Whether your goal is increasing testosterone or improving health in general, we strongly believe you should always acquire those means naturally. You can raise testosterone from food and from other lifestyle factors, such as getting more sleep and spending more time in the sun. But what about exercise? Does working out increase testosterone? Most people know intense physical training is good for T levels, but does the science actually back this up?
The Connection Between Exercise and Testosterone
Does exercise increase testosterone? The short answer is yes, but we wouldn’t be expanding your knowledge much if we just left it at that. Yes, exercise increases testosterone, but there are a lot of ifs and buts that we need to talk about. We need to explore the grey areas because not all exercises are equal in this regard.
The Best Exercises for Testosterone Gain
Not all exercises have the same effect on your body. In fact, some workouts actually lower testosterone; we will discuss this in detail later. For now, let’s talk about workouts UMZU promotes. These are workouts scientifically proven to increase testosterone, build muscle and reduce fat.
The best workout for boosting testosterone is weightlifting or any type of heavy resistance training. When it comes to the training component, we are big advocates of low-volume compound lifts like barbell squats, bench presses or weighted pull-ups. In one study1, young men who underwent a weight training regimen for 12 weeks saw a 44.9 percent increase in their growth hormone levels.
We recommend sticking to multi-joint compound movements. Isolation movements like dumbbell curls or tricep kickbacks simply do not produce the stress required to induce testosterone gain. A movement like squats, on the other hand, recruits the quadriceps, glutes, hips, hamstrings, calves and erector spinae (muscles along the spine).
Why Do Compound Exercises Rock?
It’s all about the stress factor. The more muscles working at once, the more stress-inducing the workout. If you’ve done heavy squatting, then you know it’s far more excruciating than doing barbell curls. Pushing through that pain is what signals your body to increase testosterone output.
The efficacy of compound movements was proven in a 2014 study published under the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In the study, participants had their testosterone and growth hormones (GH) measured after performing a leg workout. The subjects completed either barbell squats or leg presses on a machine. We should point out that while the latter is also a compound movement, it fails to incorporate the glutes, hamstrings and stabilizer muscles. Most of the work is shifted to the quads, making it less of a compound exercise.
READ MORE: 3 Natural Ways to Increase Your Testosterone
The squat group saw their testosterone increase from 23.9 to 31.4 nmol/L. The leg press group saw a more modest increase from 22.1 to 26.9 nmol/L. A similar result was observed in GH. The increase went from 0.2 to 9.5 μg/L for squatters compared to 0.3 to 2.8 μg/L for the leg press group.
The lesson here? Stick to compound movements, preferably using free weights. Limit the use of machines, including the Smith machine.
Incorporate High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Does working out increase testosterone when the exercise includes aerobic activity? It depends on the type of aerobic work. We are big believers of cardio done at maximum intensity for brief intervals. HIIT falls into this category, which is why we recommend HIIT sessions for maximum fat loss and muscle preservation.
In one study2, athletes who performed HIIT training for six-weeks saw an increase in free testosterone and muscle output. In another study3, older men between 60 and 64 years of age who went on a HIIT training program saw their total testosterone increase by 17 percent and free testosterone increase by 4.5 percent.
When Exercise Hurts Testosterone Levels
Does exercise increase testosterone regardless of the workout type? Unfortunately, some exercises actually have the opposite effect and may cause testosterone loss and cortisol increase.
Traditional aerobic workouts done at a moderate pace for prolonged periods may decrease testosterone. If you’re skeptical, just consider the average physique of marathon runners vs that of sprinters. While the former often adopt a thinner, leaner physique, the latter tend to have more solid builds.
In a 2000 study4, researchers made a startling discovery after analyzing the testosterone levels of men who ran at least 40 miles a week. Not only did they have lower testosterone levels compared to short-distance runners, but their bone mineral density was also lower. That’s not all; in a Brazilian study, men had their testosterone levels analyzed after completing a marathon. The results? Their testosterone was roughly 50 percent lower than baseline, and cortisol levels also doubled.
What can we conclude from these studies? Exercise, for the most part, elevates testosterone. However, not any exercise will do so, and some exercises even have the opposite effect. For maximum testosterone output:
- Perform low-volume weight training
- Stick to multi-joint compound movements
- Use free weights and rack while limiting the use of machines
- Perform HIIT training for the cardio portion of your workout
- Avoid endurance training in the form of brisk jogging or cycling
We recommend checking out our Thor Program. It outlines a routine that incorporates all of the above for peak testosterone gain.
Does Working Out Increase Testosterone? Our Final Thoughts
To increase testosterone naturally, you have to make lifestyle changes from multiple angles. Exercising is just one of many pathways, but it can’t do everything alone. Please make the effort toward dietary changes as well. Also, while it is not a replacement for exercise and food, you can supplement with Testro-X for an added boost.