You’ve probably come across the claim that certain exercises, the deadlift in particular, increase your testosterone levels, which in turn will lead to a faster rate of muscle growth.
It would be great if it were true, but it isn’t.
In fact, the size and duration of any post-workout increase in testosterone is too small and too short-lived to have any meaningful impact on muscle growth.
Here’s a closer look at what the research has to say on the subject of deadlifts, testosterone and muscle growth.
Do Deadlifts Increase Testosterone?
There are many studies out there to show that heavy resistance exercise per se leads to an increase in post-exercise testosterone levels.
That is, training sessions involving large amounts of muscle mass and relatively heavy weights typically lead to an increase in levels of testosterone .
And it’s not just testosterone.
Depending on the type of workout you do, it’s not uncommon to see a spike in both human growth hormone (HGH) and IGF-1 levels too .
However, I couldn’t find any research to look specifically at the effect of deadlifts on post-exercise testosterone levels.
There’s data on squats alone , leg presses alone , and a combination of squats, leg presses and leg extensions  to name but a few.
But nothing (that I could find, anyway) on the deadlift.
However, given that the deadlift works a large amount of muscle mass, it would be surprising if it didn’t have a similar impact on testosterone levels as exercises like the barbell squat and leg press.
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Does the Post-Workout Hormonal Response Affect Muscle Growth?
Heavy resistance training involving large muscle groups does have the potential to increase post-training testosterone levels.
But how much of a difference is the increase in testosterone actually going to make to your rate of muscle growth over time?
Not much is the answer.
We’ve known for some time that any temporary surge in post-training hormone levels is too small to have any impact on muscle protein synthesis , muscle fiber hypertrophy  or strength gains .
What’s more, not all studies report an increase in testosterone following heavy resistance training.
A study of competitive powerlifters, for example, looked at the post-exercise hormonal response to 3, 6 and 12 sets of heavy squats, performed at 90% of their one-rep max .
While the heavy squats did affect growth hormone and IGF-1 levels, testosterone levels weren’t affected.
Post-exercise changes in testosterone levels also fail to explain why some people build muscle faster than others, even when they eat and train the same.
A study by researchers at Canada’s McMaster University analyzed data collected from a group of men who took part in a three-month resistance training program .
If the post-exercise change in levels of testosterone was important as far as muscle growth is concerned, you’d expect to see two things:
Guys with the largest testosterone response to training would build the most muscle. And those with the smallest response would build the least muscle.
But when they looked at the data, there was no significant link between the exercise-induced rise in testosterone levels and gains in muscle mass.
That is, the hormonal responses of those who made the fastest gains in size and strength were no different to those who made the slowest gains.
In a follow-up study, scientists found no significant correlation between post-exercise hormonal changes and muscle growth following a 12-week training program .
Here’s how they sum up their findings:
No significant correlations between the acute post-exercise rise in any purported anabolic hormone and the change in strength or hypertrophy were found. In congruence with our previous work, acute post-exercise systemic hormonal rises are not related to or in any way indicative of resistance training-mediated gains in muscle mass or strength.”
Here’s something else that’s very important.
Most people assume that higher levels of testosterone in the blood are a good thing, because it means that more of the hormone is being produced.
However, this isn’t the only reason that testosterone levels in the blood can rise. An increase in the rate of production or a decrease in the rate at which testosterone leaves the blood pool will both lead to a rise in testosterone levels.
A change in testosterone levels after exercise, be it up or down, doesn’t tell you that more or less of the hormone is being produced.
All it tells you is that the difference between the rate of production and the rate of clearance has changed.
Although your liver is responsible for clearing much of the testosterone from your system, your muscles also have an important role to play.
In fact, there’s a direct link between the amount of muscle you have and the rate at which the metabolic clearance of testosterone takes place .
For testosterone to do all the things we know and love as far as muscle growth is concerned, it needs to be “taken up” by muscle tissue, which it does by binding androgen receptors.
In other words, a rise in testosterone levels isn’t necessarily a good thing, as it could indicate some kind of reduction in muscle uptake. Conversely, a drop in testosterone levels isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it could indicate an increase in muscle uptake.
Heavy resistance exercise does lead to a short-term increase in various hormones, including testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1.
However, this temporary surge doesn’t do much for muscle growth, and designing a training program to maximize post-exercise hormone levels is unlikely to have much of an impact on the speed at which muscle is gained.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does the deadlift boost testosterone?
I couldn’t find any research to look specifically at the effect of deadlifts on testosterone levels. However, studies using the squat show an increase in post-workout free testosterone levels (free testosterone is the bioactive form of the hormone) ranging from approximately 40 to 55 per cent above baseline.
Do deadlifts release growth hormone?
Heavy resistance exercise in general has been shown to increase growth hormone levels. However, contrary to what the name suggests, human growth hormone (HGH) doesn’t have much to do with muscle growth in adults. Even growth hormone injections don’t do much for muscle protein synthesis, a prerequisite for building muscle.
Which exercises increase testosterone?
In general, hypertrophy-type training using compound exercises to work large amounts of muscle mass tends to increase post-exercise testosterone levels.
In one study, researchers found that a workout routine consisting of the bench press, leg curl, lat pulldown, leg press, military press and leg extension led to free testosterone levels that were 14, 55 and 25 per cent higher than baseline in young, middle-aged and older men respectively, when measured immediately after exercise.
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