What you need to know about Growth Hormone response to training


Before we get into how to optimize the release of growth hormone from training I should first discuss why you should even care. What is growth hormone exactly? Most people have heard of this hormone, but lack a fundamental understanding of its role in the human body. “Growth hormone (GH or HGH) is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and other animals. It is a type of mitogen which is specific only to certain kinds of cells. Growth hormone is a 191-amino acid, single-chain polypeptide that is synthesized, stored, and secreted by somatotropic cells within the lateral wings of the anterior pituitary gland.”

It’s main functions are to:

  • Increase calcium retention, and strengthens and increases the mineralization of bone
  • Increase muscle mass through sarcomere hyperplasia
  • Promote lipolysis
  • Increase protein synthesis
  • Stimulate the growth of all internal organs excluding the brain
  • Play a role in homeostasis
  • Reduce liver uptake of glucose
  • Promote gluconeogenesis in the liver
  • Contribute to the maintenance and function of pancreatic islets
  • Stimulate the immune system

So as an athlete you can see some major advantages of higher than basal releases of growth hormone. With actions that strengthen bones, increase muscle mass, promote the burning of fat, increase muscle mass through synthesizing proteins into the injured muscle for repair and growth, and stimulate health immune function, it is blatantly obvious that increasing your body’s natural release of growth hormone will lead to enhanced athletic performance, as well as aesthetics.

Now that I have everyone on the growth hormone bandwagon, lets dive into how one should train to optimize their own body’s production of said hormone. The two main exercises that induce a large release of GH are resistance training and sprint training respectively.

First, we examine the effects of resistance training on the stimulation of GH. However, in order to fully understand the mechanisms behind this process, it is necessary that we start at the beginning. To make this easier to grasp, I have outlined the steps and placed them in numerical order.

  1. You perform heavy resistance training which puts load onto your muscles/tendons/ligaments/bones/
  2. This stress on the body, along side the stress from tiny tears in the muscles, sends a distress signal to your hypothalamus.
  3. This signal tells your hypothalamus that you need to grow (become anabolic), therefore your hypothalamus releases the peptide Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH or somatocrinin) into the hypophyseal portal venous blood surrounding the pituitary.
  4. Once there somatocrinin signals the anterior pituitary gland to synthesize and secrete GH.
  5. Capillaries within the anterior pituitary, which carry hormones secreted by that gland, coalesce into veins that drain into the systemic venous blood.
  6. Once in the blood system the GH either goes to target cells; like binding its receptor to fat cells and stimulating them to break down triglyceride and suppress their ability to take up and accumulate circulating lipids, or to the liver through the JAK-STAT signaling pathway to stimulate the production of IGF-1.

I will go deep into what insulin like growth factor is (IGF-1) in my next post as this post is already rather lengthy. *But stay with me, I’ll pull it all together at the end, I promise!

Resistance Training

Knowing this information, it now behooves us to learn how to elicit the biggest response signal from your training. The purpose of one study was to compare serum growth hormone, testosterone, cortisol, and whole blood lactate responses to single set versus multiple set heavy-resistance exercise protocols. They found that High-Volume Heavy resistance training significantly greater increases in circulating anabolic hormones during the recovery phase following exercise. This means that all you, one and done guys, might be missing out on some growth potential. Another study looked at the growth hormone release in both trained and untrained women to see if there was a significant difference. They concluded that while both sets of women had acute rises in GH levels, the women who had previously performed resistance training were able to sustain the higher levels of GH for a longer period of time. The differences in response may be due to the higher muscle mass of the trained women. This in turn stresses more sarcolemma of muscle, resulting in increases in anabolic hormone levels. Thus the authors suggest that the magnitude of hormonal response is related to the amount of muscle tissue stimulated. Given this information, we can conclude that in order to produce a large signal for growth, we should perform heavy resistance training using large body parts and movements in order to recruit more muscular contraction. *I’ll give and example workout at the end, hang in there.

Sprint Training

Get this, research has shown that high-intensity sprinting can increase exercise-induced growth hormone by 530%. In this study, researchers compared growth hormone levels in several ways – resting, after a single 6 second cycle sprint, and after a 30 second cycle sprint. They found that while the 6 second sprint did increase the GH levels, it was no where near that of the 30 second sprint. Not only was the 30 second sprint 450% higher than the 6 second, the 30 second sprint levels stayed elevated up to twice as long as the 6 second. This means that time is a critical factor.

*Now hang on because its about to get muddy 

So like most people, I saw these and immediately wanted to go sprint my butt off after every lifting session, 530% is a lot, I’d like that.  However, there is a caveat.  More studies have shown that “a single 30-s sprint is a potent physiological stimulus for growth hormone (GH) release. However, repeated bouts of sprinting attenuate the GH response, possibly due to negative feedback via elevated systemic free fatty acids (FFA).” Yep, that’s right, Free Fatty Acids inhibit the release of growth hormone. They act as a negative feedback control for the secretion of GH. I know, bummer!  Basically what happens is if you do too many sprints, you begin to release more and more FFA’s into your blood stream. Interestingly enough,  you release more FFA’s partly due to the higher GH levels. (remember, that’s one of its jobs) So there are two ways to skirt this issue. You do what I suggest, don’t go sprint crazy or you can take Niacin (aka Vitamin B3) before your sprint session. Niacin inhibits lipolysis and was even used successfully in that very study to achieve a high level or GH with more sprints. To me, a former fat guy, the down regulation of fat-burning never sounds particularly appealing.


Armed with this knowledge you can easy construct your very own workout routine that optimizes your release of growth hormone. Simply stay with a certain confine and results are sure to come. Here is an example week workout.

Always perform at least a 5 min. warm up.

Monday: Lower Body

  • Squats (6×4)
  • Deadlift (5×3)
  • Goblet Squat (5×10)
  • Walking Lunges (5×10)

Tuesday: Upper Body

  • Bench Press (5×5)
  • Incline Chest Flye (5×10)
  • Bent over single Dumbbell Row (5×8)
  • Wide Grip Lat-Pull Down (5×10)
  • Standing Overhead Press ( 5×5)
  • Barbell Curl (5×10)
  • Dips (5×10)

Wednesday: Rest/Stretch/Walk

Thursday: Lower Body

  • Squats (6×4)
  • Deadlift (5×3)
  • Goblet Squat (5×10)
  • Walking Lunges (5×10)

Friday: Upper Body

  • Bench Press (5×5)
  • Incline Chest Flye (5×10)
  • Bent over single Dumbbell Row (5×8)
  • Wide Grip Lat-Pull Down (5×10)
  • Standing Overhead Press ( 5×5)
  • Barbell Curl (5×10)
  • Dips (5×10)

Saturday: Sprints

  • 400m warm up (jog)
  • 400m Sprint (rest 4 min.)
  • 3x200m Sprints (rest 3 min. each)

Sunday: Rest/Stretch/Walk




2 thoughts on “What you need to know about Growth Hormone response to training

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s