Diet and Nutrition

Hypertrophy Cluster Training (HCT-12) – An Interview with Daniel Roberts

If you are a frequent reader of Wannabebig, you’ll know by now that we will be soon be releasing what we believe is THE best muscle building program out there – Hypertrophy Cluster Training (HCT-12) on Monday May 3rd, 2010.

There will be no games and no B.S hype. No promises of advanced trainees gaining 27lbs in 6 weeks and no crazy expensive magic supplement you have to take alongside it in order for the program to work. We won’t be painstakingly drip feeding it to you in parts, we won’t be over-complicating things and there will be no cheap marketing hype. There’s also nothing to buy – the whole thing will be entirely free.

Now why would we go and do that and what’s in it for us you might say?

We want to help people look and feel great – it’s as simple as that. That’s THE reason Wannabebig and AtLarge Nutrition exist and that’s what drives us to keep publishing information and developing products to help you do just that.

I cringe when I see guys on the forums who are fed up with not making any gains. They ask questions about the latest pre workout supplement when they don’t even know how much goddamn protein they are consuming.

It’s painful to see guys trying to build their own routine and getting it all wrong. Or to hear about them following a routine that the ‘jacked guy’ at their gym uses (who between me and you are mostly like genetically gifted and/or using anabolic steroids) but are confused as to why they’re not seeing the same type of gains.

And the worst thing about it is that this getting big thing really isn’t all that complicated.

There are a few basic principles that if you follow them consistently, you’ll be blown away at how much muscle you can gain and if anyone is telling you any different they are either dumb or trying to sell you something (or perhaps both). If you are not following a sound training and nutritional program, you’ll continually struggle to gain muscle, period.

And that’s where HCT-12 comes in.

We are going to provide you with a training and nutritional program (and the science behind why it works) that will be easy to understand and is based around the key principles of gaining muscle, allowing you to gain the most amount of muscle in the least amount of time.

And, you don’t have to have exceptional genetics and/or be taking anabolic steroids for this program to work. If you are an average Joe or have struggled to make gains in the past, this program is for YOU!

When we first announced we were releasing HCT-12, we got a ton of questions as expected. We therefore wanted to respond and give you a bit more information about how HCT-12 came about and also the details behind the training and nutritional program before we release it in full in a few weeks time.

And, what better way than to have a chat to the program creator himself, Daniel Roberts. He obviously doesn’t want to give away everything before we release the program, but I’ve done my best to draw out as much information from him as I can so that you know what to expect!

Daniel Clough: Hey Daniel, it’s great to have you with us. So let’s start off with how the hell we’re going to sort out this name situation. It’s a great name and all, but it’s just damn right confusing us both having the same name!

Daniel Roberts: Fair play! Well I prefer to be called Dan, so let’s say I am Dan and you’re Daniel and we’ll refer to me as DR and you as DC for the rest of the interview – how’s that for quick thinking?

DC: You’re a smart cookie, that sounds good to me! Ok, let’s get stuck in… Who exactly are you?

DR: Well, we’ve established my name is Dan and some of the Wannabebig readers may already know that I’ve already written 2 articles for Wannabebig – To Bulk or to Cut, That is the Question – or is it? and Nutrient Timing – When Science and Marketing Collide.  So technically, even though HCT-12 is far more than an article, this will be my third article for Wannabebig!

Going back to my younger days, technically I failed as an athlete (swimmer). I guess when I was young I just didn’t have the discipline and more importantly the desire to compete at the highest level in a sport that even though I was gifted at, I just wasn’t that interested in.

Even though swimming didn’t work out, I‘ve always had an obsession with human physiology and performance. It’s been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember and there hasn’t been a day in the last 20+ years where I haven’t spent at least a couple of hours reading and learning the subject above and beyond my formal education. One day my girlfriend will prevail and we’ll have to turn my library into a guest room so that the mother in law can stay over, but until that day I’ll fight to the end to keep my little library and feel just fine about sticking her in a hotel for the weekend lol (I’m really hoping either one isn’t reading this, or I’m toast).

Hmm, what else… I tend to have a short attention span which some may have noticed on the forums. Don’t get me wrong, I am up for helping anyone out and talking about training and nutrition forever, but I like the simple approach. If you’re trying to make it more complicated than it is, you’ll lose me and I’ll be helping someone else.

I love food and baking – custard or lemon tarts are a favourite.

I’m a sentimental/emotional type of guy, (I cry in pretty much every movie that has animals or Father/Son scenes, K-9 with James Belushi gets me every time), so I’m proud when athletes, professional or casual get the results they’re after – for them not for me. You can’t stand over them 24/7, so it is their effort and hard work which gets them there. I just feel great when other people produce results they didn’t think possible. I should probably get my estrogen levels checked!

Listen, all you need to know about Dan Roberts is that he likes lemon tarts ok? Well, that and Father/Son scenes…

DC: A little random, but that’ll do – it gives us something to work with! So, diving right in, what do you think are the main reasons people struggle to gain muscle?

DR: In short, a lack of hard work, consistency in diet, training, and progression and no appreciation of the timescale it actually takes. I’m sure people tire of hearing that and I don’t say it because I’m simplistic and have run out of ideas, it just happens to be fact and anyone who’s actually got any appreciable muscle will know this.

The problem is people want to believe otherwise, witness the women’s fat loss industry as a great example. There are pills, patches, and creams which are proven not to work, but you could even put the reference in bold next to the pot on the shelf and they’d still buy it – people want shortcuts. An increased appetite for immediate gratification and access to information (thanks to the internet) offers an excuse to flit unsuccessfully between programs and diets.

There are a few simple principles to getting the body to adapt the way you want it to, things that you can do as a lifter. The internal processes are massively complex once you get down to a cellular level, but there are only a few things that you can do externally to effect these, yet people will have you believe that pretty much every internal variable can be manipulated to great effect on a second by second basis by different substances and training techniques.; it just doesn’t happen that way. Studies are misrepresented, acute effects highlighted and promoted and the longer effects ignored and confusion perpetuated – the truth is the body works on a longer and ultimately simpler objective.

People forget that all the biggest bodies or even the strongest bodies are built using pretty similar programs; on the face of it there are enough programs out there to try one a week, and whilst the differences might be overwhelming at first glance, drill down and the similarities are obvious, the successful ones are founded on the same principles and those same principles (with a few twists of course) are what HCT-12 relies on.

DC:  HCT-12 sounds a bit like something out of Star Wars. What does it stand for and how did it come about?

DR: Well I personally came up with the name, its brilliant right? Some may even say a bit genius……

No, credit where it’s due, Tom Mutaffis came up with the name and hats off to him; it captures what it’s about and makes it sound all fancy!

Hypertrophy Cluster Training 12 is what it stands for. These days, you have to have the word ‘hypertrophy’ in there! The cluster refers to the rest-pause variation involved, ‘training’ is self explanatory and the 12 refers to the total number of reps in the last work set. And there you go – HCT-12 (Hypertrophy Cluster Training).

We’ve been working on this for the best part of a year now, but round about the time we started discussing the idea for a new article, I was rehabbing a torn MCL and a chronically hyper-mobile shoulder. I was out of shape, my conditioning was poor and I was weak as a kitten.

I started experimenting with something I’d done about a decade earlier with good effect, which was working up to a maximum working weight for approx 4-5 reps, resting briefly then trying to hit another 4-5 reps in doubles and singles.

Nothing formal, I’d train according to how I felt, training each bodypart as often as I felt it was ready and when progress stalled just take it easy on higher reps for a week or so until I felt the buzz to train heavier again. It was awesome, no pressure to hit weight progression targets just the fun of lifting heavy stuff and when it was a good day, lifting heavier stuff than I’d lifted before.

Meanwhile I was researching the physiological processes of muscle growth in preparation for another article and together with what I collated and condensed and the results I was seeing, started thinking about formalizing it and it just seemed to fit, which is where the idea for the project came from.

The program is quite personal to me in that it’s basically the way I like to train. Like most, out of curiosity I’ve experimented with a variety of training methodologies, in my early teens I was using Mike Mentzer’s High Intensity Training, I followed that with Ron S Laura’s Matrix Principles, and Arnold’s Bodybuilding Encyclopedia, whilst messing around with every Weider principle about at the time.

What I should have done is listen to the bodybuilder’s offering me advice at the time; training variations that sat somewhere between the two extremes of high volume and HIT, but at that age, I thought that between Mike Mentzer and me, we knew better than the hugely strong Masters Heavyweights with the trophies on the gym window. I was wrong then and I’d be wrong now – the human body hasn’t changed nor have the basic tenets behind getting bigger and stronger.

DC: So tell us a bit more about the HCT-12 itself, what can people actually expect?

DR: This program gives you the freedom to listen to your body, and to train according to how your body is operating on any given day – for some that’s an opportunity to slack. If this is you, please don’t try it, and don’t expect much in the way of results from any program let alone this one.

Actually let’s get this out of the way up front and we’ll mention it no more. If you’re looking for an easy route this program isn’t for you. If you miss training sessions on a whim, or don’t put in the work when you’re actually in the gym then this program will not work for you.

However, for those dedicated to improving themselves this program offers what I believe to be the most efficient way of incorporating the principles common to all successful programs and delivers the most effective program for most of the people most of the time. A big promise I know, but once you get on the program I guarantee you will see what I mean.

The program will expose you to concepts like auto-regulation, rest-pause clusters, ramping and de-loads and educate you as to why. Even if the time isn’t right for you to use the program you’ll still get to understand what these principles are and why the body responds the way it does, giving you the tools to evaluate the efficacy of any program out there – you’ll not fall for promotional hype ever again, at least not in this field!

If you don’t put in the work when you’re actually in the gym then this program will not work for you

DC: Is the HCT-12 program just for people that want to gain weight and get bigger and stronger?

DR: I won’t lie, ultimately that is the type of person that HCT-12 is best suited to. However, if you’re looking to lose weight, then HCT-12 is still a very good option for you.

When you are dieting, you want to hold onto as much lean muscle as you can and in fact you also want to gain some along the way too right? If you follow the HCT-12 training principles and then tailor the nutritional advice to fit your goals, you’ll get leaner and at a bare minimum you’ll hold onto as much lean muscle as possible and if you’re at the right starting point, even gain some muscle. To answer the question more directly, yes HCT-12 is probably better for someone whose goal is to simply get bigger and stronger but if you’re main goal is to lose weight, HCT-12 is also going to work very well for you.

DC: One question that came up a lot is how many days the routine is? Some of our readers are gearing up to start this and of course want to know how often they will be training.

DR: Because everyone has different commitments and time available to them, I wanted to give people a few different options, so there are 3, 4 and 5 day splits all following the same principles. Two are upper/lower splits and the third is the way I like to train, with more focus on fewer body-parts per session but with the same frequency. No single one is better than the other; it comes down to preference and how much time you have to devote to the gym.

DC: What does the nutritional program look like?

DR: Anyone who’s read my previous articles on here will recognize the message in this piece, simplicity. Your diet doesn’t need to be complicated, but you need to hit your daily targets day in and day out, irrespective of whether your goal is to gain or lose weight, millions find this hard and have the pitiful results to show for it.

We’ll show you how to set calorie and macro-nutrient levels, we’ll show you how to adjust as you go along, we’ll show you how to incorporate effective supplementation and above all we’ll give you the tools to eat effectively for the rest of your life, whatever your goal.

DC: What? No complicated nutrient timing strategy?

DR: Nope, as I said we’ll talk about calories, macro-nutrients and pre and post workout nutrition – nothing you do beyond that is going to make a significant difference and in fact trying to approach it in a more complex way will increase the chance of you screwing things up. Consistency is key and wins all day long. If you’re timing how long it takes you to eat a protein bar, you’re doing something wrong.

DC: Right, let’s get onto the number one question on most of our readers mind. What gains people can expect!

DR: Ah, the big question! But before I answer it I want to take you back to a point I raised earlier – most people lack an appreciation of the timescale involved to build an impressive physique. 6 weeks is nothing, actually neither is 12 weeks whilst we’re talking about it. To quote fellow Wannabebig contributor, Shelby Starnes ‘Great physiques are built over years, not days or weeks’.

As far as I can tell, most people on forums and commercial gyms barely progress in a year let alone 12 weeks, so any progress is not to be sniffed at.

Anyone that devotes themselves to the HCT-12 training and diet program will get bigger and stronger and feel the best they have felt for a long while, I’ll promise you that.

Before we even opened up the program to selected Wannabebig readers, I tried it out on some training partners and made adjustments along the way and they really loved it. They got stronger, bigger and just as important they really enjoyed the sessions. They loved the auto-regulation aspect of it and then I came up with the program we’re about to release.

We wanted to test this a bit further before release though, so we got ourselves some willing Wannabebig readers (25 to be exact) and as we speak they are still being put through their paces and I can’t wait to see their results after 12 weeks (they’re about 6 weeks in now).

The big thing I want to stress is how much one progresses depends on their starting point; one of the trainees (TomSids) by the halfway mark had put on nearly 40 pounds, but then he was an underweight novice and he’d struggled his whole adult life to put on weight. Once he understood the principles and what was required of him, he tirelessly devoted himself to it and his persistence and enthusiasm have paid dividends. He’s a changed man. How much of it was muscle and how much was fat? Well judge for yourselves when you see the before and after photo’s after the 12 weeks.

Some of the more experienced gained anything from a few pounds through to 7-8 pounds. We also have several guys who have fat loss goals and are steadily losing 1-2 pounds a week and everyone in the group is beating 1RM PR’s 6 weeks in, but we’re not at the finish line yet. We expect to see more progress still, but all improved week on week in both body composition and gym performance.

‘Great physiques are built over years, not days or weeks’ – Shelby Starnes (Pictured above Off-Season)

DC: Some might say you’re not being clear enough in exactly how much muscle someone may be able to gain on HCT-12? ;)

DR: That’s fair enough, but I refuse to give specific numbers as everyone is very different in respect to training experience, genetic ability, age, commitment, motivation – the list goes on… I believe it is unrealistic and misleading to give people hard number claims. If you want that type of information, go grab yourself a program that does just that, but we warned any program that makes promises like that IS misleading you and won’t have your best interests at heart.

DC: Ok, I wanted to cover one last thing with you before we wrap this interview up. Will you need to take AtLarge Nutrition supplements to make gains on this program? A few of our readers are a little skeptical this may be one big advertisement for AtLarge.

DR: It’s far from a big advertisement. As you stated at the beginning of this article, Wannabebig and AtLarge Nutrition’s vision is primarily to help people look and feel great and that’s why they have funded the whole thing. I give you my word that I have had complete creative freedom to develop HCT-12 without any pressure to sell products.

Ultimately, from a nutritional perspective what you ‘need’ is to consistently hit your calorie and macro-nutrient target. To hit mine I use Nitrean and Opticen. I use Opticen before and after training. Simple; supplements, doing what they’re supposed to, conveniently and cost effectively helping me hit my nutritional targets, without which I wouldn’t progress in my training.

I mentioned TomSids above and he is a great example of this. He used Maximus, Opticen, and Results consistently to pack on 40lbs and get significantly stronger over a 6 week period. These supplements helped him to get in enough calories and to support muscle growth (which he has failed to do many times in the past), to help him achieve this weight gain over this time frame. Help is the key word here.

AtLarge Nutrition supplements will of course be recommended in the nutritional aspect of the program. Why? Because it’s a solid line, I personally use and believe in them and the reason I am here talking about HCT-12 now is because of AtLarge Nutrition. It’s also the reason that HCT-12 is being released completely free, so I would hope that Wannabebig readers support AtLarge for these reasons, which is why they are recommended. But the bottom line is that they are not intrinsically built into it in any way and they are not essential to following it and making great gains.

DC: Well, I’ve picked your brain enough, thanks for taking the time out to discuss HCT-12 in more detail. Now get back to work, because the May 3rd deadline is looking tight and there’s no time to waste!

DR: Hah, you got it. And if anyone has any further questions about HCT-12, just ask them in the discussion thread for this article (linked below).

Written by Daniel Clough (with a little help from Dan Roberts!)

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Hypertrophy Cluster Training (HCT-12) – An Interview with Daniel Roberts discussion thread.