Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Muscles benefit more from testosterone if you rest less between sets

If you limit your rest period between sets to two minutes, your testosterone level rises. That's a known fact. American and Finnish scientists have shown that your muscles benefit from this too. That's a new fact.

The researchers got healthy and clean strength athletes [CON] in their mid-twenties to train their legs on a leg-extension machine. The athletes had to do five sets at 95 percent of their 1RM. They did a couple of reps themselves and then a number with help. They rested for three minutes between sets.

Training like this, with short rest periods, does not lead to a rise in testosterone levels. Trainers use this kind of schedule when they want to activate a progression in body strength, and when hypertrophy is not so important.

Half of the athletes [CON] rested before doing the leg training. The other half [HT] first did three exercises for the upper body: they trained the chest, upper back and shoulders.

Each exercise consisted of four sets and between sets the athletes only rested for two minutes. They did the exercises at 80 percent of their 1RM. This kind of schedule maximises the natural production of testosterone, as sports scientists have known already for a number of decades. Trainers use routines like this to obtain muscle growth. Two minutes after completing the warming up, the athletes trained their legs.

The graph below shows that the testosterone level of the HT group was considerably higher than that of the CON group.

Muscles benefit more from testosterone if you rest less between sets

During and after strength training the muscle cells attract androgens, and these hormones then form complexes together with their androgen receptors. These complexes find their way to the DNA, where they get the muscle cells to manufacture more muscle proteins. The researchers wanted to find out what effect the raised testosterone level in the HT group had on the androgen receptors: were they in short supply? Or did the muscle cells manufacture more receptors?

The latter turned out to be the case, as the results below indicate. Three hours after completing the leg training, the number of androgen receptors in the leg muscles of the HT group had risen.

Muscles benefit more from testosterone if you rest less between sets

"This implies that maximizing the testosterone response to resistance exercise (by using multiple exercises, multiple sets, heavy loads, and short rest periods) enhances muscle AR content and, ultimately, promotes tissue anabolism and/or recovery", the researchers conclude.

The researchers think that it's not only bodybuilders who can benefit from a testosterone-maximising training programme. A similar kind of programme may also be interesting for elderly people who want to maintain their muscle mass levels.

Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2009.02.005.

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