Anabolic Fitness Programs

We’re always looking for training ideas which can be introduced to our clients for greater progress. We do not suggest nor do we encourage the use of steroids, therefore we have to be even more alert to new training ideas which can lead to greater progress.

A recent contribution to the National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal by Dr. William Kraemer is one such example.

In speaking to Dr Kraemer concerning his article entitled “Influence of the endocrine system on resistance training adaptations”, we ran across some fascinating insights about designing training programs.

I couldn’t help but get excited about the meat of his article but there were a few items of which I was still fuzzy. I decided to get him on the phone to see if he could clear up some of the details.

After having introduced myself, I jumped right into the purpose of my call. “Dr Kreamer, I just finished reading your recent article in the National Strength and Conditioning journal, do you mind if I ask you a few questions about it”.

“No, go right ahead” he obliged.

“I’m not sure I understand exactly what your graphs were trying to tell me with regards to different exercise protocols for greater release of Growth Hormone. Could you explain it to me”? I asked.

Dr Kreamer said, “While strength and size gains occur simultaneously with heavy resistance training, different program configurations may produce different magnitudes of gain in either the muscle’s strength, power or size. Understanding the differences in program design and how the physiological systems can be manipulated to produce these different effects is paramount to successful exercise prescription”.

The endocrine system can dramatically differ in its response to a resistance training stress. Hormonal responses can also be quite different depending on the characteristics of the program design. This has a strong effect on the remodeling (rebuilding) of muscle tissue after exercise. This is a complex process involving a multitude of events, ranging from cell receptors interacting with various hormones to the DNA production of new contractile proteins.

The endocrine system plays an important role in augmenting the cellular processes involved in the remodeling of the muscle cells. With so many hormones, the complex interaction of the various glands and secretions provides for an intricate communication system between the exercise stimulus and the adaptive response.”

“I think I understand what you are saying. You are saying that different exercise protocols can effect hormone release differently.

“Exactly, in fact this communication network is quite sensitive. That is why it is short-circuited by anabolic drug use, which eliminates the natural links of the body’s hormones. The responsiveness of the endocrine glands to the resistance exercise stimulus is altered. In essence, drug use negates the body’s natural anabolic hormonal response.

It appears as if the endocrine glands, similar to muscle, go through a training adaption, and time is needed to develop the physiological links between the exercise stimulus and the development of neuromuscular adaptions. Therefore, in addition to the known risks of drug use; the lack of training stimulus to the endocrine system’s glands, along with the loss of the natural hormonal interactions, are points that need to be considered.

“This is very interesting Dr. Kraemer. Let me continue on with the reading of your article and if I have any further questions, would it be alright if I get back with you?

“By all means,” he replied.

Picking up with the article where I left off, it continues …

The endocrine system responds to exercise stress in ways that are surprising and quite illuminating. This information is essential when trying to design exercise protocols to produce hypertrophy.

It is important to realize that the magnitude of the hormonal response is directly related to the specific configuration of the chosen exercise protocol. Mistakes in exercise prescriptions can result in a greater catabolic effect (overtraining) or just plain ineffective exercise efforts.

Training dedication, discipline, and hard work will never be eliminated from the natural methods, but greater satisfaction can be realized by proper program design which induces greater hormonal response.

The difference in muscular development between males and females has been attributed to the anabolic actions of the male sex hormone testosterone. It appears that the role of testosterone in the augmentation of the release of other hormones (e.g. growth hormone) may be more important than its direct anabolic actions on muscle.

Certain exercises contribute significantly more to the eliciting of this testosterone release than do other exercises. Large muscle group exercises such as dead lift or heavy cleans promote significantly more testosterone release than do small muscle group exercises such as curls or bench press.

When large muscle group exercises are used with low reps (5m), and longer rest periods and lower volumes of work, there is increased testosterone release but almost no increase in Growth Hormone release. So we can see that not only the choice of exercise is important in the design on an exercise program but each of the before mentioned factors need to be considered. (load, rest time, volume and order of exercise).

For example, programs (total body) including large group exercises that use moderate resistances (10 rm) and short rest periods (30 seconds to 1 minute) with high volumes of exercise, cause a dramatic increase in growth hormone response in both men and women.

In addition it has been shown when the intensity used was 10rm with high total work and short rest periods (1 minute) significant increases were observed in serum concentrations of GH. The most dramatic increases were demonstrated in response to a decrease in rest period (one minute) the duration of exercise was longer (10 reps versus 5 reps). In more advanced resistance training programs, periodization techniques, vary the loads and volume which can continue to elicit this extra GH response.

With such differences related to the exercise configuration, it appears that greater attention is needed when designing and implementing workouts.


It appears that growth hormone and testosterone may not always respond in the same way to an anaerobic workout. When resistance is heavy and rest is long, little change in circulating levels of growth hormone can be expected, but testosterone levels may rise if the amount of muscle tissue used in the exercise is great enough.

Conversely, if resistance is moderately heavy and of sufficient duration (i.e. 10rm) and a short rest period is used, increases in growth hormone and testosterone can be expected.

Even when using a program dedicated to single bodypart exercise, one could theorize the benefits from gaining an increase in anabolic hormones by performing a large muscle group exercise in the training session, causing endocrine glands to release hormones into the blood before starting a session on small muscle groups.

There is some real meat in this research project reported by Dr. Kreamer. If you are looking for greater gains with less effort, I suggest you give his findings a try.

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