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There are several ways to increase testosterone naturally, but exercise takes the prize. However, not all movements are effective at doing so.
What are the best exercises to increase testosterone? Start with explosive and compound or multi-joint movements such as:
These movements recruit the most muscle fibers throughout the full range of motion, putting your body into a high-stress environment and increasing testosterone levels.
In this article, I’ll cover the relationship between exercise and testosterone, as well as the following:
- What is testosterone?
- Does working out increase testosterone?
- Testosterone booster exercises
- Natural ways to increase testosterone
Read all the way through to learn the optimal rep ranges, load, and even what foods to avoid if you want to boost your testosterone levels.
Let’s jump in!
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone, also known as the “male hormone,” is an anabolic steroid hormone derived from cholesterol and other precursors in the Leydig cells (testicles). (1)
It binds to the muscle’s androgen receptors, stimulating protein synthesis (anabolism) while slowing protein degradation (catabolism.) (2) In other words, it helps you build muscle while limiting muscle breakdown.
Testosterone is responsible for the muscular adaptations we look for when exercising and lifting weights. Although it is mainly found in men, women also produce it in minor quantities through the ovaries (3)
Besides muscle growth and increased strength, testosterone also plays a crucial role in the following:
- Fighting type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (4)
- Promoting body hair
- Lowering voice tone
- Increasing sex drive
All these characteristics are essential for healthy human function, both in men and women.
Does Exercise Increase Testosterone Production?
Yes, exercise has been shown to increase testosterone production. However, not all exercises have the same effect on the body, just like not all movements are the same.
When it comes to testosterone production, the higher the stress on your body and muscles, the more testosterone is produced to meet the physiological demands of the exercise.
But let’s take a closer look at the current scientific research.
Study #1: Physical activity increases testosterone temporarily
A study by D’Andrea et al. tested 569 patients (age 29.7 ± 13.1 years) and proved an increase in serum and saliva testosterone levels after moderate and high-intensity training.
However, these results were only shown immediately after exercising and within the first 30 minutes of finishing the workout. It’s also worth mentioning that no increase was evident in doing mild physical activity (walking, jogging, or running).
The evidence suggests that although there’s an evident increase in testosterone after exercising, this is an acute and transitory event.
Study #2: Low-intensity resistance exercise and blood flow restriction increase testosterone levels in young men
This study was conducted by a Chinese team led by Yinghao, L. It had 25 healthy young males performing a low-intensity exercise with no blood flow restriction (BFR) and resistance training with 40% BFR and 70% BFR.
Blood flow restriction exercise (compression exercise) is a training method that partially blocks the arterial flow, possibly leading to muscle growth through low-intensity exercise (7)
The study showed increased testosterone levels by 15% in the BFR 40% group and 25% in the BFR 70% group. The results were evident after 15 minutes of finishing the workout.
Although the results are promising, this research had some limitations, such as the small group (25 males), the type of workout (machine leg extension), and the intensity (30-40% of the 1RM).
Study #3: Testosterone increases immediately after a single HIIT session
This systematic review and meta-analysis found that testosterone levels increased immediately after a single HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session. The study also showed a return to baseline levels after 15-30 min, followed by a drop below baseline after 60-180 min, and a return to baseline after 24 hours.
The group was composed of close to 1,000 participants, where 90% were healthy and trained males, while the rest were women. The exercise modalities used were running, cycling, and swimming, with the HIIT sprints lasting between 3-60 seconds.
3 Types of Exercises That Can Increase Testosterone
The types of exercises that can increase testosterone are those that activate the most muscles in a single rep. These are called “compound movements” because they target more than one joint during a full range of motion (squats, push-ups, pull-ups, etc.). “Isolation movements” only work one joint at a time, such as bicep and leg curls.
Here are a few exercises to increase testosterone levels:
Squats are considered the king of exercises because they work multiple muscles throughout a single rep, such as:
- Spinal Erectors
- Core musculature
Combined, these muscles put a critical amount of stress on the body, inducing a physiological response that acutely increases testosterone levels.
Squats can be performed without added weight (air squats), with dumbbells or kettlebells (goblet squats), with machines (smith machine squats), or you can try more challenging variations such as:
- Back squats
- Front squats
- Overhead squats
Regardless of the variation, if you push your body to the limits within the 6-12 rep range, you will experiment with increased testosterone levels with heavy squats.
Read more: The Best Exercises to Improve Squat Strength
The deadlift is another terrific exercise for increasing testosterone levels. Like squats, deadlifts are a multi-joint movement that recruits different muscle fibers from:
- Spinal erectors
Current evidence suggests that doing 5 sets of 5RM (5 rep max) deadlifts demonstrated increases in serum testosterone levels.
People often ask me, “does cardio increase testosterone?” or “does running increase testosterone?” My answer is always the same; Yes.
Have you ever wondered why sprint athletes look so muscular and lean? The answer may be the body’s physiological response to short yet intense workouts during training.
Sprinting is considered one of the most explosive and powerful exercises anybody can do. It will push your body to the limit, independent of your fitness level, which is why it is beneficial for increasing testosterone levels.
One study by Meckel et al. had twelve healthy elite junior handball players (17-20 years) performing 4 sets of 250 meters runs on a treadmill at an 80% intensity based on their maximum speed. The results showed an increase of 4.8-5.3%.
Other movements, such as bench pressing, have demonstrated similar results as the squats and deadlifts, although with less reliability. However, if you want to increase your bench press by 50 pounds don’t hesitate to read this and improve your testosterone booster workout.
Exercises That Don’t Increase Testosterone
Most workouts that boost testosterone include compound movements (as mentioned above).
Single-joint movements that haven't shown a relevant increase in testosterone levels are:
- Bicep curls
- Leg extensions
- Tricep extensions
- Abdominal crunches
This might be due to the low stress that isolation exercises put on the body. As a result, the body’s response isn’t nearly as aggressive as with compound or multi-joint exercises.
However, according to this study, combining compounds with isolation movements enhances muscle growth. Pairing leg extensions (machine) with squats showed an increase in the rectus femoris (one of the four quadriceps muscles) size in a 12-week resistance training protocol.
Although this isn’t enough evidence to suggest a testosterone increase, it does reveal that some muscles can grow when you combine multi and single-joint exercises. So when powerlifting and consuming the right diet, you could get bulky.
Other Ways to Naturally Increase Testosterone
People looking to increase their testosterone levels usually use exercise as their primary and only method. Although resistance training works (as we have demonstrated), many neglect other variables’ roles.
Even though exercise is king, other natural ways exist to increase testosterone are the following:
One study by Hu et al. demonstrated that individuals with a western-style diet (bakery, desserts, dairy products) who eat less homemade food and vegetables are likelier to have low-serum testosterone levels.
This proves that healthy nutrition habits are crucial to optimal health, testosterone levels, and body composition. And, if you’re wondering how many calories you should eat to gain some muscle, take a look at our full article.
However, be mindful of acne since it can pop out when testosterone levels are increased.
A healthy and regular sleep routine has multiple benefits for your overall health. It improves your mood, increases your testosterone levels, sharpens your focus, and controls your hunger. It’s also worth mentioning that our body releases the most testosterone into the bloodstream when we sleep.
On that same note, sleep loss and lower sleep duration have been associated with lower morning, afternoon, and 24-h testosterone levels (15).
For that reason, improving the quality of your sleep should be a priority.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Exercise Increases Testosterone the Most?
The exercise that increases testosterone the most is the squat, especially the back and front squats. These variations are the most efficient in pushing your body to its limit, which induces a physiological and adaptive response to the stress that increases testosterone levels.
What Exercises Increase Testosterone at Home?
Push-ups, pull-ups, and squats are some exercises that increase testosterone at home, especially if you’re a beginner. However, trained and experienced lifters may not experience such increases since their bodies are used to a higher training stimulus.
Do Push-Ups Boost Testosterone?
Push-ups have not been shown to boost testosterone significantly. Although they’re a multi-joint movement, there aren’t enough stimuli to push the body to the point of physiological stress needed to release testosterone into the bloodstream. However, if you’re a beginner, you may benefit more than intermediate and advanced lifters.
Exercises to increase testosterone include squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and sprinting in healthy, trained, and untrained men and women.
This is terrific news for all individuals seeking a healthier lifestyle since testosterone has been shown to improve strength, muscle growth, and other vital functions such as fighting metabolic diseases and increasing sex drive.
About The Author
Mauro Castillo is a General Medicine doctor with a master's degree in Sports Training and Business. He's been working in the fitness industry for the last seven years. He practiced CrossFit for 4 years before owning his own CrossFit and personal training gym. He's currently working at a sports facility, helping athletes become better mentally and physically. You can connect with Mauro on LinkedIn, IG, or X.
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