Training to target a specific hormonal response – Density training, testosterone, and spot reduction

As promised earlier I will now start discussing the training method that promises to elicit a specific hormonal response – and thereby reducing fat in certain problem areas – by following a specific training protocol.

As a quick reminder – the following table is really at the base of the system. Details are explained here, suffice to say that for each of the three problem areas the table identifies a problem hormone that is responsible for storing fat in those areas, a solution hormone that counters its effects, and a training protocol that brings the body to naturally produce the problem hormone

Problem Area Problem Hormone Solution Hormone Training protocol
Love handles Insulin (sensitivity) IGF-1 Dynamic
Hips, butt, thighs, man boobs Estrogen Testosterone Density
Belly / Stomach (visceral) Cortisol Growth Hormone Lactic Acid

A specific training system has been developed by a gentleman called John “Roman” Romaniello, and he is currently marketing it under the name “Final Phase Fat Loss”. As the name implies – the program is in particular about getting rid of those last 10-20 pounds, and he does put some emphasis on training models who need to get in shape for a photo shoot. This training system – which I have recently purchased – will be the basis of my discussion.

In this part of the series I will concentrate on Density Training, which is meant to produce Testosterone, to counter the effects of Estrogen, and to address fat in the hip/butt/thigh areas as well as man-boobs.

As I have described in a previous post, I have done my first workout of this system yesterday. I have decided not to follow it by the way – for a number of reasons. Firstly, the program mixes all three workouts evenly, which is probably the right thing to do, but of course it does not allow you to assess the hormone-targeting “spot reduction” claims. Also, the program is very intense – more so than CrossFit actually, in the sense that there are fewer rest and/or low-effort/skill days. This might be right for a 20-year old model on a mission to secure a photo shoot, but this is probably not right for me. Lastly, this program is designed by a PT for use with a PT (or at least a caddy…) due to all the housekeeping involved.

Gear for Density TrainingHaving said this, I believe the program is great, and I am planning on using it extensively for my own programming. I found yesterday’s workout had a very nice rhythm and feel to it (well, nice might be the wrong word, but you get the picture) and I am trying to create some of it in my own training without having to squirrel away half of the equipment of the gym before I start to work out (bad photo by the way – it left out three more dumbbells and some other stuff).

So let’s see what yesterdays workout looked like, so that we can understand the essence of density training. Or, let’s take a step back, and go back to Roman’s definition of it: he describes training density as work done per unit of time, so in order to maximise it (which as the claim goes leads to the release of testosterone) one needs to maximise the speed at which the exercises are performed whilst controlling the recovery periods.

It is worth making an analogy to classic weight training here: it is well known in powerlifting that in order to advance, one needs to do a certain volume (often 5×5 reps) with a certain weight (usually near the personal record). In this system, the equivalent of volume is the duration of an exercise (generally below a minute), and the equivalent of the weight is the intensity, which is usually close to the maximum that can be achieved with the given weights in the given period of time.

So what seem to be the cornerstone’s of Roman’s program for the “Density Training” exercises? From what I can see it is the following

  • 3 circuits of 4 exercises, each repeated twice, each exercise lasting between 30-60 seconds (in total, the net exercise time is about 15min)
  • Overall recovery/load ratio is about 80%, but recovery is highly structured (few breaks between single exercises, but longer breaks of 1-2min after each circuit)
  • The exercises mix movements involving the large muscle groups (eg squats) with those that involved the smaller groups only (eg presses); the effect seems to be that on the former the cardio-respiratory system is heavily taxed, whilst the latter really burn the respective muscles
  • A circuit generally starts out with one of those big movements, and goes immediately (10s) into the smaller one’s. This means that even the smaller movements are executed at a very high heart-rate as the body still recovers from the strain of the big exercises. The third circuit is different in that it has 2 rather than one of the big movements, meaning that it is really taxing on the cardio-respiratory system

So I would probably program one those density workouts along the lines of the following pattern

OVERALL SESSION

  • Warm-Up
  • Circuit 1, 1-2min recovery
  • Circuit 1, 1-2min recovery
  • Circuit 2, 1-2min recovery
  • Circuit 2, 1-2min recovery
  • Circuit 3, 1-2min recovery
  • Circuit 3, 1-2min recovery
  • Breathe. Shower.

CIRCUITS 1&2

  • Big exercise 30-60s, short recovery (<15s)
  • Small exercise 30-45s, at most 1:1 recovery
  • Small exercise 30-45s, at most 1:1 recovery
  • Small exercise 30-45s, at most 1:1 recovery

CIRCUIT 3

  • Big exercise 30-60s, short recovery (<15s)
  • Small exercise 30-45s, at most 1:1 recovery
  • Big exercise 30-60s, short recovery (<15s)
  • Small exercise 30-45s, at most 1:1 recovery

The idea is to keep the recovery within each circuit to a minimum, but at a level that the athlete does not have to slow down during the exercises. A good mid-point would be a 1:2 recovery to load ratio, but the athlete should experiment within the range 1:3 – 1:1. Between the circuits the athlete should be able to recover to a reasonable heart rate, below 75% of maximum (but not below 60%).

Big Exercises would be things like squats, lunges, thrusters, wallball shots, kettlebell swings and snatches*, all appropriately weighted.

Small Exercises would be isolation exercises like presses, flies, and also many bodyweight exercises like push-ups. Pull-ups & dips could also go here, but they could also go into the big exercises, especially if weighted (and the athlete is strong enough to perform them at speed for the required time)

*One issue with dynamic kettlebell exercises is that it is difficult to control the speed – kettlebells naturally swing at whichever frequency the kettlebell “pendulum” wants to swing, and every attempt to speed it up (ie aggressively pulling down from the top) puts significant strain on the body

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8 thoughts on “Training to target a specific hormonal response – Density training, testosterone, and spot reduction

  1. Pingback: "Spot fat reduction" by targeting a hormonal response ?!? | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page 3

  2. Pingback: Long Overdue Update « The Primal Pantry

  3. Thor,

    I’m thoroughly enjoying your take on this program! I see that you’re taking your own approach to scheduling workouts. If I enjoy these next 6 weeks and need/decide to do a second round, I’ll probably be using your information to schedule my own set of workouts, so thanks in advance :).

    In my most recent post, I linked to basically everything you have written so far. I like your observations because they are not only succinct and easy to understand (easier than Romaniello, at some times!), they’re also really cognitive. You point out things that show your intrinsic knowledge of exercise and fitness in general. It really gets me thinking!

    So far, I’m really liking this program. I was ready for a challenge, especially with this last 5-10 lbs to lose. I’m excited to watch your progress as well! Keep the excellent posts coming!

  4. Thanks – I am impressed that you’ll do that for six weeks. The program is hardcore! ….especially with adjustable dumbbells :-)….

    And good luck on those last 5-10lbs!

  5. Pingback: WOD Thu 24/Mar – Half a Density Workout | Thor Falk

  6. Pingback: About BIG and small exercises (for a Density Workout) | Thor Falk

  7. Pingback: “Dynamic” hormone-specific training for spot-reduction of love handles | Thor Falk

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