Optimizing testosterone secretion is especially important for natural bodybuilders. Proper training can increase the secretion, while over-training will reduce it to near zero.
An intense heavy squatting session can boost your testosterone secretion for several days. Even if you could somehow achieve a sky-high testosterone level, however, it wouldn't guarantee fast muscle growth. The way the muscles "accept" the hormone is at least as important as how much your system has. The question is, Is it possible through proper training to maximize the impact of testosterone on your muscles?
Testosterone and Its Muscle Receptors
Various bodybuilding publications have recently featured articles stating that as a bodybuilder's level of androgens increases, so does the level of testosterone receptors on his muscles. In other words, testosterone is said to be able to up-regulate its own receptors on the muscles. Needless to say, the more testosterone receptors you have, the more anabolic testosterone will be.
The result of the above reasoning is that it gives license to all sorts of excesses. Natural bodybuilders, who have a modest supply of testosterone, would, according to the theory, only have a limited number of testosterone receptors. Conclusion: They'll be unable to accumulate a significant amount of muscle if they remain drug-free. They would, therefore, be limited in their muscle development by two factors:
- Limited testosterone.
- Limited impact of testosterone on the muscles due to a less-than optimum number of testosterone receptors.
So, based on the above reasoning, bodybuilders either have to use steroids or they are condemned to stay small forever. What's more, the more anabolics they take and the longer they take them, the more significant the effect will be. Only massive amounts taken over a long period would give them the proper accumulation of testosterone receptors on the muscles. That's supposedly the reason people grow more if they take more anabolics, because there are more receptors.
The good news is that the above theory is erroneous, not to mention dangerous and contrary to reality.
It's dangerous because it promotes doping. It's contrary to reality because one observes the opposite occurring among users of anabolics. Let's look at this in terms of what you see in the gym.
First of all, if the theory were true, sedentary persons using androgens, for contraception, for example-would become huge. The extra testosterone would increase the number of testosterone receptors. The anabolic effect of testosterone would become increasingly stronger. In reality, untrained people who use steroids have very limited muscle growth. They rapidly become immune to testosterones anabolic effect. That doesn't sound like an androgen receptor up-regulation, does it?
For the sake of argument, let's say the above happens because the people
don't use enough androgens. After all, the heaviest steroid users are found among bodybuilders. In those heaviest users there should be an up-regulation of androgen receptors. If that were true, here's what would happen.
The androgens would cause their own receptors to multiply and get increasingly more potent as time went on. If androgen receptors were truly up-regulated that way, steroid users would get their best gains at the end of a cycle, not the beginning, and professional bodybuilders would get far more out of their cycles than first-timers. The trouble is, the best steroid gains are seen in the first cycles. The longer a course of treatment lasts, the more users are obliged to take drugs to compensate for the loss of potency. Besides, that's the reason they do cycles in the first place. The time off is supposed to permit muscles to recover their natural responsiveness to testosterone.
Following the theory, there would be no need for training. As the doses were increased, the anabolic effects would be enhanced. In fact, drug users would be completely crazy to keep training while on a cycle when the steroids were going to do most of the work.
Androgen up-regulation would take place in every single muscle, not just in the exercised muscles. Consequently, a user of anabolics who only trained his arms should see his calves grow. That's not the case, however, even for the professionals. I wish it were true, as they wouldn't look so silly with their huge arms and puny calves.
I don't have to keep demonstrating that the theory is just plain stupid. It is refuted daily by the experiences of bodybuilders who use anabolics, as well as by the research.
The fact is, excessive androgen levels induce the rapid loss of muscle testosterone receptors. There is absolutely no increase. The muscle fights the excess and immunizes itself against androgens, which is the reason steroids become less potent as time goes by.
The key point to remember is, only the trained muscles get bigger. The growth is determined by the numerous local alterations caused by muscular contractions, not a systemic circulating factor.
While this discussion may seem far removed from natural bodybuilding, it has important implications for everyone who trains. As suggested above, if the theory of testosterone-receptor up-regulation were true, there'd be no way a natural bodybuilder could ever get big.
Testosterone and Training
Obviously, testosterone is a hormone that makes the muscle grow, and the body will use all the anabolIc hormones at its disposal to respond to a bodybuilder's training. Therefore, the training has a significant impact on testosterone, which can occur in one of two ways.
1) It increases the level of testosterone. It's true that training, if it's intensive and brief, will raise the level of testosterone, but never as much as one might wish. What's worse, if you train too much, the level of testosterone really falls. If training increased the level of testosterone enormously, all bodybuilders would be covered with pimples and would have prostate problems. In short, we'd all resemble users of anabolics and we'd suffer from all those side effects. That's the reason proper training can boost testosterone secretion but not in excessive amounts.
One solution to the above dilemma would be to stimulate the secretion of testosterone in the trained muscle itself. That would allow the stimulated muscles to be flooded with testosterone while other organs would still be exposed to a normal testosterone level. Muscle growth would occur without any side effects of testosterone. Unfortunately, testosterone is not a paracrine or autocrine hormone. It is an endocrine hormone, and only the testicles (or the ovaries in women) and the adrenal glands can make it.
2) It increases the sensitivity of the muscle to testosterone. The body is ready for everything. Rather than increasing the level of testosterone significantly, training will increase the sensitivity of the trained muscle to testosterone. In other words, proper training can force your stimulated muscles to suck up all the blood testosterone. How do you make that happen? Simply by increasing the number of testosterone receptors in the muscle that you train. As a result, a normal level of testosterone will have a normal effect on your organs, since the number of testosterone receptors there doesn't change. As the number of testosterone receptors in the trained muscle increases, however, the hormone's effects will be multiplied.
That brings us to the million-dollar question: How do you increase the number of testerone receptors? There's a lot to be said on that subject, but here are some highlights.
Testosterone Receptors and Negative Reps
It seems clear that negative-accentuated training lowers the sensitivity of the muscle to testosterone, at least in the short term. So while that type of training will trigger the anabolism of fibroblast growth factor, insulinlike growth factor 1 and the satellite cells, it will also reduce the impact of the anabolism of testosterone. A few days after the damage occurs, the number of testosterone receptors will be increased; however, for some days at least the testosterone will lose its effects on the muscle. There are three possible reasons for this:
- Destruction of the testosterone receptors.
- Inactivation of the receptors, they don't respond to the signals that are sent to them anymore.
- A little of both effects described above. This will slow the muscular recuperation, providing another reason to avoid doing pure negative repetitions too often on the same muscle.
Testosterone Receptors and Positive Reps
Positive repetitions will have the most beneficial effects on the proliferation of the testosterone receptors in the trained muscle. The big problem is that although training a muscle specifically to increase the receptors will in fact increase their number, it will also cause a decline in the level of testosterone in the natural bodybuilder. So we face an unavoidable trade-off: training enough to increase the number of testosterone receptors without training too much, causing the level of testosterone to collapse. That's not an easy equilibrium to find.
Taking anabolics doesn't solve the problem either. Users of anabolics certainly have elevated levels of androgens, but they have very few testosterone receptors in their muscles. If they could combine the two conditions, it would not take more than a year to acquire a physique of Olympia caliber.
The paradox for natural bodybuilders is that they have plenty of receptors but not enough testosterone. Therefore, their training should be oriented toward the restoration of the level of this hormone first and then to the up-regulation of the receptors. They should also consider using testosterone precursos, such as androstenedione.
Users of anabolics, on the other hand, have more androgens than they need, so their training should be oriented exclusively toward reopening the testosterone receptors. Anabolics users don't fear a reduction of the level of testosterone, since they control it artificially. That has an important consequence: Naturals and non-naturals certainly have the same overall objective, to build muscle, but they have training objectives that are diametrically opposed. One group needs more testosterone, the other needs more receptors. Each group needs what the other has, which is the very reason that the first cycle of anabolics has the most effect. It's the only time there are simultaneously plenty of receptors and hormone. Meanwhile, there's only one obvious conclusion that everyone can agree on: Natural bodybuilders shouldn't train like the champions or even like the biggest guys in the gym.
Here are some rules for natural bodybuilders.
At workouts in which you don't do negative reps:
- Boost your testosterone level once a week, as discussed last month.
- Train heavy with low reps.
- Stick with brief training, it's not necessary to do 10 different exercises per muscle.
- Train infrequently.
At workouts in which you perform negative reps:
- Don't do negatives more than two times per month per muscle group.
- Don't do too much negative work per muscle group at any session.
- Don't hesitate to space out the negative-based and heavy-poundage sessions with workouts in which you use lighter weights and longer sets.
In short, don't train too much, and change training techniques often.