Have you ever asked yourself, “does working out increase testosterone?”
If so, you’re in the perfect place.
In this comprehensive A—Z guide, we break down everything you need to know about testosterone and working out.
We use clinical data to answer all of your questions on this topic, including:
- What is testosterone?
- Why is testosterone so important for men?
- What are the problems with having low testosterone?
- How can exercise increase testosterone?
- What exercises are best (and worst) for men with low testosterone?
The answers to some of these questions might surprise you…
Whether you are a man suffering from low testosterone or someone with normal levels wanting to boost their health and vitality, there is something in this guide for you.
Let’s get started by looking at what testosterone actually is.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone that is naturally produced by the human body. It is mainly known as a male sex hormone, but women also require adequate levels of testosterone for good health .
Testosterone is responsible for many of the changes males go through during puberty, such as the growth of facial hair, development of the penis and testes, increase in muscle mass, and lowering of the voice . Even into adulthood and old age, testosterone is essential for good health.
Unfortunately, many men suffer from low testosterone levels. It is estimated that approximately 38% of men aged 45 years or over in the U.S. have low testosterone, so it is clearly a widespread problem !
Problems Associated With Low Testosterone
Having low testosterone levels is not an urgent medical emergency. However, it is associated with a range of ongoing problems, including:
- Low energy, fatigue, and overall lack of vitality 
- Erectile dysfunction, low libido, and other sexual difficulties 
- Difficulty building and maintaining lean muscle 
- Reduced strength, bone density, and general physical ability 
- Depression and problems with mood and focus 
- An increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes 
Many of these problems can severely impact a person’s quality of life. They can also contribute to longer-term health problems.
Benefits From Addressing Low Testosterone
Low testosterone levels in men are associated with many negative side effects. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that medical treatments designed to raise someone’s low testosterone levels are associated with many health benefits. By looking at the clinical data from men who have had low levels treated medically, we can see that there are a lot of benefits to addressing low testosterone.
According to studies, the benefits of treating low testosterone levels include:
- Restoration of sex drive and performance 
- Increase in lean muscle mass (and decrease in total fat mass) 
- Improvement in cognition, mood, and concentration 
- Gains in strength, bone density, and exercise performance [13; 14]
- Increased energy and stamina 
Testosterone replacement therapy is one way to address sub-optimal hormone levels. However, it isn’t the only option.
Lifestyle factors, like exercise, stress, and sleep, can also influence the balance of hormones in a man’s body.
Exercise and Testosterone
Exercise of any kind generally has a favorable impact on the balance of all hormonal systems in the body. Levels of hormones like testosterone cortisol (stress hormone) and insulin (regulates blood sugar) are all influenced by exercise [16, 17, 18].
Exercise even positively influences the levels of neurotransmitters in our brain, which regulate our mood and cognitive function . The underlying mechanisms behind how working out and testosterone (plus other hormone levels) are linked are incredibly complex — a full scientific description of these biological processes is beyond the scope of this article.
What we can say, however, is that in a broad sense, exercise improves all aspects of general health and wellbeing . Exercise improves physical health markers, such as blood pressure and circulation. It promotes good sleep and assists in the management of stress. It also helps to maintain optimum mental health. All of these factors work together to improve overall hormonal balance, including testosterone.
There are a few additional factors to be aware of regarding how exercise affects testosterone. We have detailed them below.
An unfortunate fact of life for most men is that testosterone levels decrease with age . This isn’t a reason to give up hope. However, it does mean that as men get older, they need to be a bit more strategic when trying to increase their testosterone levels.
Research shows that exercise is less effective at increasing testosterone levels in older men, but it can still have a positive impact . Men over 45 years of age wanting to increase testosterone levels may want to combine exercise with other approaches, such as diet, optimizing sleep, reducing stress, and possibly even testosterone replacement therapy.
One of the biggest testosterone killers for men is obesity. It is associated with overall lower levels of testosterone, independent of all other variables . Even when optimum protocols around exercise are followed, obese men have a less favorable response regarding testosterone levels .
The good news is exercise is one of the best ways to achieve and maintain weight-loss. If you are overweight, you may not get the immediate boost to testosterone you are hoping for. However, sticking to a workout regime as part of a weight loss plan is likely to lead to positive results over time.
Type and Duration of Exercise
Clinical studies on testosterone and exercise identify specific types and durations of exercise that give differing results. Interestingly, some forms of exercise have been found to negatively impact testosterone levels.
For example, men with substantial training in endurance exercise (ie. long-distance running, triathlons) were found to have lower base levels of testosterone than average . In another study, top pro-level cyclists experienced a decrease in testosterone after the competition, compared to their normal baseline levels .
This indicates that while exercise can be beneficial for overall hormone balance, men looking to increase testosterone levels need to choose their workout regime carefully.
Does Working Out Increase Testosterone?
Ok, the moment you have been waiting for… According to the scientific literature, the answer to the question, “Does exercise increase testosterone?”, is a resounding YES!
There are a few exceptions that we have described above, and different types and regimes of exercise have varied effects. But as a whole, we can confidently say that working out does lead to increased testosterone levels in men .
Exercise can increase testosterone in a variety of ways. Not all will apply to every person and each type of exercise. To explore this topic a little further, let’s look at some specific types and regimes of exercise, and what effect they have on testosterone.
Resistance training has consistently been found to increase testosterone levels (and other anabolic hormones) in men . This is thought to be related to the fact that resistance training stimulates muscle growth, and testosterone is the main hormone involved in this process in the human body.
Bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic weightlifting are the most common forms of resistance training. Resistance training is not limited to those sports, though. It can include anything that involves a person exerting force against a weight. Even bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, push-ups, and yoga are a form of resistance training.
Combat sports like MMA and wrestling also involve an element of resistance, particularly in grappling and striking. It is noteworthy that training volume (reps) and load (weight), were both variables that could be increased to promote the level of testosterone increase in resistance training . Particularly when load was increased, study participants usually saw a corresponding increase in testosterone levels .
Another factor that had a big impact on the level of testosterone increase was the amount of muscle mass used in resistance training. In an interesting twist, one study found that unilateral (one arm at a time) bicep curls alone didn’t increase testosterone levels . But when bilateral (both legs together) leg extensions and leg press were added to the training regime, participants saw a significant increase in testosterone!
Based on these results, and those from similar studies, it is generally recommended that using free weights in multi-joint compound movements (ie. squats, deadlift, olympic lifting) is the best way to increase testosterone levels with resistance training. A workout such as this, where volume and intensity are sufficiently challenging, can increase testosterone levels for up to 48 hours .
This doesn’t mean you need to max out in the gym using heavy weights every session. It just means that for maximum gains in testosterone, you need to be doing resistance workouts at an intensity that is challenging for you.
Altering variables like reps, sets, and rest times are all great ways to adjust intensity, without always having to use maximal weight.
It’s worth keeping in mind that many of these studies were done on completely untrained individuals. They were using heavy weights for a complete novice, but certainly weren’t squatting or deadlifting hundreds of pounds!
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
As its name suggests, HIIT training involves exercise that includes brief periods of high-intensity, maximal effort movement, followed by periods of rest and recovery. A HIIT training session typically includes several rounds of exertion and rest. HIIT training can be done in the gym, or in training for competitive sports.
In the gym, using a stationary bike, treadmill, kettlebells, or bodyweight movements (like burpees or box jumps) are common exercises. For sports, any form of sprints (running, cycling, swimming) can be used as HIIT training. The key with HIIT training is to go 100% all out during the work period (often only 20—30 seconds), then rest until close to completely recovered (often 1—2 minutes or more).
You want to do a good number of rounds, say 5—10, but not so many that performance in the work periods drops significantly. Advantages of HIIT training are that workouts are short, and they can be incorporated into other workouts.
For example, you can do a strength workout, then a HIIT session afterwards. Or if you are training for MMA, a HIIT workout on non-training days can be a great way to improve general fitness, without getting too sore or fatigued for skills-based work and sparring the following day.
A study from 2021 analyzed all of the research from recent decades on HIIT training and testosterone . It found that overall, HIIT training reliably increased testosterone levels. The only catch was that this increase was temporary. Testosterone levels rose immediately after HIIT training, dipped slightly a couple of hours after, then returned to baseline within about 24 hours.
Aerobic and Cardiovascular Exercise
This one might surprise some people…
Jogging on the treadmill a few times a week isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we think of exercises that increase testosterone. But research shows, even moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise can increase testosterone.
One study found that men who did a 35—50 minute aerobic training program on a treadmill three times a week, at a moderate intensity (50—65% peak heart rate), saw increases in testosterone levels .
Two other studies, detailed how 200 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week or a 12 week program of vigorous aerobic exercise both increased testosterone levels in study participants [29, 20]. The impressive part of these two studies was that the participants all had durable increases in testosterone levels.
Testosterone levels weren’t just higher after exercise — the actual ongoing baseline levels of free circulating testosterone in study participants increased. The fact that all participants were obese and already had low baseline testosterone levels makes these results even more exciting.
The key for aerobic exercise seems to be that it has to be regular (at least 3 times per week) and at least moderate intensity .
While the studies might use terms like “high volume” and “vigorous”, the regimes of exercise they had participants doing really were not overly strenuous. Three workouts a week, of approximately 60 minutes each, at 50% peak heart rate/exertion level were the approximate standard.
The one form of exercise that does not seem to increase testosterone, is endurance training .
It’s difficult to give a clear-cut answer on exactly what classifies endurance training, because the distinction between an endurance training regime vs aerobic/cardiovascular exercise isn’t always clear.
The exact mechanisms behind why this occurs are unclear but are thought to have something to do with the high levels of exercise induced stress .
On a practical level, this means that men looking to increase testosterone levels through exercise are best to avoid endurance type workouts.
Keeping cardio to sessions of 45—60 minutes would be advisable. HIIT workouts are also a good option to increase cardiovascular fitness, without compromising baseline testosterone levels.
Long Term Effects
Long-term testosterone levels are influenced by a variety of factors. Age, stress, diet, sleep, body fat percentage, and overall health are some of the main things affecting testosterone levels in men, but there are many others .
When discussing testosterone levels, it is important to consider both short-term, or acute increases in levels, and ongoing, or baseline levels. Both contribute to overall wellbeing in different ways.
As a general rule, regular aerobic/cardiovascular workouts tend to increase baseline levels of testosterone the most, while resistance training gives the biggest short-term increases . There is no reason you can’t combine both of these forms of exercise to achieve increases in both short-term and baseline testosterone levels.
Acute Increases In Testosterone
In the context of exercise, acute increases in testosterone are those that occur soon after a workout. They generally wear off within 24—48 hours, by which time study participants’ testosterone levels return to baseline .
Acute increases in testosterone helps to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and recovery from exercise . It’s reasonable to assume that they also contribute to some of the feelings of wellbeing and vitality that most people feel after exercise.
Some people don’t consider a temporary rise in testosterone all that beneficial—this is incorrect. By their very nature, testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day. In men, levels are generally highest in the early hours of the morning, reduce throughout the day, then the process repeats all over again .
If testosterone levels are increased by exercise regularly, say 3—5 times per week, this will actually result in a cumulative long-term increase in overall testosterone levels, regardless of whether average baseline levels stay the same.
When we consider that even testosterone replacement therapy—the gold standard for treating low testosterone levels—has to be taken frequently (usually weekly), the temporary increase in levels from exercise starts to seem a lot more significant.
Baseline Testosterone Levels
We covered the main problems associated with low baseline testosterone levels in the introduction to this article.
To recap, symptoms of low testosterone commonly include low mood, fatigue, problems with sexual performance, and difficulty gaining lean muscle mass . We know from research into testosterone replacement therapy, that increasing testosterone levels alleviates many of these symptoms .
While undertaking regular exercise may not achieve as dramatic effects as testosterone replacement therapy, there is no reason to assume that it will not substantially improve the vitality and wellbeing of men wanting, or needing, to increase their testosterone levels.
It also must be noted that exercise can address many of the underlying physical problems that contribute to low testosterone levels in men. Remember, sleep, obesity, stress, and overall health all have an impact on testosterone levels in men .
According to the CDC, exercise can improve problems in all of these areas, thereby indirectly having a positive effect on testosterone levels .
Exercises That Increase Testosterone
Most exercises will increase testosterone levels.
For best results when using exercise for testosterone increase, combine resistance training with regular 30—60 minute sessions of cardiovascular exercise of moderate intensity (50—70% peak heart rate/exertion level).
Examples of resistance training include:
- Barbell squat, deadlift, and bench press
- Olympic weightlifting
- Bodyweight exercises, like pushups, pullups, and dips
- Machines can be used, but a full-body workout will get best results (ie. train upper and lower body on the same day)
- Dumbbell workouts (same as for machines)
- Kettlebells (focus on heavier weight, lower reps, ie. 10 reps and under)
Examples of cardiovascular exercise:
- Run, bike, swim
- Circuit style workouts with short rest periods
- Hiking at a brisk pace
- Doing a workout on a treadmill, stationary bike, or other cardio gym machines
HIIT training will provide at least a short-term increase in testosterone, but does not seem as effective as resistance and cardio. It is, however, effective at improving underlying health markers that can cause low testosterone levels in men:
Examples of HIIT training include:
- Sprints of any kind (run, bike, swim)
- Tabata or interval training on gym machines like a rower, ski erg, or treadmill
- High rep, lower weight interval training with free weights
- Crossfit style workouts combining all of the above
Exercises That Do NOT Increase Testosterone
In general, the only exercises that do not increase testosterone are endurance training or physical activity of very low intensity (ie. does not exert the body significantly) .
As a general rule, cardio workouts lasting over 60 minutes could be considered endurance workouts.
Exercises that DO NOT increase testosterone include:
- Slow walking
- A leisurely bike ride, hike, or swim
- Long endurance races, like a marathon or triathlon
- Long-slow cardio on gym machines
Does Exercise Increase Testosterone? | Verdict
Many men are keen to find ways to increase testosterone levels, and with good reason. Adequate testosterone levels bring about a whole lot of physical, mental, and lifestyle benefits.
Testosterone is needed to build muscle, have good energy levels, maintain peak focus and concentration, and be able to perform sexually.
If you are interested in experiencing some of these benefits and are willing to give exercise a go, then you are in luck. In this article, we have clearly answered age-old questions like…
Does working out increase testosterone? – YES!
Is there a link between squats and testosterone? – YES!
What about lifting weights and testosterone? – YES!
The verdict on whether exercise can increase testosterone is a clear, all-around, YES!
With the exceptions of endurance training and low-effort physical activity, men of all ages and body types can rest assured that exercise does increase testosterone.