Hello muscle fans, and welcome to the place where your obsession is our priority. We take the discovery of new methods and philosophies as seriously as you take your training. When you add all of the hard work you do in the gym to the information we bring you every week, your muscle growth dreams can be transformed into reality. We are always on the lookout for new ways to encourage muscular hypertrophy, and we are even beginning to look for information that will support some of our own budding theories regarding the growth of new muscle tissue. The message I’m trying to get across here is that if there is anything that can help with gaining muscle mass being discussed within, or even outside of the muscle community, we are looking into it!
Today we will be talking about a subject that hasn’t been given much focus here with regards to growing lean muscle. That subject is hormones, and more specifically how we can manipulate them through our training efforts to encourage new tissue growth. Our body is capable of producing an incredible variety of these biochemicals, and it is worth looking into what we can do to produce more of the ones that are directly related to the size and strength of our muscles.
Hormones are key chemical messengers that are secreted by various glands within our body, and subsequently released into the blood stream. The gland is either chemically signaled, or triggered via neural stimulation. The system which controls hormones is known as the endocrine system, and this system helps with various functions within our body. These functions include muscle growth, and that is our main concern today.
Hormones mediate the changes that occur in the muscle both metabolically, and at the cellular level of our muscles when we train. Muscle growth involves a multiple step process that includes the micro-tearing of our muscle fibers, an inflammatory response to the tearing, hormonal interactions to help speed the healing of the muscle fibers, and finally protein synthesis within the sarcomeres to repair the damage. There are a plethora of hormones involved in this process, but today we will only be covering the anabolic, and catabolic hormones.
There are several anabolic hormones produced within our body. Hormones such as testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, and human growth hormone all contribute to the growth of muscle tissue. On the opposite side of the equation, catabolic hormones work to degrade cell proteins, and lessen the amount of muscle that we have. These catabolic hormones such as cortisol and progesterone are not what we want to be releasing during training.
Testosterone is the king of muscle-building hormones, and is produced in the testes for men, and the ovaries in women. This is the primary androgen hormone that interacts with muscle during training. Testosterone, as well as training of any sort, can promote a growth hormone response within the pituitary gland. Human growth hormone positively influences protein synthesis, which works to recuperate damaged muscle tissue. Growth hormone also stimulates the release of insulin-like growth factor or IGF-1. So as you can see, one hormone affects another, and it’s quite literally a chain reaction.
Cortisol on the other hand, is produced in the adrenal gland. It is deemed a catabolic hormone because it breaks down muscle tissue. It does this by converting amino acids (proteins) into glucose through gluconeogenesis. As we know, glucose is vital in order to train at the highest level, and is the primary source of energy used during weight training.
Resistance training has been proven to bring about an adaptive response that elicits size, strength, and power increases in trained musculature. There is also an increase in anabolic hormones when we perform any form of heavy resistance training. Hormones are secreted both during, and after training due to the stress that our muscles are put under. The larger the number of muscle fibers targeted during the training process, the greater the hormonal response will be.
This fact gives cause to carefully consider how it is our training splits are constructed. I have my own preference, and I think it’s worth considering if mass building is your primary goal. Many of us however, will train a body part per day. For example chest, back, legs, shoulders, and arms. By doing so we are not training effectively in order to take full advantage of the hormonal response.
The above scenario is fine in terms of the production of testosterone for the first three days, however if we devote a day to training just shoulders, or arms, we will see a decline in these hormone levels. The reason for this is because our arms and shoulders are relatively small in comparison to our bigger muscles, and as such will not yield the same hormonal release. Whatever training split you ultimately choose, it should incorporate small and large muscles together in order to truly get the best results.
Another benefit of having our larger muscles release the greatest amounts of testosterone, is that if we do our accessory training after training our big muscles, this will help our strength levels during our accessory work due to the surplus of hormones. Also, if train our smaller muscles after training our larger muscles, our testosterone levels are maintained, or at least regulated at a higher level due to having trained the larger muscle group first. As an aside, our testosterone levels will be at their highest during training when an off day, or days, has just passed. It may be worth considering giving priority to our weakest muscle groups on these days to take full advantage of the extra testosterone.
Something that also bears looking at is cortisol levels in relation to training duration. Testosterone levels begin to decline after an hour of heavy resistance training, and at the same time cortisol levels begin to rise. It is ideal to keep the resistance portion of our training limited to 45 minutes to an hour. I know full well how near impossible this is to do, but it is a fact nonetheless.
In summation, in order to get the most from our hormones we should pair our larger muscle groups with our smaller ones, do any accessory training after training our large muscle groups, train our weakest body parts after an off day, and try to limit our resistance training to one hour or less. If we do all of these things, we will create an ideal anabolic hormonal environment. If we support this with adequate calories, and the appropriate quantity of recuperative rest, growth is assured-providing there was the necessary training stimulus applied of course.
I always enjoy the Muscle feature that we post here every week. There are of course the two Muscle Talk posts, the first of which is tomorrow. I hope to see you all here then my friends. Until then,
This article was researched and co-written by Carlos Flores
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