What you do in the gym can affect the way that your body does or does not build muscle outside of it. For example, the exercises you choose, the resistances you put on them, and the length of your rest period all affect your anabolic hormonal response. This is a key driver of muscle growth. To help you design more effective anabolically charged workouts, here are 10 key training variables that affect your hormonal response.
Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, Olympic lifts and other such multi-joint exercises allow your body to release more testosterone compared with isolation exercises such as triceps extensions or calf raises. Build your program around compound movements to get the greatest hormonal response.
The greatest increase in testosterone levels is achieved with heavy weights. Work up to maximum sets using 85% to 95% of your one-rep maximum (1RM) for between 4-6 reps.
Long Rest Intervals
Longer rest periods promote a greater hormone response. In one study that reviewed the hormonal effects of rest periods on squats and bench presses, using 85% of one-rep max and rest periods of 60, 90 and 120 seconds, the greatest testosterone response was observed in the group that rested 120 seconds. This will also provide the greatest amount of time to recover from the previous set and prime yourself for the one ahead. Incorporate this tip with the previous one so that you are resting around two minutes when you do your heaviest sets.
Short Rest Periods
While longer rest periods promote a greater release of testosterone, shorter intervals of rest provide for a greater growth hormone response. Growth hormone is necessary for protein synthesis, tissue remodeling and fat burning. Moderately heavy resistance is best to promote GH release, with resistances between 75% to 85% of your one-rep max. The rest periods between 30 seconds and one minute are the best. Combine this step with the previous one by adjusting your rest periods according to how heavy the weight is. As the poundage increases, slightly increase your rest period.
Eccentric Enhanced Training
Eccentric training relates to the negative, or lowering, portion of the rep. Longer eccentric training tempos result in maximal GH response, even when longer rest periods are used. Research shows that using an eccentric enhanced program, where you spend up to 4 seconds on the negative portion of the wrap, can increase growth hormone response by up to 50%. As a result, you should build eccentric training into your program.
Slow down the negative part of your rep so that it takes about double the time that it requires to lift the weight. So, if it takes one second to bring the weight up, it should take two seconds to lower it back down.
You should, however, use a variety of lifting tempos (speeds), because varying the tempo of training elicits the greatest hypertrophic response with maximal release of three hormones
• Growth hormone
• Insulin-like growth factor 1
• Mechano growth factor (MGF)
MGF is a muscle-building hormone that is closely related to IGF-1.
Weighted Chains and Bands
Because you are weak when your muscles are contracting (for example, in the down phase of the squat you can lower more weight than you can with rising in the concentric contraction), you’ll gain more strength by challenging the concentric portion of the lift. Chains and bands allow you to do this. There is not a lot of research on how using chains and resistance bands specifically affects the endocrine system, but these methods are essential to include in optimizing anabolic response with plenty of evidence that this type of hypertrophy-enhanced training boosts growth hormone levels.
The most powerful muscle fibers are the high threshold, fast-twitch motor units. Isometric pauses, as and when you hold the bar on your chest for four seconds before pressing during a bench press, increases intramuscular tension and elevates IGF-1 levels.
Although wavelike loading is well known in weightlifting circles, bodybuilders may not be familiar with this type of training. It involves progressing to heavier weights in a series of waves. For example, you work up to a maximal weight in a pyramid fashion and then reduce the weight by a significant amount, then work back up in pyramid fashion to an even higher maximum weight.
Wavelike loading training has been shown to significantly increase all of the anabolic hormones. That makes this method a no-brainer when you are planning your training program.
With a forced rep you perform a lift to positive failure, and then have a partner assist you in completing additional reps. This type of training produces the greatest response in growth hormone and IGF-1. One study compared a forced repetition protocol and a maximum rep scheme using squats. The forced rep protocol included 12 reps, of which eight were typically performed alone and forward forced, whereas the maximum rep scheme had participants working to failure. The forced rep protocol leads to a significantly greater testosterone response than the maximum rep program in both trained and untrained individuals. Fully exhausting muscle fibers during training have been shown to trigger protein synthesis for up to 72 hours after a workout.
Finishers include isometric pauses or eccentric enhanced lifts or both, depending on how much pain you can stand. Finishers performed at the end of workouts fully thrash muscle fibers and elevate IGF-1 and MGF levels. An effective finisher for your back or biceps workout is the 90-degree chin-up. Use a supinated, close grip on the chin-up bar and pull yourself up to 90 degrees of elbow flexion. Hold that addition for as long as possible – preferably for at least 30 seconds.
Plan your workouts around these 10 anabolic hormone-promoting training variables to ensure that all of your hard work in the gym is rewarded with solid muscle on your body.
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