Tag Archives: muscle

Should I Use Steroids?

Kids, don't try this at home.
Don't try this at home, kids.

I recently started working with a trainer. I’ve always had trouble putting on muscle mass (called “scrawny” in high school).  My trainer told me that doctors sometimes prescribe testosterone for people with HIV. Do you think this is something I should consider? Would it help me put size on faster? —Rob, Pasadena, Calif.

Most people know that testosterone (like growth hormone) is an androgen that your body produces, so you need to see a doctor to determine if your natural levels are in keeping with a “normal” medical reference range.  This is really the first question you should be answering, i.e., “are my natural levels of testosterone too low?”

It may also be worth kicking around some questions developed by St. Louis University to screen for androgen hormone deficiency. You can answer the questionnaire here

If your natural levels fall below the normal reference range, you should weigh your options. There are many new delivery methods available—from patches, gels and creams to injections—so be sure to have a robust discussion with your provider.

Incidentally, there are other many hormones which can be screened by your doctor, including thyroid hormone, growth hormone, and free/total testosterone. These levels could also be checked and taken into account before making a decision.

I’d do everything you can to enhance your natural levels of testosterone. Make sure that you are eating a balanced diet, taking a multivitamin, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. While it’s true that supraphysiological levels of testosterone and growth hormone will increase lean body mass, reduce fat, and improve well being—the long-term effects are largely unknown.

Also, ask your trainer to customize your workout. For instance, there’s some evidence that “multiple joint” exercises, (such as the bench press and squat) may play a role in higher levels of post-workout testosterone in the people who do them.

From Scrawny to Brawny: The 5 Commandments

Shredded in Barcelona in ’07 (left) and 1 year later, back in L.A.

sam-page-trainer-los-angeles 2sam-page-trainer-los-angeles
AS A TRAINER IN HOLLYWOOD, not a week passes that I don’t hear about the “latest, greatest” TV show revolving around weight loss. Sure, it makes dramatic television, but what about people who face the opposite challenge—that is:  gaining lean body mass? Enter: Scrawny to Brawny: The Complete Guide to Building Muscle the Natural Way, a book conceived for ectomorphs, or people genetically engineered with this problem.

To put on muscle, you need to do away with the “vanity” exercises such as bicep curls and focus on the basics.

Know Thy Body Type. There are three human body types (or somatotypes).  Ectomorph (just described), endomorph, (a pear-shaped frame), and mesomorph.  The latter is the “classic” gymnast or bodybuilder type, (short muscles and thick, compact frames).  Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.  If you’ve fallen prey to the exercise and muscle magazines in your quest to become more toned and muscular, you’re wasting your money.

Train with basic, multi-joint weight exercises. Forget isolation exercises, such as bicep curls, lateral raises, calf raises. You should be doing squats, deadlifts, pull ups, bench presses, military presses, and dips.   You need to train with the heaviest weights you can safely manage with these exercises.  These exercises train the largest muscles in the body, and therefore have the most growth potential.

Slightly modify those exercises to better suit your body type. Ectomorphs generally have longer bones and this means that they have to move the weights through a greater range of motion than their mesomorph counterparts.  Therefore, it is essential to make some alterations to the traditional exercises named above to “mimic” the ROM experienced by mesomorphs.  On the bench press, ectomorphs should use a close grip (6 inches closer than shoulder width) and should bring the bar down only to about four inches from the sternum. On the squat, you should adopt a much wider stance (6 inches wider than shoulder width on each side) and point the toes slightly out, at 11 and 2 o’clock, respectively.  On the deadlift, you should adopt a closer grip, and keep the bar as close to your body as possible.  “The more vertical the path of the bar, the less strain imposed on the lower back,” say the book’s authors.

Train with intensity, but less often, getting plenty of rest. Rest is often overlooked as a pillar of muscle growth. In a nutshell, if you’re an ectomorph, it’s better to train two days a week, with maximum intensity, and plenty of rest in between, than it is to train 3-5 days a week on a “split” bodybuilding/fitness magazine style routine.

Eat more quality, nutrient-dense calories. Eat, eat, eat!  Sounds easy, but it’s one of the things many people have difficulty with.  It’s important to get several high-calorie, but nutrient dense meals, every day.  You must always, always, always…consume a protein drink after every workout.   While it may be “hard” to eat this many calories the authors suggest that it’s also hard to do a lot of things. But if you really want a bigger, more toned and more muscly body, then you need to give your body the nutrients it needs to grow.