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Does Working out Legs Build Testosterone?

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In this article we’re answering the important question – does working out legs build testosterone? 

Hands up. Who skips leg day?

Are you one of those “I’ve got a bad back” or “I’m just too tired man” kind of guys who uses every excuse they can muster to avoid going ass-to-grass with a bar?

Or are you one of those guys that’ll take every opportunity to pull up his shorts and squat ’til you drop?

Next time you’re in the gym, take a look around. The guys who are curling and benching might have strong upper bodies – but what are their wheels like?

Now look at the squatters… they’re just plain jacked.

We know that working out legs gives you more benefits than just a huge pair of quads. In this article we answer the question – does working out legs build testosterone?


The Benefits of Leg Training

As painful and unpleasant as leg training can be, it does provide you with a number of benefits that upper body training alone just an’t give you.

Here are the ones you need to know about.

Aesthetics

There must be hundreds of thousands of memes and images poking fun at top heavy guys.

Those people who have respectable shoulders, strong traps and thick arms… but scrawny legs that look like they might buckle under the mass of the gym bro that owns them.

If you skip leg day you’ll miss out on a more balanced physique. Your shoulder width will overpower your overall silhouette and you’ll just look downright out of proportion.

Sports Performance

When it comes to producing power, speed, strength and all-round athleticism, leg training is a must.

According to leading researchers and coaches, “the legs are the primary source of power in many sports” [1].

Without functional leg strength, there’s no link between the floor and upper body. This means that even in upper body sports such as boxing and javelin, your performance will suffer.

Have you ever tried to throw a javelin or a punch while sat down? That’ll tell you how important ‘ground reaction force’ and lower body strength is.

Higher energy expenditure

Training legs burns a ton of calories. Period.

One of the main reasons many of us try to ditch leg day is that it’s so damn hard.

Your lower body holds around 45% of your total muscle mass (in women it’s higher at 56%) [2]. It’s also where some of your biggest muscles are located too – you glutes in particular.

Training your legs once or twice per week ramps up your energy expenditure and given you’re monitoring your calorie intake, can help to speed up fat loss.

You can eat more after training legs

There’s nothing finer than a good meal after leg day. You feel energized, content and recovered.

And if science has anything to say, you don’t need to feel guilty for the post-lower body cheat meal either.

A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology [3] found that after a solid leg training session, nutrient absorption efficiency and insulin sensitivity are both optimized.

The result? More nutrients directed to the muscle and less stored as fat. 



How Does Working out Legs Build Testosterone?

One thing’s for sure – working out legs does build testosterone. It also increases other anabolic hormone in the blood too such as growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).

Does Working out legs build testosterone?

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology [4] found that performing lower body strength training prior to arm training resulted in more muscle growth.

In the study, 9 male athletes were asked to take part in 4 single arm workouts per week for 11 weeks.

During 2 of those sessions, they first performed a series of leg presses, leg curls and leg extensions, followed by a bicep workout for their right arm only.

On the other two days they trained their left bicep without any leg training beforehand.

What did they find?

After the 11 week training program had finished, the scientists found that anabolic hormone levels were higher during leg and arm training compared to just arm training.

Both testosterone and growth hormone levels had spiked because of leg day.

And they found out something remarkable too – the right arm was significantly larger and stronger than the left. Leg training had led to more muscle mass in the upper body.

Which lower body exercises boost testosterone most?

Hopefully by now you’re coming around to the idea of putting a leg day into your current rotation.

The next question is which exercise should be your testosterone boosting go-to

According to research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research [5] the exercise that best increases anabolic hormone levels is squats.

Compared to leg presses, “free weight exercises seem to induce greater hormonal responses to resistance exercise than machine weight exercises using similar lower-body multi-joint movements and primary movers”.

Focusing on large muscle mass exercises and supplementing these with isolation lifts is a surefire way of ramping up testosterone.

That’s because compound, multi-joint exercises are far superior for hormone optimization [6].

Go hard or go home

Once you’ve chosen your leg day lifts you need to think about your program content.

Going heavier on leg day will turn the dial on your anabolic hormones to 11. Studies have found that ‘heavy resistance exercise protcols’ (HREPS) are the most effective when it comes to does working out legs build testosterone.

How heavy? Aim for 5 to 10 reps per set, keep your rest times low and most of all… lift as heavy as you can for your reps [7].

Now’s not the time to go light.


squats-and-testosterone-production

Sample Leg Workout

If building impressive wheels is your game you’ll need a challenging. but rewarding strength program.

And we’ve got just the thing…

NumberExerciseRepsSetsRest Time
1Back Squat5-831-3 minutes
2Romanian Deadlift5-831-3 minutes
3Bulgarian Split Squat8-1231-3 minutes
4Lying Leg Curl8-1231-3 minutes
5Leg extension8-1231-3 minutes
6Standing calf raise5-841-2 minutes

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References

  1. Gambetta, V. Leg strength for sports performance.  http://elitetrack.com/article_files/gambettastrength.pdf
  2. Hegge, AM et al. Are gender differences in upper-body power generated by elite cross-country skiers augmented by increasing the intensity of exercise? PLoS ONE 10(5): e0127509
  3. Hansen, PA et al. Increased GLUT-4 translocation mediates enhanced insulin sensitivity of muscle glucose transport after exercise. J Appl Physiol. 1998 85(4): 1218-22
  4. Ronnestad, BR et al. Physiological elevation of endogenous hormones results in superior strength training adaptation. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011; 111(9): 2249-59
  5. Shaner, AA et al. The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 28(4): 1032-40
  6. Fahey, TD et al. Serum testosterone, body composition, and strength of young adults. Med Sci Sports. 1976; 8(1): 31-4
  7. Kraemer W. J et al. Hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise protocols. J Appl Physiol. 1990; 69(4): 1442-1450

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