Some people get confused reading the instructional articles on this website, how people implement HST, and the posts in the FAQ. Many, including myself, have a tendency to overanalyze everything in hopes of finding that elusive "perfect" routine and diet that will magically put slabs of muscle on your body in no time. Sometimes you just have to get to the gym and TRAIN. As a thread in the main HST forum evolved into personal insults, the man himself steps up and posts this great reminder for all of us - a summary of the basic principles of HST, something to keep in the back of your mind whenever you have doubts, or want to individualize your routine in the most efficient way:
"I'm afraid some of us are missing the point of an instructional article or even a message board such as this.
When you write an instructional article that is to be read by thousands of people, you must put out a routine that will do the most good for most people if they follow it to the "T".
Nevertheless, this type of mass instruction (no pun intended) will always be inferior to individual instruction. DO NOT CONFUSE THIS FACT WITH CHANGING PRINCIPLES! The principles do not change. They remain the same. What made a muscle grow yesterday, will be the same thing that makes it grow today, and tomorrow and so forth.
Allow me to repeat and/or refresh your memories about some of the more relevant principles of muscle size and growth with respect to lifting weights.
Several things determine the size of a muscle. First, your genetic endowment from your parents will determine what body type you have as an adult. Good or bad, you are the product of your parents genes, your muscle included: Second, environmental factors such as nutrition, hormones, and mechanical workload. For our purposes we will focus on mechanical workload (e.g. weightlifting) and nutrition.
A muscle will grow larger in response to being forced to move, support, or in any general sense sustain a weight that it is unaccustomed to. Muscle cells are a type of “mechanocyte” and respond chemically to being mechanically strained or “loaded”. The effects of stretching a muscle while it is relaxed will cause it to grow. Likewise, stretching a muscle while it is trying to contract will also cause it to grow.
The reason a muscle grows when you stretch it while contracting or relaxed is because the cells themselves will undergo stretch, and the stretch- or mechano-receptors in the cell membrane will send a chemical signal to the nucleus to make the appropriate proteins. This will increase the ability of the cell to resist stretching and the damage associated with it. In the case of weight lifting where there are metabolic demands, the cells will also increase their metabolic capacity.
So, adaptation to stretching a muscle cell is both an increase in size, as well as an increased resistance to further increases in size (i.e. resistance to damage). The increased resistance to further damage is called the “Repeated Bout Effect” (RBE). The RBE is generally what causes a non-steroid using individual to stop growing larger despite continued training.
One way to overcome to RBE is to increase the load and/or increase the time that the muscle tissue is exposed to the load. In other words, increase the weight and/or the volume. Both are limited by the CNS. The later is limited by the CNS’s ability to fire up the muscle and maintain contractions at a given intensity (i.e. endurance). The former is limited by the individual’s “strength”.
One other way that is unique to HST to overcome the stagnating effects of the RBE is by strategically deconditioning (SD) the muscle. The deconditioning effect allows weight loads the muscle has previously grow resistant to cause the desired effect once again. This is because SD helps to undue the RBE to a small extent.
So, HST uses SD to prepare the muscle to respond to less than maximum weight loads. This is important because maximum weight loads can’t be used often enough over time to really grow quickly.
Then, HST uses progressive load. This is critical to cope with the effects of the RBE.
HST does not require that you train to failure because that prevents you from training frequently enough. It’s better to train according to the recovery of the muscle (48 hours) than according to the CNS (up to a week or longer).
Finally, HST does not utilize useless techniques and methods pushed by bodybuilding magazines such as “muscle confusion”, “pre-exhaustion”, and “intensity” oriented training. All of which are affecting the CNS and not the muscle tissue itself.
Now, you want to know how many sets you have to use to grow your muscles. If you understood the principles as outlined above you would already know the answer to that question. If you want research on the matter, mechanical-overload studies show that a muscle can be loaded for days to weeks without being unloaded and experience tremendous growth.
So ask yourself, will any number of sets you could possibly do in one workout equal even 1 hour of constant load? So asking whether you should do 1 set or 2 sets isn’t really relevant unless you are simply interested in how to set up your routine. As far as muscle growth goes, the more time under tension the more potent the growth stimulus.
Once again, if you understand the principles of hypertrophy, you should be thinking, “My CNS could never handle loading the muscle for even 30 minutes in one session and still allow me to train again in 48 hours.” So, you must find the amount of volume you can handle and still train effectively in 48 hours. For someone who isn’t conditioned, 1 - 2 sets per exercise (~3-6 sets/week) is sufficient to cause muscle growth. If you have been training for many years (5+) consistently then it might take more time under tension. This person will either need to take more time training in order to accommodate more sets per exercise, or split up their workout into two sessions and train either twice per day, or 6 days per week. This is how guys like myself, Blade, Boris, and others train. I have been training for over 25 years, and it takes a bit more strain and time to overcome years of RBE. Does this mean that the principles of load and time under load have changed for me, as opposed to the new guy? Absolutely NOT!
Strain is what my muscles grow. It is what makes the new guy’s muscle grow. The difference? RBE. RBE makes my muscle more resistant to strain, thus, I need to either increase the strain or increase the time that my muscle is strained. Here are the limitations:
1) My strength levels limit increasing the strain
2) My tissues ability to support the strain without tearing limit increasing the strain
3) My CNS limits increasing the time my muscles can be strained.
So, I must work within these limitations to continue to grow over time. My only other option is to use testosterone which will reduce the need for both strain and time under strain for the most part. But as a natural lifter, I am left to manipulate my training to make the most of the principles. The method that results from these manipulations is called HST when growth is the primary goal.
Now, as I have already done as much as I can over the years to freely try to help people get the most from their training, I don’t know that I need to feel like I’m on trial on my own message board. The information that “I” have provided on this board is true. The research that I have shared on this board is of high quality and can be trusted to be valid. The basic HST program that I have outlined to be applied by anybody and everybody on this board is as good as can be offered considering it must be “one-size-fits-all”.
My advice, if you are interested in saving years of wasted time, use HST as outlined. Then as you grow more and more resistant to further growth (i.e. conditioned), increase those factors you know are responsible for muscle growth. Take it to the limit. But no-one can really tell you ahead of time what your limit will be. Not only that, your limit will change from day to day and will definitely change as the years go by and you begin noticing grey hairs…in your ears!