Neuroendocrine Response to Resistance Training

What is the neuroendocrine response, and how do I get it?

Neuroendocrine refers to interactions between the nervous system and the endocrine system. So what does this have to do with fitness? Muscle growth and strength increases largely depend on the neuroendocrine adaptations and acute responses evoked during exercise. Some helpful hormones that are released include testosterone, GH or growth hormone, cortisol, insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1), insulin, and the catecholamines. All of which play a role in the process of muscle breakdown and rebuilding. The breakdown, or catabolism, happens during exercise and the rebuilding, or anabolism, occurs during recovery.

Certain exercises and manipulations of exercise protocols can maximize the neuroendocrine response. The most effective exercises that stimulate the neuroendocrine system include large groups of muscle. Kraemer et al. found that “Large muscle-mass exercises such as the Olympic lifts, deadlifts and jump squats have been shown to produce large elevations in testosterone in comparison with small muscle-mass exercises” (2005). These types of exercises when done prior to smaller exercises significantly increase the amount of testosterone circulating in the blood a short time after exercise while exercises such as “bicep curls” done without doing lower body large muscle mass exercises beforehand did not (Hansen et. al. 2001).

Now let’s focus in on testosterone. Not only does the type of exercise matter but also how that exercise is performed is essential to eliciting a significant neuroendocrine increase of testosterone concentration. The intensity, volume, and rest interval of the exercise being the major factors in programming; the intensity of exercise is how hard it is or the amount of resistance. The volume changes with the number of sets and repetitions performed Volume= (Sets x Reps x Resistance). The ideal programming for a good acute testosterone response according to Kraemer et al 2005 is a high volume with moderate to high resistance. Other factors that influence this acute response include age, sex, and training status.

One of Kraemer’s programs showed significant acute increases of testosterone and involved 8 exercises total with 3-5 sets done with 5 repetitions with 1 and 3 minute rest intervals (1991). Another significant change was recorded by Pakarinen with a program of 10 sets of 10 repetitions at 70% of 1 Repetition Maximum (1993). These are but a few ways of programming effectively for muscle growth and strength.

To put it in simple terms in order to maximize neuroendocrine response focus on working large muscle groups before smaller muscle groups. Use higher volume and moderate to high intensity with shorter rest intervals between sets.



Hakkinen K. Pakarinen A. Acute hormonal responses to two different fatiguing heavy-resistance protocols in male athletes. J Appl Physiol 1993;74:882-7

Kraemer W.J., Gordon SE, Fleck SJ. Et al. Endogenous anabolic hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercisein males and females. Int J Sports Med 1991; 12:228-35

Kraemer W.J., Ratamess N.A. Hormonal Responses and Adaptations to Resistance Exercise and Training. Sports Medicine 2005;35(4)

This article was written by Kevin Erickson ACSM-HFS.  Kevin is currently accepting new clients at the Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center.  Call 994-6309 for more information about Kevin’s training methods.

One response to this post.

  1. […] a day sat down hunched over a computer. There is also the neuroendecrine response (good article here) elicited by engaging a large set of muscles, which can encourage strength and muscle gains for the […]


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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

%d bloggers like this: