February, 2011 | Critical Bench

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Why Heavy Lifting Releases More Growth Hormone

February 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Hormones, Muscle Building, Recent Posts, Training

by Mike Westerdal

aggressive-strengthOver the last ten years or so, there has been a marked increase in discussions about how Growth Hormone (GH) impacts muscle growth, boosts the metabolism and facilitates the burning of excess body fat. Growth hormone is a protein-based peptide hormone that is made up of 191 different amino acids.

It is synthesized and secreted by cells called somatotrophs that are located in the anterior part of the pituitary gland. Looking back at man’s development over the last few thousand years, it seems that GH developed as a means to maintain growth and lean body mass during those times when access to food was scarce.

As an anabolic agent GH functions similar to testosterone, stimulating muscle growth, enhancing recovery and increasing utilization of body fat as fuel. However, there are a number of different theories as to exactly how GH works its magic in the body.

Two in particular are among the most common theories discussed.

The first theory—referred to as the somatomedin hypothesis ¬—states that once the pituitary gland releases GH, it then travels to the liver and other tissues where it stimulates the synthesis and release of insulin-like growth factors (IGFs). This hypothesis makes the supposition that the IGFs then function to stimulate the endocrine system, therefore facilitating the outcomes associated with growth hormone.

The second common hypothesis is known as the Dual Effector theory , which states that GH itself has anabolic effects on body tissues and does so without the assistance of IGFs.

Although there are different thoughts regarding how GH actually impacts the body’s metabolism there are certain things that we do know for certain. First, production of GH is at its peak when we are younger. As our bodies age natural production of GH begins to decline. We also know that we have the ability to influence our bodies’ production of GH.

Various factors that impact the body’s production of GH include overall health, diet, activity level, weight training, sleep patterns, consumption of alcohol, prescription drugs and the use of illicit drugs.

Of these, training with weights—in particular, training with heavy weights—has among the most profound effects on GH production.

Muscles get bigger and stronger in response to the stress of lifting weights. The growth is the body’s attempt to prepare itself for the next time it is faced with the same stress (lifting weights) so that when it encounters the same situation again, it is less stressful on the body.

Muscle growth is essentially an ongoing process of stress and recovery. Over time, as you continually lift heavier weights, the body continues to adapt to the additional demand being placed on it, by growing more muscle. With this understanding, it only makes sense that the greater the stress (lifting weights) the greater the body’s response action.

Training with light weights invokes minimal stress on the body and consequently, requires little or no recovery response because to the body, this is a ‘no big deal’ situation that it is prepared to handle. With light weights, the body has no reason to add more muscle because the muscle you currently have can handle the demand.

But introduce heavy weights into the scene and suddenly, the body’s reaction is totally different. Lifting heavy weights puts the body’s systems on high alert, evoking a strong hormonal response. And herein is what drives the pituitary gland to produce more growth hormone. The key to maximizing the hormonal response is to lift heavy weights utilizing compound movements that simultaneously recruit multiple muscle groups.

Isolation exercises (and exercises performed on machines) do not provoke the same strong hormonal response. Good GH-inducing movements would include the deadlift, the benchpress and the squat. These are commonly referred to as the ‘big 3’ of bodybuilding and for a good reason. Each is a compound movement that involves multiple, large muscle groups. As such, these exercises—when performed with low reps and heavy weights—push the body to increase its production of growth hormone to enhance muscle growth and recovery.

The capacity of heavy weight lifting to drive hormonal responses has been documented by researchers . For example, in a 2008 study, researchers regularly measured hormonal levels in the blood of an elite, record-holding male weight lifter over a period of several weeks. They found that his serum hormone levels spiked considerably as his training peaked. So if you’re interested in boosting your natural production of growth hormone, you need to pick up some heavy weights and get moving. Check out the video below to see some serious weights being lifted!

heavy-lifting

References:

Daughaday WH., Hall K., Raben MS., et al: Somatomedin: A proposed designation for the “sulfation factor”Nature235:107, 1972

Green H., Morikawa M., Nixon T. A dual effector theory of growth hormone action.Differentiation29:195, 1985

Hormonal responses in heavy training and recovery periods in an elite male weightlifter. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2008) 7, 560-000

Don’t Buy Visual Impact Until You Read This

February 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Muscle Building, Recent Posts, Reviews

Review Of Visual Impact Muscle Building by Mike Westerdal

visual-impactWhen you’re lean and muscular you feel stronger, healthier and more confident.  And though lots of men would say that they took up the sport because they want to improve their health, the truth is that the millions of guys do it because they like the way it makes them look. They honestly don’t care whether they’re lifting 100 pounds or a thousand—as long as they achieve the muscular look they want, they’re happy.

This is just a fact of life. Some guys lift weights because they truly care about how much weight they can lift and the number of reps they can do while others are really just there to make the ‘beach muscles’ look good.  For those of you who are more interested in how you look than how much you can lift, there is a training program just for you. Visual Impact Muscle Building by Rusty Moore is all about making strategic muscle gains for a visually stunning body.

In chapter one, Rusty discusses the ‘Big 3’ of bodybuilding: squats, dead-lifts and bench press. For years, these have been the sort of ‘holy trinity’ for building mass. In this first part of the book he talks about how these exercises can be detrimental for the guy who is on a quest to build a visually stunning body. From Rusty’s perspective, for the guy striving to look his ‘beach muscle best,’ the problem with these exercises is that they perform too well, putting on too much mass or developing mass in proportions that are not necessarily visually appealing. He does not however, say that these should be avoided entirely, just that they should be used strategically, rather than comprising the entire foundation of a training regimen as they often do for many bodybuilders.

Next, Rusty provides us with an overview of the basic science behind how muscles get bigger and stronger. He includes a brief but thorough discussion about the differences between Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy and Myofibrillar Hypertrophy, the two different types of muscle growth. I really like the way he presents the information so that you can decide which approach is best for you depending on your particular goals. This section is followed by a chapter that is focused on ‘cumulative fatigue.’ This is an interesting section that teaches the reader about the different results that can be achieved by varying the number of reps, the rest period between sets and the rep tempo.

Chapters four through six also provide some really worthwhile information about strategies you can use to ramp up size gains. In all of these chapters Rusty does a great job of explaining everything in an easy-to-understand manner without being overly simplistic.

visual-impact3In the following chapter, Rusty gets into the nutritional aspects of the Visual Impact approach to weight training. He offers sound advice about nutrition and handy formulas for determining how many calories you should be consuming each day to achieve your goals. Afterwards, he brings up supplements and says something that I know the supplement companies don’t like to see in print—don’t waste your money on expensive supplements, because they’re not worth it. Rusty is however a big fan of Creatine, which has actually been scientifically proven to contribute to muscle building.

With the basic stuff out of the way, Rusty then gets into a presentation of information that enables you to develop your own custom routine that will enable you to achieve your particular goals.  The basic workout routine is comprised of three phases of two months each for a total of six months.

The first includes a strong focus on sarcoplasmic hypertrophy to add quick volume to the muscles. The next phase is the hybrid power-muscle building part of the routine, which serves to harden up the muscles. Phase three is built on lower volume of lifts with higher weights to further harden the muscles. This phase also includes some ‘fat killing’ strategies to get rid of excess body fat.  Rusty also includes a bonus phase for quickly building mass prior to an event.

On the whole I think that Rusty has put together a solid program that is based on real science. And depending on your body type and particular goals you hope to achieve, the program is readily adaptable for just about anyone, regardless of skill level.  His instructions are easy to follow and don’t include a lot of unnecessary jargon or fluff just to impress you. While Rusty’s ideas are obviously not right for everyone, if your primary goal is to look your ‘beach muscle best,’ then Visual Impact might just be the program for you.

visual-impact2

Your Questions Answered Lean Hybrid Muscle RELOADED

lhmNick Nilsson of FitStep.com recently interviewed me about my Lean Hybrid Muscle RELOADED program and I wanted to share my answers with your below.

Nick: Do I need to have specialized equipment to do this program?

Westy: You don’t need any special equipment. Just barbell, dumbbells, bands and bodyweight. There is a specialization day where you can use some machines if you’d like.

Nick: Will I have a hard time doing this in a busy gym?

Westy: I think most programs would be hard to in a really busy gym. There’s nothing too crazy though. For the circuits you just need to grab a dumbbell or barbell and find a corner. You’ll need access to a treadmill in the winter to do some sprints. Other than that as long as you can superset between biceps and triceps once in a while a busier gym shouldn’t be a problem.

Nick: Will this program work for women as well?

Westy: A common myth is that men and women need to train differently. I am no scientist but I can tell you from experience that women do very well training with Hybrid Muscle Variables. In fact, the results that women get at my gym are often better than the men.

This is simply because this is the first time they have been exposed to strength training. So, all types of cool things start happening like their posture improves and this means that the boobs stand up a little higher.

Since we include so many squats in the programs there is a significant tightening and firming up of the glutes. We may design a program specifically for women in the future but the foundation will still be exactly the same.

Nick: I’m 60+ years old. Is this program safe for me?

Westy: It’s the best thing you can do to feel young and vibrant. We have at least five guys that train at Elliott’ gym Strength Camp doing the exact same program with us. If you need to make any modifications for health reasons feel free, but you’ll find yourself feeling better, moving more freely and feeling younger.

Nick: Will this program improve my athletic performance while it burns fat and build muscle?

Westy: That’s exactly what it’s for. Will it improve your fast ball for baseball? Probably not. However it will make you a better overall athlete. If your sport doesn’t have very specific skill sets LHM Reloaded would be a good choice for overall athletic enhancement. There’s power training, strength training, explosiveness training, hypertrophy training as well some speed training. Oh and there’s conditioning and hybrid cardio which carry over to field better in most contact sports such as MMA, football, wrestling and rugby.

Nick: Does this program tell me exactly what to eat? Do I need to eat weird foods?

Westy: As long as you don’t mind eating raw herring and anchovies 7 times a day you’re golden. Just kidding, there’s a lot of variety and there are exchang lists to swap out anything you don’t like. I really can’t think of anything too strange on the meal plans.

Nick: Do I need to take a bunch of fancy supplements to make this work?

You’re probably waiting to hear us say there’s a super duper top secret supplement stack in the program that is going to make your lean and ripped. Well if that’s what you wanted to hear, sorry to disappoint you.

Look at our ancestors and, in particular, the warrior cultures like the Spartans, the Roman Gladiators, or the Vikings. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors did not take supplements yet they built powerful, muscular physiques. How did they do it? First, their daily lives centered on intense physical activities—what we would today refer to as hybrid muscle training. And second, they ate natural, whole foods that provided all the nutrition they needed. Honestly, that is really the best way to give your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs. For the modern guy though, that can be easier said than done.

That’s where supplements do come into the picture but not until you’ve got a solid foundation built or underway!

The word supplement means “to add to”. Once you’re 90% of the way to your goal, supplements can help give you an edge, but by themselves they’re not going to help you much without everything else being in place. Yes we give a few basic recommendations but supplements are not mandatory.

Nick: How much time do the workouts take and how many days a week do I train?

Westy: Workouts take about an hour total sometimes much less which includes your cadio. It varies based on the week. Anywhere from 3-5 days per week.

Nick: Can I make this program work if I can only train 2 or 3 days a week?

Westy: Well all get busy so if you’re traveling a lot or just got a lot going on you can do the Maintenance phase during those times. 3-days should really be your minimum. I supposed you could still do the program, you’d just want to randomly pick two full body workouts per week to do.

Nick: How soon will I start seeing results?

Westy: Seeing or feeling? You’ll be really sore the first couple weeks. You probably haven’t trained this way before. You can usually notice something within 2-weeks. When you put yourself through tough workouts like this ‘something” is going to happen I can promise you that.

Nick: Are the exercises hard to learn?

Westy: Like anything a new exercise will take practice. But if you can pick up Nick’s new invention exercises these shouldn’t be a problem for you.  Besides there are videos demonstrating everything you are asked to do.  If you’d like to learn more about the new Lean Hybrid Muscle RELOADED just click here.

IGF1 and Muscular Development

February 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Hormones, Muscle Building, Recent Posts

By Mike Westerdal author of Lean Hybrid Muscle RELOADED

i-gf1-2

When growth hormone travels from the pituitary gland to the liver it stimulates the production of insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), which are polypeptide protein hormones. Though there are a number of varieties, among the various IGFs, IGF1 is of the most interest to weightlifters due to its capacity to stimulate anabolic, muscle-building effects. It is comprised of 70 different inter-connected amino acids and is produced when growth hormone levels in the bloodstream rise, increasing the production of binding proteins. IGF1 is known to be the mediator of growth hormone anabolic effects. As such, the interconnected relationship between IGF1 and growth hormone is frequently referred to as the Growth Hormone/IGF1 Axis.

The growth of skeletal muscle cells (hypertrophy) is largely regulated by at least three identified processes:

1) satellite cell activity
2) gene transcription
3) protein translation

Evidence indicates that IGF1 can positively influence each of these mechanisms. Research has shown that an increase of IGF1 in the bloodstreams spurs growth and regeneration by the body’s cells—particularly among skeletal muscle cells, where it is shown to positively impact muscle strength, size and efficiency. Specifically, it contributes to skeletal muscle growth (hypertrophy) by provoking the synthesis of protein while helping to block muscle atrophy.

Other cells that are positively affected by IGF1 include cartilage, liver, kidney, skin tissue, lung, nerve and bone. IGF1 deficiencies can result in stunted growth as well as a host of other related health problems. There are also indications that because it is capable of activating insulin receptors, IGF1 has the ability to complement and enhance insulin’s effects on muscle development. Because IGF1 levels are so closely tied to growth hormone levels, lower levels of growth hormone in the bloodstream correlate to similar reductions in the production of IGF1. As is the case with growth hormone, IGF1 production peaks during childhood and adolescence and declines as we get older.

We know that the ability of muscle cells to bet bigger and stronger is the result of their unique capacity to continuously adapt to the stress of resistance training with weights. Part of the cells’ capability to accomplish this remarkable feat is attributed to muscle precursor cells that reside in and around skeletal muscle cells. These precursor cells are often referred to as satellite cells. For the most part, satellite cells sit dormant until they are called into duty by hormones such as IGF1.

Once activated by IGF1 the satellite cells divide and their nuclei become genetically similar to those found in skeletal muscle cells. This is a process known as differentiation. Once the satellite cells’ nuclei become similar to those of skeletal muscle cells they become critical to muscle growth and development. This is because skeletal muscle cells must increase their number of nuclei in order to grow larger and repair themselves. The larger the muscle, the more nuclei it requires.

igf-1-3Whenever a muscle grows in response to the stress of resistance training with weights, you will always find a correlating increase in the number of nuclei within the skeletal muscle cells.

But this is not the only way that IGF1 facilitates muscle development, growth and repair. IGF1 also interacts with a number of different stress-activated proteins that assist in the regulation of reactions in the muscle cells that maintenance, repair and growth. When IGF1 binds with these various protein receptors it stimulates a host of biological processes that contribute to and regulate muscle cell growth and development.

There are a number of strategies you can employ to stimulate production of IGF1 in your body. First, because it stimulates a strong hormonal response, resistance training with weights will boost production of IGF1. In particular, it induces its most potent anabolic state in skeletal muscle cells during the intense physical stress generated by heavy weight lifting. This is due in part to the fact that lifting heavy weights stimulates the production of growth hormone, which in turn signals the liver to produce IGF1.

Nutrition also has a very strong effect on the body’s ability to manufacture IGF1. For example, a structured regimen that includes occasional fasting combined with periods of undereating has been shown to have a positive impact on the body’s production of IGF1. Note that carb intake has a significant influence on IGF1 production. Evidence indicates that carb consumption should be minimized to one meal per day or immediately after an exercise session. Overall it is important to maintain sufficient calorie intake and increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 not only enhances anabolic actions but it also assists in protecting against insulin resistance.

CLICK HERE to learn more about a step-by-step system for eating the right foods, at the right times, with the best training program for maximum anabolic hormone production.