Different types of exercise have different effects on our endocrine system, and they also impact the rate at which our bodies are able to churn out T. What you’ll find in this article are actionable sections exploring the research behind various types of training — building your chest, shoulders, arms, legs and back — and how they affect T levels and production.
We also go into detail about building muscle and what movements are the best for each body part (according to research, that is).
Some of the topics we cover below:
• How resistance training skyrockets resting T1 (+40% in 4-weeks).
• How simply walking and doing recreational activities ramps up androgens.
• How to train for maximal T surge and androgen receptor activation.
• Optimal training timing and order for best T response.
• How overtraining hammers androgen production and skyrockets cortisol.
• What it takes to build big, broad respect-demanding shoulders naturally.
Let’s dig in!
1. How To Build Masculine Shoulders That Command Respect
Shoulder width is, to some extent, determined by your genetics and hormone levels during puberty, but this doesn’t automatically mean that you can’t learn how to build big shoulders that are wider, stronger and more aesthetically pleasing afterwards with proper training methods.
Some men are born with narrow shoulders, others with medium width, and some just happen to be well-framed since day one. Like everything in life, we play with the hand we’re dealt.
And when it comes to building big shoulders, no matter what your starting point is, the improvements that can be achieved with optimal training habits in a proper hormonal (anabolic) environment are often mind-blowing.
This provided that you
a) know what you’re doing
b) actually put in the work
c) don’t expect miracles in too short amount of time
Learning How to Build Big Shoulders Fast:
The male upper body, especially the traps and shoulders, are extremely dense in androgen receptors, thus their growth is significantly accelerated by androgens (T and DHT).
The muscles of the shoulder area are referred to as deltoids or “delts,” these include three distinct sets of muscle fibers:
• Anterior Deltoid: the front part of the shoulder.
• Medial Deltoid: the middle part of the shoulder.
• Posterior Deltoid: the rear part of the shoulder.
When building an aesthetically pleasing set of shoulders which look good from all angles (front, side and back), you simply have to focus on maximizing the size and strength of these three groups of muscle fibers.
Building big shoulders are not only a true sign of strength and masculinity, they are also guaranteed to assume respect among other men and get glaring views from the opposite gender (that’s right, an Australian study suggests that a wide set of shoulders is an even more important “quality” in men than height).
The questions are: How exactly should you train these deltoids to make them wide and big? How often and with heavy or light weights? Also, what are the best movements?
Shoulder Training Frequency and Optimal Set/Rep Patterns
The possible set and rep patterns to choose from are endless, and there isn’t really one that would be “optimal” as different styles fit different goals. It’s also good to remember that variety and periodization is the key to constant progress, and constant progress is the key to gains in both strength and muscle mass.
The general view for the number of reps is that 2-6 reps per set would make you gain strength, whereas 8-12 is the zone for gaining the maximum amount of muscle mass.
Smart lifters know that you should be using both ranges in your training for optimal central nervous system strength and muscular gains that occur from the expansion of muscle glycogen stores.
The way that has worked wonders for me and apparently millions of other people (and is proven to work extremely well in scientific studies), is to choose 1-2 multi-joint exercises as your main exercises and pick 2-3 isolation exercises as your assistance exercises. Then you would use the strength rep range of 2-6 reps/set for the main lifts, and the glycogen store expanding mass rep range of 8-12 reps/set for assistance lifts.
When it comes to the number of sets, it’s all about your goals again. More sets obviously means more volume, and with fewer sets, you can maximize the intensity (I personally prefer the latter).
Generally speaking, your amount of sets per exercise should, however, fall between 2-5 (more than that and you’re really just overtaxing the nervous system).
Here’s an example of what this could look like:
• Main exercise 5×2
• Assistance exercise 8×3
• Another assistance exercise 12×2
• Yet another assistance exercise 10×3
Although the possibilities of different set/rep schemes are endless, the basic guidelines of using the 2-6 rep range for main lifts and 8-12 for assistance work, while hitting the shoulders 2-3 times a week, should reap massive benefits for most lifters.
2. How to Build a T-Fueled Steel Plated Chest
Many people are confused about the anatomy of the chest muscles, otherwise known as pecs. And this is because they’re not exactly sure whether it would be one big muscle, or a muscle group that has separate sections: upper, middle and lower.
The simple truth is that your chest is comprised of one large muscle, which has an upper portion on the top part just under the clavicle, which is technically still part of the same muscle. But the muscle fibers are angled differently, and thus this upper chest can be targeted with few key movements (and yes, this has been proven in EMG studies too).
So the chest is comprised of:
• Pectoralis major, sternal head (the large “main muscle” of the chest).
• Pectoralis major, clavicular head (still the same muscle, but with different angle of fibers.
The muscles of the male upper body are extremely dense in androgen receptors (and this includes the pecs). Thus they grow well under high levels of T, which is why I recommend you to check out the THOR-program, a training manual for maximal T-response training.
You may have heard claims that chest grows best with high-rep work. Maybe you’ve read about a training program of some extremely shredded fitness model on a bodybuilding magazine and now think it would be smart to follow his or her 15-20 rep sets to get “that burn.”
Not a good idea. Those ultra-shredded fitness models big enough to appear on magazines like Flex and Muscle&Fitness are 95 percent of the time on gear. It’s a sad but true fact. Although new and gullible trainees often defend their idols such as Simeon Panda or Ulisses Jr for being natural, anyone who has been lifting for more than few years should be able to tell that these guys are on the juice.
Why shouldn’t you still follow their programs though? The answer is simple: When a trainee uses steroid-assistance, especially when training the muscles of the male upper body, their muscles respond better to high-volume and high-rep training, as the rate of protein synthesis is constantly high and the androgen receptors of the upper body will have a surplus of hormones to bind from the bloodstream.
For natural trainees, however, this type of high-volume and high-rep work does next to nothing for strength and mass gains of the chest. Natural lifters will respond much better to heavy weights and lower volume — with, of course — plenty of rest and recovery.
You can’t expect to get similar results than those gear-using fitness models do as a natural trainee — so stop following their programs (unless you’re on gear that is).
The smartest way to train chest as a natural lifter would be to choose 1-2 main lifts which you would perform at the rep range of 2-6 (to build strength) and then pick 1-2 assistance lifts which would be performed at rep ranges of 8-12 (to expand muscle glycogen stores and gain mass).
The amount of sets per exercise varies a lot between individuals, but should land between 2-5. Training chest muscles 2-3 times a week is enough. More than that and you’re not going to properly recover and be able to progressively move into heavier weights (and if you can’t, your gains will plateau rather quickly).
Here’s an example of what this could look like in practice:
• Main exercise for the sternal head of pecs 4×3
• Main exercise for targeting the clavicle head 6×3
• Assistance exercise 8×2
• Assistance exercise 10×2
• Assistance exercise 12×2
3. How To Grow Giant Arms That Pop Out Of Your Sleeves
The main muscle fiber groups of the arms are in the areas of triceps, biceps and forearms.
The main muscle fiber bundles you’re going to focus on when building big arms are:
• Biceps Brachii (both long head and short head)
• Triceps Brachii (all the three heads, long, lateral, and medial)
• Forearms (multiple bundles of abductor, extensor and stabilizing muscles)
Most people think that bigger biceps = bigger arms. But, in reality, bigger triceps = bigger arms. Triceps have a greater visual impact than the biceps since they compose 2/3 of your arm. And forearms, they’re like the calves of the arms, often neglected.
The question now is, how do you build bigger biceps and bigger triceps that are strong and dense?
How to Get Bigger Arms: Optimal Training Frequency and Set/Rep Patterns
Walk in to any gym and you can see guys doing some crazy high-rep muscle confusion workouts with their arms.
The thing is that when you subject your arm muscles to grueling high-rep drop-sets and all sorts of fancy movements, until you can’t even lift a pen, you may still be spinning your wheels with nearly the same amount of muscle mass years later. This is simply because muscle grows when it gets progressively stronger, not when you “feel the burn.”
Knowing how to get big arms comes down to this: Focus on working the majority of your arm movements with good form and full range of motion (ROM) with a rep range of 4-8 and try progressing weekly to slightly heavier weight. This is not rocket science! When you subject your muscles to constantly heavier loads of weight, there’s absolutely no way they would not grow in the process.
We built the THOR Training Program on concepts like these, along with many other T-boosting training techniques.
Aside from choosing 1-2 main movements for biceps and triceps, you should also pick up 1-2 assistance movements for tri’s, bi’s, and forearms. You can use slightly higher rep range for assistance work, just remember that anything above 12-reps is just major CNS overkill and actually counterproductive for strength and mass. And please don’t lift until failure, this sends the wrong signal to your nervous system and is guaranteed to stall progress.
How to get bigger arms workout routine:
• Main exercise for biceps 6×3
• Main exercise for triceps 8×3
• Assistance exercise for biceps 12×3
• Assistance exercise for triceps 12×3
• Assistance exercise for bottom of forearms 12×2
• Assistance exercise for top of forearms 12×2
You want to use weights that make you almost fail on the last rep of each set, but just so that you don’t fail. Get it? When you do that in all your arm workouts 2-3 times a week and constantly progress to heavier weights, magic will happen.
4. How To Build That Wide Masculine Cobra Back
The bulk of the back muscles can be divided into four distinctive groups of muscle fibers:
• Trapezius muscle (or “traps”).
• Latissimus dorsi muscle (or “lats”).
• Rhomboid muscles (minor and major).
• Erector Spinae muscles (lower back muscles).
Building a great looking well-proportioned back is not rocket science; you just simply have to make those four groups of muscle fibers strong as well as increase their mass by expanding the glycogen stores.
Pro Tip: There are few smaller muscle fiber bundles in the back that are somewhat important too. However, when you focus on the four groups above you will simultaneously work the smaller bundles of muscle too.
The questions that remain are: What is the optimal set/rep pattern and frequency for training back? And what about the heaviness of the weights as well as optimal movements?
Back Training Frequency and Optimal Set/Rep Patterns
Machine training and high-rep “pump” work will never allow a natural trainee to build that thick wide back, as it is a fact that the main muscles of the back are multi-sided large bundles of muscle fibers which respond best to heavy pulling work.
Also the fact that the back has so many isolated muscles, makes isolation work for back not only ineffective, but also incredibly time consuming. It’s much more effective if you pick 1-2 main movements that you lift with a rep range of 2-6 per set and 2-3 assistance movements, which you work with 8-12 reps per set to expand the muscle glycogen stores and add some mass.
When it comes to the amount of sets, anything between 2-4 is good, more than that and you’re just going to overtax the central nervous system (CNS).
Here’s the cobra back workout template:
• Main exercise 4×3
• Another main exercise 6×2
• Assistance exercise 8×3
• Another assistance exercise 10×3
• Yet another assistance exercise 12×3
Pick one or two big multi-joint main movements to work on your strength (2-6 reps/set), and two to three assistance movements to work on your mass (8-12 reps/set), follow this through 2-3 times a week and as you progressively get stronger, your back will grow as well, it simply has no other way to go.