Analysis of HST

HST or Hypertrophy Specific Training is a popular training program, partly because it has a marketable name. For those of us who are more concerned with mass (and not so much athletic performance), then a name like Hypertrophy Specific Training will raise a lot of interest. HST is the brainchild of Bryan Haycock, and it espouses these principles:
  • Train each body part every 48 hours, or basically three times per week.
  • Increase the weight each and every workout.
  • Decrease the reps every two weeks.
  • Decondition the muscle before you do it all over again.

There's more to it than that, but those are the basics. For instance, HST prescribes 2 sets per exercise. Here's my take on HST:

1) The high frequency of training is good for size. For gaining, retaining and building on what you've gained in size, it is always better to train more frequently (3-4 times per week). For high frequency training, then HST fits the bill.

2) Two sets per exercise really doesn't incur as much growth as higher set totals. This is one drawback to HST. Two sets per exercise works well for beginners and old people, but not so much for the intermediate to advanced lifter. High frequency/low set training is great for strength, but crappy for size and hypertrophy. Unless you're doing other physical activities (MMA, strongman competition, shot put, etc.), then it's better to vary your set totals from workout to workout: i.e. 3 sets-6 sets-2 sets.

3) The periodization of reps should be compressed into a week's span. I know, I keep pounding this point in, but it needs to be said: your body responds better to compressed cycles of reps rather than longer cycles. Whereas HST has you doing 15 reps in Week One, 10 reps in Week Two and 5 reps in Week Three, you will get better results by doing it all in one week: Monday (15 reps), Wednesday (10 reps), Friday (5 reps).

Cycling your reps within the week is much better, because you will gain size and strength at a faster rate. Overall, HST is not a bad program. But if you vary the sets and use weekly cycles of reps, then HST will be a great program.


Bob said…
Thanks for you piece on HST. I'm going to take a break from powerlifing after the APF contest in LA in Feb, and wonder if you have a sample HST-modfied program ??
J said…
My article "Supercharging H.I.T." has a program that takes 2 set programming (which includes HST) to the next level.

Wait I take that back: the program will take you SEVERAL levels up. It is very rewarding, but extremely brutal and unforgiving.

If you're coming off a powerlifting mesocycle, then you'll need to decompress from the heavy training. you should follow the whole HST program to a "T" and then come back to the program outlined in "Supercharging H.I.T."
Anonymous said…
I'm curious as to why and how a week long compression of reps is more beneficial than drawing it out into two week blocks like HST does. Is it just because the constant change in stimuli and intensity keeps the body adapting?

Would not the progressive increase in weight used over a two week rep scheme benefit? Or would it just not be as good as if the reps were cycled every work out instead?

Just curious, that's all :)
J said…
For hypertrophy, your muscles love change. That's why you do different exercises in the first place, because your body loves variety. Although hitting the same rep range over and over again is great for strength, it is not ideal for size. What you end up doing is stimulating a select group of muscle fibers, and leaving the rest to atrophy. Two week blocks are better for beginners, but intermediate to advanced lifters need to change it up more frequently.

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