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How To Exercise For Optimal Strength Gains & Hormone Optimization

Key Takeaways

  • Heavy lifting increases testosterone release which has important benefits for muscle growth, ligament and tendon health, and bone density

  • Training protocol to increase testosterone: 6 x 10 protocols (6 sets of 10 reps) at 80% of 1RM with 2-minute rest between sets – work at a load you can sustain intensity over all 10 reps

  • If the goal is muscle growth, stick to high-intensity loads 2x per week and lower intensity (but higher volume) the remainder of your workouts

  • If you’re trying a new diet or exercise program, stay consistent for 12 weeks to train adaptation and stay in tuned with where the body is along the way

  • Use the trainability of the body to your advantage! Don’t be stuck on a fixed routine for exercise, nutrition, or recovery – be deliberate in your protocols

  • For the most benefit, periodize cold exposure: use it less when trying to maximize muscle growth or power; use more post-race or major events before the next training block

  • Teach the body to preferentially use a specific fuel source through diet & exercise manipulation – fat at low intensity, carbohydrate at high intensity

  • You’re better off having a shorter duration of training with higher quality than prolonging a mediocre session

How Weight Training Impacts Hormones

  • Heavy lifting increases androgens (e.g., testosterone, DHT, etc.)

  • The theory behind hormone release is that it’s a downstream stress response – in men released through testes or adrenal gland; in women, it’s released through adrenal glands (though significantly less)

  • Testosterone impacts performance by benefiting muscle growth, ligaments, tendons, bone density

  • Testosterone is stimulated by intensity and volume

  • Training Protocol to increase testosterone production: 6 x 10 protocols (6 sets of 10 reps) at 80% of 1RM with 2-minute rest between sets

  • Tip: adjust load for sustainable reps over all 10 reps in each set

  • Growth hormone release is mainly driven by the intensity if the workout

  • Rest is as important in load an intensity

  • If you increase rest periods, you’re influencing the metabolic system and triggering the removal of waste products and lactates, and removing needed stress for muscle development

  • If the objective is muscle growth (not necessarily strength), err on the side of high intensity with short duration rest

  • Work at high intensity loads 2x per week; the remainder of workouts should be high volume and low intensity

  • Most athletes have diverse needs in their sport beyond muscle growth

Is Stress Good For Performance?

  • In the short term, a sharp increase in stress hormone can promote the release of testosterone

  • Epinephrine and norepinephrine spike in anticipation of difficult workout ahead and prepare the body

  • “The greater the arousal, the higher the performance.” – Dr. Duncan French

  • Low stimulus pre-workout or during a workout will likely lead to lower performance levels throughout the workout

  • The more you do the challenging workout you become accustomed to it and need to vary training

  • Discomfort in exercise is beneficial!

Using Cold For Recovery

  • Cold causes stress but it’s paradoxically good for recovery as well

  • You can use cold stress to disrupt system and manage mindset

  • From a physiological perspective (i.e., flushing or redistribution of blood flow), cold exposure clamps down vascular system and will trigger a stress response

  • Your body can’t tell the difference between the types of stress you are exposing it to – you have to have a purpose for using cold exposure

  • Emerging research is showing cold exposure can actually hinder strength, power, hypertrophy

  • Periodization of cold exposure is the best route to explore: inversely tweak the level of cold exposure depending on whether you are in a high or low intensity phase of training

Heat Exposure

  • Heat is stress the same way cold is stress

  • “Heat is a stressor and when managed incorrectly you can have detrimental responses instead of beneficial responses.” – Dr. Duncan French

  • To acclimate to heat: start with 15 minutes in the sauna at 200 degrees F

  • You can train the body to tolerate heat the same way you train the body for anything else


  • Diet is highly individualized – no diet is the best and only way to go

  • In general, high-intensity efforts require carbohydrates for fueling

  • Mordern Martial Arts (MMA) athletes often use ketones after fights to maintain fueling and energy supply for the brain because it might have experienced trauma

  • Ketone cycling may be beneficial for metabolic efficiency

  • In general, stay away from standard American diet (SAD)

  • Be deliberate in exposure to carbohydrates and use for fuel immediately before and after exercise, keeping relatively low carb the rest of the meals

  • “At low intensities of exercise or just day to day living, we shouldn’t be tapping into carbohydrate fuel source extensively; that’s for high-intensity work or fight or flight needs.” – Dr. Duncan French

  • Teach the body to preferentially use a specific fuel source through diet & exercise manipulation – fat at low intensity, carbohydrate at high intensity

  • Try nutrition periodization – “needs-based eating”: consume higher carbohydrates for high-intensity weight training and interval training; try lower carbohydrate diet for lower intensity and volume exercise; if entering a competition stack carbohydrates and ketones

Mindset, Focus, & Acquiring Skill

  • Skill development is about the rehearsal & repetition of accurate movement patterns

  • Skill training is quality over quantity: stop as soon as fatigue is influencing the quality of repetition

  • You should leave training a session mentally and physically fatigued

Uniqueness Of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fighters

  • Huge variety of technical skills and demands

  • Considerations you have to make are unprecedented

  • You always have to be ready – you don’t necessarily know when the next fight will be

  • It places a high demand on physical and mental resilience

  • Fighters live in the regular fluctuation of high and low stimulus

  • The goal is to inspire the global community around optimizing human performance


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