This next part in the detraining series looks at hormonal responses to strength training and how detraining impacts them.
If you are the parent of a young wrestler or know one, I highly suggest you read this.
I think that you’ll be astonished at what a basic lifting program can do in terms of increased testosterone production.
The subjects included 42 untrained pre-pubertal and pubertal boys. They were placed into 2 experimental groups.
Group 1 (STG1) consisted of 9 boys between the ages of 11 and 13.
Group 2 (STG2) consisted of 13 boys between the ages of 14 and 16.
Additionally, there were 2 control groups. These groups consisted of the same age ranges and similar pre-training hormone levels.
STG1 and STG2 took part in a 2-month resistance training program. The program consisted of 6 exercises for 3 sets of 10 reps (a predetermined 10 rep max) 3-times per week.
All of the exercises were done on machines. They included a lying bench press, wide grip pulldown, bicep curl, tricep extension, seated row, and overhead press.
After each set the subjects were allowed to rest for one minute. After each exercise the subjects were allowed to rest for three minutes.
Each session was approximately an hour long. There was 48 hours between each training session. I’m guessing it was Monday, Wednesday, Friday being that it was 3 times/week.
The sessions were supervised throughout. Each session started with a 10-minute warm-up that consisted of light jogging, static stretching, and “light exercises of the involved muscle groups”. After the lifting portion, there was a 5-8 minute stretch to serve as a cool down.
Every 15 days the subjects were tested to re-determine their 10 rep maxes.
After the program was completed, these 2 groups then took part in a 2-month detraining period. The only activity allowed during this period was the school’s physical education classes.
No injuries took place throughout the training. During the first 3 sessions a few subjects complained of muscle soreness. However, after the first week, there were no more complaints.
Post-training program results:
STG1 mean testosterone increased 124%.
STG2 mean testosterone increased 32%.
STG1 mean free androgen index increased 74%.
“The mean hormonal parameters remained practically unaltered.”
“We conclude that strength training stimulates the anaerobic and androgenic activities differently in pre-pubertal and pubertal untrained boys.”
Subjects for the study were 19 pre-adolescent males between the ages of 11-13. 9 were placed in the experimental group and 10 were used as controls.
The 9 boys in the experimental group followed the same strength training and detraining protocols as detailed above.
Sex hormone levels were measured and tracked as well as 10-RM strength levels.
Results post-training period:
Increase of 17.5% in isometric strength.
Mean testosterone and free androgen index values increased.
Results post-detraining period:
Loss of 9.5% in isometric strength.
Again, the hormones remained “practically unaltered.”
“In conclusion, the resistance training induced strength changes are independent of the changes in the anabolic and androgenic activity in pre-adolescent males.”
“Coaches and clinicians may also effectively design the strength-training variables related to the periodization, especially the appropriate length of rest between 2 training periods, or to the rehabilitation from sport-related injuries for this age group while considering the transient nature of the training response, which, in an in-season conditioning program, will result in inevitable and undesirable strength loss.”
Tsolakis, C., D. Messinis, A. Stergioulas, A. Dessypris. Hormonal responses after strength training and detraining in prepubertal and pubertal boys. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 14(4), 399-404. 2000.
Tsolakis, C., G. Vagenas, A. Dessypris. Strength adaptations and hormonal responses to resistance training and detraining in preadolescent males. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 18(3), 625-629. 2004.
To say that I was astonished by these results is an understatement.
Listen, this blog isn’t about the promotion or use of steroids. However, there’s a reason why athletes will, in some cases, do whatever it takes to use steroids- testosterone works.
So while you probably don’t want to start injecting your kid with steroids (and I in no way suggest that you do), you can certainly promote the benefits of increased testosterone by following a strength training plan. In this case, even the most basic of routines.
Keep in mind that the research shows that the increases in both testosterone and free androgen index values remain elevated even after a 2-month detraining period!
Although this study tracked hormone levels and not strength levels, I think it’s safe to assume that the detraining period did have a negative effect on strength levels.
However, I do think it’s still pretty startling that such a basic strength training program can have such a profound effect on a youth’s testosterone.