Do squats increase testosterone?
By Thomas DeLauer
HYLETE Community Captain, Thomas DeLauer, dives deep into research to determine whether or not squats increase testosterone. Watch this entire clip to get a better understanding of how your body works during various workouts.
If you liked this video, you may like fasting and its effect on testosterone.
About Thomas DeLauer
From 280 lbs. to the magazine covers... All by living a lifestyle that is honest and real. Thomas DeLauer brings nutrition expertise along with a unique perspective on health and wellness that is everything HYLETE.
The following is a transcription of the above video:
We have to question everything that is out there when it comes down to our bodies. I don't know how often you've heard this, but I have heard so many times people say that testosterone is increased when you performed the squat exercise. Well, honestly, it makes a lot of sense. But, I wanted to do a deep dive into this and I wanted to get into the research and truly start to understand what goes on when we work out in a really strenuous fashion? What is happening at a hormonal level, especially when we do squats?
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Alright, so let's get down to this. First and foremost, the more muscle mass that you stimulate during a workout, the greater the anabolic response. Now, does that necessarily mean that squats are the end all be all? No, not at all. But, we do know there's a great anabolic response when you incorporate more of your body. But, does an anabolic response necessarily mean more protein synthesis? So, in this video, we're going to talk about a lot of different things. I'm going to talk about how testosterone is actually effected after a workout, but I'm also going to talk about how testosterone actually affects protein synthesis, too.
You see, all types of strenuous activity illicit at least a temporary response when it comes down to testosterone and growth hormone. What we really want to investigate is, do they actually change your basal testosterone levels? Do they change your long term testosterone levels? Or, is it really just a quick, acute change in those hormonal levels. See, studies have started to show that higher volume, moderate intensity, and short rest period work outs end up eliciting a stronger testosterone response than work outs that are super intense and heavy, heavy, heavy resistance.
Obviously, we're not just talking about lifting heavy, we're talking about, how does a hard workout, in general, help your anabolic response? There's so many other things that play a role. It's not just testosterone. We tend to think that testosterone is the end all be all, but in reality, we have insulin, we have IGF, we have growth hormone, we have MTOR, we have all kinds of different enzymatic pathways, and all kinds of other pathways that have to do with protein synthesis that are really a big part of building the physique that we want.
In this video, I've broken it down into three sections with three really key studies. The first study in the section we're going to look at is a free weight workout versus a fixed machine workout and its effect on testosterone. The second thing we're going to look at is resistance training and its effect on basal levels of testosterone, not acute changes, but basal levels of testosterone. The third thing that we're going to look at, which is really, really cool and I want you to stick with me through this is testosterone's and other hormone's affects on our actual protein synthesis and does it really matter when it comes to building muscle?
Without further ado, let's get into this first study. This first study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. It took a look at 10 test subjects and it had these test subjects perform six sets of 10 repetitions of either squat with a free weight or leg press in a fixed machine. The whole goal here was to measure their testosterone levels, their growth hormone levels, and their cortisol levels after each respective exercise to see which one truly elicited the stronger response.
What they found wasn't that alarming. Honestly, they found that the free squat ended up increasing testosterone about 16.7% more than those that did the leg press. But, they found that cortisol levels increased about the same and growth hormone increased a little bit more with the squat, as well. Now, this isn't any major surprise. But, why did it happen? Well, it has to do with incorporating the whole body. Remember when I mentioned at the beginning of this video when I said that the more muscle mass that you actually stimulate in a workout, the more the anabolic response?
Well, yeah. That's exactly the case. When you're squatting, you're incorporating the rest of your body. When you're leg pressing, you're not incorporating the rest of the body. It doesn't necessarily have to do with a squat per se, it's more about full body activation. But, full disclaimer, this was an acute change. Meaning, it was only measured 15 and 30 minutes after the workout. So sure, we had an increase in testosterone and an increase in growth hormone 15 to 30 minutes after a workout. That doesn't really mean anything unless we're having a long term change, which leads me into the next study.
This study was published in a journal known as the Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. What this study wanted to take a look at was two different groups. They wanted to look at a young group and an elderly group to see how they responded in term of their testosterone levels and their growth hormone levels when they were weight training over a 12 week period. What they did is they measured their pre and post testosterone and growth hormone levels, pre and post workout, in week one and also in week 12.
The results were pretty dark crazy. What they found is in both weeks one and week 12, there was an increase in testosterone immediately after a workout, as well as an increase in growth hormone. But, the twelfth week showed that both young and elderly groups ended up having a decrease in basal testosterone. What the heck does that mean? Well, what it means is that no matter what, right after a workout, old people and young people see an increase in testosterone and growth hormone, but it doesn't do anything long term. The resistance training isn't necessarily eliciting this anabolic response that's making you super anabolic and building muscle all the time.
It's just a quick response that happens after a workout, which obviously might just be the result of pushing it really hard and having to free up testosterone in sort of an almost rage-like thing. Really, what we have to look at here is, what is driving the muscle building? Is it the testosterone or is it something else? Well, that's a perfect segue into this next study. This is actually two studies that were published by two separate journals. One is the Journal of Applied Physiology and one is the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
What they wanted to look at here was how anabolic hormones affected myofibrillar protein synthesis, also known as MPS. Myofibrillar protein synthesis is the protein synthesis that occurs right after a workout. It's been reported to ultimately be what allows us to build muscle. But, it's also been reported that it's the high levels of testosterone after a workout that allow us to build muscle. Why not do a study to truly understand if it is the testosterone that is improving this myofibrillar protein synthesis, the ability for the body to build muscle?
This study took a look at two different groups; men and women, both that were experienced weight trainers. What it had them do is it had them go through a program and it measured their testosterone levels after a workout, but then also measured their overall myofibrillar protein synthesis. Here's what's wild, both groups ended up having an increase in protein synthesis. But, only the men had an increase in testosterone. Why? Well, because men have more testosterone. At the end of training, the men ended up having an acute increase of testosterone of 45 full. That's a significant increase in testosterone.
Women did not, but they both saw the same amount of protein synthesis. How the heck does that work? Well, what this ultimately proves is that it's not the testosterone that is triggering the protein synthesis. It's not that at all. Sure, testosterone may play a role, but it's not really the end all be all, it doesn't trigger the protein synthesis. The testosterone can trigger muscle contractile strength and it can trigger other hormonal cascades and it can trigger some strength, but it's not going to trigger the actual protein synthesis. The protein synthesis itself has to do with the amino acids, has to do with the muscle contraction, and it has to do with the activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin, the anabolic switch that essentially flips allowing the body to utilize its actual protein a little bit better.
Now, other studies have even concluded that it's actually the cortisol that might allow us to build muscle. You see, there are so many different factors that we don't even know about. Like I've said in other videos, we can't sit here and claim that we know it all. You see, testosterone is proven to be such a small catalyst in actual protein synthesis. There are a lot of people out there that have pretty low levels of testosterone, but can still build muscle. But, there's a fine line between where it's too much, too little, and just right. If you have too little testosterone, sure, other functions are going to drop; cortisol's going to be out of whack, adrenaline is going to be out of whack.
All of these other things that may play a role in this mammalian target of rapamycin, but also in the myofibrillar protein synthesis that we look at. What I encourage you to do is take a step back, let's look at this as a whole. We do know that free weights will illicit a better testosterone response than fixed weights, so that's a win. We do know that free weights aren't going to necessarily allow you to improve your testosterone from a basal standpoint, it doesn't matter if it's a free weight or a fixed weight. We also know that the testosterone doesn't really have a role in protein synthesis.
What we do know is that somehow, collectively they all work together. I guess the purpose of this video is to allow you to understand that when it comes down to incorporating your whole body into movements, that's how you get the anabolic response. That's how you trigger the MTOR, that's how you trigger the testosterone, that's how you trigger that anabolic response that's going to get you lean and it's going to get you the body that you want. The days of just training one body part at a time and doing that whole thing are over. That might work for a little while and it might work just when you're trying to like finely tune your nutrition just for that one, small period of time.
But, when you're trying to improve your life overall, you have to look at everything through that wide lens, not through that little, tiny, macro lens that's going to allow you to look at things close up. As always, make sure you're keeping it locked in here on my channel. If you have ideas for future videos, you know where to put them. I'll see you in the next one.¬†