I think it is important for people who criticize HST for being "too simple" or, as they incorrectly perceive, "nothing new", to understand that just as the physiology behind strength is complicated, the physiolgy behind muscle hypertrophy, which is the foundation of HST, is also complicated.
HST is not a "guess" like all the previous muscle building programs. It is a method based on the physiology of muscle growth.
You can't simply read one study and come to the conclusion that HST is the "big picture". It has taken me personally over a decade of reading the kind of research [posted in the studies section] before I was able to put together HST with any degree of confidence. The studies listed are a great cross section of the “current” state of understanding about how muscles “know” how to hypertrophy in response to mechanical stimuli. However, in order to understand it, a person has to have some background in the several fields of study that have gotten us this far. I have been working hard to get the book done. I know I keep saying that but its true. Trying to keep all of this running is more complicated than it might look. If I drop one of the balls I’m juggling I’ll have to drop all this and go to work for the highest bidder.
You also have to know how to investigate. I’m not saying anyone here doesn’t, I’m just saying that you can’t just set out to find the holy grail of training. Believe me, I’ve tried. It doesn’t exist. At least not in one place. Instead, the answers are widely interspersed through a wide range of research coming at things from greatly different angles. Not only that, but you will find some research that is seemingly unaware of other pertinent research simply because the fields of origin are far removed from each other.
In short, you have to break down the process of training for muscle hypertrophy (the big canvas) into two parts. The first part is the “means” by which we are able to apply the mechanical stimuli, namely weight lifting. The second part is the point of interest or, muscle cell itself.
Weight lifting is composed of the following (just examples):
Different movements of the body
Different positions of the body during movement
Different planes of motion of the limbs
Different speeds of movement
Different kinds of muscle contractions
Differing numbers of repetitions
Differing amounts of tension
Differing amounts of fatigue
Differing durations of rest
Different frequencies of training bouts
The muscle cell is composed of the following (just examples):
Mechanisms of injury
Mechanisms of repair
Myogenic stem cells
Paracrine and autocrine
I think you can begin to see the complexity of research that went into HST as well as HSN. From the list above I think you can see why people choose to stick with training issues rather that physiology. It’s just so complex that it’s easier just to argue about sets and reps. Or even just to revel over how "hard" a routine is...Now I’m not complaining, I love this stuff almost as much as I love growing. But still, I can’t give you an answer in a nutshell. Even the HST book will be a short hand version of the state of the art of building muscle.
Anyone who argues with these principles after understanding them correctly is in error. That is a strong statement but it is true. These are principles that we “know” from research and experience. The data from this research is not theoretically based. It is based on identification, measurements, and direct microscopic observation. All future research will show us is more genetic detail, NOT that we were wrong on some sort of fundamental basis. So, anyone can with confidence apply these principles to their training and successfully induce muscular hypertrophy.
If anyone should attempt to apply these principles and not experience some degree of muscle growth, it is not because the principles are wrong, it is because the application of the principles was flawed. Once again, another strong statement, but it is true. For example, just because you plant a garden and water it does not mean you will successfully grow prize-winning vegetables. Does this mean that your garden acted by some other mysterious agricultural principles other than those based on water, sunlight and soil? Of course not! We “know” the principles of growing plants. Where we fail, is in our application of those known principles.
The application is where the details lie. Issues such as how much, how many, how fast, when and where to name a few.
Whether it be growing plants, or growing muscle, you are dealing with a moving target. Because plants are alive, or put another way, because plants are biological systems, the best application of agricultural principles to grow vegetables will change as conditions change. The same is true for the application of the principles of hypertrophy or muscle growth. The application will change as conditions change. All the while, being careful to stay faithful to the underlying “known” principles.
HST is nothing new, this stuff has been around for decades
The knowledge of sets, reps and rest has, but the science to explain how these factors work hasn't. That has been the problem. That is the reason so many "different" training programs exist today. If everyone knew how a muscle physiologically adapts to training we wouldn't be discussing it here today. Just because people are experimenting with different combinations of sets reps and rest does not mean they had some sort of crystal ball that told them about science that had yet to be performed.
So I'm not disagreeing with you that the concepts of sets reps and rest have been around for decades, but the necessary insight into cellular physiology that would allow people to start narrowing down there focus and methods has not been available until the last 8 years or so.
You don't have to know how muscle cells respond to different stimuli in order to have a good workout or even make good progress, but eventually you do have to know someone who does so that you can consult with them about how to make continued progress. Otherwise, when people plateau, they simply wander from one program to the next, not knowing why the last one started working, or even why the new one might or might not work. Keep in mind I'm talking about the natural guys.
So simply “doing” it “regularly and progressively” is what everybody in the world who wants to be big is already doing. As you say, those are not new concepts. But is all their “doing” getting them where they want to be? If not, that’s when they might want to start “reading and talking”, and I don't mean the mags on the news stands. Over the last 24 years or so that I have been “doing” bodybuilding, I have had to read an awful lot to understand why a person who has been training so long does not simply continue to grow and grow even though he is training “regularly” and to the best of his ability “progressively” as well. At that point do you simply accept the fact that you are as big as you are ever going to get? If you are passionate about bodybuilding that answer will never do. So you go on searching, reading, and, when you have something you feel is worth saying, you talk about it with other passionate people.
Sure, this kind of scientific discussion isn’t for everyone. But anybody who is really passionate about their hobby or profession will eventually find themselves reading about it, and talking about what they know with other people who share their passion. At least that has been my experience.
Finally, please remember my motives for sharing HST over the last few years. I want to help people who want to grow. I am a bodybuilder myself. I am always trying to add muscle. The more the better. Because of unique circumstances in my life, I have collected a great deal of information about how muscles grow in response to training, food, and drugs. It has helped me tremendously. And, you reap what you sow, so, I thought I would sow and let the universe workout the rest.
Truth be told, without the people doing research on muscle physiology, there would be no HST. They deserve all the credit and will be given it in the book. I always try to reference my writing to ensure proper credit goes to those making the discoveries in their respective fields. Including references of where I get my information is how I do my best to stay honest. I'm just a messanger, one of several that I could mention.
I was just trying to make a point about the differences between doing something haphazardly (e.g. taking a break), and doing something deliberately and accurately based an understanding of how it will effect muscle growth (e.g. SD).
I am well aware of earlier theories about training the entire body each workout. They were still grasping in the dark though. They didn't have the research that we have to day to refine the method. Nor did they understand how muscle grows on a molecular level in response to mechanical loading, so they couldn't make precise decisions about putting it all together.
Bah...you can grow just fine adding 1-2lbs per week. Lots of bodybuilders and powerlifters have done it before.
HST proposes that you can grow faster. Muscle tissue adapts much faster than people realize. Significant growth can occur in 12-14 days. You don’t necessarily need 12-14 months. Slowly increasing the poundages as your strength levels permit is fine, but I feel you can increase the rate of hypertrophy by working around the tissue’s natural tendency to become resistance and likewise more sensitive to the loading stimulus with the proper application of SD. In addition, proponents of HST feel that understanding the physiology behind the loading stimulus and the tissue’s physiological response is important when trying to train as effectively and efficiently as possible. To some this is a bunch of scientific gobbledygook. They say, “Just shut your mouth, train heavy, and eat big!” Believe me, I have, for more than 20 years (and boy am I tired ). Then, to the relief of some and as a threat to others, research has surfaced that sheds new light on ways of taking out the guess work, and really adjusting lifting methods to be more specific to the desired result…both for strength or hypertrophy. (Yes, there is even strength research being ignored by existing dynasties) That’s where HST came from. If there was no new research, there would not have been and could not have been any HST.
There are many methods of weight lifting, but they are not of equal value. I feel, the merits of HST to build size fast makes it anything but ”just another method”.
I hope people understand that I too have gone through all the methods that others have, while trying to find the best way to grow. I feel as if sometimes people think I just popped up out of nowhere claiming to have invented weight lifting. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Not only that, but I’m not here to point out the flaws in previous methods and/or beliefs. Nor am I here to try to make people feel stupid or somehow duped because they have established their own beliefs and practices based on what they felt was the truth. I’m here to invite people to consider new information, new research, and a new perspective based on that new information.
I am a positive person, and I know that HST can be a positive thing to happen to bodybuilders helping them reach their goals.
I want to tweak HST to fit into my own beliefs and how I'm used to training
Why do people tweak and change things? Well, when done haphazardly it is usually because they have no faith in the underlying principles. This almost never leads to progress, only constant tinkering and frustration. Without adequate knowledge of the principles, and faith in their effectiveness, their expectations will never be realized and their “locus of control” will move ever outwards, blaming everything but themselves for their lack of progress.
In contrast, when people tweak and change their program based on changing conditions, they almost always experience success and they gain valuable experience in the process. Their locus of control will move inwards and they will grow ever more effective at adjusting their training as conditions dictate to keep the gains coming.
If you find yourself lacking faith in your training program, you will most likely fail to reach your goals. You must first prepare yourself. Take it upon yourself to gain the required knowledge of the principles of muscle growth to believe in what you decide to do. Look up the studies and compare the traditional methods to what the research tells you. Ask questions of people who seem to have faith in what they are doing. Find out whether they are doing it because they were told to do it, or because they know it is the right way to do it. And of course, ponder your own experience and try to make sense of past periods of growth and past periods of stagnation.
Even if you decide not to use HST, by learning the principles you will come to realize why any other program worked or didn't work. You can break down other programs and see how they apply the principles of hypertrophy. In as much as they apply any given principle effectively, it will produce some results. In as much as they fall short on any given principle, the program will fall short of being ideal for muscle growth.
Nearly every program ever devised before HST incorporated one or more of the principles of muscle growth. That is why people have experienced gains while using them.
Keep in mind that when you are presenting information that requires "application" by many thousands of people with an infinite variety of backgrounds and experience, you have to decide on the most general, yet accurate way of presenting that information. It is a compromise, utility for detail. That is why there is some variation in the way each person utilizes the principles of hypertrophy in their own training, while at the same time keeping true to those principles. If they stay true to the principles, they will grow.
So how is HST different from other training programs?
This is a very good question and one that deserves to be answered, without simply zealously defending the premise that is being questioned. This makes for a very bad circular argument that can be VERY frustrating for people with skeptical, though honest, questions.
First, let's start with what isn't different about HST compared with previous training programs. The length of this list is what has raised this question in the first place, and justifiably so. Let's begin with the "concepts" and then follow with the "methods".
Pre-existing Scientific Concepts of Weight Training Found in HST:
• Stimulus Leads to Adaptation (cause and effect)
• Specific Adaptation to Implied Demands (SAID) or simply "Specificity"
• Progressive Resistance
• Some relationship between Time and Tension
• Diminishing Returns
Pre-existing Methods of Weight Training Found in HST:
• Traditional Weight Lifting Movements both compound and isolation (squat, bench, curls, etc)
• Training the whole body 3 times per week
• Altering weight loads used over time
• Altering the number of repetitions used over time
• Doing eccentric reps (negatives)
There has never been a weight training program that did not incorporate or mention most of these Concepts, and at least some of these Methods. Entire books (big books) have been written to explore these concepts and teach these methods. Whenever research was required, like for a textbook, you would find "strength and conditioning" research sited to support the validity of the concepts and virtues of each particular training method. The studies used "strength" and other "performance indicators" as a measure of whether the concept and/or method were valid.
This has been perfectly sufficient for nearly everybody including trainers, teachers, professors, coaches and athletes, who have ever lifted a weight. For those who needed more, they simply explored other methods for steadily increasing body mass - I'm referring specifically to hormones.
The exploration of the hypertrophic effects of hormones began in the 50s and has continued unabated every since. Today, a competitive bodybuilder considers himself conservative if he only uses 1 gram of Testosterone per week. Lest I digress, we are not including the effects of androgens and other drugs in this discussion. That is a different issue with concepts and methods specific to the pharmacology and endocrinology of hormones and muscle tissue.
Now let's consider the concepts and/or principles or beliefs of traditional weight training that HST refutes. These are the concepts that the new research refutes most specifically.
Pre-existing Concepts that HST Refutes:
• A muscle must be fully recovered before you should train it again.
• You should not train a muscle that is sore (DOMS, not injury).
• You must never train a muscle on consecutive days. (i.e. train the same muscle everyday)
• The concept of "Overtraining" in general as it applies to bodybuilding.
• You must train with maximum "intensity" to elicit significant muscle growth.
• You should not use eccentric training on a "frequent" basis.
• You must change your exercise selection regularly in order to "confuse the muscle" into continued growth.
• You must hit a muscle at every angle in order to adequately train it.
• Muscle Fatigue is the primary indicator of having triggered the growth signal
• You must effectively isolate a muscle in order to train it effectively.
• You can train a muscle in such as way as to change its natural shape.
Pre-existing Methods and/or practices that HST Refutes:
• Training a muscle no more than once or twice per week.
• Training less frequently as your "intensity" increases.
• Adding weight only when you can complete a certain number of additional reps at that weight. (This is a fundamental difference!
• Training to failure every set and/or workout (If you don't how would you know if you can perform additional reps at that weight yet?)
• Forced reps
• Performing several "obligatory" exercises per body part per workout
• Performing multiple exhaustive sets per exercise
• Changing exercises to "confuse" the muscle.
The above erroneous concepts/beliefs and the methods/practices they engender are the cause of all the confusion and different training programs out their today. Most all of it stems from bodybuilding magazines fabricating these concepts and practices to address their ongoing need for new content each month, and to conceal the use of drugs required to attain the level of mass flaunted by the sponsored models. By limiting your study of muscle growth to these magazines you will be ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. But that is an issue to be addressed elsewhere.
Now, there is one traditional concept with its associated methods and practices that often make HST appear to be like previous programs. That is the concept of "periodization".
We will only briefly discuss the topic of periodization, as only a brief treatise will be sufficient to show the differences between periodization and HST. For more detailed discussions of periodization you are advised to read "Super Training: Special Strength Training for Sporting Excellence" by Siff & Verkhoshansky, "Special Strength Training" by Verkhoshansky, "Fundamentals of Sport Training" by Matveyev and "Science and Practice of Strength Training" by Zatsiorski.
Traditional concepts of periodization are based on methods used to manipulate intensity (i.e. work and/or load), volume and frequency in order to manage CNS fatigue and adaptability in athletes. To date, the art of periodization has entered the mathematical age and significant progress is being made in modeling systems designed to predict CNS fatigue and changes in the individual's fitness level. (1,2,3). Once an individual familiarizes him or herself with the true concept of periodization, they will immediately see the difference between Strategic Deconditioning and Periodization for strength training.
For example, here are a few differences between SD and Periodization:
• SD is used to decrease fitness level (A.K.A. conditioning).
• Periodization is used to increase fitness level.
• SD is used to increase the micro trauma associated with training.
• Periodization is used to decrease the trauma associated with training.
• SD is used to reduce work capacity.
• Periodization is used to increase work capacity.
• SD is applied irrespective of the need for "rest".
• Periodization according to the need for rest.
• SD is not based on "peaking" performance.
• Periodization's sole purpose is to allow the athlete to peak on a specific date.
So, when people ask, "What's different about HST?", tell them plenty! And its those differences that make HST superior to any other bodybuilding training method existing today.