Load doesn't matter...or does it?

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy Research' started by Bryan Haycock, Jul 3, 2012.

  1. Bryan Haycock

    Bryan Haycock Administrator Staff Member

    Here is a recently published study.

    1. J Appl Physiol. 2012 Apr 19. [Epub ahead of print]

    Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains
    in young men.

    Mitchell CJ, Churchward-Venne TA, West DD, Burd NA, Breen L, Baker SK, Phillips

    1McMaster University.

    We have reported that the acute post-exercise increases in muscle protein
    synthesis rates, with differing nutritional support, are predictive of
    longer-term training-induced muscle hypertrophy. Here, we aimed to test whether
    the same was true with acute exercise-mediated changes in muscle protein
    synthesis. Eighteen men (21±1 yr, 22.6±2.1 kg•m(-2) means±SE) had their legs
    randomly assigned to two of three training conditions that differed in
    contraction intensity (% of maximal strength [1RM]) or contraction volume (1 or 3
    sets of repetitions): 30%-3, 80%-1 and, 80%-3. Subjects trained each leg with
    their assigned regime for a period of 10wk, 3 times/wk. We made pre- and
    post-training measures of strength, muscle volume by magnetic resonance (MR)
    scans, as well as pre- and post-training biopsies of the vastus lateralis, and a
    single post-exercise (1h) biopsy following the first bout of exercise, to measure
    signalling proteins. Training-induced increases in MR-measured muscle volume were
    significant (P<0.01), with no difference between groups: 30%-3 = 6.8±1.8%, 80%-1
    = 3.2±0.8%, and 80%-3= 7.2±1.9%, P=0.18. Isotonic maximal strength gains were not
    different between 80%-1 and 80%-3, but were greater than 30% -3 (P=0.04), whereas
    training-induced isometric strength gains were significant but not different
    between conditions (P =0.92). Biopsies taken 1h following the initial resistance
    exercise bout showed increased phosphorylation (P<0.05) of p70S6K only in the
    80%-1 and 80%-3 conditions. There was no correlation between phosphorylation of
    any signalling protein and hypertrophy. In accordance with our previous acute
    measurements of muscle protein synthetic rates a lower load lifted to failure
    resulted in similar hypertrophy as a heavy load lifted to failure.

    PMID: 22518835 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

    Of course you have to read the full text to see that these are untrained individuals...i.e. they do not lift weights. The authors make note however, that everybody prescribing weight lifting protocols for muscle hypertrophy are simply ignorant of the growing body of evidence showing that load doesn't matter as long as you train to failure. They use occlusion studies as their examples.

    I try not to spout HST this and HST that all the time, but in this case it is surprising to me that academia is not recognizing the existence of a "threshold" for a loading stimulus to be effective. In addition, this threshold is a moving target. One HST principle I have repeated over the years is that the effectiveness of any load is dependent on the condition of the tissue at the time the load is applied. As the muscle tissue adapts to the previous loading sessions it pushes the threshold higher. Repeated training sessions cause the effective weight threshold to go up and reduces the effectiveness of any previous load.

    So no, you don’t see a linear dose-response by simply increasing the weight load. The seemingly equivalent results from widely varying weight loads demonstrate a “threshold” effect. As with other threshold-type models, once the threshold is crossed you see diminishing returns as you push things higher. The same is true for weight; heavier doesn’t necessarily mean more effective. The only time heavier equals better is when you haven’t reached the effective weight threshold for your specific situation (i.e. level of conditioning).

    Ok, I'm done with my rant now. I just hate to see data being interpreted by academics who apparently have no experience with weight lifting and hypertrophy. Sure, I might be going a little overboard with that but still, to say that weight doesn't matter as long as you try really hard (my flippant paraphrasing of this study's conclusions) is to ignore the repeated bout effect, progressive load, and a mountain of data showing that once a lifter has adapted to lifting, his/her muscle changes genotypically in such a way as to make further growth very difficult, necessitating an increase in the intensity of the stimulus (i.e. weight/volume).

    Ok, now I'm done for real. :eek:
  2. anoop

    anoop New Member

    Where were you when we discussed the same thing with the author Phillip on Facebook?

    He just couldn't admit that in trained it may be different. And recruitment is only part of the story as you very well know. Good post, Bryan.
  3. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Bryan, does the science still recommend training a MG 3 times a week for optimum growth? Or maybe now it's 2? Borge Fagerli (Blade) does it. Lyle McDonald does it.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  4. Bryan Haycock

    Bryan Haycock Administrator Staff Member

    Most studies show more or less equal results from 2 or 3 times per week frequency. What this tells me is that two times per week is the minimum and 3 times per week (under normal circumstances) is the maximum for traditional weight training methods. Occlusion training studies often have them train everyday and get good results...but the load-stress is removed in favor of metabolic stress so recovery is slightly different.
  5. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I kinda started noticing diminishing returns for the last 3-4 cycles, even at my relatively average loads, doing HST 3 times a week. So how should I change my program (it's the default one offered for HST) to accommodate hitting a MG twice a week? Simply do 4 workouts instead of 6 each microcycle, and simply increase volume accordingly each workout?
  6. Bryan Haycock

    Bryan Haycock Administrator Staff Member

    I don't know that dropping to 2x/week is necessarily going to be the answer. Rather, I would keep the 3x/week frequency during the 15s & 10s and then drop to twice per week for the 5s and increase the volume accordingly. This is assuming that that training frequency is your weak link. I'm not sure that it is but that's one way to alter your frequency in a logical way.

    You may actually see better results by going to a 6 day split, upper/lower or push/pull. That way you can increase the volume and or exercises as desired without dragging out the workout too much. Upper/lower is my preferred split.
  7. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I still think your diminishing returns were diet related and not due to the layout of HST.
  8. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Thanks, guys. Bryan, I'm still having a hard time grasping why you're still suggesting 3 times a week, when research has clearly demonstrated it to not be superior to loading a muscle twice a week in terms of resultant growth? Please don't get me wrong. Up until very recently I've trained HST 3 times a week for 2.5 years with this program:
    One-armed DB OH press (each arm)
    Seated rows / pull-ups (switch each 6-week cycle)
    Biceps curls

    at first I made some strength+mass gains, but clearly speaking, for the last year or so, my strength gains have come to a crawling stop, because during heavy 5's, I've been finding it very difficult to keep doing even 1 heavy set of each. Strength would drop and there was nothing I could do about it. I would even do only 2-3 reps a weight I would otherwise do 5 reps with, and go home feeling like a squeezed lemon, screwing the workout.

    Totentanz, I didn't always eat small like that. I used to eat a lot, and gained enough "bad" weight for people to start saying I'm fat (no, I wasn't _that_ fat). This is my first cycle using the default HST routine. Together with that, I've decided to cut back on foods, and did well, as I'm now way down to 69 kg (152 lbs).
    But my training problems arose long before that. I actually changed the training exercises to get rid of Squats+DL 3 times a week, as I think they were the problem of the overreaching symptoms I had.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2012
  9. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    From the time I switched to the default example HST routine my strength levels in Squats & BP began decreasing. I used to squat 260 lbs x5 and now all I can do is 225x3... Coincidentally those are the exercises meant to be alternated with Leg Press & Dips, respectively, every other workout. So, if we speak in terms of strength gains, squats or BP 3 times a week is definitely a better suit. I don't think this is diet related because in all other exercises (done 3 times a week) I'm experiencing new strength gains.
  10. misev

    misev New Member

    Higher frequency is definitely the way to go. If you're familiar with olympic weightlifting, then you know that the Bulgarian system of training (lifting every day to the max) has produced some exceptional athletes.
    If you're not professional then every day is obviously too much. But you should aim for the highest frequency at which you won't overtrain.
  11. QuantumPositron2

    QuantumPositron2 New Member

    Training is complicated. The Bulgarian lifters can train that was because 1: They are training different biomotor abilities than we (bodybuilders) are and 2: They are at an elite stage of development and conditioning. To your point though Misev, Chad Waterbury has been experimenting with high frequency training for bodybuilders and his results are encouraging, anecdotal as they may be.

    That research does not account for training age, which is a concept similar to Brian's threshold notion. As training age increases frequency may need to increase as well. Or it may decrease. Depends on the biomotor ability being trained and the training method employed.
  12. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Thanks. So, in light of all this, how would one better tweak the "vanilla" workout? Get rid of leg press and do squats only 3 times a week? Same for bench, getting rid of Dips? Or maybe leave leg press & dips on Wed only, doing squats+bench on Mon+Fri?

    I don't really like the fact that my strength in Squats & BP has decreased. I don't think it's going to play well with getting bigger. Had I trained like this from the beginning, I would never have known there were better ways. But the HST FAQ does suggest limiting lower-back-loading exercises to no more than twice a week. So leaving leg press for at least 1 day a week would seem like a better idea than squat-only routine.
    But I definitely need to change something about this routine cause I don't like getting weaker ;)
  13. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Guys, could you tell me one thing: will I do something absolutely awful and void any chance of getting bigger if I alter this default program like so: get rid of leg press & dips? That is, do both squats & bench 3 times a week?
  14. Blade

    Blade Super Moderator Staff Member

    You should be fine. Just ask the millions of weightlifters, powerlifters and 5x5’ers who successfully squat, bench and often DL 3-6x/week.
  15. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    Thanks, I'll try that next cycle! I still wonder if the program is like that for a good reason. I feel I'm getting weaker doing squats & BP less often. True, strength isn't a goal of HST (and isn't one of my goals), but decreased load will do my muscles little service, won't it?
  16. Blade

    Blade Super Moderator Staff Member

    A decreased load after the tissue is sensitized to SD (and even without SD IME and IMO) will do you a world of good, and improve results long-term.
  17. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    I didn't mean weight willingly decreased after SD (as per HST), but forcibly decreased 5RM because you're now only this strong. Since you've decreased the frequency of squats and bench, anyway. That's what has happened to me.
  18. Joe.Muscle

    Joe.Muscle Active Member

    Bryan if 3 times a week is the maximum what in your opinion should be optimal in the form of total reps to create the "right now effect" for hypertrophy.

    I ask this only b/c a lot of people have the opinion that training a muscle group 3 times over a week and dividing the weekly volume over those 3 days is not the same as getting the same volume per week in using 2 days per muscle group. These same people use the argument that volume spread out over 2 days per muscle group gives the muscle group more volume per session or more of the right now effect needed (especially in veteran lifters) to create hypertrophy.

    For example 100 reps over 3 days = 33.3 reps per session for say Chest training.

    Were 100 reps over 2 days = 50 reps per session for Chest training.

    Option 2 is less frequency but has more volume at that workout session which ***may*** be what an advanced lifter needs to get enought volume to hypertrophy?

    Brian do you agree or disagree?

  19. HST_Rihad

    HST_Rihad Active Member

    I really good question, I hope Bryan could come up with an answer to that.
    BTW, to understand HST it could help to think of it from two different perspectives: there's SD & linear progression of weights up to 5RM (the HST style), and there's working at maximum 5RM loads for at least 2 more weeks, increasing loads as strength permits (the shut-up-and-lift style). Combining both methods gives good results. I love HST.
  20. Joe.Muscle

    Joe.Muscle Active Member

    Im really interested in the 3 days a week routine per muscle group.

    Any routine that uses HST principals is HST for example upper / lower/ upper / lower split and etc.

    But what a lot of the science guys / experts tend to differ on how much volume or work is needed to create hypertrophy in a given workout. We bascially know the answer to this for beginner lifters but when looking at advanced or non-newbie lifters the only recent research that I know of is the Wernbom study that showed 30-60 reps per muscle group were optimal.

    So I am seeing more people favor the higher end of the rep range (at least using straight sets). Now if you start talking rest pause traing (i.e. DC training,Myo-reps,Max-Stim, etc) you can get by using the low end of that study...possibly even as low as 15 to 20 reps.

    But in the context of and HST cycle using straight sets and progressive overload over time at each workout. I no bryan favors a 6 day a week upper lower split but I wonder were he thinks the general (mass of people) should shoot for in terms of total reps / work per session using either a 3 day a week full body routine HST style.

    A lot of people (myself included) dont have the time or desire to hit the gym 6 days a week to make gains.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2012

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