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Examining Some Popular Hypertrophy Programs

Although I tend to get shoe-horned into ‘nutritionist’ (or worse-yet, ‘the keto guy’), I actually started life with a passion for exercise physiology. Still have it and looking at the physiology of muscle growth, along with real-world programs that ‘work’ has long-been an interest in mine.

In this article, I want to look at three of the more popular hypertrophy programs that are out there on the internet. The first is Doggcrapp (or DC) training which is the brainchild of Dante Trudeau (he also runs The second is Bryan Haycock’s Hypertrophy Specific Training or HST. Finally, of course, I have my own approach to muscle mass gains which I’ll talk about a bit too.

As you’ll see, while each program shares certain commonalities (as all programs that ‘work’ will), they also have a lot of differences. This simply reflects the realities of training, every program out there has to make some concession depending on the overall philosophy and approach of the designer. The variables of interest here are intensity, frequency and volume and, as you’ll see, each program has to concede one aspect in order to emphasize another.

If this reads a little bit roughly, it’s because I originally made it as a post to a forum, basically pointing out that they simply approach the main issues of training (frequency, intensity, volume) from slightly different places. Here’s what I wrote:

IMO, a lot of it depend on where you fall philosophically in terms of training, physiologically you can argue for various approaches a lot of different ways. Looking at three approaches to hypertrophy training, for example: a lot of it comes down to the interactions between frequency, intensity and volume.

1. Bryan’s Hypertrophy Specific training: looking mainly at gene expression, Bryan trades intensity and volume for a higher frequency. You train 3X/week but only max out about once every 2 weeks or so. This would be similar to Pavel’s Grease the Groove approach approach.

2. Doggcrapp trades intensity for volume and frequency and focuses primarily on progressive overload (the goal is to beat your previous workout poundages at every workout) in addition to trying to stimulate that maximum amount of growth with the minimum volume (DC uses rest pause training to accomplish this). Volume is lower, frequency is cut to about once/fifth day but the intensity is very very high with the rest pause and loaded stretches. Many people burn out badly on DC but the guys who thrive on it grow very well.

3. My generic bulking program is stock in the middle because I’m a middle of the road kind of guy. I generically like to see a bodypart hit about 2X/week with slightly lowered intensity (relative to DC) although higher than Bryan’s HST. I recommend about a rep short of failure so that the volume (which is higher per workout than either DC or HST) can be accomplished. I’m trying to strike a volume between the issues of frequency (for gene expression and protein synthesis), recovery (failure training can burn people out) and progression (I want to see the poundages going up consistently over the cycle).

Is one ‘better’ than the other? In the long run, I doubt it. If, at the end of 2 years of training, each trainee has hit roughly the same place in terms of absolute strength (weight on the bar), I bet size will be the same.

So a lot of the choice then becomes which approach to hypertrophy training:

a. Fits the trainee’s psychologically. Fore example, someone who ONLY feels good about training if they blow themselves out will hate HST and absolutely LOVE DC. Someone who hates training a given lift as infrequency as DC might prefer HST (you train a lift 3X/week) or my approach. etc. Someone who wants to be in the gym more often than 3x/week might prefer mine (or one of Bryan’s HST modifications that lets you train very distributed volume 6X/week, very much like Pavel’s GTG stuff)

b. Fits their individual recovery pattern . I’ve seen a lot of people say that DC just blew them out. And I’m NOT saying this is a drug thing. A lot of DC’s guys are juiced and a lot are not. But no everyone seems able to train that intensely and recover. In which case, HST or my approach might be a better ‘fit’ physiologically.

And I’m sure there are other considerations. If you’re a cellar dwellar (someone who trains in the basement), you might not be able to rotate exercises like DC recommends (he usually says pick 3 movements per bodypart and rotate them, switching out whole exercises wen they stall). If you train at home and have limited equipment, that’s not workable and a program centered around the same lift for any given cycle might work better.

I’m sure I’ve left out many many other considerations (injuries, individual biomechanics) but that’s just a quick look at some of the things that might go into deciding which approach to hypertrophy is best.

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