WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN?
To summarize scientific efforts in this field, it’s true that heavy compound movements like squats, leg presses and deadlifts cause greater release of anabolic hormones including testosterone than isolation exercises, but it’s highly unlikely that these acute and transient increases in T levels lead to greater lean mass gains.
In fact, there is no sound scientific proof of such a relation and its popularity seems to stem only from anecdotal evidence and the willingness of people to worship any method that’s been claimed to accelerate muscle building. On the other hand, compound exercises increase muscle size and strength due to local hormonal factors released at the site of most tension that have little to do with overall levels of T.
Therefore, we’re sorry to inform you that designing your program in a way that optimizes acute hormone release is pretty much a waste of your precious time. But you shouldn’t worry about that, because there is this one sure-fire thing that you can do to promote massive muscle gains: increase local muscle overload. If you want real results, you need to quit complicating things that are really simple by nature and return to the basics of muscle growth.
HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO INSTEAD
Bodybuilding fads come and go, but what remains fixed is the ability of muscle overload to cause lean mass gains. That being said, muscle overload can be increased in three main ways: adding weight, adding volume and improving density.
By increasing the weight you work with, you can increase the intensity of the exercise and provide more overload to your muscles. More overload causes more muscle damage, which in turn means more growth, given that your diet meets the nutritional demands of your training.
Weight, however, is only one dimension of your training volume, i.e. the work you’re doing defined as weight x sets x reps. Besides simply adding more weight, another way to increase volume is by adding a few extra sets with your current weight or increasing the number of reps for your standard number sets. Again, the bigger amount of work you’re muscles are forced to do, the greater the hypertrophy.
Finally, density represents volume over time, meaning that if it now takes you 15 minutes to do 4 sets of 10 reps with 250 pounds, but you can pull of the same volume in 10 minutes after two weeks of training, your density has improved and you’ll be able to reap more gains from the same workout.
In the end, muscle overload is all that matters in terms of increasing strength and muscle size, and there is literally endless evidence for that. So if you want to start making huge gains, it’s time to let go of the hormone experiments and get right back to the basics.
Focus on gradually increasing muscle overload in each successive workout and you’ll get the results you dream of. Focus on maximizing hormonal production and you’ll be stuck with average-looking muscles, reading articles on improving T levels forever. Good luck and stay tight!