Hypertrophy Specific Training – The Best Hypertrophy Program?

The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble – Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST), arrived on the scene in 2000 courtesy of the Think Muscle newsletter introduced by writer, Bryan Haycock.

When the program was introduced, it was quite revolutionary for many of us younger guys who had spent a decade reading the magazines, being bashed over the fucking heads with the collective fear-mongering that EVERYONE was over-training and that we should all be sticking to 2-3 times a week, abbreviated training routines.

Dorian attributed his stunning 92-93 transformation to reduced volume, high intensity training. In reality, GH and insulin were just beginning to make their impact on the pro ranks.

Dorian attributed his stunning 92-93 transformation to reduced volume, high intensity training. In reality, GH and insulin were just beginning to make their impact on the pro ranks.

To provide some context, for much of the 90s, Dorian Yates was Mr Olympia touting that nonsensical Heavy Duty shit – which allowed Mike Mentzer an opportunity to climb back onto his soap box proclaiming that everyone should be doing one-two sets maximum, every 10-14 days. You had Stuart McRobert, (who has STILL remains photographically elusive after all these years), echoing Mentzer’s ludicrous claims but adding that we’re all genetically inferior specimens and shouldn’t be aiming too high lest we all start succumbing to injury and overtraining in prodigious numbers….then there was Dante with his Dogshit Training that claimed that all anyone needed was one or two sets to failure for great results combined with a couple of grams of test and you’re good to go…

Fucking stupidity. It’s a wonder gyms weren’t abandoned en masse and we all didn’t take up golf for the frustration. For me, I followed the above bullshit to the letter. I burned out so bad from from this crap of beyond failure training that I wrecked my CNS and adrenals and couldn’t step in the gym for another 7 years dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Haycock bought some sanity and science back to the training equation and the above paradigms slowly and surely started to thankfully fade into irrelevance as people realised:

a) You need sufficient volume to train.

b) Training to failure and beyond is largely detrimental.

c) Our genetic limits aren’t as limited or fixed as we think

d) NONE of the past champions trained the ways advocated by the above nutters. Even Mentzer, before he went wacko on amphetamines and started drinking his own piss, BUILT his foundation using volume and frequency – not HIT. HIT was invented by Arthur Jones (another certified froot-loop) who needed an iconoclastic marketing angle to sell his Nautilus Machines. Jones knew better than anyone that if you want an audience, you start a shit-fight, and in this case it meant attacking the prevailing methodology espoused by the Weider Empire and particularly Arnold Schwarzenegger.

All of the older, pre-steroid era guys like George Eiferman pictured here, used full body rouines.

All of the older, pre-steroid era guys like George Eiferman pictured here, used full body routines.

HST reintroduced the methods many of the top champions of the early era used before steroid use eclipsed the sport and popularised split routines. These principles were extrapolated from the science of hypertrophy training and experience.

Summary of HST Principles

Frequency – “acute anabolic effects of training, such as increased protein synthesis, muscle-specific IGF-1 expression, and other factors involved in modulation of short term protein synthesis, only last for 36-48 hours.” Chronic stimulation is also accompanied by spreading sets out over the course of the week. So instead of doing 9 sets for chest in one workout you do 9 over the course of a week. Much more effective as a growth stimulus.

Progressive Overload – The load on tissue is increased over time at a pace exceeding adaptation. Reps are also decreased in two week blocks to facilitate the increase in load.

Strategic Deconditioning – Once the load can no longer be increased, to further facilitate hypertrophy, adaptation of the load must be reversed. Training is halted for a period of time 7-10 days to allow the muscles to “decondition” thus making them responsive to training again.

HST Program Review and Results. 

It’s pretty much accepted fact now that the more often you can train a muscle without inducing large amounts of fatigue WHILE maintaining progressive overload, the faster it will grow. I just can’t grasp that a natural trainee believes that they can go into a gym, perform a single set (or two or three) per bodypart once a week, and believe that it’s an effective dose for muscle growth. Rather, if you can go in and hit the same bodyparts everyday, or better yet, twice a day and still recover and make progress, you’re going to get to your hypertrophy goals faster than what a once or twice a week body part split will yield.

The following notes were taken from my first 4 weeks on the program. The next four weeks with progress pics will follow in a part 2 of this blog post.

 Week 1 + 2

The first few weeks call for 15 rep sets. I bumped the reps to 20 for legs and set up 4 different programs that I would work on an A,B,C,D rotation because I was training twice a day, 6 days per week.

HST 15s

So Monday morning I would do Workout A, evening I would do Workout B

Tuesday morning I would do Workout C, Tuesday evening I would do Workout D

Wednesday morning I would do Workout A, evening B and so on…..Sundays off.

I did two sets per body-part with 30-45 seconds rest between sets.

First Two weeks Notes and Reflections.

After the Candito program I was fucked. I was shattered and hurting. I didn’t know why exactly because it’s very low volume as far as programs go. I can only put it down to that my body isn’t used to,or doesn’t like working at high percentage of 1RM intensities. Fuck that, I know. I have to get used to it, but the last week or so on that program was like Chronic Fatigue revisted. My body vibrated and I spent most of my days asleep on the couch. Everything ached.

As soon as I jumped into this program doing higher reps, lower intensities, all all that dissipated within days. My pains started clearing up as if by magic. I had an amazing pump every session. I had more energy than I knew what to do with. AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SEVEN YEARS(!!!) I was able to give up taking preworkouts or any kind of stimulant.

That fact alone is huge for me because usually I can’t even move in the morning without doing +2 scoops of whatever stimulants my hand reaches for.

I really concentrated on squeezing the muscle on each rep and chasing the pump on each exercise. I used the strength gains I made from the Candito program and focused on transmuting that strength into high reps. It’s amazing how training the same lifts every day adds up to rapid neural adaptions, resulting in strength gains that began easily surpassing my previously calculated maxes. By the end of the two weeks I was doing 225lbs on the bench for sets of 15 and 260lb on the squat for sets of 20. (My squat technique still sux with the eccentric portion taking forever for me to find maximum depth.)

– Training at a fast clip and doing multiple sets for lots of reps twice a day, also has a nice fat burning effect and I noticed that I was getting much leaner across the abs with more pronounced vascularity in the legs and arms without even trying.

In addition, over these first two weeks my hunger and libido went into overdrive; the two main makers that let me know that I’m primed to start growing. Because I was training so frequently, I literally started dreaming about working out and my girlfriend said that when I was holding her hand while sleeping, I started curling it like a dumbbell.

Side-note – When training 12 times a week, you need to stay on top of the laundry situation because it really starts to build up.

Weeks 3 + 4

The next two weeks saw a drop in the rep range to 10 reps (15 for leg exercises in the mornings) and I shifted from doing straight sets to a Positions of Flexion style approach to each bodypart. For each bodypart I chose a compound movement, a stretched movement and a contracted position movement as outlined by Steve Holman in his Positions of Flexion (POF) program for maximum fiber stimulation.

An example training biceps using Positions of Flexion exercise pairings.

An example training biceps using Positions of Flexion exercise pairings.

This might sound like I’m needlessly “Frankensteining” programs together but there is method to the madness and all that matters to me is results, so fuck conventions.

Coach Ian King once said that when it comes to designing strength training programs, “There is no rules only options.” And the beauty of this program lies in the fact that once you understand the principles behind it, you are free to tinker with the details without ruining the program’s integrity.

The POF movements are outlined in the morning (A+C) routines and I used a conventional straight sets approach for the evening sessions. I maintained as much consistency in the basic lifts as possible to ensure progression.

HST 10s


Weeks Three and Four Reflections 

Everything went well for the this two week block as well and I was able to bench 270 x 10 reps and squat 280 x 15. The rest of my weights were also steadily progressing upwards especially on the back exercises, shoulders and hamstrings. I love the feeling of increased work capacity I get from doing this program. I complete the morning workout, feel great for the rest of the day and then can hit it hard again at night.

To be continued in Part 2….



  7 comments for “Hypertrophy Specific Training – The Best Hypertrophy Program?

  1. November 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Please could you tell me how you overcame the chronic fatigue syndrome? I have suffered from it for as long as I can remember and I am 52 now. It’s not severe but it still takes a big chunk out of my life. Thanks.

    Also I’m totally amazed that you were training your whole body twice per day six days per week with this program.


    • January 9, 2015 at 1:40 am

      I get asked this a lot, so I’ll write a post detailing the long road outta hell, this week. 🙂

      Yeah 12 full body sessions sounds severe to be sure, and like yourself, we were raised on the mantra of “no-pain-no-gain” / every workout needs to be an exercise in brutality, right? But the level of intensity (what’s referred to these days as the “perceived rate of exertion) is regulated so not all workouts are hard. The lighter sessions actually serve to facilitate recovery – so you don’t experience that beat up fatigue so common after a heavy or high intensity workout.

      Incidentally, it was those same kind of “lighter sessions” that helped me on the path to kicking the CFS – but I’ll go into more detail with that this week. Sorry for the late reply, btw.


  2. November 3, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Great article with real world experiences! Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I’m trying to figure out a good plan to start with HST. I’ve done one year of training now, tried many different things (full body, big 3, 4 day split, …), but don’t really gain mass. Thanks to my food coach I’m now following a caloric deficit diet of 1950 Kcal a day (33y, 74Kb, 1m76, 13,3% BF) to get to 8 – 10% Body Fat.

    The advantage of HST is that you can train every day, if you wanted to, And you don’t need to wait for only training 3 days a week. If 4 or even 5 days fit you better,you can still do the same HST workout, which is great! Makes life also a bit more flexible and manageable.

    So what I’m thinking about doing is the same as your schedule, more or less:
    – Week1: 15 reps, lower weight
    – Week2: 14 reps, a bit higher weight
    – Week3: 13 reps, a bit higher weight
    – Week4: 12 reps, a bit higher weight
    – Week5: 11 reps, a bit higher weight
    – Week6: 10 reps, a bit higher weight

    Mostly compound exercises (squats, dead lift, bench press, military press) and only 2 sets for each exercise.

    Some questions I have, which you maybe could help me with:
    – Cardio, my coach advised me to do 20 min of cardio after every training. This is still a good combination with HST?
    – Previously I would do 5 sets on for example the bench press, and I started shaking really bad. I think it’s because of damage due to going to failure all the time. In HST, is it meant to be going to failure also in these 2 sets?
    – I see you took only 30 – 45 sec rest in between sets, is this sufficient? Or it’s maybe doable because the load is a bit less?

    Thank you again for your great article. Really appreciate it.


    • November 11, 2015 at 4:43 am

      Hey Brecht – First, is there a reason why you’re changing the rep scheme every week. I follow the program and do 2 week blocks using one rep scheme and gradually increase my reps upwards over the two weeks, aiming for a new PR towards the end of each two week block.

      So for example;

      Week 1+2 = 15 reps
      Week 3+4 = 10 reps
      Week 5+6 = 5 reps
      Week 7+8 Start again at 15 reps

      I’d keep the volume at 2-4 sets per exercise and I don’t go to failure until the last workout or so of each two week block where I really try to push myself to new records.

      2) Cardio isn’t going to hurt, but if you’re trying to put on mass, I’d be trying to conserve my calories unless you’re trying to stimulate your appetite.

      3) Rest periods are dictated by your inter set recovery. On the higher rep, lighter workouts I’m good to go fairly quickly. The heavier, low rep workouts require some more rest 2-3 minutes. I get the workouts done in about 45 mins tops – quicker if I’m doing lighter load days.


      • November 27, 2015 at 12:39 pm

        Thank you for the reply Shawnstone, really appreciate it. I’m sorry for responding this late, but I didn’t receive a notification mail that there was reply.

        You were absolutely right about the reps, I got it wrong so I adjusted my training schedule to reflect what you wrote. Regarding cardio, I’m now doing a 40 min brisk walk with a bit of incline on every rest day. To burn some calories and get rid of the belly fat. I’m also insanely hungry after an HST workout, so I assume (for burning fat) this is really working out quite well for me, combined with the brisk walking. I feel like my belly fat is slowly going away 🙂

        About going to failure. Sometimes in the 15’s, I feel that I can’t make it to 15 reps with the weight increase. At that point when I can’t go on any longer, say 12 reps, I just stop and put the barbell back in the rack. Wait for 10 seconds and finish of the remaining 3 reps to get to a total of 15. This way I try to avoid going to failure to protect my central nervous system.

        The most important thing is the time under tension. So all my reps are like say 1 second up and 3 seconds down, as in a fully controlled motion. This makes it hard of course to finish a set completely but it’s better for time under tension. And I always try to get to a total of 30 reps (2 sets of 15), can be like 1 set of 15, and 1 failing set of 15 split in (12 reps and 3 reps with 10 second pause).

        Do you think I’m dong well now? Or would you suggest another approach?


  3. Jason seligurbrean
    November 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Great results


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