Heavy Weight, Low Reps, Multiple Sets

Q: I've only recently found your blog, and may I say it has excellent information. However, I am currently going through a dilemma and I was hoping you can help me out of it.

I am 20 years old, have been working out for 2 years now (extremely slow progress, perhaps due to not eating enough) and currently weigh 145lbs at 5'9" with the bodyfat of around 15-18%.

I am now more focused on bulking and building size, and worrying less about the bodyfat (will deal with that later).

This whole time, I have been using split workouts, and it worked out alright. But not satisfactory.

I only gained 10lbs of muscle over the past two years, and another 10lbs of fat in the past 3 months (ate like crazy trying to bulk).

However, I have recently decided to try out the HST program. Thus I went to find out my 15RM, 10RM and 5RMs but alas, I found out that people give pretty bad reviews regarding this "Bryan Haycock masterpiece".

I understand that nutrition and sleep plays a big role in building muscle, but those two I understand sufficiently (I think).

The only question I have is, if I want to build muscle, WHAT EXERCISES DO I DO? HOW MANY SETS? REPS?

Google does not help. A hundred articles say I have to do high reps to gain mass while another hundred will say the total opposite.

Please help. I am in desperate need of an actual veteran's opinion. Magazines and online articles all seem phony and incredible now.

This is why I am asking for the ectomorph program, hopefully it solves my problem.

Shout outs from Malaysia =]

My Answer: All things work to some degree, which is why you'll find a wide variety of recommendations. Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST) by Bryan Haycock is not a very good program on which to get big, in my opinion. I gave a review of HST on this blog in 2007: Analysis of HST.

The volume on HST is simply way too low. Studies show time and again that high volume works better at increasing both strength and hypertrophy. Low sets have their place, but they're usually good as a decompression program. Decompression is a concept I go over in Neo-Classical Bodybuilding. I also analyze 2 set programs (like HST) in the book.

Now with HST you tested out your 15RM, 10RM and 5RM. One of those rep ranges you probably felt like you were making progress on. For most people it is usually the 5RM that elicits the hypertrophy response. The proponents of HST say that the 15RM and 10RM weeks set you up for the 5RM week, but people will grow off of the 5RM regardless of whether or not they do the preparatory 15RM, 10RM weeks.

So what does this tell us? That lower reps and heavier weight will get you big. Now if you got big off of the 10RM, then you may be more slow-twitch and you respond better to higher reps. But from my experience, most people respond better to several sets of lower reps.

Follow the Hypertrophy Training for the Ectomorph for a few weeks. All exercises, sets and reps are outlined. Then follow the 5x5 program for a few weeks after that. Five sets of five reps on each exercise. One exercise per body part.


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