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We've got a great issue for you this time.

In response to many inquiries about different training routines, I've given an example of how one might decipher the relative effectiveness of any given program for producing hypertrophy. I think you'll find it a simple process and widely applicable.

We've also got a research report on a fascinating property of creatine that actually increases the activity of myogenic cells. These cells, sometimes called satellite cells, are the key process by which muscle cells grow larger. You see, satellite cells donate their nucleus to the repairing muscle cell. This is so important because the volume of a muscle cell is limited by the number of nuclei it has. 1,2,3,4 So, if these satellite cells aren't stimulated into action, you hit a plateau. It is interesting to note that Testosterone injections also cause an increase in satellite cell activity and this is believed to be a key mechanism in steroid induced muscle growth. 5,6,7

Finally, a hardy welcome to all the new members who have joined the ranks on the HS:Forum! There are some brilliant minds on there and the info is second-to-none when it comes to real-time interaction and discussion of muscle growth. In a few short months it has grown to be the hottest spot on the internet to discuss training, nutrition, and supplementation. Thanks again to all the great lifters who have made this possible!

So without further ado, on with Issue #3 of the HS:Report!
Bryan Haycock

1. Roy RR, Monke SR, Allen DL, Edgerton VR. Modulation of myonuclear number in functionally overloaded and exercised rat plantaris fibers. J Appl Physiol. 1999 Aug;87(2):634-42.

2. Phelan JN, Gonyea WJ. Effect of radiation on satellite cell activity and protein expression in overloaded mammalian skeletal muscle. Anat. Rec. 247:179-188, 1997

3. Rosenblatt JD, Parry DJ., Gamma irradiation prevents compensatory hypertrophy of overloaded extensor digitorum longus muscle. J. Appl. Physiol. 73:2538-2543, 1992

4. Rosenblatt JD, Yong D, Parry DJ., Satellite cell activity is required for hypertrophy of overloaded adult rat muscle. Muscle Nerve 17:608-613, 1994

5. Kadi F, Eriksson A, Holmner S, Thornell LE. Effects of anabolic steroids on the muscle cells of strength-trained athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Nov;31(11):1528-34.

6. Dzamukov RA, Valiullin VV. Response of skeletal muscles to anabolic steroid is specific and does not depend on the motor activity regime Biull Eksp Biol Med. 1999 Apr;127(4):406-8.

7. Kadi F. Adaptation of human skeletal muscle to training and anabolic steroids. Acta Physiol Scand Suppl. 2000 Jan;646:1-52.



A lot of people ask me, "If HST is the best way to train, why do guys claim they made gains using other routines?" I tell them that any routine that incorporates some principle(s) that is known to be necessary for hypertrophy is going to produce some level of change to their muscle. This is common sense. The same goes for a routine that I hear mentioned now and again called German Volume Training (GVT).

GVT is a high-volume light-weight training system that focuses mainly on "strength-endurance" or fatigue. GVT, though specific to increasing short-term endurance, can produce some hypertrophy in as much as it adheres to any of the known principles of hypertrophy.

Let's go over some hypertrophy-specific principles and see how GVT stacks up.

For simplicity, I am going to quote Charles Poliquin. He did not invent GVT, so I don't want to give the impression that I am in any way critiquing Charles. I'm only critiquing the method. I'm just quoting Charles because he did a good job summarizing the method. His comments will appear in italics.

The Goal of GVT
As to people's question about whether GVT is hypertrophy-specific, we must take a look at the goal of GVT. The clearly stated goal of GVT is to complete 10 sets of 10 reps without reducing the weight. So right from the beginning we see that the goal of anyone using GVT is not hypertrophy, but endurance of strength in the 10 rep range.

The Principle of Specificity
IF GVT adheres to the principle of "Specificity", GVT will have to stick with high volume and significantly light weights in order to condition your body to be able to perform 10 sets of 10 reps without reducing the weight load. And this is in fact what GVT does. "You want to begin with a weight you could lift for 20 reps to failure if you had to. For most people, on most exercises, that would represent 60% of their 1RM load."

So rather than using "load" or "muscle tension" which is a principle specific to hypertrophy, GVT uses fatigue to increase the "difficulty" of lifting a light weight, thereby making it "feel" heavy. Inducing fatigue is a principle specific to endurance.

The Principle of Progressive Load
GVT does use the principle of progressive load however. According to Poliquin, "Once you're able to do 10 sets of 10 with constant rest intervals, increase the weight on the bar by 4% to 5%, and repeat the process." So although GVT does not incorporate heavy weights, it does increase the light weights from time to time. Unfortunately, because of the use of fatigue as GVT's primary stimulus, the muscle is at the mercy of the nervous system. Unless you get stronger, which is a known neurological mechanism, the muscle will never be subjected to an increase in tension, and thus will not experience a hypertrophy-specific stimulus.

The Principle of Training Frequency
Due to the significant demands placed on the central nervous system (CNS) a GVT workout can't be completed but every 5 days. "Because this is such an intense program, it'll take you longer to recoverŠone training session every four to five days per body part is plenty." Now the consequences of too infrequent training are not all or none. It is a matter of degrees. Sure, it's not ideal for hypertrophy to train once every 5 days. But it works just fine for CNS recovery, and considering the goal of GVT, which is strength-endurance, it makes perfect sense.

The Principle of Adaptation (resistance to the stimulus)
GVT training in its pure form does not take this factor into consideration. Nor has any training routine until the time of HST. Without Strategic Deconditioning, continued gains in size come glacially slow, or stop all together. After all, adaptation is the body's way of preventing any externally applied stimulus or environment from affecting the body. Homeostasis must be maintained if the body is to survive. So, over time, any stimulus grows weaker and weaker until it no longer elicits a response from the body unless that stimulus is increased in magnitude, or it is removed for a time to allow the body to "un-adapt" and become sensitive to that stimulus once again.

All right, I think it is pretty clear that GVT is not "specific" to hypertrophy. However, it does utilize one principle of hypertrophy, namely progressive load, and thus will induce some hypertrophy if an individual is just beginning or is sufficiently deconditioned.



Title: Dietary creatine monohydrate supplementation increases satellite cell mitotic activity during compensatory hypertrophy.

Researchers: Dangott B, Schultz E, Mozdziak PE.

Institution: Department of Anatomy, University of Wisconsin-Medical School, Madison, USA.

Source: International Journal of Sports Medicine 2000 Jan;21(1):13-6.

Summary: Nutritional status influences muscle growth and athletic performance, but little is known about the effect of nutritional supplements, such as creatine, on satellite cell mitotic activity. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of oral creatine supplementation on muscle growth, compensatory hypertrophy, and satellite cell mitotic activity.

Methods: Compensatory hypertrophy was induced in the rat plantaris muscle by removing the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. Immediately following surgery, a group of six rats was provided with elevated levels of creatine monohydrate in their diet. Another group of six rats was maintained as a non-supplemented control group. Twelve days following surgery, all rats were implanted with mini-osmotic pumps containing the thymidine analog 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) to label mitotically active satellite cells. Four weeks after the initial surgery the rats were killed, plantaris muscles were removed and weighed. Subsequently, BrdU-labeled and non-BrdU-labeled nuclei were identified on enzymatically isolated myofiber segments.

Results: Muscle mass and myofiber diameters were larger in the muscles that underwent compensatory hypertrophy compared to the control muscles, but there were no differences between muscles from creatine-supplemented and non-creatine-supplemented rats. Similarly, compensatory hypertrophy resulted in an increased number of BrdU-labeled myofiber nuclei, but creatine supplementation in combination with compensatory hypertrophy resulted in a higher number of BrdU-labeled myofiber nuclei compared to compensatory hypertrophy without creatine supplementation.

Conclusion: Creatine supplementation in combination with an increased functional load results in increased satellite cell mitotic activity compared to increased functional load alone.

Discussion: People seem to want to pigeonhole creatine into some sort of hit-or-miss water-retention supplement. Creatine is so much more than that. Creatine is truly one of the greatest supplements there is for building muscle and strength. Study after study attest to this fact. This is only one of many studies exploring the exciting anabolic properties of creatine monohydrate which we will consider in upcoming issues.

In short, creatine is a naturally occurring compound made within our own bodies. It is also found in many foods we eat, especially meat. Creatine monohydrate has been used as a dietary supplement for at least a decade now, though it was first discovered nearly 170 years ago.

Now in the study we're considering today, the examined the effect of dietary creatine monohydrate on satellite cell activity and subsequent muscle hypertrophy. I won't lie to you and tell you that I have no interest in educating Hypertrophy-Specific readers about creatine. On the contrary, I believe so highly in the effectiveness of creatine that I introduced it into the HSN line of products. Not because people demanded it, but instead because I believe in it. And taking a look at the available research on creatine will make you a believer too. The writing is on the wall with this one folks.

This study looked at the activity of satellite cells. Satellite cells are myogenic stem cells that make hypertrophy of adult skeletal muscle possible. These stem cells are simply generic or non-specific cells that have the ability to transform themselves into new muscle cells when they are instructed to.

Following proliferation (reproduction) and subsequent differentiation (to become a specific type of cell), these satellite cells will fuse with one another or with the adjacent damaged muscle fiber, thereby increasing myonuclei numbers necessary for fiber growth and repair.

In order to better understand what is physically happening between satellite cells and muscle cells, try to picture 2 oil droplets floating on water. The two droplets represent a muscle cell and a satellite cell. Because the lipid bilayer of cells are hydrophobic just like common oil droplets, when brought into proximity to one another in an aqueous environment, they will come into contact for a moment and then fuse together to form one larger oil droplet. Now whatever (i.e. nuclei) was within one droplet will then mix with the contents of the other droplet. This is a simplified model of how satellite cells donate nuclei to existing muscle cells.

The reason this finding about creatine is so exciting is that the process of satellite cells adding nuclei to regenerating muscle cells appears to be critical for hypertrophy. There appears to be a finite limit placed on the cytoplasmic/nuclear ratio (Rosenblatt,1994). This is the ratio of the volume of the muscle cell to the number of nuclei. Whenever a muscle grows in response to functional overload there is a positive correlation between the increase in the number of myonuclei and the increase in fiber cross sectional area (CSA). When satellite cells are prohibited from donating their nuclei, overloaded muscle simply will not grow (Rosenblatt,1992; Phelan,1997).

This study was able to show that creatine supplementation increased the number of myonuclei donated from satellite cells. This increases the potential for growth of those fibers due to the aforementioned cytoplasmic/nuclear ratio. This isncrease in myonuclei probably stems from creatine's ability to increase levels of the myogenic transcription factor MRF4 (Hespel, 2001).

So when it comes to answering the question, "what works and what doesn't" stick to those supplements that have real research behind them. Creatine, proteins, and essential fatty acids top the list of highly researched, highly effective supplements.



1) Phelan JN, Gonyea WJ. Effect of radiation on satellite cell activity and protein expression in overloaded mammalian skeletal muscle. Anat. Rec. 247:179-188, 1997

2)Rosenblatt JD, Parry DJ., Gamma irradiation prevents compensatory hypertrophy of overloaded extensor digitorum longus muscle. J. Appl. Physiol. 73:2538-2543, 1992

3)Rosenblatt JD, Yong D, Parry DJ., Satellite cell activity is required for hypertrophy of overloaded adult rat muscle. Muscle Nerve 17:608-613, 1994

4)Hespel P, Op't Eijnde B, Van Leemputte M, Urso B, Greenhaff PL, Labarque V, Dymarkowski S, Van Hecke P, Richter EA. Oral creatine supplementation facilitates the rehabilitation of disuse atrophy and alters the expression of muscle myogenic factors in humans. J Physiol. 2001 Oct 15;536(Pt 2):625-33



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