food for thought written by the much maligned, Christian Thibaudeau:
"STEROIDS, REPS AND WEIGHT
I have received some comments how low reps are not optimal to build muscle and how guys who are relying on low reps and heavy weights and who got big probably were using steroids. Nonsense!
If anything, it's the opposite!
From my experience working with a myriad of athletes and bodybuilders, natural and enhanced, individuals who are using steroids might respond better to higher reps and lower loads while naturals will grow more from high-force (heavy weight or explosive lifts) training with low reps.
This is a viewpoint shared by Micheal Gundhil, one of the foremost bodybuilding authority in Europe.
First of all steroids tend to increase muscle mass a lot more than tendon strength, in fact many steroids make the tendons more brittle and fragile. So you have a muscle that is much larger and stronger, but with a weaker attachment.
This both increases the risk of injury and eventually decreases the potential for strength gains because of an inhibitory mechanism due to the weaker tendons (the body will want to protect itself for a tendon tear and will reduce force production).
So ''enhanced'' athletes might progress fast at first from a program based on heavy, low reps lifting, but the risk of injuries will be drastically higher than for a natural trainee.
Not to mention that ''enhanced'' athletes can tolerate and recover from more training volume: they have a much greater rate of protein synthesis and also replenish muscle glycogen to a greater and faster extent. For that reason, they will thrive on doing a lot more work in the gym.
Finally, the increased rate of protein synthesis and constant anabolic state they are in reduces the need for a super powerful growth stimulus. I'm not saying that steroids are an ''easy way out''... to get the most out of it you must still train hard; but a lot of big bodies have been built with ''easy'' workouts when using steroids.
So basically in an "enhanced" athlete you have:
- increased protein synthesis and glycogen storage + lowered cortisol = better tolerance for volume
- constant anabolic state = less need for a powerful growth stimulus
- muscles that get stronger much faster than tendons = greater potential for injury
So this means that an enhanced lifter will respond better to high volume/moderate load training than their natural counterparts.
I'm not saying that low-reps/high force training is not effective for drug-using lifters, it is VERY effective. What I'm saying is that this type of training might be more hazardous for the enhanced and not as necessary to stimulate growth. As such, a steroid-using bodybuilder would be best to use high-force/low reps lifting in short cycles followed by bouts of higher volume training.
A natural lifter doesn't have these "problems". While his muscles will still grow stronger faster than the tendons, the difference is not as pronounced (especially considering that some steroids will make the tendons weaker). So the risk of low reps lifting is much lower for a natural trainee, so he can stay on this type of training for longer.
Actually I believe that high volume training will cause more injuries than high-force training in the natural lifter.
Since the natural lifter's anabolic to catabolic (testosterone, igf-1, GH / cortisol) ratio is not constantly in the positive range, the regulation of training volume is much more important if maximum progress is desired. So a natural lifter who does too much volume can really short-circuit his gains.
And because it is harder for a natural lifter to stimulate growth, he needs a more powerful stimulus... high-force lifting.
This is why I believe that low-reps/high force training, contrary to what some believe, is actually better suited to natural lifters than enhanced ones.
As for frequency for enhanced lifters, here is what I believe:
- TECHNICALLY enhanced lifters are able to train each muscle group more often because of the increased protein synthesis and glycogen storage. In other words the muscles recover faster from training.
- Still IN THEORY enhanced lifters are able to train more often (as in more days per week) for the same reason as above AND because they artificially blunt the action of cortisol at the receptor level.
HOWEVER in reality they should actually train each muscle group LESS OFTEN.
- although their muscles recover faster their tendons do not. This, once again, increase the risk of injuries because as time goes by the muscles will get stronger while the tendons get progressively (and proportionally) weaker.
- while the increased protein synthesis and glycogen storage will allow the muscle to do more work and recover faster, the nervous system will not recover any faster (in fact some steroids are psychostimulants that might even drain the nervous system even more during a training session). For that reason an enhanced lifter might miss the signs that it's time to give the body a break: the muscles can still do the job, the lifter is still gaining strength and size... so he assumes that everything is fine. But the risk of chronic fatigue is quite real, he just doesn't see it."
Basically... an enhanced lifter CAN train more often. But by doing so he is likely to do more harm than good, especially in the long run.
Not to mention that since AAS basically makes the lifter anabolic 24-7, he requires a lesser frequency of stimulation to gain size and strength, so training at a higher frequency is unecessary.