First and foremost, this article is not about T supplementation, but on how we can use T to design workouts.
Testosterone, the big T, is the manly hormone for excellence. We know that ‘The T’ has a powerful impact on the neuromuscular system, tends to get trainees bigger and more powerful. A long history of drug abuses and its anabolic effects draw attention to its connection with exercise and performance.
Curiously, its potential is not restrained to enlarging muscles but it possibly acts to improve contractility and nervous activation, by affecting motor neurons and pathways in the muscle cell. So T might enhance performance regardless of a size gain, ie independently of its hypertrophic effect.
Can we use testosterone to improve performance without getting into ethical troubles and health risk?
Training as a function of T peaks: this was tried in a study and is based on the assumption that serum T levels are altered by resistance training. Problem is that the latter does not follow a one size fits all principle, and there’s a marked variability in individuals fluctuations of T after working out. This is due to countless factors such as genetics, training history, exercise volume….
The investigators approached the problem individually, using 4 different protocols of resistance training to see if these produced different T responses in the same subject. Interestingly, subjects showed different T responses to the protocols and each subject had a maximal or minimal testosterone response to a particular workout.
This shows that each subject has a protocol(s) which produces the highest T release (T max). The opposite was also true and each individual had one of the four protocols consistently producing the lowest T response (T min).
The useful bit is that they designed a training plan with each subject alternating a period at their respective T max protocol with a period at T min. The T max protocol produced the highest increases in size and strength, while improvements blunted with T min protocol.
So this study used testosterone response to exercise as a marker to tailor an individual exercise plan and the one producing the highest T response was actually the one that produced the highest training gains.
Bottom line, this interesting piece of research confirms the intricacies of training because of the variability in the trainee’s response.
Besides, it might suggest testosterone as one of the markers to take into account when designing a training plan, periodization and perhaps its use as an overtraining marker.
If T sampling sounds like a conundrum when training non-elite athletes or local gym communities, in this study this was achieved as salivary measurements which are not invasive and might not be as far-fetched in the future as you may think.
Other details of this study, this nice article and the study:
Beaven et al 2008 Significant strength gains observed in rugby players after specific resistance exercise protocols based on individual salivary testosterone responses.