3 Reasons Why a Natural Lifter Should Never Train Like Someone Using Steroids:
1) You’ll end-up out training your ability to recover by performing too many sets/too much volume.
2) You’ll elevate your cortisol levels too high to recover from your workouts.
3) You’ll train too light to build muscle and strength.
The I’ll Do What They’re Doing Trap
Don’t make the mistake of falling into the trap of thinking, “I’ll do what he’s doing.” If you are going to apply that logic, then follow that logic to its natural conclusion and start taking steroids. If you’re reading this I am hoping that isn’t really an option for you.
If you are going to be a natural lifter, than lift like a natural. Don’t try to follow the routine of enhanced lifters. Since steroids are illegal, no one is going to admit they are using them, and suggest you supplement your training with a weekly injection of 600 mg of testosterone. Now let’s look closer at the three reasons I have provided.
#1 You’ll end-up out training your ability to recover by performing too many sets/too much volume.
Steroids keep you in an anabolic state 24/7. Muscle synthesis is ongoing. You can actually build muscle on steroids without even training. In this 10-week study, they took 43 experienced male lifters of normal body weight between the ages of 19 and 40, and split them up into four different groups:
Group 1: did NOT train, and did NOT receive any steroids.
Group 2: did NOT do any form of exercise, but they received weekly injections of 600 mg of testosterone.
Group 3: trained, but did NOT receive any steroids.
Group 4: trained, and received a weekly injection of 600 mg of testosterone.
Each participant followed a standard diet scaled to their bodyweight. Ratios of calories and macronutrients were standardized based on individual body weights.
Group 1: no significant changes, which is not surprising.
Group 2: gained 7 pounds of muscle, despite not training!
Group 3: gained 4 pounds of muscle, training naturally.
Group 4: gained 13 pounds of muscle.
Natural lifters have to train hard enough to stimulate protein synthesis, but avoid excessive muscle breakdown that would exceed their ability to recover. Enhanced lifters can recover from frequent high volume training because their body is in a constant state of protein synthesis. Natural lifters need to focus on progressive overload, and limit their volume. Most people can tolerate 8 to 12 working sets a week for large muscle groups, and 5 to 8 sets for small muscle groups. The more often you train, the more you have to divide-up the total; for example if you trained chest twice a week, each workout should average 4 to 6 working sets. Hard gainers usually fall at the lower end of these training volume parameters. An easy gainer might be able to exceed these parameters. Over time you will learn how much exercise your body can tolerate and your tolerance might increase. Adding sets is a method of creating progressive overload, but you can’t exceed your body’s ability to recuperate.
#2 You’ll elevate your cortisol levels too high to recover from your workouts.
Cortisol is devastating to natural lifters. It opposes protein synthesis by increasing protein breakdown. The role of cortisol during training is to mobilize energy stores to give your body fuel for muscle action. The more fuel you need during your training, the more cortisol you will produce.
Too much training and habitually going to failure can result in decreased resting levels of testosterone and increased resting levels of cortisol, which are counter-productive to hypertrophy. It may also make you more susceptible to overuse injuries and overtax your nervous system, especially when performing taxing movements like the squat and deadlift.
Only the genetically gifted and or those using performance enhancing drugs can routinely train with high volume and take most sets to failure. They are protected against the ill effects of cortisol because the drugs greatly increase protein synthesis.
#3 You’ll train too light to build muscle and strength.
Natural lifters should use loads that are 75 to 90% of your 1 repetition maximum (RM) to increase muscle size and strength. Studies have shown that training with weights closer to your 90% 1 rep max produce greater muscular size and strength gains than lighter loads (70% 1 RM).
Most sets should be in the 4 to 8 repetition range. Avoid the high repetition ranges advocated in the current muscle magazines. These hypertrophy programs are geared toward athletes on steroids. Steroids build muscle, but they don’t build ligaments and tendons, so these athletes prefer higher rep ranges to avoid injuries. As a natural lifter you will do better sticking to the rep ranges advocated by pre-steroid era bodybuilders and strongmen. Use your training log to determine which rep ranges work best for you in terms of gaining strength.
If you want to learn more about how naturals should train, see my post Building Muscle and Strength Made Simple – The 3 to 5 Program
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