HST Routine

HST Routine

Hypertrophy-Specific Training, or HST Routine, is a training system aimed at achieving hypertrophy.


HST was created by Bryan Haycock and emerged from research that analysed both the stimuli and the mechanisms for muscle cell hypertrophy.

Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST) is based on the physiological principles of hypertrophy first discovered in the laboratory.

These principles are organised into a «method» of mechanical load on the muscle to induce hypertrophy (figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1. HST Routine (10 repetitions). Source: Haycock (2002).

We’ve prepared a plan for gaining muscle mass on our blog. If you want to find out the essentials of achieving hypertrophy, keep reading.

Principles of HST

Mechanical load

A mechanical load is necessary to induce muscle hypertrophy.

This mechanism involves, but is not limited to, MAPk/ERK, satellite cells, growth factors, calcium and other factors that are well understood.

High frequency training

For the load to result in significant hypertrophy, the stimulus must be applied with sufficient frequency to create a new «environment».

This is as opposed to apparently random and acute attacks on the tissue’s mechanical integrity.

In terms of the stimulus frequency of the training, a disadvantage is having to introduce a weeks rest every time a muscle is worked, as many of the acute responses to training, such as increased protein synthesis, prostaglandins, IGF-1 levels and mRNA levels, return to normal in approximately 36 hours.

So, the author notes that:

“…you spend 2 days growing and half a week in a semi-cantiatabolic state…”.

Because of this, if the goal is to keep protein synthesis at high and stable levels over time, you need to train every 36-48h (frequency 3 per muscle group).

Progressive load

With time, the tissue will adapt and become more resistant to the damaging effects of the mechanical load.

This adaption (resistance to stimulus) can happen in just 48 hours (Repeated Bout Effect or Rapid Training Effect).

While this happens, hypertrophy will stop, although the neural and metabolic adaptions can and may continue.

Strategic de-conditioning

This concept refers to reducing the degree of load conditioning. The muscle is sensitive not only to the absolute load, but also to the change in load (up or down).

Because of this, a hypertrophic effect can be obtained by increasing the load from a previous load, even if the absolute load is not maximum, assuming conditioning (resistance to exercise induced micro-damage) is not to extensive.

Training load

There is a limit on the number of increments that can be made when increasing the load.

This is why the Strategic De-conditioning is needed for continued growth once growth has stopped.

HST Methodology

Using lactic acid as a stimulus for tendon repair/health

HST involves higher repetitions to prepare the muscles and tendons for future weight loads.

This serves as «regular maintenance». Without it, you increase your risk of chronic injuries and pain. The metabolically-demanding reps improve the healing of strained tendons.

Compound exercises

Compound exercises are suggested to maximise the effects of the load.

Nevertheless, the optimal ratio between global and isolated exercises is: 70% and 30% (figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2. Suggested exercises for each muscle group Fuente: Haycock (2002).

Progressive adjusting of repetitions to accommodate progressive loads

The use of 2-week blocks for every set of repetitions is recommended.

This suggestion has nothing to do with adaptation, it’s simply a way of accommodating the load.

Of course, you can adjust your repetitions every week (e.g. 15,12,10,8,5, etc.), but this is more complicated and people might not understand it.

Low volume per exercise

There’s a limit in the number of sets per exercise and per training (1 or 2).

This is based on evidence that sets beyond the first «effective» set do little more than burn calories.

The number of sets start low to accommodate the necessary frequency to create and effective and consistent environment to stimulate hypertrophy.

Eccentric workouts

As for the load variety principle, HST uses eccentric workouts for 2 consecutive weeks.

This suggestion is only for exercises that can be done eccentrically without risk of injury.

Practical points of HST

Load to use

  • Find your 15RM, 10RM and 5RM for each exercise to use.
  • Increase the load after every mesocycle (2.5-5kg).

Determine the weights for each workout.

  • Start repetition schemes with loads less than the maximum lifts.
  • Systematically progress towards maximum weights.

Repetition range

Repetitions will decrease every 2 weeks in the following order:

  • 15 repetitions for 2 weeks.
  • 10 repetitions for 2 weeks.
  • 5 repetitions for 2 weeks.
Then continue with your maximum of 5 repetitions for 2 weeks or start 2 weeks of eccentrics.

Practical issues hst

Load variation

Reduced repetition accommodates the increased load:

  • The high-repetition workouts play an important role.
  • The anaerobic work of greater volume benefits the muscle by increasing resistance to injury and increasing functional capacity.
Sets are limited to 1-2 per exercise.

Training frequency

Each muscle group should be loaded 3 times a week (medium-high frequency; full-body routine).

  • Frequency Principle.
  • A stimulus for muscular hypertrophy should be sufficiently frequent enough to create a consistent «environment» for the muscle to adapt.

Importance of rest

  • During rest days (for example, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) light cardiovascular exercise (20-40 mins) should be done.
  • The slant running belt (fast walking) should be the first choice.
  • Adequate and regular rest is important for injury prevention and stress management..
Keep central nervous system fatigue low during frequent training.

Complete every workout

  • Even if your muscles are slightly sore from the previous workout, finish it with the designated kilos.
  • It’s important to recognise the difference between and injury and common muscle pain.
  • The warm-up is important.
NEVER work a muscle that’s at risk of injury.

Strategic De-conditioning

After every 6-8 week cycle, take some time off from training. This time should be used for recovery and to allow minor injuries from overworking to heal.

Try to get enough sleep and take part in leisure activities away from the gym.

Bibliographic Sources

  1. Haycock, B. (2002). Hypertrophy-Specific Training.

Related Entries

Review of HST Routine

Origin - 100%

Principles - 100%

Methodology - 100%

Practical points - 100%


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About Ivan Sotelo
Ivan Sotelo
Iván Sotelo is a specialist in Prevention and Physical-Sports Rehabilitation, with experience in professional football teams.
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