The Differences Between Natural And Enhanced Training

Christian Thibaudeau

Co-founder of Thibarmy, Trainer

Articles, Hot Topic, Muscle gain, Training

0 min
The Differences Between Natural And Enhanced Training

The Differences Between Natural And Enhanced Training

If you’re a natural should you train like a steroid user? That’s the big question!

I think that the best way to understand this topic is by hearing from someone who has been and works with people on both sides of the fence.

That would be me.

I will tell you the truth about the differences and similarities between these two clientele.

In this video, I will cover 5 major topics:

  1. How cortisol can be an issue
  2. How steroids can reduce the risk of ”physical” overtraining
  3. How steroids can reduce the risk of ”neurological” overtraining
  4. Why steroids elevate protein synthesis 24/7
  5. What is a muscle to tendon strength ratio?


Watch at your own risk! This video is complex, theoretical, and for people that have the willingness to understand the truth behind the natural and enhanced lifters.

So, if you want to know why and you have plenty of time, check it out!

A Few Key Concepts To Recap This Video 

The role of cortisol is to make sure the body can face any potential threat

  1. It increases mental awareness, motivation, and focus via the conversion of norepinephrine into epinephrine
  2. It increases heartbeat, the contraction strength of the heart and skeletal muscles via the same mechanism
  3. It mobilizes the stores of energy (carbohydrates, fats & proteins)
  4. It increases blood sugar if it is too low (to keep it stable)
  5. It inhibits the immune system

Problems arise when cortisol is chronically elevated

  1. It increases the level of myostatin
  2. It increases muscle degradation
  3. II reduces the re-synthesis of muscle glycogen
  4. It can lead to lowered testosterone and estrogen levels (pregnenolone steal)
  5. It reduces the conversion of T4 to T3 (which can lower basal metabolic rate)
  6. It reduces insulin sensitivity
  7. It creates water retention via the increase in aldosterone and vasopressin
  8. It can lead to beta-adrenergic desensitization
  9. It negatively affects the methylation cycle
  10. It increases glutamate production and glutamate receptor sensitivity

Neurological fatigue/overreaching

Also called “adrenal fatigue”. In both cases (neurological fatigue/CNS fatigue and adrenal fatigue) are not real. The central nervous system or adrenal glands cannot become fatigued.

The Symptoms are:

  1. Decreased energy
  2. Loss of motivation
  3. Apathy
  4. Anhedonia
  5. Decreased sex drive/libido
  6. Depression
  7. Loss of confidence
  8. Decreased performances
  9. Decreased focus, concentration, or memory

Those symptoms are due to problems with one or more neurotransmitter systems like downregulation of beta-adrenergic receptors, depletion of norepinephrine, depletion of dopamine, and desensitization of dopamine receptors.

In all of those cases, the main cause is an overproduction of epinephrine/adrenaline caused, amongst others, by an excessive increase of cortisol levels.

Factors that can increase cortisol/adrenaline are:

  1. Volume
  1. Intensiveness (not to be confused with intensity… how hard you are pushing each set)
  2. Psychological stress (being intimidated by a task)
  3. Neurological stress (complexity of an exercise, learning a new task, doing many different exercises)
  4. High training density
  5. Competitiveness

* Note that cortisol should not be blocked completely as it is necessary for optimal performance. But it is important to avoid chronic overproduction

Muscle Repair: Natural VS Enhanced


Big difference No.1:

Enhanced lifters can repair damaged muscle tissue, and add muscle tissue without a time limit whereas natural lifters are limited to that 30-36 hours window.

Big difference No.2:

Steroid users can grow much better than natural trainees under high cortisol conditions.

Big difference No.3:

Enhanced lifters are also able to do more neurologically demanding work before suffering from « training burnout ».

Big difference No.4:

Enhanced lifters tend to be more at risk of tendon injuries when trying to push their strength up as fast as possible.

Take Home Message

Enhanced lifters can not only get away with bad programing but they can also benefit from added training volume and more muscle damage compared to the natural trainee. In fact, it might even be beneficial for them to do that.

However, while they can produce more force (due to faster muscle growth but also neurological potentiation), they are more at risk of injuries from heavy lifting because tendon development doesn’t parallel muscle and neurological strength gains.

Natural lifters

  1. Need lower daily training stress (emphasizing only on variable and lowering others)
  2. Might require a higher frequency per body part; but a similar or lower overall frequency
  3. Can more safely focus on progressive overload, and might require it more than enhanced lifters
  4. Will benefit from planned deloading weeks every 4th to 6th week

Enhanced lifters

  1. Can benefit from a higher daily volume and causing more muscle damage
  2. A « muscle bombing» approach of doing a high workload for a muscle group once a week will work well
  3. While those with a naturally stronger constitution (bigger tendons and bones) can focus on heavy lifting, normally enhanced lifter should focus on slightly higher reps when training for hypertrophy and be more conservative with load progression during strength phases.
  4. It is thus a mistake for most natural lifters to follow the same training program as enhanced lifters (unless they are genetically gifted).
  5. However, the opposite is not true: an enhanced lifter can progress really well on a program that is suitable for the natural trainee (e.g. Fortitude training).

Potential issue with enhanced training

One danger of being enhanced (besides the potential health issues) is the neurological and hormonal rebound effect after a cycle.

  1. Dopamine receptor overstimulation can lead to desensitization of those receptors and withdrawal when you stop using steroids (this is the main cause of depression symptoms post-cycle)
  2. Cortisol rebound is the main cause of lost gains, ifs not natural testosterone suppression (although that doesn’t help).


For those of you who read and watched the entire webinar and article – Kudos!

It’s that kind of dedication that will help you get through the tougher challenges of training.

This is how you will reach your goals. Expect 2 more videos in this series! (To be continued…)

In the meantime, if you want more great Thibarmy resources, make sure you download our free guide on “How to Lift for Maximum Hypertrophy”.

Click below to download it 

Download it now!