Also read the Strategic Deconditioning article.
Once you have maxed out your voluntary strength levels, growth will stop. It may take several weeks for it to stall. Once this happens, HST incorporates Strategic Deconditioning in order to lower the level of conditioning of the muscle tissue. This is necessary in order to use "submax" weights.
Is the purpose of SD to cure overtraining? No. Research has shown a week is not long enough to reverse the symptoms of overtraining. If you have been properly managing your training volume, you wont be overtrained anyway. If you are, you should adjust your training levels. [Note] Overtraining is not necessary for hypertrophy. Methods such as "over reaching" are used to increase performance, not hypertrophy.
The efficacy of the stimulus is relative to the state of conditioning of the "tissue", not voluntary strength levels. Of course, a muscle's cross sectional area is related to the amount of force it can generate. But a load able to induce "microdamage", and thus hypertrophy, doesn't have to be at the top of the individual’s voluntary strength output. It only has to be heavy enough to induce microtrauma to the tissue. This is relative the state of conditioning, or the tissues level of resistance to further damage.
Granted, any form of exercise will alter patterns of protein synthesis and degradation. But a muscle cell can only grow significantly if some degree of tissue microtrauma occurs. This is brought about when the load is sufficient to strain the cell membrane and its integral structural and contractile protein structures. This signals cellular messengers of various kinds including calcineurin and MAPKs and their associated nuclear counterparts.
Now, if you are training without the aid of exogenous hormones, you will eventually come to the limit of your voluntary strength if you have used the principle of progressive overload. Obviously, at this limit you will be training at 100% effort. And essence, your progress has also reached its pinnacle. The muscle is absolutely tuff as shoe leather (so to speak) and you can no longer add more weight to get it to grow further. What do you do? Well, you can do what thousands of people do and simply beat your brains out using the same weight workout after workout for months or even years on end. As long as your level of conditioning (resistance to microtrauma) stays the same, and the level of weight you use stays the same, your muscles will stay the same. Big or small, they will stay the same.
SD is simply a method that allows (not “tricks”) your muscles to continue to grow, using weights that your muscles have seen before. The method is simple, the science is complicated, the results are significant.
P.S. If you are afraid of using baby weights, check your ego at the door, or use the heaviest weights you can lift from day one an be satisfied with your results, in other words, stop looking for anything better.
I have never claimed that a period of Strategic Deconditioning lasting 7-12 days would completely revert your muscles to an "untrained" state. I have spoken frequently of the rapid training effect or repeated bout effect. Some protection seems to last for a very long time. Still, 7-12 days of complete rest does appear to cause some reversal of the adaptations to training. And from the application, it appears it is sufficient to allow one to start growing again, once gains have stopped with a given weight. Hopefully through the forum and other articles and interviews people have come to learn that SD is more than just a break from training.
Someone who has trained for an extended period of time using 5s/negs at loads of 85%+ of 1RM would often require upwards of 2 weeks SD to ensure sufficient reversal. More advanced athletes have successfully extended the HST cycle with 5s and negatives with the addition of drop sets (refer to the drop set thread), but if this is your first time doing HST I suggest you do the regular 6-8 week cycle as outlined on this website.
The effectiveness of tension to elicit hypertrophy depends on the condition of the muscle at the time the tension is applied. So, after a period of regular heavy training, the muscle becomes resistant to further growth. I don’t think anyone needs an article in a medical journal to tell them that.
So the only solution to overcome the progressive resistance to tension is to progressively increase the tension. This works perfectly…for a while. The problem is that once you have “maxed out” your strength you can no longer apply a consistently effective stimulus (i.e. tension) for hypertrophy. Once this happens you plateau. You are dead in the water. 99 out of 100 lifters in any given gym will not make any significant muscle growth from one month to the next because of this phenomena, despite their efforts to constantly get stronger. So all the end up doing is busting their butt each and every workout just to stay the same. This effect is so tangible that it eventually leads to a type of paranoia of getting smaller should they ever stop killing themselves in the gym. In a word, this is modern natural bodybuilding…ok, 3 words.
The solution is to lower the resistance to the stimulus. This is called Strategic Deconditioning in HST. When Strategic Deconditioning is properly applied to ones training, growth can resume, even when using weights previously used.
Is there research to demonstrate this scenario? Yes, but it isn’t exactly coffee table reading. The HST book however will not force you to rely on my word. It will contain a full treaties of the research behind HST.
Until the book is ready, you’ll have to just trust me and use other peoples results as evidence. If not, that’s ok too. Just as long as you are growing with whatever you’re doing you’re fine...for the time being anyway.