10 – James Steele PhD: No Such Thing As Cardio, Occam’s Protocol and How Different Activities Trigger Hypertrophy

James Steele II, Ph.D, Professor, Lecturer, and High Intensity Training Expert
James Steele (via The21Convention.com)

James Steele, PhD is a lecturer in Applied Sport Science at Southampton Solent University and is one of the leading experts in exercise physiology, biomechanics, and resistance training.

Still only in his mid-twenties, James is no less than brilliant, and has already published a number of game-changing research papers on exercise. We covered a broad range of topics related to health and fitness that, for me at least, have helped answer a lot of questions. This one is a must listen. Enjoy.

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Show Notes

Is there no such thing as cardio?

How do different activities trigger hypertrophy?

Why resistance training is likely to be a superior mode of exercise

When to use single-joint exercises

Does the big 5 strengthen the lower back effectively?

Is there an optimal time under load for strength and hypertrophy?

Is it worthwhile including additional exercise into one’s HIT regimen?

James Steele’s personal exercise regime

Does high intensity interval training increase human growth hormone?

What is mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) and can we use it to our advantage?

There is no such thing as a non-responder to resistance training

“Strong people are harder to kill”

Do the general public actually want to do HIT?

Does Occam’s Protocol really work?

The truth about muscle growth

The function of muscle glycogen stores and intramuscular fat

The Pros and Cons of being a PhD in exercise

Why hasn’t HIT infiltrated elite level sport?

A further investigation into the treatment of chronic lower back pain

What does “core” really mean?

How to exercise the lower back muscles effectively

The relationship between gait and lower back strength

A detailed look into James Steele’s exercise regime and diet (body weight vs machines)

James’s mentors and journey into evidence-based exercise

How to self-educate effectively

Income vs passion

The importance of critical thinking (absorb what’s useful and discard what isn’t)

How to get the information you want from the experts


Books and Research Papers

Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week by Dr Doug McGuff and John R. Little

The 4-Hour Body: An uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhuman by Tim Ferriss

Muscular and Systemic Correlates of Resistance Training-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy

There Are No Nonresponders to Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Older Men and Women 

The Six Year Itch: Was it all a waste of time?

High-Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer Way by Mike Mentzer



No such thing as cardio

Skyler Tanner

Dragon Ball Z (James’s childhood inspiration)

Abstract Bodyworks

Arthur Jones

James Fisher



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Comments 9

  • Hi Lawrence,

    I found this podcast very interesting: here’s a study published very recently which backs up James’s view that load is irrelevant as long as momentary muscular failure is reached. Personally though, I still get best results from Martin Berkhan’s ‘double progression’ protocol, ie moving up a rep range of say 8 up to 10 reps week on week, then adding slightly more weight and starting again moving up from 8 to 10 reps week on week. (BTW, if you managed to get Martin on this podcast it would be a major coup – Steve Maxwell recommended that you look into his stuff at the end of your first podcast with him, not sure whether you picked that up? Mark Sisson has also talked very positively about Martin’s leangains system if you do a search for that on Mark’s daily apple. And although he’s never mentioned it before, I’m sure Doug Mcguff got the idea for his fasting/BCAA regime from Martin too, who originated this regime long before Doug adopted it. I would love to hear you digging into some of these issues with Martin – I’m sure you could pull it off! All the best, Rob.

    • Thank you for this very helpful and interesting comment Rob. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to acknowledge it! I haven’t looked too much into Martin’s work but heard a lot about him! I’ll check it out and consider reaching out to him.

  • I forgot to ask you, Lawrence; I noticed a few high intensity ideas out there for bodyweight training. What is the difference between James Steele, Drew Baye, and Bill DeSimmone on their method of bodyweight training anyway, and which do you most recommend? What is Bill DeSimmone all about? Congruent Exercise – I don’t quite understand what his philosophy is supposed to offer that others do not, and I’m overwhelmed by it all not knowing where to start, or what to start with.

    • Hi Ricky,

      The answer is they all have very similar approaches to body weight exercise. Drew and James perform traditional HIT routines with single-set-to-failure (SSTF) once or twice per week, whereas Bill will sometimes perform multiple sets and workout 3 or more times per week.

      In terms of the bodyweight exercises, they all do something very similar. If you want a single doc to refer to so you’re not overwhelmed with advice, I would start with http://baye.com/store/project-kratos/ from Drew Baye.

      Bill DeSimone’s books are great for building exercise routines with exercises that are congruent with your biomechanics. He’s all about a safe, productive and long term exercise regimen, and picks exercises accordingly. He doesn’t like anything that comes with risk like a squat with a heavy barbell on the neck/spine, etc.


      • Thank you, Lawrence! Bill DeSimmone sounds best for my needs really! I spent a lot of time talking to Ted Harisson and got some great ideas of different ways how I can alternate between one set and multiple sets in a very brief way still and still get results. I actually have Project Kratos as the only H.I.T. bodyweight book in my library, but I felt disappointed by the results – although I haven’t quite read that much of it either though! But yeah, Drew Baye is very consistent on his belief in one set only! I can take at least 72-96 hours for sure to recover from a workout like that, but my strength stalls, and my muscles really don’t seem to grow the same way they do when I use 3 sets. I want to believe otherwise, but I haven’t seen it. I’ve gone back and forth freezing my gym membership lately, but truth is I see benefits to the gym, and benefits to staying out of the gym both! The environment at the gym really does something to make energy for the workout to actually happen. On the other hand, my joints clearly tell me I’m better off using bodyweight and bands at home! (It’s pretty consistent!) Saves a lot of time and money too. James Steele told me his opinion was and is that it is all pretty much the same either way – unless you want to be a power lifter or something. I like the not counting thing he has. I don’t know. I guess I’ll read project Kratos and add a few sets here and there once I finally decide to cancel my gym membership officially. Hardest thing in the world to do! (And it’s right next door practically too!) Thank you…

  • Do you ever plan to have anyone else on that has conflicting views on the effectiveness of HIT and Body by Science in particular, or just going to continue to have guests that confirm your beliefs regardless of the exercise science?

    As for one question you ask in your show recap that you discuss “Why hasn’t HIT infiltrated elite level sport?” Arthur Jones was successful in getting several NFL teams to try HIT in the 70s and they all went back to conventional training because it didn’t work for their athletes. Do you even research these things before you have guests on?

    • Hi El, thanks for your comment.

      Whilst I enjoy HIT and find it very efficacious, at least for me, I’m not quite as married to traditional, once-a-week HIT as I once was. I elaborate in https://highintensitybusiness.com/productivity/how-to-become-the-best-version-of-you/.

      As for science that shows HIT training to be less effective than other modalities, please share. 😀 Happy to review and discuss with future guests.

      In terms of guests with views that align with HIT being a sub-optimal protocol, I have interviewed Bran Schoenfeld and Keith Norris who feel that traditional HIT has a place but isn’t optimal for muscle hypertrophy. You can listen to the episodes here:



      I’m familiar with Arthur Jones having some initial success getting elite athletes to practice HIT but I do not agree that it was ineffective. It is my understanding that HIT didn’t stick around in elite athletics due to indoctrinated strength coaches who had been doing it “their way” for years for the sake of the coaches before them and the coaches before them and secondly, maybe because it left athletes overtrained, since I imagine their coaches pummelled the athletes with a ton of physical activity beyond what was necessary for strength and conditioning. But I don’t know everything. That’s why I do this podcas El, to learn by speaking with guests 😉

      You clearly are very biased against HIT. Perhaps you have some good reasons and I’m open to learning more, if you can comment with scientific literature / more examples?

      I don’t care too much about defending HIT since I believe that all resistance training protocols work to a similar degree. It’s just some are more time-efficient and safer than others ;-).

  • […] James Steele (Listen to my episodes with James here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part […]

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