Wednesday, November 30, 2016


It's the week after Thanksgiving. Which means most of us are still coming out of our food coma. While most of us ate more than we needed to, the thought now turns to training:

How much do I need to workout to "burn off" these calories?

I've mentioned this quite a few times in the past, but we use fat the most at rest! Our body prefers to use fat as it's primary energy source. Energy demands dictate how much energy we use as well as what type.

So when we are sitting doing nothing, we aren't using a lot of energy/calories. But of what we are using, anywhere from 85-95% of it is from fat.

Have more muscle? You'll burn even more calories at rest. Some studies have shown a 15% increase in calorie use at rest for people with increase muscle mass. Let's do the math:

If you use 100 calories per hour, then over 4-months add 12-lbs of muscle (112-lbs x .15) you will increase your calorie usage by 17 calories per hour. Multiply by 24, and you're now burning an extra 400 calories per day when you're sitting! 

But if your testosterone is low, well we have a problem. Low testosterone results in metabolic decline and increased body fat. It's a vicious cycle.

So what do you need to do to build muscle AND boost Testosterone?

First off, let's talk exercise selection because it is the simplest answer. Look, if you don't finish the exercise breathing hard with your heart beating hard and fast, then it should NOT be the foundation of your strength program. 

So this excludes: seated bicep curls, tricep extensions, calf raises, shoulder raises and sit ups.

Instead, pushups/bench press, squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull-ups, seated rows, pull downs, weighted sled pushes/drags, hang cleans and even weighted carries. 

Doing hours and hours of exercise is not the key. Absolutely demolishing your body day in and day out will have adverse effects. Why?

Cortisol is one of the hormones that when elevated for long periods of time will cause growth hormone and testosterone to decline. Studies show a significant increase in cortisol after roughly 45 minutes of intense weight lifting.

Don't get me wrong. Cortisol is actually a trigger for growth hormone. But only when it's elevated in cycles: increase during workout, decrease with rest and recovery following workout. Rinse and repeat.

Stress from work, family, training and poor sleep all can contribute to chronically elevated cortisol levels. Which in turn causes our testosterone to decrease and our body to store fat, usually in the abdominal area!

How many reps and sets should you be doing? Well to really get a decent testosterone elevation, you have to have a balance between volume and intensity. Volume is your total repetitions. Intensity is you weight, movement speed and rest.

You can do heavy weights for 5 sets of 6-12 reps and get significant testosterone boost. In 2010 research review by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, sets between 6-12 repetitions have been shown to be the best balance of volume to create metabolic stress as well as using a high enough resistance to recruit what he calls high threshold motor units. Basically, it's the sweet spot.

In summary, your training should use an upper body/lower body split routine (upper body on day-1, lower body on day 2) and then train 3-4 times per week. 

Next, the exercises must be those that use multiple muscles and joints simultaneously because this causes the metabolic stress on your cardiovascular system as well as muscular system.

Repetitions and sets should be 3-5 sets of 6-12 repetitions for each exercise. This does not mean all exercises should be 5 sets of 12. But instead look for a total volume of 36-60 repetitions per movement pattern. An example would be 4 sets of 6 of flat bench press, 3 sets of 10 of incline bench press. This is a total of 54 repetitions. 

Lastly, we need to talk about rest. Too much rest and you lose the metabolic stress that keeps your heart beating fast and the stress on your cardiovascular system. Too short of rest and you won't be able to use a high enough resistance. Schoenfeld's article suggest 60-90 seconds of rest between sets.

I hope this helps clear up your training questions. I know we didn't really discuss cardiovascular fitness and specific energy system training. We'll address this one next time and give you a good look at what you can do for endurance training.

So let's get to work training to BOOST your low testosterone, huh?!!

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