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Training Frequency and Testosterone: What Works Best?

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Are training frequency and testosterone related? Is there an optimum number of times to hit the gym for peak muscle growth? If so, what is it? We find out…

The optimal number of times to train is affected by your training experience and recovery strategies. For beginners, 3 times per week is ideal, whereas more experienced gym-goers can train 4-5 times per week. If your recovery is poor it can affect how often you should train. 

In this article, we take an in-depth look at the relationship between training frequency and testosterone.

What Is Training Frequency and Why Is It Important?

Training frequency refers to the number of sessions you complete in the gym per week. Training 7 days per week would constitute a very high training frequency, while training just once per week would be considered a low training frequency. How long and hard you train in each session should also be considered.

For gym-goers, it is all about finding the right balance between overtraining and undertraining. Not training frequently enough will prevent you from achieving your goals and could lead to the reversal of any achievements you have made. Whereas training too often can lead to overtraining which can affect your sleep, stress levels, and testosterone.

Frequency is Crucial for Improving Your Fitness

Don’t train enough and your results will come slowly (if at all). Train too often and you run the risk of burnout and overtraining. Frequency is important when it comes to shredding fat and building muscle – but training at the correct frequency is vital.

It’s important when you’re planning your training program that you balance the need for exercise with recovery.

Frequency and the Fitness-Fatigue Model

The fitness-fatigue model [1] is built around the concept of stress adaptation. In other words, when you train at the gym you provide a stimulus that your body has to cope with.

Let’s say for example you lift weights. You provide a stimulus by lifting a heavier weight than usual and damaging your muscle fibres. The adaptation is an increase in muscle cell donation and an increase in muscle size.

If the stimulus is sprinting during high-intensity interval training, for example, the adaptation is an increase in blood volume, lung function, and oxygen kinetics. In other words, for every stimulus, a specific adaptation occurs.

So how are the fitness-fatigue model and frequency related?

When you train hard and more frequently you build both fitness and fatigue. If you train too often, the fatigue you build ‘masks’ your increasing fitness and your performance can decline.

But if you don’t train often enough, your fitness levels won’t improve. It’s about balance. And at the heart of it all is training frequency.


Key Point: Good training isn’t about training as frequently as possible, it’s about training frequently enough to build fitness, but not accumulate unnecessary fatigue.

Training Frequency and Muscle Mass – Is More Better?

When it comes to training frequency for building muscle mass there have always been two schools of thought.

One suggests that more is better and training a muscle multiple times each week maximizes growth. The other states that hitting a muscle once each week limits fatigue and allows more efficient training.

But to truly understand the relationship between training frequency and testosterone, clinical research is key.

Here are the most critical studies you need to know about…

Higher training frequencies are better for strength and muscle gains

A recent research paper from the prestigious journal Frontiers in Physiology [2] looked at the potential link between how often a group of athletes trained and the effects on leg strength and muscle damage (a measure of fatigue).

The volunteers were split into 2 groups and over an 11-week period followed a pre-designed workout plan using ~70% of their 1RM:

  • High frequency – 6 x 12 reps
  • Low frequency – 2 x 12 reps

…high frequency groups improved muscle mass and strength, as well as muscle fiber thickness

The results showed that although both groups improved muscle mass and strength, as well as muscle fibre thickness, the high-frequency group’s results were more significant. Additionally, strength was much higher in the high-frequency group compared to the low group.

Meta-analysis shows training more frequently is translated into greater muscle gains

In a comprehensive meta-analysis by Brad Schoenfeld and James Krieger [3], 22 studies were analyzed. The research team included any study that compared muscular strength outcomes with different training frequencies.

The results were interesting.

…higher training frequencies translated into better muscle mass gains.

As you’d probably guess, training more frequently resulted in better muscle mass gains. The effect sizes (how scientists quantify differences between groups) were as followed.

  • One workout per week – 0.74
  • Two workouts – 0.82
  • Three workouts – 0.93
  • Four workouts per week – 1.08

In other words, four training sessions resulted in far more muscle mass and upper body 1RM strength (strangely not in lower body strength though).

The researchers also found that the effects of volume were much more significant in younger adults than in older people and that women benefited slightly more than men – probably because women can naturally handle higher volumes of training in comparison.

Key Point: Training more frequently leads to a significant increase in muscle mass, probably due to higher training volumes.

Training Frequency and Testosterone – The Link

Testosterone is a natural steroid hormone produced in the Leydig cells of your testes. It has both anabolic and androgenic properties and provides a number of benefits:

  • Elevates muscle mass, protein synthesis, and maximal strength
  • Keeps you lean, fighting off fat gain
  • More energy, stamina, and endurance
  • Regulates sex drive and libido
  • Protects you from metabolic, vascular and neurodegenerative disease

So what about the relationship between training frequency and testosterone?

It’s common knowledge that strength training boosts testosterone. It supercharges androgen production, alongside growth factors such as growth hormone and IGF-1. Once triggered, testosterone rushes to your androgen receptors to begin the muscle growth process.

Practical guidelines to boost testosterone with strength training

Training frequency

Muscle mass gains, training frequency, and testosterone are all inter-related. But the exact number of workouts you need to maximize testosterone production is individual to you.

Most guys find that 3-5 workouts per week (with a recovery week every 4-6 weeks) works best. The frequency is high enough to build muscle without leading to burn out and fatigue.

However, if that sounds too high for your current fitness levels, aim for 3 strength-based workouts per week and build from there.

Full-body workouts

Research shows that while arm curls and leg extension have some value in a muscle-building program, it’s the more significant compound exercises that take testosterone to the next level.

  • Presses and pulls
  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Carriers

A study by strength training legend Bill Kraemer [4] found that compound exercises – ones that use multiple muscle groups – were optimal for boosting testosterone. And this has been supported by other research too [5].

Lift heavy and ramp up your hormone levels

The great thing about compound lifts is you’re easily able to add some big loads to the bar and really get to work.

Evidence shows that lifting heavy – 70-80% 1RM  or above – is optimal for both strength and testosterone production. For example, a study published in the Journal of Gerontology found that men given heavy weights over a 6-month training period,reported the following benefits:

  • Greater maximal strength and muscle mass
  • Higher maximal voluntary activation
  • Elevated growth hormone concentrations
  • Higher total and free testosterone

Handsome, athletic and muscular bodybuilder posing over black background

Summary – Does Training More Frequently Affect Testosterone Levels?

Training frequency refers to how many times per week you train in the gym.

But even though it’s a simple term, it’s one of the most important factors in gaining muscle and boosting testosterone, with numerous studies showing higher training frequency and testosterone increases are strongly related.


  1. Chiu, L et al. The Fitness-Fatigue Model Revisited: Implications for Planning Short- and Long-Term Training. Strength Cond J. 2003; 25(6)
  2. Ochi, E et al. Higher Training Frequency Is Important for Gaining Muscular Strength Under Volume-Matched Training. Frontiers Phys. 2018
  3. Grgic, J et al. Effect of Resistance Training Frequency on Gains in Muscular Strength: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2018; 48(5): 1207-1220
  4. Kraemer, WJ et al. Acute hormonal responses in elite junior weightlifters. Int J Sports Med. 1992; 13(2): 103-9
  5. Hansen, S et al. The effect of short-term strength training on human skeletal muscle: the importance of physiologically elevated hormone levels. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2001; 11(6): 347-54
  6. Häkkinen, K et al. Basal concentrations and acute responses of serum hormones and strength development during heavy resistance training in middle-aged and elderly men and women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000; 55(2): B95-105