Comparing Traditional Weight Training and HST
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 not ever been a weight training program that did not incorporate or mention at least 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 this wasn’t sufficient, 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.
1: Pichot V, Busso T, Roche F, Garet M, Costes F, Duverney D, Lacour JR, Barthelemy JC. Autonomic adaptations to intensive and overload training periods: a laboratory study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Oct;34(10):1660-6.
2: Busso T, Benoit H, Bonnefoy R, Feasson L, Lacour JR. Effects of training frequency on the dynamics of performance response to a single training bout. J Appl Physiol. 2002 Feb;92(2):572-80.
3: Busso T, Denis C, Bonnefoy R, Geyssant A, Lacour JR. Modeling of adaptations to physical training by using a recursive least squares algorithm. J Appl Physiol. 1997 May;82(5):1685-93.