What is Hypertrophy-Specific Training?
Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST) is a training method aimed specifically at growing muscle cells. This may seem like the obvious goal of any exercise program. The difference is that hypertrophy training is not designed to increase strength. However, significant increases in strength are often experienced. While this topic does not focus on nutrition, it is intended to give athletes information on an important aspect of athletic improvement: muscle growth.
Key Concepts of Hypertrophy-Specific Training
Over time, the muscle tissue adapts and becomes resistant to the damaging effects of the same exercise. As this happens, hypertrophy will stop. The work load must be increased consistently and frequently otherwise you will only be maintaining muscle mass, not increasing it. As you will see in an example later, reps will be adjusted to enable you to keep up with resistance increase.
Once a muscles growth has stalled at a certain weight load, it is necessary to either increase the weight load, or decondition the muscles to that weight load. The deconditioning process re-sensitizes the muscles to weight loads that once were able to promote growth. You will eventually reach your maximum voluntary strength. This is often referred to as ‘plateauing’. By taking one to two weeks off of training (deconditioning) a muscle group, your muscles will once again be sensitive to weight loads that once promoted growth.
Example How to Use HST
There are different variations of how you can approach HST. For this example, we will use defined numbers for the sake of simplicity. In this program, you will train a given muscle group every 2 days. You will also limit the number of sets you do to 1-2. Limiting the number of sets enables you to increase the frequency that you exercise that muscle group each week (every 48 hours). For example, instead of doing 3 sets twice a week (6 sets), you do 2 sets three times a week (6 sets) and create a consistent work load more conducive to hypertrophy.
Allowing the muscles time to recover is critical for athletes. Therefore, you will lift Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and rest Saturday and Sunday. Each day should consist of exercises that hit all of the muscle groups you are targeting (bis, tris, chest, legs, etc). The weight you use in week 1 & 2 for each exercise should be about 50-60% of your maximum lift for that exercise. You will then increase that weight by 5-10 lbs at the start of week 3 and again in week 5.
- Week 1 & 2
- 15 reps x 2 sets
- Week 3 & 4
- 10 reps x 2 sets
- Week 5 & 6
- 5 reps x 2 sets
After week 6 is complete, you will take 7-10 days off of lifting to capitalize on the deconditioning principle. Make sure to keep a log of the type of lifts you do as well as the weight you do on each lift. Important: Keep in mind that the idea is not to lift until failure. You are focused on growing the muscles consistently over time, not in one workout.
HST for Athletes
Hypertrophy-Specific Training is certainly beneficial for adding extra muscle. As stated, added strength is usually a byproduct of doing so. The important thing to keep in mind is why you want to pack on extra muscle mass.
Determine what the appropriate amount of muscle mass is for you. This can vary drastically depending
on your sport.
Football and rugby players need more upper body weight and strength than basketball
and soccer players do. With that said, greater upper body mass can give basketball and soccer players
the competitive edge. The key here is BALANCE. Adding muscle mass should not mean sacrificing
other facets of your game such as speed and agility. Establish your goal before designing your
training regime. A good way to do this is talking to your coach or a sports trainer.
A protein rich diet is important for muscle growth. While this article did not discuss nutrition
specifically, benefits from exercise will be severely limited by a poor diet. Check out our post on bulking for more nutrition based information on muscle growth as well as the links below!
High-protein Diet by Jenna Fletcher
How to Build an Efficient Hypertrophy Training Program by Mike Sheridan