seem we should try to do enough right now to grow, and then performance increases should naturally follow. However, in reversing that, you could see your current weight room performance as a "test" whether the previous session was the proper combination of factors necessary in order to induce progressive overload. So you're not exactly "chasing" heavier weight or more reps, but looking for evidence that your previous session was the proper dose of stimulus you needed to achieve overload. If it was, and you add weight at a given number of reps (at a similar RPE) or more total reps, then you know that combination, at least for the time being, is probably a stimulus that's enough to keep moving you forward.

    As a corollary of this, in looking at research on hypertrophy, I'm not sure I've ever seen a situation in which, comparing exercise program A to exercise program B, where A results in more growth than B, that A ever results in LESS strength gains than B. Sometimes, strength gains will be equal in, for example, lower vs. higher volume treatments, but the high volume group is invariably, at worst, no better at increasing strength, but better at increasing hypertrophy. I would contend that the reverse is almost never seen, A resulting in more growth but WORSE strength gains.

    In that sense, our strength/performance gains aren't a thing we're chasing, but rather the evidence we're looking for that we're getting our exercise dose correct. Another way of looking at this is that, if through trial and error you discover that using volume past a point seems to measurably impair your ability to add weight or reps the next time you try to achieve overload, it is probably a good idea to shoot for a volume shy of that, whatever it is.

    The contrasting point here would be the previously mentioned myoreps/Gironda examples where people seemed to "lose strength" but gain muscle when going for lighter weights with much higher density. But I think, when completely changing contexts like that, the argument wouldn't be that myoreps/Gironda should work as well as higher weight, maybe lower volume for top end strength, i.e. what you were doing before. There's a pretty obvious SAID violation here. But using our heuristic of looking for evidence of performance increases, we might tailor our myoreps/Gironda style training to attempt to consistently see evidence that we can add weight/reps in that context. E.g. if doing 20/5/5/5 in myoreps with one primer set and 3 of the breathing sets after seems to consistently lead to better ability to add weight or reps than 20/5/5/5/5/5, I'd posit the former might be a better starting point for how you should train in this higher density/metabolic stress context.

    It's worth mentioning, of course, that the amount of volume you need to optimize your performance increase might well change over time and trend upwards. It probably would. But to the extent that, at any given point in your training based on your various life stressors, diet etc. where method A measurably improves your ability to add weight or reps faster than method B, A is probably the way to go. A may eventually stop working, and something B-like may later work better, but continual trial and error should theoretically allow you to figure that out.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
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  9. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    good thoughts Mike

    Yes, agree... it would seem to be evident really when people do double progression... you do 'something', then if next time you get more reps, then the next you add weight. You 'see' your gains happening that way. But let's say you did 200x8 for something... and you actually didn't gain any size or strength, then the next time you toss 210 on there and get 6 reps, that's probably the same exact stimulation as the 200x8 was before..

    For sure with something like Gironda, you lose the neural stuff for actual heavy weights, all the time progressing in strength with the lighter.
    Case in point, myself.. .I was benching 185x8. Went to Gironda, 30 second rests multiple sets. Worked my way up to benching 140 with that method. great quite a bit... When I tried 'strength training' again after, I could only do 155x8. Worked my way back up to 185x8 all the while losing size back to where I was before Gironda when I could do 185x8 before it all. That was annoying lol
  10. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Yep, that made perfect sense, and you summed it all up really nicely! Great post :)

    (Just gettin round to reading all this haha)
  11. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Hmm yeah I'm still not too sure about that yet... understandably it doesn't seem like an increase, but in terms of mechanical loading being higher (even though volume is lower) I would still say it's an increase in stimulus.

    It's been in the experience of many HSTers over time that as they increase loads, the volume drops naturally, but gains are still occurring. The FAQ I think also says this about the volume decreasing maybe is okay... ?

    Obviously there is some sort of limit, and I don't think you can go from 2x15RM to 1x2RM and expect an increased stimulus...

    But if the focus is mainly on mechanical tension, when we move from the 15s and that metabolic stage we go into another phase, although it's an intertwined progression, and while volume is for sure still imortant, it doesn't seem as important as it was in the 15s and a little further.

    Also that keeping total volume constant is quite difficult for many, doing 30 total reps in the 15s is quite achievable, but 30 total reps with 5RM would kill me.

    Perhaps this is where the "effective reps" notion comes in also? That as you're loads are heavier, effective reps are starting much earlier (pretty much from the start of the set) you don't need as much volume to get the same stimulus as you do with lighter weights... I think Borge wrote on this...

    Does that make sense? Or am I now insane haha..
  12. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    In reality, there is no line between in-effective vs effective reps. Reps just get more effective as effort increases, more like a slope. I think it's a dis-service for articles to deem things like Rep 9-12 are effective, it's akin to the old HIT ideas of a 'switch' at failure. That's not to say the harder reps aren't more effective, as they are, just that there isn't a 'line' we cross.

    I'm pretty sure about the load work thing, I've moved from light to heavy, heavy to light, neither increased or decreased my hypertrophic results. More volume does, pushing sets harder does.. but equal 'work' with various loads always matches what the studies show, equal hypertrophy.
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  13. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Love it, cool experiment, would love to see it too :).

    I would also peg group 5 to have the best results. RBE and stagnation would set in pretty quickly with groups 1-4. I would strongly suspect group 5 would outdo the others, but that's not to say the others wouldn't have any results (especially as they are increasing reps/volume where they can).

    (Still playing catchup with this thread hehe)
  14. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Found this bit interesting in the link @mikeynov posted in the other thread. Not sure if it's relevant but thought I'd quote it here, it speaks of fatigue and tension:

    "Page 109, Chapter on training principles modes and methods:

    At least one machine manufacturer recommends that only one set of an exercise be performed to exhaustion, and that this represents a sufficient workload for gains in hypertrophy, and strength (11,43). This method of training greatly reduces the total workload made possible by multiple sets, which means the activated motor units receive less training. Part of the reasoning behind using sets to exhaustion is that, due to fatigue, the nth repetition would be maximal. This confuses relative and absolute maximum tensions; fatigue inhibits the use of some fibers, whereas all fibers are active with absolute maximum tension (3). Tension , not fatigue, is the major factor in developing maximal strength (3). One set to exhaustion likely reduces the training effect and produces small gains in lean body mass. Stowers et al (67) observed inferior performance gains (measured by 1 rep max squat, vertical jump) from one set to exhaustion compared to multiple exhaustion sets and a program periodized over 7 weeks."
  15. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Perhaps the question isn't so much what's necessary for hypertrophy, but what's necessary and practical. Each approach definitely produces hypertrophy.

    Would one want to actually constantly go to failure aaaaaall the time if it's optimal for hypertrophy, or use HST in which you still create the conditions for hypertrophy but are able to make gains long term and not destroy yourself?

    There are many different training methods, and I think most work as they fulfill the basic principles of what causes hypertrophy, but some seem more applicable or friendlier to apply, or moreso some are more realistic and not as extreme. Just some thoughts!

    (Eg you can strap on a weight for 24 hours a day that pulls a muscle into constant stretched position and you can get growth, you can hold a difficult isometric bodyweight position 5 times a day for 2 minutes and get growth...)
  16. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    I don't think fatigue inhibits any fibers in a normal set, it would take neural inhibition for a fiber to be inhibited, they still fire, still hit tetany but just lose some actual force output, which IMO is the goal. I agree though, failure is probably not much or any more 'stimulation', it doesn't seem fatigue needs to reach that level.
  17. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Ahh okay right I get ya, cheers for that :)
  18. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    As some concluding thoughts for this thread, I think the idea that I'm still after is something tantamount to "hypertrophy-specific training," i.e. Bryan's original train of thought in coming up with his training principles and program template. The idea, of course, being that, if we're interested primarily in hypertrophy, what should our training look like?

    As per this other thread:

    I think I'm starting to arrive at some harder conclusions about what HST training should probably entail:

    • Training frequency probably of ~2+ times per week. Once per week may be fine, particularly if overall volume is lower either way, but higher frequency is, at worst, just as good, and sometimes better. You seem to get at least most of the bang for your buck by twice per week per muscle group even compared to much higher frequencies, however, so this seems like a good default. So something like upper/lower or a twice per week push/pull/legs.
    • At least for conventional sets, and as per the thread above, I think we should probably replace the idea of "effective reps" with "effective sets." An effective set is basically any set in which you do ~5 to ~30 reps per set and have an RPE probably equal to or higher than maybe ~6, i.e. 4 reps in reserve. The idea with effective sets appears to be similar to effective reps, i.e. you're trying to arrive at a point in which you're getting full recruitment and probably at least some fatigue of the high threshold motor units. The difference being nearness to failure past that point doesn't seem to move things much, it's more like you got close enough, or you didn't. Thus any program with a lot of lower rep work (fewer than 5 reps) or appreciably submaximal sets (lower than RPE ~6) isn't being terribly hypertrophy-specific. These other things (lower reps, lower effort sets) can still work, just not as well on a per-set basis.
    • The Repeated Bout Effect is probably getting replaced by "Anabolic Resistance," with the idea being that, over time, in order to overcome our innate resistance to keep growing, volume winds up our best tool to do so within the effective sets range. Which would mean that, over the course of a trainee's lifetime, lower volume training might well work earlier but, eventually, to maximize hypertrophy, comparatively higher volume will be necessary. Note that this is relative, and this definitely doesn't mean that you'll need some outrageous amount of volume to maximize your potential. Just probably more than what you started with, and if you ever find yourself not growing, the most obvious tool to overcome this is (more) volume.
    • Given the idea above with volume, there is a lot of emerging research that more volume might work better to a point, with a commonly thrown around number being ~10+ sets per week per muscle group in order to maximize hypertrophy. That said, I still think our best heuristic for long-term growth is building strength within the effective sets range of ~5-30 reps per set at reasonable relative intensities. If you go too low or high in volume, you will compromise your ability to add reps or weight to the bar over time, so you're trying to find that goldilocks zone right for you in your current stage of training development.
    • I think consideration should probably be given to rep range and exercise selection. I.e. there is more inherent risk at heavier rep ranges due to absolute loading, probably, and exercise selection should definitely be more flexible. E.g. you can do leg presses instead of squats if you find this easier to recover from, ditto a chest press machine instead of bench etc. and, given similar relative intensities in the effective sets range of ~5-30 reps per set, I doubt it makes much difference. Meaning we probably don't need to be hammering a shitload of ~5 rep sets in barbell lifts all the time to optimally grow, higher reps and/or comparatively kinder exercises will undoubtedly work just as well for hypertrophy's sake. See: how bodybuilders actually train.
    • Stuff like myo-reps or Gironda style training can probably still be analyzed within this framework, though with some caveats. I.e. the rest/pause nature of subsequent myoreps or gironda sets might not properly obey the effective sets idea, with each set of only ~3-5 reps in something like myoreps quite possibly equal to a higher rep, conventional set. I figured this was worth mentioning as I think myoreps in particular is probably a really good idea where it's practical.
    • As a last thought on RBE and strategic deconditioning, if it is doing something, it might be allowing slightly lower RPE sets to induce hypertrophy again. So I'm not against including periods of ~1-2 weeks completely off for both practical considerations (avoid injury) and maybe as a tool to allow us to train with slightly lower relative intensity sets and still have those sets be "effective." I, of course, have no idea just how much lighter you can go and still grow after a strategic deconditioning.
    • Anything past this or deviating appreciably from it will probably be due to individual considerations that, obviously, we can't predict ahead of time, so trial and error is still going to be necessary.
    But yah, these are some of my thoughts based on the discussions we've had to date. Let me know what you think.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
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  19. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    Sounds about right to me.
  20. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    RPE 6 just ‘feels’ low to me. Doesn’t need to be 9 or -10, but I’d be thinking that 7.5ish space.

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