Can You Increase Your Testosterone Level By Exercising?
Because of testosterone’s effect on muscle growth, testosterone supplements have become a huge business. This is especially true now that it is no longer possible to buy testosterone precursors, except for DHEA, due to the passing of the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004. This act classifies androstenedione and other steroids as controlled substances and so you can’t just go buy them. Of course most testosterone precursors, including DHEA, are going to have some unwanted side effects in addition to the intended effects, which is why the act was passed in the first place – to protect the consumer.
That only leaves supplements available that may raise testosterone levels indirectly, such as through an increase in luteinizing hormone or by blocking aromatase (the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen). Still, these supplements are going to produce some unwanted side effects. There must be a better way.
Is It Possible To Raise Testosterone Levels Without Using Supplements?
I’ve frequently seen the idea that simply lifting weights or performing some sort of heavy exercise will increase testosterone levels. It seems plausible, but lets see what the results of research studies have to say about it.
Testosterone and Exercise Research Studies – Men
Some research studies have shown that it is possible to increase your testosterone level by exercising. For example, in one study Schwab et al. (1993) measured the testosterone level in 2 groups of male study participants to obtain their baseline level. Then they had both groups perform four sets of six squats. One group of men did their squats using heavy weights and the other group of men performed their squats using light weights. After both groups of men were finished doing their squats, Schwab et al. remeasured their testosterone levels. They found that testosterone levels were increased from the baseline in both sets of men, regardless of whether or not the had used heavy or light weights. However, 10 minutes after the men were through exercising their testosterone levels dropped back to the baseline level.
In other study, Vogel et al. (1985) found that men who rode a stationary bike for 15 minutes had an increase in their testosterone levels from baseline. No information was available for how long testosterone levels were raised.
A different study by Craig et al. (1989) found that strength training for 45-60 minutes raised testosterone levels in both young and elderly men, but not to a level that reached statistical significance.
In a more recent study, Marin et al. (2006) found that exercise also increased testosterone levels in men. Men who participated in this study had their testosterone level tested prior to exercising and then again after performing lat pulls, bench presses, leg curls, leg extensions, leg presses, and military presses. Immediately after exercising the mens’ testosterone levels were significantly raised, but then dropped back to baseline levels after 20 minutes had passed.
From the studies described above it appears that exercising may increase testosterone levels, but that increased testosterone levels drop back to baseline levels shortly after the exercise is over. However, there are also a few studies that show that exercising decreases testosterone levels in men after exercise (e.g., Wheeler, 2003) and so the jury is still out as to whether or not exercise can increase testosterone levels.
Testosterone and Exercise Research Studies – Women
Not nearly as many studies have been done to test post-exercise testosterone levels in women as with men, but there are a few. One study had college age women partipate in a 10 week resistance training program and found no increase in testosterone levels after exercise (Westerlind et al.,1987). Another study also found no significant increases in women’s serum testosterone levels after resistance training (Hakkinen et al., 1992). Unfortunately, there are not many studies using women as participants and so it is difficult to draw firm conclusions.
Type of Exercises
Free weight squats and lunges. Dipping low then pressing up with the legs while carrying a load of weight engages several major leg muscles but also those in the torso. For proper form, see the YouTube link for “Proper Squat Form.”
Note that squat can cause significant injury to the back if performed incorrectly. For the beginner, try squatting with just your body weight, or a barbell with no weights to start. Work up your strength and confidence before attempting very heavy weights.
Cable or elastic band squat-presses.
A variation on the squat is to grasp cables or elastic bands in your hands which you press upward at the top (standing segment) of the squat. This engages the shoulder muscles along with those in the legs and core. Choose a level of resistance that has you fatiguing to failure after ten repetitions.
Row-flyes from a staggered standing position.
Stand with the legs staggered, i.e., one foot about 2-3 feet behind the other, toes on both feet pointed forward, with torso pitched forward (forming a straight line from your back ankle through your hips and to the shoulders). Hold dumbbells at your side, then raise the dumbbells to shoulder level. Pause the weights at the top, then slowly drop them down. To add a lot more to the exercise, hinge both legs down as you lower the weights, then hinge back up as your arms and shoulders raise the dumbbells. Repeat to failure.
Sprinting runs or high-resistance bike spins.
Yes, what we consider “cardio” work can increase testosterone also. These are the high-output sets, when you run or bike at maximum speed, better yet heading uphill or against a high-resistance setting on a trainer bike. Experienced runners and bikers call this interval training; indoor ride (“spin”) classes generally employ this drill. Go hard for ten, 15 or 20 seconds, at 100% effort, then slow to a moderate pace before you pick up that sprinting level of output again. Repeat the cycle between four and ten times.
A note on achieving “failure:” As mentioned, this is the state where you cannot lift another rep. If you are at rep 7 or 8 and aren’t near that, slow your pace dramatically to a ten second lift and ten second drop. This is also a sign you should increase the weight level on the next set.
An added benefit of high intensity training is that it can be accomplished in less time than other types of workouts. In fact, you advised to limit rest in between sets, perhaps packing your high intensity workout into as little as 30 or 45 minutes. For more on this, see the Hub page by this writer titled “Increase exercise intensity: add muscle, reduce body fat and improve overall health with no pills and no steroids.”
For ten additional exercises designed specifically for testosterone-building intensity, see Hub article, “Super-slow, high-intensity exercises to build strength, increase muscle size and raise testosterone levels” by this writer.
Despite some popularity for the idea that certain types of exercise will increase testosterone levels, the results of research studies are mixed, with some studies finding support for increased testosterone levels after exercise and some finding the opposite effect.
So what does this mean? Well, who knows? It seems that it is a possibility that exercise may increase testosterone levels, but there really is no definitive answer at this point. Of course we all know that exercise is good for you, makes you stronger, and improves mood and so if you engage in any type of weight training or exercise in the hopes of increasing your testosterone levels at least you won’t be wasting your time. You’ll still reap some benefits. And, you may even slightly increase your testosterone levels.
Warning : Don’t overstress yourself! Be sure to get adequate rest. Research shows that over-training can actually hurt testosterone levels. A study at the UNC showed that over-training could reduce testosterone levels by as much as 40 percent. Give muscles one full day to recover.
Get a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. Sleeping is when your body does the bulk of its healing, repairing and producing. Skimp on sleep and you skimp on, you guessed it, testosterone production.
It is best to exercise with a certified professional to ensure best result.
Also you may want to check also: foods that help increase testosterone. libido and sex drive!
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