Hormones help the body regulate itself and provide stability to the body's internal environment. Hormones regulate growth, reproduction, and development, to help the body adapt to physiological stresses placed on the body by the external environment.

The two main hormones associated with muscle building and strength gains, as a result of weight training, are testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH). When these hormones are released into the blood stream one of their jobs is to act directly on muscle cells to produce muscle growth.



Testosterone helps stimulate muscle building and the secretion of human growth hormone. Women have on average one-tenth the amount of testosterone of men. Testosterone levels vary greatly amongst women and affect their ability to gain muscle. This may explain why some women have an advantage with strength gains than others.

Although women's testosterone levels do not significantly change due to resistance training, androstenedione (another muscle building hormone) has been found to increase during the luteal phase (14-28 days into menstrual cycle) in response to resistance training. It must be noted that androstenedione has a weaker affect than testosterone when building muscle.  

Human growth hormone (HGH) stimulates protein synthesis (muscle building) and increases fat metabolism (fat burning). The greatest release of HGH is during sleep.

Studies have found that human growth hormone levels rise in response to a single resistance training session in women. This release is greatest during the luteal phase of menstrual cycle.

These findings suggest that HGH is one of the main hormones responsible for increasing muscle mass in females. The more muscle fibers fatigued the greater the release of HGH so compound exercise should be used. One study found that the greatest release of HGH was during 10 reps to max (to failure).

Programme Design

Note: This programme is only appropriate during a normal menstrual cycle. This programme should only be part of a series of periodized programmes (4-6 weeks in length). A periodized training plan uses two phases (workouts). The first training programme in the Luteal phase should concentrate on producing the greatest release of HGH and the subsequent muscle building. The second training programme should focus on slightly higher rep ranges i.e., 12-15 reps.


A 4-day weight split is recommended for optimum growth but all programme variations can be used
i.e., 2-day split, all over workout etc.

During the luteal phase (14-28 days after menstruation) of menstrual cycle:
· 3-4 exercises per body part
· 3-4 sets per exercise of 10 reps (to failure)
· Compound exercise i.e., squats, deadlifts, bench press, assisted chins
· Rest period 30-60 sec
· Tempo i.e., bench press 1 sec up 2 sec down

First two weeks after menstruation:
· 3-4 exercises per body part
· 3-4 sets per exercise of 12-15 reps (To failure)
· Compound and isolation exercises
· Rest period 30-60 sec
· Tempo i.e., bench press 1 sec up 2 sec down  

by Richard Leonard.

Richard is a Personal Trainer at Les Mills Auckland.
He has been a Personal Trainer since 1994 and his other studies include Bachelor of Science, major in Sports and Excercise science, Certificates in Personal Training from AIT. Specialist in Body Sculpting and Sports specific strength training.

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