The Infamous Dr. Ken Leistner Training Video

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST)' started by mikeynov, Oct 24, 2019.

  1. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    As one of many signs that I'm getting old, I still remember the original controversy surrounding the Dr. Ken Leistner training video back in the early cyberpump days. Long story short, it was a 53 year old dude who squatted 405 for 23 reps and strict-ish pressed 253 for a few, along with several strict curls near bodyweight (150+ lbs).

    There was controversy in the HIT community about the cadence of his reps, with a lot of people apparently not realizing what 20 rep, "breathing" style squats entailed. HIT people always obsessed over rep speed which, while it might have implications for exercise safety, pretty clearly do not for hypertrophy as per research on the topic. Ken was from an older school of HIT and, if you actually go back to original videos of Arthur Jones himself training people, there was no attempt at controlling rep cadence etc. Example:

    The other controversy, however, was that people were claiming the weights were outright fake, given his age (53) and bodyweight (~160). This pissed Ken off so much that he wound up disengaging from the internet entirely, if I recall. I remember the whole "THEY'RE WOODEN PLATES" thing, and in googling the topic, came across an old post on the topic where this is brought up. Brought back memories.

    Anyhoo, the original form of this tape was released at some point this year on a random HIT channel:

    Pretty interesting video, and, assuming Dr. Ken is legit, pretty amazing strength. His stiff-legged deadlift form in particular would make form nazis like Stuart Mcgill cry, but I love his intensity.

    Anyways, for you other internet lifting old-timers like me, hope you enjoy this :)
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
  2. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    Perhaps a bit off the main purpose of your post, Mikey, but I believe that rep speed clearly matters. You appear to be saying that rep speed is irrelevant. Please set me straight if I misinterpreted you or took too literally what you were saying.

    However, in either case I do agree that continuous super slow speed is not an improvement factor with the possible exclusion of the final rep using SS to simulate going to failure, i.e,, it precludes you from doing another rep.

    Brad's conclusion on rep speed: "Concentric repetitions should be performed at fast to moderate speeds (1-3 seconds) while eccentric repetitions should be performed at slightly slower speeds (2-4 seconds)."

    My experience has been similar and that, for hypertrophy, concentric speed should be explosive and eccentric speed should be at least twice as long as the concentric speed and 3-4 times longer is even better. To complete the lift, I also include a 1-2 second hold in the fully engaged position and no rest between reps.

    Just as an aside, I have often wondered that, while Arthur Jones' interpretation of HIT was interesting, why did it not seem to work for him. (Although I have seen photos of him being a bit more jacked. Steroids?)
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
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  3. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    I remember all that back then, the wooden plate accusations and all that. That dude was strong, to me though, instead of the amazing strength he had for his size, it always showed me just how variable strength can be given a muscle's size. Just how much displayed strength can vary, and just how much strength increases a person can have without proportional size increases.

    Me, I think rep speed for muscle growth is a non factor. There are studies showing slow beats fast, and fast beats slow. I've tested them all, never had any speed that didn't cause growth, even superslow stuff. Now speed and form, ROM and all that for claiming a performance, that does matter, little fast 1/2 ROM is not the same as full range controlled speed for claiming a 'loadxreps' feat.
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  4. Jester

    Jester Well-Known Member

    I tend to agree with ^^^.

    Rep speed by itself doesn’t matter so far as as the research indicates. However, a faster rep (assume form good blah blah) will have greater performance, and then you’ll get stronger, faster, than if slow, and therefore greater hypertrophy (more progressive overload) over a given block of time (months, years, etc.).
  5. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    I was suggesting rep speed is probably irrelevant for hypertrophy, all else constant (similar ROM, volume, etc.). I do think it has implications for injury risk management, and as per the logic you outlined, I think the most sensical form involves no restrictions on the concentric speed and making sure the eccentric is at least deliberate. One of my tricks to this end with people is to tell them to count the rep mentally on the eccentric, rather than the concentric.

    Does it ACTUALLY matter for hypertrophy if you have a fast eccentric speed? Maybe not, but as Ron was getting at, form itself has to matter on some level, and my experience is people that divebomb the eccentric tend to quickly slip into sloppy form which might actually compromise our goal of focusing our efforts on particular muscles. Generally speaking, I think if you make people mindful of their form in a general sense, they will tend to self-select a pretty good rep cadence.

    However, like Jester, I also agree that placing too many restrictions on rep speed (e.g. going to the point of recommending a particular cadence) can wind up backfiring in terms of longer term strength acquisition/overload. I actually think one of the biggest obstacles of the modern forms of HIT was the overly slow speeds they tended to want, particularly for the superslow variants.

    I actually found this comment odd - Arthur always reported that it worked quite well for him. As I recall, he was something like 5'8" and claimed to have broken 200 lbs fairly lean using this style, which is actually extremely built minus steroids. There are a couple of pictures of Arthur in his 40's/50's that make him look pretty impressive, relatively speaking, for that age:



    And yah, he claims to have been much bigger than this in his youth, so I'd say it worked out pretty well for AJ.
  6. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    Good points O&G
    I agree too, AJ grew some good muscle, how big a person is to me is less important than how close they got to their (of course unknown) potential. Which is a weird way to look at it I guess. But there are people who barely grow no matter what they do, but that doesn't mean what they did wasn't valid.
  7. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    The video of AJ strikes me as below average for someone who lifts. The still pictures show a much younger and more muscular AJ but not above average in my opinion. Possibly due to being on then off steroids. I don't know.
  8. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Ahh, I get it now. In the video, he's older, and as per AJ himself, he'd not lift for many years at a time. I'm actually not sure if Arthur really lifted much at all the last ~30 years of his life. Or stated differently, you're literally looking at a video of when Arthur almost definitely didn't lift, and probably hadn't at that point, in many years.

    While we have no way of knowing for sure, Arthur claimed to be lifelong natural, and I believe it, honestly. He was so vehemently anti drugs in general (including steroids) that I recall him writing that he threatened to kill somebody who had merely offered his son steroids in one of his diatribes.
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  9. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    The above said, of course, I don't think HIT is optimal for hypertrophy in that it discounts the role of volume, which clearly matters for hypertrophy. I do think there are HIT-inspired approaches that can work pretty well, however, e.g. Doggcrapp training, and I actually like the Yates approach (ramping to a top set, body part split with multiple exercises per body part) as well. I think the rule you'll notice with HIT is that the more minimalist they get, the worse their results from a hypertrophy standpoint. E.g. only a few exercises, only one set, and done infrequently is not a recipe for optimizing hypertrophy.

    Arthur's original routines he claimed to get decent results with, however, while it might kill us, probably did provide adequate volume. I think he said he originally did 2-4 sets per exercise, and would do like 10+ exercises per day 3 days per week. The only using a single set didn't come until later, after he allegedly reached that peak condition. If you started tallying volume like Schoenfeld does, I'd wager a lot of body parts were getting 10+ hard weekly sets, which is probably around the threshold for getting most of the bang for your buck imo. I should actually do this for the Nautilus Bulletin 1 and 2 era routines at some point, I think it'd be interesting to illustrate just how much higher volume was in the early HIT days.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
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  10. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    Actually that would be very interesting.
  11. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    I'll actually do so right now for Nautilus Bulletin 1 in the chapter titled "Training with Conventional Equipment." If you guys haven't seen it, I strongly recommend checking out:

    While he was kind of a cult of personality, I still find his insights on exercise interesting to this day. Anyways, back to the article in question, I'm going to count volume with the prime movers in an exercise as 1 set per exercise, and secondary movers as 1/2. So a chinup, for example, would be 1 for lats and .5 for biceps, whereas a curl would be 1 for biceps. Pretty sure this is basically in line with how Schoenfeld and those dudes count it, or at least similar, though there are other ways to handle this. I'll exclude some muscle groups which make this slightly more confusing (e.g. adductors, external rotators, shit like that) and stick to the main "bodybuilding" targets. I'll also ignore the lower back generally, as while it's worked in both squats and deadlifts, isn't worked dynamically like the rest, so counting volume in this sense is a lot more muddled. Muscles like "shoulders" will get funky because a lot of "shoulders" work is really primarily anterior delt, and I'm too lazy to split this between anterior/lateral/posterior at the moment.

    Here's the routine suggested, probably in line with what Arthur himself did, performed 3x weekly:

    2 sets of 10 repetitions full squats (2 sets quads, 2 sets glutes - research has shown that squats really barely work the hamstrings for the most part)
    3 sets of 20 one-legged calf raises (3 set calves)
    2 sets of 10 barbell standing presses (2 sets shoulders, 1 set (.5 x 2) triceps)
    2 sets of 10 behind-neck chins (2 sets lats, 1 set biceps)
    2 sets of 10 bench presses (2 sets chest, 2 sets shoulders, 1 set triceps)
    2 sets of 10 regular-grip chins (2 sets lats, 1 set biceps)
    2 sets of 10 parallel dips (2 sets chest, 2 sets shoulders, 1 set triceps)
    2 sets of 10 barbell curls (2 sets biceps)
    2 sets of 12 pulley triceps-curls (I assume he means pushdowns, so 2 sets triceps)
    2 sets of 15 wrist curls (2 sets wrist flexors but I kind of don't care about this)
    1 set of 10 regular-grip chins (1 set lats, 1/2 set biceps)
    1 set of 10 parallel dips (1 set chest, 1 set shoulders, 1/2 set triceps)
    2 sets of 15 stiff-legged deadlift (2 sets hamstrings, 2 sets glutes)
    2 sets of 10 dumbbell side raises (2 sets shoulders)

    So daily totals (feel free to point out if I made any math errors):

    2 sets quads
    4 sets glutes
    3 sets calves
    2 sets hamstrings
    9 sets shoulders
    3.5 sets triceps
    5 sets chest
    5 sets lats
    4.5 sets biceps

    And weekly totals we'd then get:

    6 sets quads
    12 sets glutes
    9 sets calves
    6 sets hamstrings
    27 (!) sets shoulders
    10.5 sets triceps
    15 sets chest
    15 sets lats
    13.5 sets biceps

    So yah, a little light on the quads and hammies I guess, though pretty adequate glute and calves work. Upper body work in general is outright high volume, considering these are all sets to failure.

    But yah, this is kind of what I mean, the weekly volume Arthur was doing when he got his original results was actually way higher than people realize. While it's "HIT" this looks absolutely nothing like the minimalist HIT of later years.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
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  12. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Now, here's a more recognizable early HIT program, which had solidified into single sets and more conventional HIT recommendations by the time of Nautilus Bulletin 2. From "A Simple Example" chapter of NB2:

    After the initial, more minimalist "break in" program:

    1 set of 20 repetitions, full squat (1 set quads, 1 set glutes)
    1 set of 20 repetitions one-leg calf raises (1 set calves)
    1 set of 10 repetitions standing presses (1 set shoulders, 1/2 set triceps)
    1 set of 10 repetitions regular-grip chins (1 set lats, 1/2 set biceps)
    1 set of 10 repetitions standing presses (1 set shoulders, 1/2 set triceps)
    1 set of 10 repetitions regular-grip chins (1 set lats, 1/2 set biceps)
    1 set of 10 repetitions parallel dips (1 set chest, 1 set shoulders, 1/2 set triceps)
    1 set of 10 repetitions standing curls (1 set biceps)
    1 set of 10 repetitions parallel dips (1 set chest, 1 set shoulders, 1/2 set triceps)
    1 set of 10 repetitions standing curls (1 set biceps)
    1 set of 15 repetitions stiff-leg deadlifts (1 set hamstrings, 1 set glutes)

    Using the same math we get the following for daily sets:

    1 set quads
    2 sets glutes
    1 set hamstrings
    1 set calves
    4 sets shoulders
    2 sets chest
    2 sets triceps
    2 sets lats
    3 sets biceps

    x3 for 3 weekly sessions we get:

    3 sets quads
    6 sets glutes
    3 sets hamstrings
    3 sets calves
    12 sets shoulders
    6 sets chest
    6 sets triceps
    6 sets lats
    9 sets biceps

    So much lower volume at this point. But honestly, still not that bad, particularly for the upper body stuff. E.g. this would be equivalent to a lot of modern, upper/lower type routines that have ~3x sets twice per week per body part.

    Worth noting that the 1 set of 20 squats is probably more a "breathing" style set like Leistner, and that's more like rest/pause work so the volume there is probably deceiving and worth more than the 3 sets indicates.

    But yah, at this point you can see the direction HIT is going, and it only got more minimalist from here. I remember during Arthur's later years he talked about 1 to 2 weekly sessions of maybe half this amount of volume. Because he thought intensity was the be-all end-all, the recommendations kept getting progressively absurd to the point where people were literally doing like 1 hard set per week per muscle group, which is just not nearly enough volume to optimize hypertrophy imo.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2019
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  13. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    great posts Mike, good points.

    Even the Yates and DC stuff, 'they' don't count the 'warm ups' (and IMO, some of those warm ups are way beyond that, and are actually a non failure work set), but the actual volume is a lot more than it looks when you only count that last set to failure. Even the early Darden programs, 16 exercises 3x a week, that's not super minimal like that later Mentzer stuff for sure.
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  14. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    And for thoroughness, let's take a look at one of many Dr. Ken Leistner suggested routines, performed twice weekly:

    Full Squats - 15-20 reps (1 set quads, 1 set glutes)

    Pullovers - 10 reps (1 set lats, though this one is weird, and I'm tempted to count at least half a set chest as it contributes more than you'd think)

    Standing Presses - 10 reps (1 set shoulders, 1/2 set triceps)

    Chins - 10 reps(1 set lats, 1/2 set biceps)

    Dips - 12 reps(1 set chest, 1 set shoulders, 1/2 set triceps)

    Barbell Curls - 10 reps (1 set biceps)

    Shrugs - 15 reps (1 set traps)

    Stiff-Legged Deadlifts - 15 reps (1 set hamstrings, 1 set glutes)

    So weekly totals:

    2 sets quads
    4 sets glutes
    2 sets hamstrings
    2 sets shoulders
    2 sets chest (maybe 3 with the pullovers)
    2 sets triceps
    4 sets lats
    3 sets biceps
    2 sets traps

    Way more minimalist, I'd argue probably not optimal for hypertrophy, but certainly could get people pretty far all the same.
  15. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Yah, this is a personal area of interest that I'm still really curious about. I have a sort of conspiracy theory idea in my mind (meaning I don't lend it much credence as on paper it's probably wrong) that the working warmup sets might wind up nearly as effective as 3 all out work sets, though haven't seen any research to verify this hunch. Something in my mind clicks with the working warmup ramping sets as contributing to the time under tension, and the top set still triggering the recruitment/tension aspect. It also has the advantage of otherwise identical neuromuscular practice of the movement itself, with the not small upside that you get to practice ideal form without having to worry about the performance of the set per se.

    Meaning if I had someone do 3 all out top sets of squats of 8-12 reps, and their form was shaky, there's a good chance I just had them do a lot of shaky, maybe not great form reps. So imagine:

    225 x 12, 10, and 8 reps, 3 sets to/near failure.

    Now imagine:

    175 x 8-12
    200 x 8-12
    225 x ~12

    This runs opposite to the idea of effective reps, but in this latter scenario, those first two sets clearly contribute something to the work being done, but can be done in much calmer, more deliberate form, and you get a single top set to go nuts. Having experimented with lots of different set/rep schemes, this ramping style in my old age is now one of my favorite. Contrary to expectations, I actually sometimes feel STRONGER on that third set after the working warmup sets prior. In my earlier training years, it was a lot easier for me to just go all out immediately, but something about doing enough reps in my warmup sets to the point of being borderline working sets seems not to hurt performance, and may actually help a little. Food for thought.
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  16. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    Yep, I'm sure your right. There is that study where they compared 3x failure with 10Rm to 6x5 with 10RM, found equal size and strength, and another some researcher mentioned on a podcast I heard where growth was seen with even 5RIR, so effective reps are 'more effective', not 'only effective'.
    Those DC guys that are really strong are doing some really heavy ahem 'warm ups'... those count, no doubt in my mind. When a person goes 120, then 170, then 220, then 280, then 320, then 400, there is no way all those prior sets aren't contributing. And if we use that 'fiber tension' information from the other thread, those fibers may not be 'on' as often with 280 as they are with 400 but they still are on creating the same 'per fiber' tension.
    I'm quite sure hypertrophy is all about 'work'.
  17. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    I skip warm up sets for each exercise and go straight for the throat. My full body workout type of warm up is short and sweet and is meant to only warm the muscles up. All are done for 1 set with body weight only.

    Squats or lunges

    Pull ups (Lateral Hold)


    Overhead contracted traps squeeze for 75 seconds

    5 minutes and good to go. However, with over 60 years of training, my muscles are pretty much always good to go. However, I do not train to complete failure, use strict form, do not train with heavy weights and low reps and have no idea what my PR's might be. That keeps me pretty much injury free. I got through the heavy lifting phase in my younger years (under 45) and my muscles are already primed for growth through higher reps.
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  18. NWlifter

    NWlifter Active Member

    With my training I don't do any warmups at all either, I hate warm ups , when I do train heavy I just do one warm up, good enough for me! Of course, I don't bench 350 either...
  19. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Yah, as I speculated in that original thread, I think a legit 5 RIR (also 5 RPE since they're synonymous there) is probably right at the threshold for effective sets. 4 RIR is probably a little safer, but for programming purposes, as I've been thinking out modern iterations of HST, I think I'd probably start a given rep range at ~5 RIR as it gives you more room to breathe from there. 4 RIR would be safer, but a legit 4 RIR is heavier than I think people realize, particularly for lifts like the squat. Even a 5 RIR is no joke.
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