159 – Wayne Westcott PhD – Is High Intensity Strength Training Enough?

Dr Wayne Westcott
A true gentleman, Dr Wayne Westcott

Wayne L. Westcott PhD, is professor of exercise science at Quincy College in Quincy, Massachusetts. Dr. Westcott has been a strength training consultant for numerous organizations, including the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, the American Council on Exercise, the YMCA of the USA, General Motors, and Nautilus. He has authored 28 books/textbooks, and more than 90 peer-reviewed research/academic papers.

It’s an honour and privilege to speak with Dr Westcott again. In this episode, we cover a lot of ground in terms of exercise science related to resistance training and protein consumption as well as mediators for muscle growth and the potential need for speed and power work alongside high intensity strength training.

Check out my Part 1 with Dr Westcott HERE

Access exclusive content with Wayne inside HIT Business Membership


  • Email Dr Westcott to wwestcott [@] quincycollege [dot] edu
  • Phone him on +1 617 984 1716 (US)

Highlights include:

  • The benefits of resistance training on myokine secretion
  • The most effective exercise and diet for body recomposition according to science
  • How and why it may be important to develop speed and power in activities alongside HIT
  • … and much, much more


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Would you like to hear more from Dr Wayne Westcott? Listen to this episode with Dr Westcott, in which we discuss training frequency, workout routines, recovery requirements with ageing, and much, much more. Listen to it here (stream below or right-click to download):

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Selected Links from the Episode

People Mentioned

Comments 93

  • Lawrence, nice job with the continued questioning on the topic of power. Certainly Dr. Westcott is breaking with fundamentalist HIT in his prescription of more explosive exercise in addition to controlled weight lifting as AJ basically said (I think) that strength and power increase at a 1:1 ratio, so “specific” power training is not necessary. But, Dr. Westcott said that the research is clear that power and strength are lost at different rates as we age, not 1:1 (this was the most intriguing statement by Dr. Westcott on the topic). I’m wondering, is the fundamentalist HIT position against higher speed training solely based on the words of AJ and deductive reasoning? Are fundamentalists focusing too much on the muscle and not enough on the nervous system? Is specific power training only important for specific skills (you did ask this one, and I think he basically said no)?

    • Thank you Thomas. I think that Greg and Andrew answer most of your questions here in their comments (please check them out). I’ve also asked Dr Westcott to weigh in if he has time and isn’t busy answering emails from you all!

  • Thanks!
    Very good informative interview. I especially liked the “power” discussion.
    Note: Dr. Westcott is yet another authority on exercise that incorporates a “wacky exercise philosophy “. … AKA ….. cardio.

    • Oh well, Lawrence interviewed me too. I just move thrrough life, sometimes intense mostly relaxed. And here I am , age 54, no health issue’s. How much more of my CV system do I need to live my life? ??? Just anecdotical, I Know, I know.

      • Ad,

        I mirror C. Bass workouts. Usually 1 workout with weights and 1-2 workouts on the Assault bike weekly. My cardio is REHIT of 5 minutes only. I currently do not do LISS. LISS is best for clients who are challenged by poor musculature, obesity or both.

        What would it hurt to do a weekly 5 minute REHIT?

        • My LISS is walking 20k a week, necessitated by not owning a car and having to do the school pickup! (Also owning a dog eh, Lawrence?)

          5 minutes a week? Dude, cardio will kill my gains! Plus my heart’s maximo healthy already because reasons.

  • Brilliant episode. So many points here line up exactly/confirm my experience. Glad to be told I’ve essentially done the right thing re training/weight loss/protein intake, everything Dr Westcott mentions has really reassured me.

    Thank you so much, Lawrence for asking my question. To clarify, I’m under the impression that high velocity nerve conductance is something that happens when a trainee moves (or intends to move) at their absolute peak power/speed, independent of their proportion of fast twitch fibres (which work at multiple conductance velocities). It’s the rate of decline in conductance velocity and prevention of which (independent to fibre type) that I was most interested in. I simply wondered if safely performed “plyometric” exercises helped to stave of this particular aspect of aging (and possibly help with other aspects of health?). Additionally I wondered if by going to failure a HIT trainee might actually activate the same pathways thus negating the need for additional training. Dr Westcott’s answer cheered me no end, pretty much confirming what I had though (and of course my cognitive bias!) I may well take up the offer of an email exchange.

    My own training includes a combination of medball throws and slams (very safe as explained) for the upper body. Simple squat-jumps for the legs and the dreaded kettlebell swing for the legs/glutes and back (this is, I believe is very safe contrary to a lot of what is said. I’m not doing stupid Olympic lifts, TGU’s and the like)(the kettlebell also takes care of the majority of my HIIT needs! I figure that at worst I’m wasting half an hour of my week on this, I literally waste more time a day staring at my phone. Oh and I also try to run a 10k most weeks and long with various silly things I try out from time to time. HIT will though always remain the core of my training. It’s laying a very solid foundation to work on, without it whatever you try to build may well fall down!

    • I wondered where you had gone to sir! 😉

      Thanks for the great comment. Your question was well thought out and I HAD to ask it! Since I am also very curious.

      Sorry you had to wait so long to get an answer!

      I think you’ve got a very rationale routine there mate. Based on what we currently know.

      • It’s been school holidays for 6 weeks so I got completely out of my routine while doing childcare. Also a lot of the podcasts have been HIT business oriented so not much input from me there!

        For my routine I just try to cover all bases without going over the top. Congruent with my lifestyle, I’m maintaining a good level of fitness while slowly whittling away the last kgs of fat!

  • Interesting discussion about training for speed and power. Westcott’s comments about the decline in fast twitch motor units with age are consistent with what I have read. His inability to provide a definitive prescription for preserving these valuable muscle fibers seems to reflect what is currently known and not known about the process.

    So here is some background, based on what I think I understand so far:

    We are all familiar with the term sarcopenia, which refers to the loss of muscle mass with aging. There is a related phenomena that has been termed dynapenia, which relates to the loss of force or power production ability by muscles, beyond what can be explained by loss of muscle mass. This publication introduces the concept and explains why preservation of muscle mass may not be the full answer to preventing dynapenia:


    From what I can gather, dynapenia is probably related to preferential loss of fast twitch fiber, and that originates with age related decay in the function of the nervous system. Basically, your nervous system begins to be unable to fire off the highest threshold motor units, effectively denervating the fast twitch fibers attached to those particular motor unit neurons. Once this happens, the muscle fibers are basically converter or recycled or renervated to become slow twitch fiber. Resistance training can slow down the process (or rather, inactivity can accelerate the process). But even among resistant trained individuals, the decline is seen:


    What is this important? Because of falls. If you stumble or trip and have to try and catch yourself or arrest the fall, the bodies response amounts to the execution of an explosive movement. Being strong overall can help. But it is the ability to apply force quickly, or generate power, that will allow you to arrest the fall. This gets harder to do as you get older. I won’t go into details, because this article does a good job of explaining the issue:


    So what can we do about this? We know that resistance training can slow down the loss of fast twitch fiber, and loss of ability to produce power. But there don’t seem to be any proven interventions to stop it completely. The obvious approach which has been explored is the use of explosive or fast resistance training. This has obvious downsides for a population that also has increasingly brittle connective tissue and is increasingly at risk of injury from explosive movement. Joseph Signorile, who wrote the excellent book titled “Bending the Aging Curve”, offers these thoughts:


    Unfortunately, getting old sucks and death wins in the end. The best you can probably do is wage an heroic battle against your failing muscles, seeking to push your functional health span out as far as possible. Something to look forward to!

    • Brilliant post.

    • Thank you Greg. This is fantastic. I think your last point is key. Is this something which can’t be prevented and then one has to consider the risk / reward of said additional activity. I will continue to play basketball regardless (because I love the sport …. at least for now) and I cycle a couple of times a week, so I use these opportunities to practice some power (HIIT).

  • Amazing episode Lawrence! I love everything Wayne has to say and he’s incredibly intelligent on exercise and diet. What a wise man!

    Parts of this episode actually reminded me of your episode with Andy Galpin where he advocated adding in power and speed training for older adults to keep the skill around in case of falls. I’m curious to learn more about this and hear you question and debate this in future episodes.

    Keep up the fantastic work!

  • Some thoughts,
    Exercise (strengthtraining done correctly) keeps the FT fibers as much as possible activated. Aging comes with a loss of a lot of vital functions, If we are smart and genetically somewhat lucky, we can minimize this.
    Exercise rejunivates a lot of mitochondrial gene expressions, this keeps the urge to express this
    ” being younger ” activated. We start/keep moving. This by itself give our nervous system the needed continiously information about moving in space. This will keeps us from falling as much as possible.And I might claim that despite losing some FT capacity, what we keep will be enough to “catch ‘ us before falling. Astronouts coming back to earth fall over from a wobbling board without recognizing they are falling. And tthis is after being a short amount of time in outer space!! Gravity counts.
    Nutrition, keeping inflamation lowish , helps to keep the nervous system functioning. We all know that ketones help much in brain health and energy, we need enough protein for e.g neurotransmittors so the neuromuscular system keeps functioning well.
    Older people in hunther gatherers sociëties don’t have much of the issues of our modern elderies. So, are they free from losing FT capacity?? I don”t think so, but they stay “normal “active and keep must of their muscular functioning. And so can we, by exercise (you know what I wanted to type here) and keep moving.
    I also claim that the majority of our modern eldery population don”t fit the status “normal “in this respect as discussed here.
    I do not tell anyone not to throw balls, swing kettlebells and the like, I just don’t offer it as a service. My concern is actually more in the sphere of muscular and skeletal rehabilitation and strengthening. By doing that correctly I capture all the benifits of exercise for my clients without having any concerns about the cosmetic expression of it……….that would muddy the water toward bro science……..

  • The Kristen Beavers study (mentioned by Dr. Westcott) shows that as regards older people, resistance training is a slightly better way to improve bodyfat composition than walking, while all the while dieting.


  • Great show ! Interesting it was mentioned that older folks would need to increase their protein consumption because it’s harder for them to metabolize it , but wouldn’t that be like pouring water into a glass that’s already full ? What would be the point in consuming more when the body can’t deal with what it already has ? Once again we hear about the importance of strength training especially as we age which is great to hear , it’s kind of like building up a savings account for your body .

    • Hey Enlite, strange reccomendation is that for the protein huh?! Sounds a bit like – You can not digest milk well and you get little of the good stuff, but a lot of waste products causing problems to your system, BUT you know what, if you drink more milk, then surely you will accumulate more of it’s good ingredients… I can not wrap my head around the idea, that if I double the size of my old car’s gas tank and stuff it with highest octane fuel, it will surely very much increase it’s performance…like a better brand?! To be fair though, Dr. Wescott, crealry stated, that many people ate very little, close to mallnourishment in terms of calories and protein and that was the reason a change in diet works. It is one thing to be mallnourished, but to use a fixed percentage like 1,6/kg, 2.2/kg etc. for protein intake and that to be well suited to an average weight man is not the whole story. Lawrence for example said he was going gram for pound, so at 158 he was eating 160 grams… What if you are 220, your desired weight is 220, you do not want to use powders…then what?! A lot of food to digest…hardly helpful neither for pure muscle building, neither for cutting IMO.

      • I couldn’t agree with you more ! And what’s funny is that 1.6 grams per kilo is actually considered by many to be a low/moderate dose ! I read an interesting article some years ago in which Ellington Darden spoke about how he used to consume 300g of protein a day during his bodybuilding heyday . And the result of that was that his kidneys & liver were enlarged and over stressed so he lowered his intake .

        • I actually have a few of El Darren’s books and inside there are many more interesting stories. One was when he had some sort of university field practice on a humanitarian mission in Africa, where his team was supposed to take care of heavily malnourished children. The initial plan was to feed them what they considered a solid diet, steak etc. Guess what, the kid started fading even faster… Then they immediately switched to a meal which basically was flour mixture with water. Sure enough this simple meal brought life back into the children. Why nobody ever talks about that? I had broken my arm twice and funny enough, like anyone else, I did not change my diet while in cast, so that new bone grows and after cast removal to restore what was an atrophied muscle all over. Same goes to severe injuries as well…not some training (microtrauma). How many people know how much protein is there in breast milk? Yet when an organism grows at it’s fastest rate, this is the only meal on the menue. I’ve seen many guys on PEDs that could afford either to buy the juice or to buy decent food. There was one particular guy, who ate a snickers for breakfast and after the workout had two hotdogs and a beer… The guy looked amazingly muscular and cut! Tell me about the importance of nutrients for muscle building. A well balanced diet has been and always will be what is enough. All the rest is due to the Drive…if one has it. The training/an extraordinary stimulus is responsible for almost everything.

          • Absolutely agree that the training stimulus is primarily responsible for muscle growth/development for sure . Food and the role it plays with regard to muscular development/growth is vastly overstated ! Interesting story about the kids and the flour/water/sugar mixture that got them feeling much better doesn’t surprise me one bit . There was a doctor in the USA in the early 1900’s that got many sick people well with nothing but a rice/fruit diet ! Protein has been a business enterprise for the better part of 60-70 years and the muscle media has been beating the drums because there’s profit involved ! High protein diets are not only unnecessary but they’re also very unhealthy and this has been known for quite some time .

            • Following the hype, there are teenage girls, weigting some 60 kilos, at my local gym, who follow reccomended diets with more protein, than I normally eat, trying to add muscle and loose fat. After a a few months, when their tights grow bigger in size, they take it as a proof, they added muscle ???? Years pass by and the muscle still does not reveal itself anywhere on their bodies…only size does. Makes me laugh, but I am being polite, by withholding myself of telling them they simply got fatter due to the insane conssumption of food.

              • Another very peculiar IMO, but yet popular logic seems to be that meat and basically protein, should be best muscle food, cause it is closest in nature and chemistry to the muscles we are trying to build. Following that, being carnivorous may not even be the best…how about Cannibal instead for best results?! Only bothering thing is, that when we happen to eat potatoes for example, our muscles do not turn to potatoes…or they do!?!

                • Thanks for the screed of irrelevant anecdotes above.

                  • They’re not irrelevant they’re true .

                    • They’re unverifiable anecdotes that at best have very little to do with the main thrust of the discussion and at worst are total gibberish.

                    • The things that me & Kamen discussed are verifiable are not gibberish and part of the discussion did center around protein intake . If you don’t like it that’s fine , but why comment on it at all if you don’t approve ? And because you don’t like what was said doesn’t make it untrue .

                    • I’d argue that Kamen’s last comment in particular was gibberish.

                      Almost everything in the thread above is irrelevant to the interview and all pure anecdote. Second or third hand uncorroborated stories don’t suddenly become data because someone hastily typed them out.

                    • Just because something is anecdote as opposed to ” science ” doesn’t make it untrue either . Truth is an event , and only through experience can the veracity of a truth be verified . Consuming too much protein does make you deficient because the body will actually convert the protein into glucose . Carbs are protein sparring .

                    • That isn’t true at all. “Some girls got fat through poor nutrition” “a doctor 100yrs ago cured “illnesses” using a diet” “malnourished children need diet X” are not truths, they are no more than “cool stories” that you are using to imply a general truth to your preconceived ideas, post hoc rationalisations to confirm your own biases. Take a little while to read up on the problems with relying on anecdotal evidence and maybe you’ll see why I’m so perturbed. We all do it, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of relying on fallacious logic.

                      Regarding overconsumption of protein, what you write is correct only in very specific context, almost nobody eats this way and the interview certainly didn’t imply you should. You are arguing against something that was never said, and taking it to an absurd extreme.

                    • Hi Andrew, the comments of mine are relative to the consumption of protein topic, that is in the interview. The anecdotal form is used on purpose as sometimes this is a way to provoke people to think out of the box…well sometimes it just pisses people off. It was surely not my intention to offend anyone’s feelings and understanding. Even the comments were addressed directly at “enlite” – someone whom I like communicating with, cause I value His experience. But, what I share here, on the blog is My personal experience knowledge and understanding. As I see it, the science is there to explain real life events and processes. And as far as I am concerned a lot of areas are still even not looked at by science and many problems that were considered explored and explained, on many occasions get a review after a new study comes out or when part of the theory they support is challenged or severily contradicted by real life events. An ongiong process. And Re “the girls” getting fat are no different then the boys getting fat when Overconsuming…even when that is the most precious ingredients. Take care :))

                    • The problem is when stories are presented as facts rather than subjective experience. You can’t have it both ways.

                    • Andrew, I honestly see No problems with someone sharing whatever he has read, weather it being a book, an article, a study. On every topic there certainly is an equal amount of pros and cons in various forms. Neither do I see a problem with someone sharing what he has experienced in his life OR his thoughts on a subject. To them, that is a fact. As for the audience, obviously it’s up to everyone’s experience and wits, to acknowledge the information presented, as a fact, true or false, to comment on it or not. Have a great day!

                    • True enough .

                    • Andrew, be kind enough to notice, that “the malnourished kids story” is a part of El Darden’s books. I share it here, because it is relevant to a topic discussed e.g. protein consumption. And yes, everything is to be looked at in a context, because there always is a context and all is relative in general.

                    • It’s a false equivalence.

                    • A starch/fruit/veg based diet isn’t subjective assumptions on my part it is what many people have thrived on for a very long time . You also can’t assume that everything ” scientific ” is true either . By the way did you get a chance to watch the Arthur Jones video ?

                    • I agree. Starch, fruit and veg are certainly cornerstones of a healthy diet as are meat and fats. Whether diet should be “starch based” or “high protein” is a bit of a false dichotomy.

                      Yes I watched the video and replied above, apologising for jumping the gun in my haste to prove you wrong…

                    • Meat has nothing at all to do with healthy eating .

                    • You’re entitled to that opinion.

                    • It’s not my opinion that meat and animal products have bad effects upon health it’s a fact it’s been known for quite some time .

                    • It’s a matter of balance, all foods can have a positive and negative effect on health. To say meat has nothing at all to do with a healthy diet is quite a sweeping statement and incorrect. You might be better to say that you think that the risks of meat consumption outweigh the benefits therefore you believe that you are better off abstaining.

                    • It’s not a sweeping statement nor is it incorrect . And this is coming from someone who still eats some meat by the way although i’ve greatly reduced my consumption of meat . Now that may make me somewhat of a hypocrite which is true but i’m seriously considering eliminating my meat consumption completely . However i don’t try to delude myself that meat is healthy .

                    • You say that over consumption of protein causes protein deficiency. What constitutes over consumption and by what mechanism is responsible? I assume you are referring to the findings of a study?

                • LMAO ! That’s funny !

              • Yes it’s quite humorous to observe these things . And what’s funny is that over consuming protein actually makes you protein deficient and that’s the irony of it .

      • Power is mass * acceleration however you also have to keep in mind specifics . A boxer must punch obviously to acquire proficiency at punching & power (moving quickly) all comes down to muscular strength & intent . The idea/notion that people should perform explosive movements such as kettle bell swings or swinging a sledgehammer & the like imposes very dangerous forces on the body especially the spine . I think it’s irresponsible to recommend such exercises to people & athletes alike when much safer alternatives exist .

        • I guess that comment arrived at a wrong spot, as I would never think of reccomending kettle bells swings to anyone, exactly for the reasons you stated in the comment ;)))

          • I know you didn’t Kamen but i think i heard Wayne mention power training and the performing of medicine ball slams . Other people have recommended similar things as well .

            • Yeap, unfortunately so!

            • As long as proper form is observed, two handed kettlebell swings and med ball slams/throws aren’t particularly risky. For the theoretical benefits discussed here there are no “safer” alternatives. The problem is that almost no one is performing them for those specific benefits. So I’m definitely with you insomuch as almost everything you see done with “explosive” training is dumb as hell.

              • They are very risky and i feel that those types of dangerous exercises provide no benefit unless you want to be proficient at swinging a sledgehammer , which i have no idea why .

                • While there is an inherent risk involved in “heavy” two handed kettlebell swings I personally find it no more dangerous than many recreational physical pursuits. Medball slams are much less risky. I’d be interested in knowing what you think the main dangers are, for my consideration, seeing as I would like to stay injury free.

                  Nowhere however did I mention sledgehammer swings, please stop building strawmen.

                  I do see the perceived utility in performing said exercise but agree that the impact forces involved are an unnecessary risk.

                  • It would impose impact forces on the body and particularly the spine . As for the sledgehammer i only mentioned it as an example as one of the totally ludicrous things that a lot are doing and for what , who knows .

                    • There is no impact force from a two handed kettlebell swing or a medball slam.

                      Mentioning sledgehammer swings misrepresents my point, deliberate or not.

                    • I personally know people who have injured their backs performing said exercises . Forces are imposed on the body doing said activities . What benefits are acquired through slamming a ball on the floor & swinging a kettle bell ?

                    • Without knowing the specifics of those injuries I can’t really comment.

                      In the context of this conversation, these exercises theoretically could slow a couple of markers of aging. I’ll add that Dr Westcott didn’t personally recommend KB, that’s something from my own regime (I even added the jokey qualifier “dreaded” as I knew where the utterance would lead me). Thank you for ceasing your moving of the goalposts though.

                      Outside of the context of this conversation there are other benefits that I have weighed up against their risks. Personally I think the balance tips in my favour, YMMV.

                    • Coincidentally the Dr Dreisinger interview is up and, being a spine specialist I thought I’d ask him his opinion on KB via email. Here’s a quote to sum up his thoughts:

                      “ I am uncomfortable with any weighted exercise that has meaningful ballistic motion. There is load on the spine when the KB is moving through it’s arc, but the spine is a lot stronger than we give it credit, so in a simple motion sense, I would be less concerned about injury”

                      He also mentions that reported injuries are typically sustained to the wrist and shoulder during manoeuvres like the “jerk”, that a study led by James Steel reported strength gains in the lumbar spine following KB training and that he would discourage any exercise involving free axial movement.

                      Another quote: “Keep up the good work, and keep swinging (safely, of course)”

                      So I do feel vindicated in the most, although I understand your concerns.

                    • That’s fine and please understand i’m not presuming to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do , i just fail to see what benefit one accrues through the use of such things .

  • Awesome podcast Lawrence! Some really good informative comments also!

  • There’s an interesting video of Arthur Jones on Youtube saying that explosive training is criminal & stupid as hell , it’s quite funny actually ! He also mentions that it will do absolutely nothing for your strength . I actually couldn’t agree more with AJ as momentum/acceleration will actually remove a lot of tension off the muscles and onto the joints/connective tissues which is very dangerous & an injury waiting to happen .

    • enlite – still I wonder where to draw the line between dogma and good science when it comes to AJ. And how pragmatic was he? Yes, cams help put continuous stress on the muscle throughout its full range of motion. And yes, slower/controlled reps help reduce momentum. But, short of extreme examples (Olympic lifting/Crossfit) where safety IS a concern, does any of this really matter?

    • In that particular clip, AJ is referring to a particular trainer that he considered a liar and conman. He’s sort of conflating two or three different streams of thought, that the trainer was a liar, that explosive training can be dangerous and that specifically Olympic/competition lifts are certain to damage your body sooner or later. He never mentions it in regards to building strength.

      In the above discussion it is put forward that a low risk form of this training may protect against age related loss of high velocity nerve conductance and the associated loss of fast twitch muscle function, nothing more.

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