heavy lifting

Does Lifting Heavy Weights Boost Testosterone?

Lift Heavy Weights to Boost Testosterone

When it comes to boosting your testosterone levels or packing on muscle mass you need to focus your resources from every angle.

This means you need the best supplements, an optimal diet and a training program that’ll push you to your limits. You need to think clearly about rep ranges, exercise selection and overall approach.

In this article we’ll tell you why heavy weightlifting is the best way to boost your testosterone levels. Read on to find out more…

Testosterone Basics

Testosterone (T) is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that plays an important role in male health and performance.

Produced n the Leydig cells of the testes, T is an androgen, which means it, is responsible for regulating a number of masculine traits and characteristics.

It is regulated by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Together with the testes it forms a loop called the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonodal (HPG) axis. The specialized bundle of small nuclei in the hypothalamus sends a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to its next-door neighbor – the pituitary gland.

Once the pituitary gland receives this hormone, it releases its own hormones called Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) into the main circulation of the bloodstream. These hormones then bind to receptors in the Leydig cells and testosterone is released.

Testosterone and Muscle Building

Normal T levels for a man should fall between 300 and 1000 ng.dL, with mean average concentrations sitting at about 724 ng.dL in healthy, fit men [1].

When optimized, testosterone regulates everything from bone mass to libido. Our male hormones have two categories of effects:

  • Anabolic – characteristics relating to development of male traits such as increased strength, voice deepening and hair growth
  • Androgenic – actions include increased protein metabolism and inhibition of protein breakdown

One of the major contributions that testosterone provides you with is the regulation of muscle mass. 

As we age though out testosterone levels can naturally start to drop. As soon as this happens, you’ll lose strength and muscle mass, your protein metabolism will be lower, and a decrease in physical performance will occur.

It is therefore paramount that you do all you can to fight against it using diet, supplementation and exercise.

 

Here’s How Lifting Heavy Boosts Testosterone

The mere inclusion of weight training positively effects testosterone. A study by Fry et al [2] found that even when men only lifted 70% of their body weight for 5 sets of squats, testosterone levels rose higher than men who didn’t train.

But there’s a very strong relationship between how heavy the weight you lift is is too.

For example, a study by Häkkinen et al [3] found that 6 months of heavy resistance training in combination with explosive exercise increased concentrations of both total and free testosterone as well as growth hormone significantly. The volunteers also improved strength, maximal muscle activation and 1RM too.

Interestingly it only took one workout for testosterone levels to begin to increase.

Similarly, a 21-week study conducted by Ahtiainen et al [4] found that strength was well correlated with both testosterone and muscle size. This led the research team to confirm that T is an important regulator of muscle mass.

The Big Lifts – More Muscle and Higher Testosterone

So which lifts give you most bang for your buck? So far all of the research points to compound exercises. 

These are characterized by multi-joint; multi-muscle lifts such as squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls. The more muscles are activated during the exercise, the better. They let you lift far heavier than single-joint exercises purely because you can activate more muscle.

A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports [5] found that more muscles involved in training led to both improvements in strength and increases in anabolic hormone levels.

World-renowned expert William J Kraemer [6] also found that compound exercises were more effective than isolation exercises for boosting testosterone too. In his study, a group of 20 elite weightlifters were given wither a heavy weightlifting program consisting of compound exercises or the less effective a lower intensity workout.

Not only does the magnitude of hormone release relate closely to the amount of muscle involved; bigger lifts also promote better protein synthesis. This in turn leads to bigger muscles. Compound exercises help to stress more muscles and this leads to better overload – a key indicator of muscle growth.

So ditch the bicep curls and start to lift some heavy stuff! Replacing your fly’s with bench presses, leg press with squats and triceps kickbacks with dips will make all the difference.

Putting it Into Practice – Our Top Tips

Tip #1: Lift big

By now you know that you need to lift heavy to elevate your testosterone levels. But how heavy?

The research we’ve discussed above used loads of around 85% of your 1RM or more. So dig in deep and start to load the bar up.

Tip #2: Compound all the way

There’s no need to work on isolation exercises to optimize your anabolic hormones. Focus on lifts that maximize muscle groups. Rows, deadlifts, overhead presses, squats, pull-ups and bench presses are the way forward.

Tip #3: Full Body Approach

When you’re training big and using complex lifts you need to ditch the split training approach and think full body. Organizing your sessions into either ‘upper body – lower body’ or ‘push – pull ‘ gives you an opportunity to work all of your major muscles in one go.

And as we know, more muscle equals higher testosterone.

 

Summary – Train Hard and Heavy to Boost Testosterone

If there’s one thing that research tells us, it’s that loading up the bar and lifting heavy optimizes testosterone levels.

Ditch the side bends and bicep curls and start to put in more challenge squat, pull and press movements to really boost strength, hormones and muscle mass.

 

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References

  • Bhasin, S et al. Reference ranges for testosterone in men generated using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry in a community-based sample of healthy nonobese young men in the Framingham Heart Study and applied to three geographically distinct cohorts. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011; 96(8): 2430–9
  • Fry, AC et al. Acute testosterone and cortisol responses to high power resistance exercise. Fiziol Cheloveka. 2010; 36(4): 102-6
  • Häkkinen, K et al. Basal concentrations and acute responses of serum hormones and strength development during heavy resistance training in middle-aged and elderly men and women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000; 55(2): B95-105
  • Ahtiainen, JP et al. Muscle hypertrophy, hormonal adaptations and strength development during strength training in strength-trained and untrained men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003; 89(6): 555-63
  • Hansen, S et al. The effect of short-term strength training on human skeletal muscle: the importance of physiologically elevated hormone levels. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2001; 11(6): 347-54

Kraemer, WJ et al. Acute hormonal responses in elite junior weightlifters. Int J Sports Med. 1992; 13(2): 103-9

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