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An Interview With Dr. Stu Phillips on Muscle Hypertrophy and Sports Nutrition

By May 27, 2014September 14th, 2016Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth), Interviews

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting down with Dr. Stuart Phillips from McMaster University (click HERE to follow him on Twitter) and discussing various topics in sports science and nutrition. We talked about the hormone hypothesis, best rep ranges for hypertrophy (and load versus effort), THIS article (Mitchell et al. 2012), sarcoplasmic versus myofibrillar hypertrophy, limitations & practical relevance of his research, levels of protein intake for maximal hypertrophy, recommended supplements for maximum hypertrophy, and more.

Below is the YouTube video, for the MP3 download click HERE.

I hope you enjoy the interview!



  • Nathan Meyer says:

    Fascinating, just a great interview. Question on a point of clarification about reaching muscle fatigue. What I thought I heard you say was that basically, fatigue is fatigue and if fatigue is reached the manner or rep range in which it was reached is inconsequential. This was stated to explain why 30% of 1 RM can work as well as 85% for muscle growth.

    However when discussing muscle fiber type activation you conversationally used the example of 1 RM itself (i.e. 96-100% of 1 RM) inducing fatigue.

    Can I take from this that, contrary to bro-wisdom, we can safely assume that the type of fatigue achieved with max singles, doubles and triples is the same as fatigue at 5-8 reps or 20-30 reps and therefor is a valid way to induce hypertrophy?–or did I misunderstand an aspect of what you were explaining.

    Thanks, Bret.

    • Bret says:

      Nathan, I’m sure that some of the specific fatigue-related effects of high rep versus low rep training are unique to the rep range, but in terms of motor unit recruitment, both styles will activate most of the spectrum of motor units.

      • James Steele says:

        Great interview!

        One point I’d note is the importance of differentiating between ‘fatigue’ and ‘failure’. Depending upon the external load or torque requirements ‘fatigue’ will accumulate during repeated or sustained contraction which will ultimately lead to ‘failure’ (i.e. MMF) at that given output. The degree of ‘fatigue’ will differ and potentially some of the underlying processes, but as you and Stu note there is similar MU recruitment once ‘failure’ is reached irrespective of the degree of ‘fatigue’. An example might be reps to MMF at 80%1RM and 50%1RM. The reduction in strength, or degree of ‘fatigue’, once ‘failure’ is reached with these loads will be ~20% and ~50% respectively.

    • rod says:

      that was a great question Nathan. I just watched the entire interview and I had the same question.

  • Harry says:

    Hey Bret,

    Loved this interview. So good to hear from researchers. I’m really interested in Stu’s work and I somewhat based my honours thesis around the Mitchell paper and seeing if fatigue is fatigue regardless of the intensity of load with regards to peripheral and central fatigue. The whole intensity debate is very interesting and I think in 10 years time we will have a much better picture of what is happening.


    • Fred says:

      Question: why do we constantly qualify fatigue as central vs peripheral? Aren’t they same?

      • Harry says:

        Ill just give a quick explanation. Central refers to the brain to the neuro-muscular junction, and peripheral is from below the junction and in the muscle. Fatigue can originate from changes to those areas. It is common to see more peripheral fatigue in protocols that require more volume load or TUT. Measured declines in central fatigue is a bit iffy in regards to resistance training, but its seen in muscles in response to prolonged maximal contractions.

        It can also be thought of as central is the ability to drive the muscle and peripheral as the ability of the muscle to contract in response to the central drive.

        So fatigue (as defined in a loss of force production) can occur due changes in either or both central and peripheral mechanisms.

        • Bret says:

          There was a nifty paper titled, “Relative Contributions of Central and Peripheral Factors in Human Muscle Fatigue during Exercise: A Brief Review” that we reviewed in our Strength & Conditioning Research Review that gave a good overview. Harry did a nice job of discussing the two mechanisms. I have around six papers on the topic and would need to thoroughly go through them in order to provide more insight.

    • Bret says:

      I agree Harry. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Rick says:

    That was worth every minute! Fascinating stuff, Bret. At 57, I’m finding the science behind lower load/ higher rep regimens for hypertrophy music to my sore joints. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • Chuck says:

    Hey Bret!
    Any way you could format this into a podcast so that we could listen to it on the go?

    • Bret says:

      Chuck, you can click on the MP3 link and download it. I can’t remember exactly how, but it can be done. I’m a technological idiot, so sorry for being vague.

  • Great information. I will be passing this on to my staff.

    Dwayne Wimmer
    Vertex Fitness Personal Training Studio
    Bryn Mawr, PA

  • shimin says:

    Hi, Bret

    First of all, I always enjoy listening to these interviews as well as reading your articles and I appreciate the time and the afford you put to them but I have a little criticism, this interview looks like more : Stu interviews Bret, most of the time of the interview we hear your opinions and your views than Dr. Stu Phillips , I may be wrong but I beileve it’s much more better to have short questions and longer answers instead of longer questions and short answers.

    • Bret says:

      Thanks shimin, I’m a rambler and struggle to not interrupt people, so this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. I’ll continue to try to improve in this regard.

  • Bill Long says:

    Hi Bret;

    I enjoy you materials. Hip Bridges are part of my routine due to your publications. Regarding this interview. At about 38 minutes, you and Stu start to discuss the issue of recovery for older athletes. I just wanted to raised my hand and say, can you provide any additional detail about programming and managing the variation in recovery from 24 hours to several days that comes with aging? Maintaining lean body mass is important and great as is moving beautifully. But strong is important too. How can we optimally preserve the strength/power through our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s from a programming perspective? Right now, I’m going on feel to determine load for the day. Any color you can add would be appreciated.

    Thanks again, Bill

    • Bret says:

      Hi Bill, much of the strength & power losses comes from losses in muscle mass, but I feel that older individuals seeking to prevent losses in function should be performing each type of exercise – some simple plyos for power, some heavier strength work, and some hypertrophy work. This could be best achieved by performing 2-3 training sessions per week consisting of a power exercise (various jumps, db jumps, throws, or swings), followed by some heavier compound movements (squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, chins/pulldowns, rows), followed by high rep targeted movements (hip thrusts, back extensions, curls, lateral raises, cable tricep extensions, calf raises, leg curls, leg extensions, lateral band glute work, core exercises, single leg exercises, posterior chain exercises, etc.). Hope that helps! BC

  • Jon says:

    Excellent interview. Any chance of links or references to some of the other articles discussed. Particularly the high rep low load training for hypertrophy!

  • Joe says:

    A big thank you to Brett and his guest — this is the kind of quality discussion that we all need to hear, rather than the “bro science”.

    Question: I’ve looked at Dr. Phillips paper online (you provided the link) and was curious about what you and Dr. Phillips believe the implications are for the continuing debate between the High Volume and High Intensity Training (HIT) schools of training?

    Also, I would be curious to compare the respective muscle recovery times for the different groups: 80-1, 80-3, and 30-3. Would it be all about the same (somewhere between 5 to 10 days?) or much shorter for the 80-3 and 30-3 groups and longer for the 80-1 group?

    Fascinating stuff!


  • Griffin says:

    On older trainees,
    “This could be best achieved by performing 2-3 training sessions per week consisting of a power exercise (various jumps, db jumps, throws, or swings), followed by some heavier compound movements (squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, chins/pulldowns, rows), followed by high rep targeted movements (hip thrusts, back extensions, curls, lateral raises, cable tricep extensions, calf raises, leg curls, leg extensions, lateral band glute work, core exercises, single leg exercises, posterior chain exercises, etc.)”
    And then of course, you have to find time and energy for your endurance exercise?
    This is ridiculously complex and probably dangerous for most over 60. It would be impractical and tedious and expensive for most older people to do, and potentially injurious to people with arthritis and other ailments. Clarence Bass, as an example, at 76 had maintained a lean and strong body without such long and complex routines. Practically speaking, no older person I know (I’m 64) could, or would train like this. In the world I live in, it’s almost impossible to get seniors to exercise at all, let alone doing complex routines like this. If exercise is really that complicated, it’s a wonder anyone does it at all.

  • Warren Beane says:

    My thoughts much the same as Griffin. I’m 55 and have done an abbreviated HIT routine for years. Recovery is increasingly difficult with a HIT routine going to failure. I’m looking for another way to work out.But anything with plyometrics, jumping,etc will kill my joints. I want to be stronger and to increase hypertrophy but I still work and that ” run over by a truck” feeling for 5 days after a workout is reducing my quality of life and my productivity

    • griffin says:

      It’s not helpful if your workout leaves you too hammered to enjoy life. Trashing yourself at the gym a couple days a week does not make up for generally sedentary behavior, either.
      What helped me a lot was doing body weight exercises, as well as some weight/machine movements using lighter weights for those exercises. I still work to deep fatigue, but I don’t like I fell down some stairs the next morning. I hate that, because it interferes with my daily enjoyment of life. Plus I can do BW exercises at home.
      Also, some endurance training has helped a lot. I know it’s heresy to the HIT people, but some moderate intensity walking, or anything else that gets you moving and your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes or so. I sleep better, and my strength workouts seem easier. I strength train about 2X a week, very briefly, and I do some brisk walking or elliptical or treadmill if I need to be indoors, a few days a week. Doesn’t matter what mode you use.
      I think daily movement and walking is important to health, but I do it because it just makes me feel better and sleep better. And of course, don’t sit too long!

  • rod says:


    What are your thoughts on sets per exercise and number of exercises per bodypart. I remember reading Dorian Yates philosophy on training…..he was a 1 set to failure with the highest weight that would allow him to perform 6-8 reps. He would only perform 1 set of this particular exercise based on the fact that you wouldn’t be as strong on the second set therefore not recruiting any type of muscle fiber to induce hypertrophy.

  • Tony K says:

    In the studies did they test the DHEA sulfate levels..? They are obviously did not find or measure the proper hormones.

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