Systemic concentrations of anabolic hormones like testosterone do not predict the muscle growth strength training produces. However, local factors inside your muscles, like androgen receptor content, do.
The results from a recent study show that overtraining leads to lower muscle androgen receptor content. This suggests that you don’t want to cross the fine line between optimal training frequency, volume, and intensity and overreaching.
In the week-long study (7.5 days of actual training), 16 resistance-trained men were randomly placed into one of two groups, one control group and one overtraining group.
The control group trained 3 times, every other day, performing 5 sets of 5 reps of barbell squats at 60% of 1RM followed by 3 sets of 10 reps of leg extensions at 70% of 1RM each session.
Nothing too taxing.
The overtraining group, on the other hand, performed 15 workouts over the course of the week. In other words, they trained twice daily, every day. Each workout included 10 sets of 5 reps of squats at 60% or 1RM, followed by 3 sets of 10 reps of leg extensions at 70% or 1RM.
That’s almost 200 sets of leg training in a single week. A training volume enough to put even the best of us in an overtrained state.
Not surprisingly, the performance of the overtraining group quickly stagnated or even declined. In addition, biopsies revealed that androgen receptor content in the muscles of the participants declined, but only in the overtraining group.
Of course, the training protocol in this study was extreme. The point and the take-away is that recovery is important. If your training is too stressful and doesn’t give you time to recover properly, sooner or later your results might suffer from it. This would take longer with a realistic training protocol, but if you cross the line into overtraining, muscle androgen content in your muscles would likely decrease. This in turn will make your workouts less anabolic and build less muscle over time.
Training volume, frequency, and intensity are key factors for muscle growth. More is better … but only up to a point. Once you can’t recover properly from your workout, your results will suffer. Not only because you’re exhausted and can’t perform properly, but because your muscles and your body will be in a less anabolic hormonal state.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019 Oct;119(10):2237-2253. MAPK, androgen, and glucocorticoid receptor phosphorylation following high-frequency resistance exercise non-functional overreaching.