To build muscle, you need to be producing a lot of testosterone and human growth hormone.
There are a few key muscle-building hormones that your body needs to stimulate the protein synthesis that drives the growth of muscle mass, said hormones include testosterone and human growth hormone. The things you do in the gym can have a big impact on the levels of those hormones, and that can be very beneficial for your gains. That being said, we have developed a list of 10 gym hacks to promote a greater hormone response and in turn help you build some serious muscle.
What are the Muscle Building Hormones?
What does human growth hormone (HGH) actually do for you? Well, growth hormone typically fuels childhood growth and helps maintain tissues and organs throughout life. HGH is produced by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. Growth hormone is a key component in shedding body fat and building muscle. Some even refer to HGH as “the fountain of youth” as it has a reputation for keeping you young in a sense, keeping hair, skin, and nails healthy as well.
Unfortunately, starting at middle age and continuing as you grow older, the pituitary gland slowly reduces the amount of growth hormone it produces, which makes it harder to produce the hormone, and in turn your physical fitness can start to decline. This is why it is crucial to try and make your body produce more of it.
Now, the other big one, testosterone, is a vital sex hormone that helps to aid in muscle growth and development, hair growth (particularly on the body), and other important daily functions for men as well as women. Men naturally produce way more of the hormone and when levels are decreased, it can lead to poor sex drive and a host of other unwanted side effects like decreased masculine energy, unwanted body fat, and lower sex drive.
Ways to Boost the Muscle Building Hormones
Now, let’s take a look at some gym hacks to boost your growth hormone and testosterone levels!
When you perform the big lifts like the squat, overhead press, deadlift, and clean and jerk, you encourage your body to produce greater levels of testosterone in comparison to doing isolated movements like bicep curls or side lateral raises.
Rest Between Sets
The more time you give yourself between sets, the greater your body’s testosterone levels will be. Research has shown that a two-minute rest period on the squat promotes a significantly greater testosterone response than a 1 minute rest period. Give yourself between 90-120 seconds of rest on your compound exercises.
Interestingly, when it comes to boosting growth hormone, shorter rest periods with moderate weights appear to work best. A rest between sets of 60 seconds with a weight that is between 75-85 percent of one-rep max is best for GH release. So be sure to include both super heavy and moderate sets in your program with rest periods that are not as long with the lighter resistance sets.
When you push with max weight, your testosterone response will be much greater than when you go lighter. Work within 85-95 percent of your one-rep max for sets of between 3-6 reps for the greatest hormonal benefit. Take a look at guys like Mike Mentzer, whose workouts consisted of heavy weight and low reps.
The more of your rep that you spend doing the eccentric part of the movement, the greater the hormonal response will be. This is especially the case regarding growth hormones. Research shows that you can get as much as 50 percent greater GH response when you do eccentric-focused training. Be sure to focus on the negative part of every rep you perform, taking 2 seconds to lower the weight.
Use Bands & Weights
Have you used weights and bands to make your set harder? If not, you are missing out on a great intensity enhancer and a way to further boost your hormone response. You are not as strong in the positive part of an exercise as you shorten the working muscle. Chains and bands allow you to lift more during the concentric part of the rep so that you are working much harder in the negative part of the rep.
The intensity enhancing effect and the focus on making the eccentric part of the rep harder make bands and weights an effective adjunct in your quest to boost your anabolic hormone response.
While isometric golds do not actually make you stronger or build muscle, they do promote the release of Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), another key anabolic hormone. Include isometric pauses in your training program by holding the transition phase of the exercise for 4 seconds. For example, you can hold the bottom of the bench press for 4 seconds before pushing back up. An additional benefit of this method is that it will eliminate momentum.
Ride the Wave
Wave training is a familiar concept to weightlifters and powerlifters but not so much in the bodybuilding community. It involves progressively moving up to heavier weights in a wave-like pattern. You follow a pyramid set and rep scheme where you lower the reps and increase the weight for a series of waves, going up to a heavier peak weight on each wave of the pyramid.
Wave loading training has been shown to have a significant effect on your anabolic hormonal response. It will boost your levels of both testosterone and human growth hormone. It also boosts the androgen receptors which drive new muscle growth.
Using forced reps is an intensity enhancing technique that allows you to get out those extra few reps that can make all the difference when it comes to boosting growth hormone. It involves having a training partner to help you with the last 2-3 reps of a set after you have reached positive muscular failure (the point where you cannot do another rep with proper form).
Forced reps were popularized by none other than Tom Platz, a bodybuilder known for his intense leg workouts that inspired younger generations. He would take his sets to absolute failure, then do forced reps on top of that.
Forced rep training boosts your body’s levels of GH and IGF-1. Forced reps will also allow you to take out every last bit of training capability from the working muscle. When you train to the max level like this you will be completely exhausting the muscle fibers which, in turn, drives protein synthesis post-workout.
Drop sets are an excellent intensity enhancer that has been shown to have a real impact on your body’s production of testosterone and growth hormone. This is another way to extend your set beyond the point of positive muscular failure. Here’s an example using the dumbbell shoulder press.
Stand in front of the dumbbell rack and grab a pair of dumbbells that will allow you to get 6-8 reps. Immediately replace those weights on the rack and immediately grab the next pair of dumbbells down in weight. Press these out for another 6 reps and then drop down to the next weight. Continue doing this for 4 total weight drops. At the end of it, your delts will be on fire – and your hormone response through the roof!
Rep Out Set
Ending your workout with finisher exercises that takes your working muscle to the point of total failure is a great way to promote anabolic hormone release. You can do this with a set of push-ups to failure (the point where your face literally collapses on the floor) when training your chest, or by doing a final set for 50 reps with 50 percent of your one-rep max on the bench press.
Finishing your workout with a rep-out set will significantly boost your GH and IGF-1 levels.
Incorporate these 10 gym hacks into your workout routine, back it up with plenty of sleep and rest, and get your fill of protein and you will create the anabolic response you need to boost growth hormone and testosterone, and build the muscle your hard work deserves.
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