For those older, natural bodybuilders out there, the idea of manipulating the body's release of natural hormones through exercise and diet should be quite exciting. The hormones I'm referring to are the "big 3", testosterone, GH and insulin.
For those who are older, the body's natural output declines as we age, so being able to take maximum advantage of these is essential if you want to make big gains. Regardless of whether or not you are using pro-hormones - like I do - the right approach to training and diet will allow you to make the most of this opportunity.
Some of this information came from the August 2003 issue of Ironman magazine but this is a topic I was looking at back in the 90's (for those who don't know, I took a total 5-year lay-off from the sport around 1997 after 15 years) so I know this approach is not new but hopefully I can give you some tips that will help you get better results than you're getting now.
The body's natural production of testosterone can be increased through hard work on the big, compound movements, especially those where the body actually moves up and down, such as the squat and deadlift. Also, the bigger the muscle, the more testosterone is released in response to the exercise. What's bigger than the legs and back?
So, starting your workout with 3-5 sets of heavy squats or deadlifts done for reps in the 6-10 range will work wonders. That's easy to do on leg and back day but what if, like me, you train, say, chest and tri's on a separate day and shoulders on another day (as in the routine listed in my "Coming back after 5 years, part two" article)?
What you need to do is begin these workouts with either squats or deadlifts. I don't mean you have to work yourself into the ground but 1-3 working sets at a moderate weight will get the process started. Remember Vince Gironda? He used to have his trainees begin their arm workouts with squats! Why? Because he believed it "set the adrenal gland up for growth".
He was pretty much on the right track. Of course, many people use split routines - so you could just design a split routine that had you doing squats one day and deadlifts on another day but I find I can design a better split with out those limitations.
For one thing, I find as I get older I can't really do the same volume of work in a single day with enough intensity as I could 10 years ago. For another, research shows your body begins to shut down it's output of anabolic hormones after 45-60 minutes. My current split allows me to complete every workout in 45 minutes or less.
What About GH?
Research shows that when GH is secreted along with testosterone, it magnifies the effect of the testosterone. Research also shows that there is a direct connection between the burn of lactic acid buildup and GH release. What better way to get the burn than through some form of extended sets, like drop sets (as in my "Killer Leg Training" article).
Ways To Extend A Set
Rest Pause: This is where you extend a set by first reaching failure, racking the weight for a 10 count and then continuing the set for another 3-4 reps. You can do this 2-3 times and all this counts as one set.
Forced Reps: This is where, at the end of a normal set, you have someone give you just a bit of help, enough of a pulling or pushing motion, depending on the exercise, to get the bar up. You can shoot for 3-4 extra reps per set on these . I would only do this on a few sets per body part so you don't over train.
1 ½ Reps: As you complete a normal rep, continue and do the first half of the rep, going half way up and coming back to the start position. This counts as 1 rep.
Super Sets: Two exercises done back to back without stopping. You can do two exercises for the same body part or two for different body parts.
21's: One of Arnold's favorites. Using the curl as an example, you would do 7 full reps followed by 7 half reps from the starting position to half way up followed by 7 half reps from half way up to the top of the movement. All of this counts as one set.
Static Hold Reps: Using cable rows as an example, you would start your rep, hold the bar at your waist for a 10 count then complete the rep - this is one rep.
There are many more techniques but I wanted to give you a few of the better ones.
Although you can extend a set of squats or deadlifts, it may make more sense to choose more of an isolation exercise - if you train alone or at home, with only one training partner, doing say, drop sets on these type of exercises will work easier.
Following is a list of the best exercises for this purpose - even if you train alone these will work. For hams - leg curls, for chest - the pec-deck or dumbbell fly using several pairs of pre weighted dumbbells, for back, lat pull-downs or low cable rows, for delts, laterals, for triceps, press-downs and for biceps, cable curls.
What About Insulin?
It can cause our body to store fat if you have constant spikes all day - that's why watching your simple carb intake is a good idea. It also causes amino acids and creatine to be stored - this promotes protein synthesis. To get the anabolic actions with out the fat storage, you want to cause an insulin spike at two key times of the day - first thing in the morning when you first wake up and after your work out (the first anabolic window).
How? By drinking a mixture of fast carbs and protein, about 40 grams protein to 40-60 grams carbs. If you use a MRP, use it for this purpose. Or, even simpler, mix protein powder with some OJ, skim milk and a banana. Why at those times of the day?
First, you want to get nutrients in the bloodstream as fast as possible after your workout and take advantage of the anabolic actions of insulin at the most critical time. But in the morning, you are also at a critical time as far as nutrient needs are concerned.
You have just come off a short fast while you slept and research shows this creates an anabolic window (the second window) - take advantage of this by triggering an insulin spike. By keeping all your other meals high in protein and mixed with complex carbs, you can keep insulin spikes under control. So there you have it - an introduction to a training program that will make the most of your body's natural hormone production. Try implementing these tips into your program and see if you don't increase your gains.