Optimizing HST

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A natural trainer can probably put on an additional 30-40 pounds of muscle. Muscle growth requires the proliferation and differentiation of satellite cells. When this stops, so does muscle growth. Muscles can also grow by increasing the number of cells (hyperplasia). This is greatly enhanced by using testosterone. It also happens in natural trainers depending on their age and training style.

Bone structure and height play no role in muscle "growth". They only play a role in a muscle's appearance. There are other and more important factors involved - such as hormonal milieu, efficiency and levels of various enzymes pertaining to biochemistry (which also determines how your body handles nutrients), length of muscles and attachment of tendons etc etc. just to name a few.

Nutrition (supplements) also plays a role. With HST the same muscularity can be reached in much less time. Under the right conditions, muscle mass can increase dramatically within a few weeks.

Theoretically, with heavy drug use, a human could probably put on 20 pounds in 4 weeks. That same person could probably put on 50-60 pounds in 12 months. I have never personally seen anyone do this though.

Reaching your potential while training natural is still going to take time...years. But you can knock off quite a bit of time with HST and good nutritional and supplementation practices.

Please understand that when people ask me answer questions like, "how big can someone get", I have to be conservative to avoid undue criticism...I couldn't promise anyone 60 lbs of muscle...that’s quite a bit of extra muscle for a natural trainer. I don't really know how much I have "put on" because I began lifting at age 8. So, I don't know how big I would be without lifting. I did get down to 155 however after a severe illness. Since then I have gained about 60 pounds of LBM.

To optimize HST a person should train twice per day. He/she should use 2 routines, and AM program and a PM program. Some exercises could be repeated but most should change from morning to evening. The normal progression of weight increments and reps to be followed. That is twice per day, 3 times per week. So still only train MWF but train twice on those days. I think I get a little more out of it when I do whole body twice. Although, I often split up upper and lower body when something cuts my workout short in the morning. Don't forget we're talking about volume too. The volume doesn't necessarily double. Just the frequency.

There is the possibility that training once per day 6 days per week would be just as effective. But to be on the safe side, a rest day with massage is probably better to avoid injuries.

On days off, you should receive a full body deep tissue sports massage. However, it isn't necessary to get to painful. The massage is simply a way to eliminate spasms, increase blood flow, increase protein uptake, and activate satellite cells. You shouldn't be "sore" after the massage. if it is done properly, your muscles will literally be pumped afterwards. A protein supplement should be taken before and after the massage.

Calories should be high. Take bodyweight and multiply it by 18 or 20 depending on fat gain. This should give you about 500 to 1,000 above maintenance. Protein should be at least 0.8-1 gram per pound of bodyweight. Avoid saturated fat (within reason).

Take a protein supplement before and after training. Use creatine as well. EFAs should be included (Fish oil and CLA).

Also read the Eating for Size article.

If you do these things you will grow very quickly. There are other things you can do but then you wouldn't be "natural" anymore.
Should I modify HST if my goal is fat loss?

HST should not be altered according to caloric intake. Although you will notice decrements in performance when calories and/or carbs are very low, the training stimulus will still be optimized when the program is followed as outlined. While calories are high, the program will optimize the anabolic effects of feeding. While dieting, the program will minimize the catabolic effects of starving (i.e.dieting).

In reality, nutrition should be optimized for the desired goal, then left alone regardless of the training regimen. HST principles optimize the training stimulus. Now, if you go on a fat loss diet and eat too few calories, HST will prevent as much muscle loss as possible because it is optimized for muscle growth. If you are trying to gain weight, HST is still optimized for muscle growth, so HST will ensure the greatest possible gains with a mass building diet.

Here is the only thing I would recommend as far as adjusting the diet:

The purpose of the 15's and early 10's is to flush the tissue with lactic acid and create and accumulation of oxidative byproducts in the cells. In order to optimize this you must be eating a fair amount of carbs. When you eat a lot of carbs the muscle will burn a lot of glycogen, creating lactic acid and producing the desired effect (enhanced tendon strength and functional oxidative capacity). When you get into the heavy 5's and negatives the carbs should come down a bit. Insulin sensitivity declines as muscle damage increases. I would say about 30% carbs during the really heavy weeks is sufficient to support growth.
Tweaking HST

I frequently hear comments both for and against tweaking or personalizing HST on an individual basis. This is to be expected among people who are real enthusiasts of weight training. You also find this irresistible urge to tweak among other enthusiasts such as audiophiles. An audiophile will go out and spend obscene amounts of money on the highest end exotic equipment they can find. But this isn't good enough! They must find some way to "tweak" it, some way to make it their own delectable creation. Anything from placing the turntable on a 3 inch marble slab, putting sand bags on and/or in the speakers, or using speaker wire that cost as much as the car you used to drive to the store. Whenever you find people who are really into what they are doing, they will try to find ways not only to squeeze out the last bit of performance, but also make it their own creation.

I think it comes down to a couple issues which I'll address after a short review for those new to HST.

First let me clarify that HST is based on physiologically sound principles, not numbers. In short, they are:

• Progressive load
• Training volume
• Training frequency
• Conditioning (Repeated Bout effect)/Strategic Deconditioning

So we are dealing with 4 basic issues, Load, Volume, Frequency and Conditioning. Within these basic factors we have reps, sets, and rest. HST differs from previous training methods in many aspects, but particularly in how it incorporates knowledge of how the "cell" physiologically responds to the training stimulus in its methodology. Previous methods focus on effort (A.K.A Intensity), current voluntary strength, and psychological factors such as fatigue and variety (i.e. many different exercises).

• The number of Reps is determined by the minimum effective load (this changes over time based on Conditioning)

• The number of Sets is determined by the minimum effective volume (this changes over time according to current load and Conditioning status.)

• The Rest between sets is determined by the amount of time required to regain sufficient strength to successfully achieve the minimum effective Volume.

• The Frequency (rest between workouts) is determined by the ability of the CNS to recover sufficiently to maintain baseline "health" indicators. It is also determined by the time course of genetic expression resultant from the previous workout.

• The interval of Strategic Deconditioning (SD) is determined by the time course of adaptation to the individuals maximum weight loads. In other words, SD is required to reset growth potential after plateauing. The duration of SD is determined by the level of conditioning attained during the training cycle.

Anyone who argues with these points 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.

Why do people tweak and change HST? 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. Only then will you really have faith in your plan. 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.
How to get in more volume

Having the liberty to train twice per day and/or everyday opens up the possibility to significantly increase training volume.

As long as a "highly conditioned" person stays within his/her limits of exercise tolerance, doing more generally means better gains. I don't mean more fatigue, I mean more reps with a given load... Sounds like one in the same but it isn't really. To understand, consider the "effort" (A.K.A. CNS activation, or even "intensity" by its incorrect HIT terminology) it requires to do the 1st as compared to the last rep of your 10 rep max. The tension produced on the tissue doesn't change from the 1st rep to the last. The only thing that changes is the amount of CNS activiation required to contract the muscle under load.

So, more reps doesn't necessarily mean more fatigue if you can get enough rest in between sets. To get more and more rest, simply do 2 workouts spread out by several hours. Hence, the value of training twice per day.

Another advantage is being able to do more volume per bodypart during one session. You can also split the body up into 2 halves and train half in the AM and the other half in the PM. This essentially allows you to double the amount of volume per session per bodypart.

My comments about training twice per day, 3 times per week as optimal stem from the ability to increase the volume per bodypart, and still having adequate rest between training sessions (e.g. M,W,F).

This also applies to cardio.

It may sound counterproductive but it isn't. Just consuming more food will create a more anabolic environment (more insulin, more leptin, more test, more GH), and the additional exercise also enhances this by increasing IGF-1, and protein synthesis rates in tissues. (yes, cardio increases protein synthesis in those muscle you are using)

The additional exercise will also lower your average glycogen levels and increase your insulin sensitivity at the same time, in addition you will get some upregulation of lipolytic enzymes. All of this makes those additional calories that you are eating less lipogenic.
More on AM/PM splits

Ok, here are a few points to think about.

1) Increasing volume isn't a bad thing. The only time it is contraindicated is when you can't handle any more volume because the current weight loads are sufficiently heavy and are causing sufficient trauma to the tissues with minimal volume and adequate frequency.

There is a false notion that HST is about “low volume”. This notion arose from people erroneously stereotyping HST as a previously existing “muscle beach” method used by guys in “the good ol’ days”. HST prescribes that volume be more evenly distributed over time to create a more constant environment and thus and more consistent stimulus for muscle growth. The volume of training in HST does not differ significantly from previous programs.

2) The only physiological benefit to training twice per day is to increase the amount of loading the muscle is getting. So, if I were to go from once per day training to twice per day training, and not increase the volume, I would not be deriving any particular anabolic benefit from splitting up my workouts into two shorter sessions. You may however benefit from doing this in other ways such as accommodating a tight schedule or getting the most out of limited energy levels.

3) It is ok to either repeat the previous workout, or to use a different group of exercises, as long as the second set of exercises is comparable in effectiveness to the first group. In other words, you can have Workout A and Workout B and simply alternate between them, using workout A in the morning and Workout B in the evening or vice versa.

Different exercises for the same muscle group usually only differ in the number of muscle groups involved, and the degree of stretch experienced by each muscle group during the movement. In the end, when things get really heavy, all primary movers will be activated 100% regardless of the stance, or foot placement, or hand position, etc. So for example, wide stance squats will hit just as much muscle as shoulder width squats. All that differs is the amount of stretch involved for the inner thigh (adductors). However, when a maximal squat is attempted with either stance, all muscle will be equally activated. This can be better understood by considering each joint separately. It is either extending or flexing…regardless of body position.

The point of all this is that you can pick two different compound exercises for each major muscle group, squat/press for legs, high-/mid-pull for back, incline/dip for chest. Then do whatever you want for bis, tris, delts, calves, abs. The reason you can do whatever you want for the smaller muscle groups if because of the limited natural of their function on a single joint.

Another option is to split the body into two halves (e.g. upper/lower or push/pull) and do half in the AM and the other half in the PM. This will allow more time (i.e. sets) to be done per muscle group during a single workout. You can either do more sets per exercise, or simply add exercises and keep the sets per exercise the same.

Now we haven’t touched on the “consequences” of two-a-day training. Briefly, you will be more tired and you will burn more calories. This means that two-a-days will be easier using lighter weight loads such as the 15s, or the first week of any rep range. It also means you will be more likely to experience a caloric deficit. This means you may need to up your carbs while doing two-a-days.

Just as important to realize is that you will be more likely to experience “burn out”. Your motivation to train can really take a hit after several weeks of two-a-days. Keep this in mind! This does not mean that your muscles are experiencing the same mental boredom or fatigue, it simply means that doing something relatively difficult and tiresome twice as often makes you get tired of doing it twice as fast.

- Bryan
Recommendations on AM/PM split during your HST cycle

You won't last long doubling the volume just because you are using am/pm splits.

Here is what I suggest.

1) When using 15s: Go ahead a repeat the am workout in the same day pm workout. Especially when things are very light (1st week of 15s).

2) When using 10s: First week of 10s, assuming some zigg-zagg, go ahead and repeat the am workout in the pm. During the second week of 10s, split the body up into two halves, either push/pull or upper body/lower body. This will allow more sets for each exercise because you are only training half the body at a time.

3) When using 5s: Once again, if you are getting a pretty good zigg-zagg in weight loads (which is just fine), go ahead and do 2 identical workouts, one in the morning and then once in the evening. When things get heavy however, split the body up again into two halves and train have the body in the morning and the remaining half in the evening.

NOTE: training twice per day significantly increases the number of calories you burn in a day. If you are trying to gain weight, take this into account and add additional calories.

- Bryan
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