Hypertrophy-Specific Training

Brian Haycock, a trainer and exercise physiologist, developed Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST) for his own clients and had been using it for years before writing an article on the topic and causing waves in the strength training and bodybuilding communities. The program uses all the exercise science Haycock could get his hands on to create a program that builds strength, endurance, and size in muscles the most efficiently. It is strictly a weightlifting program used for building muscle mass and Haycock doesn’t recommend it for athletes in season, etc. Aside from some number crunching, the system is pretty simple and easy to follow.

The principle behind workouts is to work the same muscles and systems every time you work out, and that 48 hours is enough time to get almost all recovery benefits. This is counter to conventional bodybuilding wisdom that often allows a full week for specific muscles to recover. The program also rejects long-held wisdom about training volumes. Most exercises are done for only two sets, because the gains after that point are relatively minor, according to Haycock.

The basic form the program takes is 8 weeks of work, 9 days of rest. Repeat until you die. The 8 week training blocks, called ‘macro-cycles’, involve lifting weights 3 days a week, with a day of recovery in between each and a weekend between weeks. The 8 week macro-cycles are further broken down into micro-cycles.

Each micro-cycle has a focus. The first is for endurance. During this cycle, you lift weights that aren’t that heavy for high numbers of reps (usually 15). The second cycle is for size. You lift medium-heavy weights for medium numbers of reps (about 10). Finally, the last cycle is for strength. These reps are low in number, but the weight is heavy.

The guiding principle during the 8 week cycle is a progression toward heavier weights and fewer reps. Progression is a big deal in Hypertrophy Specific Training, and even the micro-cycles are built on it. At the beginning of the 2-3 week micro-cycle, the weight is purposefully low, and increases every workout until you reach the maximum weight you can lift for that number of reps (calculated according to a formula from Haycock). In every single workout you are lifting heavier weights than you did for the workout before. When you repeat the process for the next cycle, you start off with a heavier weight than you started the first cycle with, so the weights get heavier cycle to cycle.

Obviously, continuous progression like this can’t go on forever. The weights will get far too heavy for you to lift or you will hurt yourself trying. That is why the program includes a period of ‘strategic deconditioning,’ a fancy way of saying ‘time off’ from training. During this 7-9 day period, you do very little exercise period, and absolutely no weight lifting. This rest period allows your body to recover fully any injuries or problems that may have cropped up during the previous weeks before they become major issues that derail your training. When you resume training, you drop the weight down a bit from where you finished since you have lost a little of your strength.

Whether or not HST is the major breakthrough in exercise science it claims to be, it has been creating waves in the bodybuilding/weightlifting communities. It is a solidly built program no matter what, and worth your time trying if you are looking for a routine to put on muscle mass quickly.

Some speculate that he is part man, part animal, but the only thing that you need to know is his obsession and dedication to the art of living lean and helping you to achieve your body fat goals.


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