Testosterone: the king of all hormones. Besides its importance as a male reproductive hormone, it also plays a major role in bone health, the way men store body fat, and—of course—muscle mass.
Here are four evidenced-based training methods to increase testosterone naturally.
Method 1: Train Large Muscles
Exercises that work large muscle groups—such as Squats, Deadlifts and Olympic lifts—have been shown to dramatically increase testosterone levels compared with exercises that work smaller muscle groups. These exercises create a lot of metabolic stress, which stimulates testosterone release. But, this doesn’t mean you should skimp out on plyometrics or isolation exercises.
Method 2: Lift Heavy
The amount of weight—or load—you use for an exercise is arguably the most critical aspect of any resistance training program. The load of an exercise is generally a percentage of a one-repetition maximum (1RM). Your 1RM is the greatest amount of weight you can lift using proper technique for one repetition. Research suggests that using a load between 85% and 95% of your 1RM releases the most testosterone. For example, if your 1RM on the Back Squat is 315, your load would be 268 to 299 pounds.
- 315 x (.85) = 267.75
- 315 x (.95) = 299.25
Method 3: Decrease Your Rest Time
The length of the rest period depends on the training goal, the amount of weight lifted and the level of training experience. For example, a powerlifter who is training for strength may require two to five minutes of rest between sets to fully recover, whereas a cross country runner who is training for muscular endurance may need less than 30 seconds. However, short rest intervals (30-60 seconds) are better for boosting testosterone levels.
Method 4: Increase Your Training Volume
Similar to rest times, the volume of your training also largely impacts testosterone. Volume is the total amount of weight lifted in an exercise session. The more sets and repetitions you do, the greater your training volume. One study reported that a bodybuilding program using moderate load and high volume with short rest periods (1-minute) produced greater testosterone responses than a high load and low volume with long (3-minute) rest periods.
Using a combination of these methods—working large muscle groups, lifting heavy loads, taking shorter rest periods and training with high volume—will favorably manipulate anabolic hormone levels. However, it’s also important to vary your training and rest period lengths. For example, if your goal is to increase strength, taking shorter rest periods can impair your physical performance in future sets, which can reduce strength gains if performed over a long period of time. Therefore, alternate between short and long rest periods and high volume and lower volume workouts and incorporate rest days. This ensures the stress of the exercise will not result in overtraining (which does exist, by the way).