I’m going to guess when you saw the title of this article you probably thought “click bait.” Yet you clicked it anyway didn’t you? You may be surprised, however, that it actually wasn’t. I’m going to take this time to make the argument eating pizza and ice cream or any of your favorite foods not […]
Since I’ve been looking at carbs in my last couple of articles I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look at another topic heavily debated in the fitness world. That of insulin sensitivity and exactly how much stock should be placed on carb timing. Or even if these theoretical times exist. For […]
In my last article we looked at research that showed diets containing mostly complex carbs had the same results in body composition as diets structured around simple carbs. I mentioned at the end of the article that I noticed a trend in the majority of the research that could in part explain why the data showed similar results. Today […]
Search around social media and fitness articles and there is no doubt you’ll see a lot of material saying to stay away from simple carbs and stick to only complex carbs. Complex Vs Simple carbs – The Clash Of The Titans. There is certainly plenty to like about complex carbs as they are typically high […]
How Change Happens…
So many people wonder why they can’t change.
Why they can’t make simple changes to get where they want to be.
Why they can’t put themselves first.
Why they can’t stick to any program.
Why they fail over and over.
And keep going back to feeling good about something.
And quitting again.
It’s pretty simple actually.
It’s because change sucks.
It’s a lot of unknowns.
You are comfortable being you.
You are comfortable with what you are.
It’s who you are.
It’s what you know.
But if you change.
You don’t know what to expect.
You don’t know what will happen.
Change. Is. Painful.
So when does change happen?
When they pain of STAYING THE SAME.
Is greater than the pain of changing.
When you can no longer tolerate it.
When you realize you HAVE to change.
To become who you want to be.
That’s when it happens.
Don’t let yourself stay the same anymore.
You deserve better.
If you been around the weight lifting scene for a decent amount of time there is no doubt you’ve probably heard of or even had someone tell you directly that you shouldn’t lift weights over one hour. As if there is this timer that goes off in your body after an hour that says “no more gains!” So where did this one hour window come from and how much truth is there to it?
In researching this topic I found multiple articles explaining why you need to keep training under an hour. There was plenty of this out there, so what was the most common reasoning? For the most part it all came down topics I’ve recently reviewed, how very convenient for me. They concluded since cortisol levels rise and testosterone levels fall after about an hour of training and since cortisol is catabolic and testosterone is anabolic training over an hour is bad. We don’t want catabolic hormones taking over and our anabolic ones depleted, obviously right?
If research out of McMaster University (1) tells us anything, that probably isn’t the case. In their research during a 12-week training program subjects who had the highest cortisol levels post-workout were more likely to gain muscle over the course of the study. In fact they found that workout-induced cortisol was more positively correlated with lean body mass and hypertrophy than testosterone, IGF-1 or growth hormone. This doesn’t make cortisol anabolic, it just shows that higher levels of cortisol due to training is more of an indicator of how effective your workout was (consider it controlled stress.) And I’ve already showed you here and here how short-term spikes in anabolic hormones mean nothing. Cortisol seems to work the same way.
If that wasn’t enough the studies everyone pointed to about cortisol levels going up after an hour were done on endurance athletes. Not exactly the same thing as strength athletes. I’d say the cortisol reason would be strike one for keeping exercise under an hour.
The next common reason to keep workouts under an hour was because if you workout for too long you will deplete all of your body’s glycogen stores and your body will start using muscle for fuel. This one makes little sense. If you have full glycogen stores in your muscles you have about 500 grams stored up. You are not going to burn through 500 grams of glycogen in an hour of working out no matter how hard you train. The utilization of carbs during exercise can be calculated from oxygen uptake and respiratory exchange ratio.
The rate of oxidation depends on the intensity of the exercise as well as how well-trained the individual is. A well-trained person has a much higher capacity to metabolize glucose and fat compared to an untrained person. Romijn et al. 1993 (2) and Loon et al. 2001 (3) showed the major carbohydrate source used in exercise above 70% is muscle glycogen. Hermansen et al. 1967 (4) showed well-trained subjects can more than oxidize 3 grams per minute which means after an hour of very intense exercise that would be roughly 180 grams from carbohydrates. Strike two for keeping exercise under an hour.
The last reason out there to keep exercise under an hour is the common fear of overtraining. Overtraining seems to be everywhere now days, and I believe it has really been blown out of proportion. It seems like everyone is so worried about overtraining that as soon as they do anything that gives them sore muscles they think they need to take some time off so they don’t overtrain. Okay I’m not saying overtraining doesn’t exist, but realize that overtraining is the point where things like fatigue and feeling burnt out becomes chronic. (AKA not because you are tired for 2 days…) Where the demands of training frequently outweigh the time for regeneration.
Most of the time this happens because someone isn’t fueling their body properly and/or they aren’t getting enough rest. Then there is overreaching which is basically the short-term version of overtraining. I think many people also confuse these two things. Many programs such as Sheiko, Smolov or many of the fast growing DUP crowd (Daily Undulated Periodization) are programmed to purposefully overreach and then go through a period of deloading where the gains are actualized. As long as you don’t overreach for too long (which in turn leads to overtraining) it can be used for our own good for strength and size. Not lifting for over an hour in fear of overtraining seems foolish at best, strike three you’re out!
This isn’t to say you have to go over an hour and there is nothing wrong with getting in and getting out, but if you were worried your body would go catabolic if you did workout over an hour, you can now lift worry free. As always genetics, goals and your own training protocols play a big role in how long and hard you should workout. As long as you are smart and listen to your body, and knock the weight down for a while when your body really needs it, you’ll be golden. What I am sure about, however, is that if you feel you need to workout longer than an hour to reach your goals you shouldn’t worry about it one bit.
In my last article we looked at numerous studies that all pointed to exercise-induced hormones not having a role in muscle hypertrophy or strength. The evidence was pretty clear that growth hormone and testosterone that is produced DURING training was not anabolic and did not have an effect on protein synthesis. Today I want to talk about what is more important than exercised-induced hormones as well as what these hormones may do for us.
I briefly mentioned last time what was much more important than exercise-induced hormones, and that is your overall hormone levels that matter the most. Not just what’s happening during our training. Our overall hormone profile is the difference between the genetically gifted people and the rest of the world. The people who can pile on slabs of muscle way faster than others doing the same things likely have very high levels of these hormones.
To show how important your hormonal profile is, there was a study done that showed in 10 weeks people who took 600 mg of testosterone but did NO weight training whatsoever gained on average 7 pounds of muscle. To put that into perspective there was a group who did weight training naturally and they gained on averaged 4 pounds of muscle during that time. So the group who got additional hormones without doing a thing gained almost twice as much muscle as the natural group who did train. Think hormones make a difference? If you were wondering there was a group that trained and got the testosterone boost, and they gained on average 13 pounds of muscle. (1)
I’m in no way advocating steroid use as I think the bad far outweighs the good, but it’s easy to see how one could get trapped into thinking its use was the way to go, and it certainly shows just how important our hormonal profile is when it comes to results. If you have high levels of testosterone you are going to be able to add muscle faster than those who don’t. Okay, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know I’m sure, but I’m trying to make a point. While you can’t change your genetics, you can certainly improve your hormone levels through things like exercise, diet, sleep, managing stress and overall living a healthy life. The results we get from eating and the growth that comes from hormones go hand in hand. It’s not just food that makes you grow.
As you can see I’m not disputing hormones play a role in body composition. It’s no coincidence that men have on average 10 times more testosterone than women. Growth hormone and IGF-1 play a key role in the regulation of body size especially in children, although their role in adults is not quite as clear. Certainly individuals with a growth hormone deficiency have increased body fat and decreased fat-free mass, as well as decreased muscle strength. Since these factors can all be helped by synthetic growth hormone, but changes in myofibre cross-sectional area are not. Researchers say this would suggest growth hormone does not affect muscle mass in adults. (2) (Which is what I’ve been telling you, growth hormone, despite popular belief, is not anabolic.) What growth hormone has been shown to do is play a large role in mobilizing body fat for fuel during training, as well as aid in recovery. While it may not be associated with muscle growth, there is evidence for anti-catabolic activity of growth hormone and IGF-1. (3, 4)
As we’ve seen overall growth hormone does not show any proven benefits for muscle mass in healthy individuals with normal growth hormone levels, but it does have a role in the maintenance of muscle mass and is a strong hormone for recovery as well as using fat for fuel. It certainly increases the rate of muscle regeneration and helps the healing process via tissue repair. I’m not saying exercise-induced hormones are completely unimportant, but I do feel they have been greatly overemphasized.
After reviewing all this research I’d say if growth hormone had any major role it would be in aiding fat loss as well as helping repair broken down muscle. Its 188 amino acids on different chains and sequences help greatly with tissue repair.
When it comes to building, I don’t see a need to worry about lowering levels of your hormones, pre, intra or post-workout. It’s training over a long period of time that increases muscle mass, not hormones released via training. Some people avoid carbs pre-workout to keep their hormone levels high but based on what we’ve seen here that wouldn’t make sense.
In fact research I recently found has actually shown that amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion pre-workout increases protein synthesis far greater than when taken post-workout. Even more good news for the pre-workout mix was its effects were shown to last for an hour post-workout. (5) This also makes me wonder about those post-workout carbs, which is a topic I plan to research with greater detail soon.
This is what I have concluded from the research I found. There are a lot of factors out there and each person could conclude things a number of different ways. The point I’m trying to make is spending too much time trying to figure out how to increase your hormonal responses via exercise will probably end up with you running in circles and potentially cause “paralysis by analysis.” There are more important factors in those hormones, and I believe you are better off concentrating on raising your overall hormone levels rather than worrying about what they are at from a workout.
I say do what you have to do to get in a great workout. From there rest, eat well, stay calm and watch your muscles grow.
When it comes to getting the most out of your training one of the most important factors is to optimize your body’s hormonal response to training. Or at least that’s what a lot of people tell you. We hear all the time what to do to increase testosterone or growth hormone during our workouts. It’s something I used to put a lot of effort into a couple of years ago. That is until I got a better understanding of just how much hormones during and around training matter (or don’t.) So with that I’d like to offer you all a little different perspective on the subject at hand.
For those of us who are natural lifters, maximizing our own growth hormone and testosterone levels during training would seem to make perfect sense. We don’t have the benefit of supplementing with synthetic hormones so we’ll need to take advantage of the hormonal responses from training as much as possible. This is what I’ve heard over and over. Today I’m here to go as far as to say exercise-induced growth hormone doesn’t even promote anabolism at all. Now before you grab your pitchforks and chase me out-of-town, hear me out.
I don’t necessarily expect this to be a popular post and I’m sure there will be people who will disagree with me. Heck, I would have argued with myself in the past. It’s amazing how things can change the more you continue to learn isn’t it? Regardless of how popular I feel information I present to you will be, I think it’s best to provide you with the information and research we have available and let you decide for yourself what’s best.
I don’t pretend to know it all and I never will. I will always not only be presented with new info that could change the way I view things but I’ll also never stop searching for it myself either, much like I did for this article. I believe if you think you know it all, you truly know nothing. Nobody knows it all, not even the best in the business.
There is a lot of research out there on growth hormone and if you try to keep up with how to maximize your growth hormone levels from training (note this is just from training and nothing else) you could do some of the following things: Weight train, do low intensity cardio, do high intensity intervals, weight train with large muscle groups before the smaller groups, avoid carbs pre and post-workout, train fasted, don’t consume anything post-workout for 2 hours, take a number of different supplements and the list goes on and on. Some of these things not only don’t sound like the best way to increase muscle mass but many of them contradict each other. It’s with that I want to start getting into reasons why worrying about maximizing hormonal responses during training may not be the best idea.
It is common belief in the weightlifting community that hormones such as growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and testosterone released via resistance training supports muscular hypertrophy. Research has shown that although growth hormone supplementation can increase muscle strength and size in individuals with a clinical growth hormone deficiency, there isn’t really any evidence that the same effect occurs from exercise-induced changes in growth hormone in individuals with normal growth hormone levels.
Research done at the Institute of Sports Medicine, Bispebjerg Hospital showed that while there was an increase in lean body mass in individuals with a growth hormone deficiency when supplemented with growth hormone, the lean body mass was not from actual muscle. It was due to increased whole body protein synthesis. Hypertrophy of connective tissue and increased water retention were the main causes. Elevated growth hormone did not increase myofibrillar protein synthesis. (1)
Research has shown the acute activation proteins such as p70(S6K) and myofibrillar protein synthesis are strongly associated with long-term increases in muscular hypertrophy, while exercise-induced rise in growth hormone have no statistical association with hypertrophy. (2) Think about that for a minute and really let it sink in. It is long-term increases in muscle mass and not exercise-induced hormones that make the big difference.
It is known that exercising larger muscle groups increases growth hormone during exercise significantly while small muscle groups do not. This much I do not dispute. But if exercise-induced growth hormone was anabolic, it would stand to reason that working your larger muscles before the smaller ones would help increase protein synthesis and hypertrophy of those smaller muscles.
However, research done at McMaster University compared two training protocols. One that caused a large increase in growth hormone levels and another that maintained basal levels of growth hormone. In one protocol they worked out arms immediately following leg exercises (large muscle group) and in the other they did the same arm workout only on its own (small muscle group only.) The results showed that the arm only workout did not increase growth hormone, IGF-1, or testosterone but the paired leg and arm workout increased these hormones significantly. Despite the large increase in exercise-induced growth hormone from the leg group, there was no difference in the rate of protein synthesis nor was there a difference in hypertrophy in the arms after the 15 week study. (3)
This study is a real nail in the coffin for the exercise-induced hormones debate. If hormonal responses from training made a big difference, why was there no difference between the two groups? I had read plenty of articles in the past that said to do the large muscle groups first not just because your energy levels will be higher for the big moves but also because the larger muscle groups will increase your growth hormone levels and help build your smaller muscle groups better. They were right about the hormone levels, just not about actually building muscle.
So if growth hormone isn’t anabolic and its release (including actual anabolic hormones like testosterone) during training has minimal, if any affect on protein synthesis and hypertrophy, do they even matter? What roles do they play? Don’t worry we will cover all of that next time!
When we last left off during this muscle-building series we were discussing which rep range was the best for building muscle. If you missed it I’d suggest taking a step back and going through that before continuing on but for the sake of time I’ll provide a quick recap. While an intermediate rep range of around 8-12 reps is widely considered the hypertrophy (muscle size) rep range it’s important to include all rep ranges for the best possible results. Low rep ranges which build strength will increase your intermediate and high rep weights while high rep ranges which increase musclar-endurance will in turn allow you to perform better and longer with your intermediate and lower rep weights.
By now you know you should incorporate all rep ranges in your routine, but how do you go about doing that? In future articles I will be going into greater detail over some of the different periodization strategies you can choose from and what some of the benefits and drawbacks of each style can be, but for now I want to offer a simple solution for your muscle building needs. In this article I will be giving you a strategy to put everything together by giving you a specific routine you can follow should you wish. This routine will incorporate all the strategies I’ve been covering so far in this series.
While this routine is for a more experienced lifter and not something I’d recommend to a true beginner (if you haven’t been lifting for at least a year this probably isn’t for you) this article will also be more for someone a little less advanced in program building (or even following) which will give you a simple way to include all rep ranges and have you building muscle faster than you probably thought possible especially if you were following the typical bro-split of one muscle group per week.
The first thing you will want to do is set up a routine that has two days of heavy lifting, one each for upper body and lower body, and two or three days of lifting lighter weights depending on how advanced you are and how much time you have to devote to lifting. This program WILL, however, require at least 4 days of lifting per week. If you can’t do that I’d recommend full body workouts but that’s not for this article.
On the heavy days you will choose one compound exercise for legs and one compound exercise for both chest and back to lift a weight you can do between 3-5 reps at. The rest of your exercises on these days will be between 6 and 8 reps. Again this is heavy day so you want to avoid going too light.
On your lighter days your rep ranges will vary greatly. Here for each muscle group you will be splitting up the rep ranges for each exercise. You will hit each muscle group with 3 exercises. One will be between 8-12 reps, the next between 12-15 and the last will be 15-25. If you are doing a four-day split you will once again do one upper body and one lower body circuit. If you are lifting 5 days per week you can split up your upper body between two of those days (or theoretically you could split up lower body too) on either end of your leg day. How you decide to split up your upper body is up to you, there is no right or wrong answer. If you have certain lagging parts, you will want to give them extra work.
An example 5-day routine could look like this:
Monday – Heavy Legs
Tuesday – Heavy Upper
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Light Chest and Shoulders
Friday – Light Legs
Saturday – Light Back and Arms
Sunday – Off
For those of you looking for a sample routine I will include one below. Please keep in mind this is only a template. The exercises I am prescribing are not necessarily the “best” exercises and they most certainly can be changed and should be after you’ve done this for a while. The beauty of this template is you can stay on it pretty much forever if you wanted, so long as the weights are increasing and/or you are changing the exercises or even changing the rep schemes of the exercises you are using. The same thing goes for number of exercises and sets. The volume in this routine is high and if you aren’t an experienced lifter you will probably want to decrease it a bit.
Please note all exercises are performed for 3 sets.
Day 1 – Heavy Legs
- Back Squats or Deadlifts – 3-5 Reps
- Leg Press – 8-10 Reps
- Hack Squats – 8-10 Reps
- Romanian Deadlift – 8-10 Reps
- Lying Leg Curl – 8-10 Reps
- Standing Calf Raise – 8-10 Reps
- Seated Calf Raise – 8-10 Reps
Day 2 – Heavy Upper
- Bench Press- 3-5 Reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 8-10 Reps
- Weighted Dips – 8-10 Reps
- Bentover Rows – 3-5 Reps
- Weighted Pullups – 8-10 Reps
- T-Bar Rows – 8-10 Reps
- Standing Barbell Shoulder Press – 8-10 Reps
Day 3 – Rest
Day 4 – Light Chest and Shoulders
- Dumbbell Chest Press – 8-12 Reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 8-12 Reps
- Decline Barbell Press – 12-15 Reps
- Cable Cross Or Incline DB Flyes – 14-18 Reps
- Arnold Press – 8-12 Reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 12-15 Reps
- Dumbbell Front Raises – 14-18 Reps
Day 5 – Light Legs
- Back Squats or Deadlifts – 8-12 Reps
- Front Squats – 12-15 Reps
- Leg Extensions – 14-18 Reps
- Stiff Legged Deadlift – 8-12 Reps
- Standing Good Mornings – 12-15 Reps
- Seated Leg Curl – 14-18 Reps
- Standing Calf Raises – 12-15 Reps
- Seated Calf Raises – 14-18 Reps
Day 6 – Light Back and Arms
- Bentover Rows – 8-12 Reps
- Seated Rows – 12-15 Reps
- Lat Pulldowns – 14-18 Reps
- Skull Crushers – 8-12 Reps
- Rope Pulldowns – 12-15 Reps
- Barbell Curls – 8-12 Reps
- Hammer Curls – 12-15 Reps
Day 7 Rest
Notes for heavy days: You will want your rest periods to be longer on this days. For your 3-5 rep lifts take as much time as needed to feel recovered and ready to hit the weight again. You only have one thing in mind in these lifts, lift as much weight as possible! Once you are able to reach more than 5 reps increase the weight. For me personally when I was on a similar routine I would go up in weight as soon as I was able to hit 5 reps. For the 6-8 rep exercises keep the rest periods around 2-3 minutes.
Notes for light days: On these days the goal is to keep moving quickly. Keep your rest periods around 60-90 seconds. You will probably need to drop the weight each set to be able to stay in the rep range with the minimal rest. Staying in the rep range is more important than keeping the weight the same and getting less reps. It will take some time to figure out how to do this but you’ll get it in time. It’s not about perfection.
Again, I want to stress this is only a sample routine and it can and should be adjusted to your experience level and your needs. If you have lagging body parts adjust to give them more volume instead of other areas. If this is too much or too little volume based on what you’ve been doing you can take out or add in some exercises or change some of the exercises to 2 or 4 sets instead of 3. Also, if you want to do squats and deadlifts together you can but again I’d recommend that for more experienced lifters and I’d put them both on leg day. For me personally I have an easier time doing squats before deadlifts than the other way around.
Lastly keep in mind you will need to periodically deload with this program. It’s a high volume high intensity program and your body will need opportunities to recover. When you first get into it if you are not used to this type of work you will probably be very tired and very sore the first 2-3 weeks. This is normal and important to push through to get what’s call the repeated bout effect (1) which is essentially your body’s ability to adjust and accommodate to repeated physical stress by becoming more adept at repairing itself.
After this initial adaptation you will start to feel better. After that once you start to feel extremely fatigued consistently, or if you are like me and love to train and suddenly you have no desire to train for a length of time, you’ll want to deload for around a week but take however long you need to feel refreshed and ready to go. This is when your body is actualizing the gains you’ve made and you’ll come back better than ever.
If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below and I will be sure to get back to you. In the mean time, lift big or stay small!