The Impact of Exercise on Testosterone: Acute Effects and Training Strategies

In this article, we will explore the influence of exercise on testosterone levels, specifically focusing on the immediate and short-term effects of exercise. We will discuss the acute impact of exercise on testosterone secretion and delve into the recommendations for optimizing testosterone through strength training.

Exercise’s Effect on Testosterone Levels

When considering the effects of exercise on testosterone levels, it is essential to take into account the duration of your workouts.

Endurance training can sometimes lead to unchanged or decreased resting testosterone concentrations, regardless of gender. However, after intense endurance exercises like marathons and ultramarathons, the concentration of sex hormones, including testosterone, tends to decrease significantly. This decline occurs because these prolonged and exhausting aerobic endurance activities can lower hormone concentrations, and the primary sources of sex hormones are the ovaries and adrenal cortex (which produce androgens).

The post-training testosterone responses in women are still not entirely clear. On the other hand, after resistance training, resting testosterone concentration increases slightly, and the increase is deemed significant. Moreover, endurance training has been seen to cause a slight elevation in free testosterone (biologically active, unbound to proteins) in women. In men, testosterone plays a more prominent role in recovery and tissue repair, as higher concentrations are released and secreted from the testes.

It’s worth noting that when we exercise, testosterone levels rise temporarily and then return to their usual levels, which is a normal process. However, if you engage in long-term, highly demanding endurance exercises, such as those performed by professional endurance athletes or during marathon runs, testosterone levels will initially increase and subsequently decrease significantly, potentially remaining low for an extended period. This decline in testosterone following exhaustive, aerobic endurance training is often referred to as “low blood testosterone after exercise.”

To gauge the risk of overtraining, an important marker is the testosterone-to-cortisol ratio. If this ratio is low, it suggests the possibility of overtraining, which can have detrimental effects on overall performance.

Effective Strength Training for Testosterone Stimulation

To maximize testosterone secretion during strength training, specific factors need to be considered:

  • Muscle Involvement: Exercises that engage multiple muscle groups elicit stronger testosterone responses than single-joint movements.
  • Intensity and Volume: High-intensity and moderate- to high-volume strength training programs stimulate greater testosterone responses compared to low-intensity exercises. Shorter rest periods (1 min) between sets have been associated with a stronger testosterone response, particularly in the early post-exercise period.
  • Training Frequency: Splitting the same amount of exercise into two sessions yields a more potent testosterone response.

Training Programs for Testosterone Stimulation

To maximize the acute increase in testosterone levels during training, several key factors should be considered:

1. Focus on Large Muscle Groups and Volume

Incorporating exercises that target large muscle groups and engaging in higher training volumes can lead to a greater testosterone response. Aim for a muscle-enhancing style, typically using a rep range of 6-12RM (repetition maximum) during strength training.

2. Minimize Rest Periods

Reduced rest intervals between sets can enhance the acute stimulation of testosterone. Shorter rest periods, preferably as minimal as possible, encourage a stronger testosterone response in the early post-exercise period.

3. Consider Muscle Group Selection

Training small muscle groups with low training volumes and focusing on maximum strength (1-6RM) may result in a relatively weaker acute testosterone response. In some cases, the acute exercise response to testosterone may not be elicited at all. To optimize testosterone secretion, it is advisable to include exercises for large muscle groups and use as many muscles as possible in your training session. For example, rather than solely training biceps and triceps, consider including exercises that engage the back or legs simultaneously to stimulate a better acute testosterone response.

4. Choose Multi-Joint Compound Movements

Selecting multi-joint compound exercises over single-joint actions can elicit a stronger acute testosterone response. Compound movements engage multiple muscle groups and stimulate a more significant release of testosterone. Comparatively, single-joint exercises, such as lateral raises, may have a relatively weaker impact on testosterone since they involve fewer muscle groups.

It is important to note that the arrangement of a training plan involves various complex factors, and individual considerations may vary. While incorporating large muscle groups with small muscle groups is generally beneficial for testosterone stimulation, it is not to diminish the value of single-joint exercises. They serve their purposes but may have a relatively lower acute testosterone response. Balancing these factors based on your specific goals and circumstances is crucial.

Regarding the impact of training frequency on testosterone, there are still uncertainties and ongoing research. Further investigation is necessary to gain a better understanding of this aspect.

For women, strength training generally leads to an acute increase in testosterone levels. However, the response is typically weaker compared to men. Excessive strength training can also pose challenges for women.


Optimizing testosterone secretion during training involves a combination of exercises that target large muscle groups, higher training volumes, shorter rest intervals, and incorporating multi-joint compound movements. While these strategies promote a more robust acute testosterone response, it is important to consider individual needs and consult with professionals for tailored training advice. For women, strength training can still be beneficial, but the response tends to be more subdued compared to men, and moderation is key.


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