Testosterone replacement therapy, popularly known as TRT has become a big business in recent years and continues to get bigger. In the United States alone, the revenue for TRT reached up to 3.8 billion dollars last year. Its effectiveness is a fact and has helped a lot of men. However, for a lot of those men, trying out a non-pharmaceutical method to deal with their low testosterone levels would have been a far better solution and good enough to bring their testosterone to normal levels.
The best method to naturally raise your T-levels is, of course, physical exercise and diet, however many men make the mistake of thinking that any type of exercise would suffice. This begs the question, “Is there a specific training regimen which will naturally increase testosterone production?”
Before we answer that question, let’s look over some facts first. Scientists say that testosterone levels in males have been steadily declining since the ‘70s. Even more disconcerting is the fact that young people today have much lower T-levels than previous generations. Simply put, your grandfather had at least 3 times greater testosterone levels than you at the same age.
Many reasons have been brought forward such as poor diet, lack of quality sleep, various environmental factors such as toxins, as well as excessive cell phone use. Solving the problem of low T-levels requires looking at it from many different angles. Using exercise only will probably not give you the drastic hormonal changes one wishes to experience.
One big reason why you should first try exercising to increase your testosterone levels, instead of jumping to TRT straight away is that even though TRT is a simple, effective solution to low T-levels, it is also a lifelong commitment. When you start injecting exogenous testosterone in your body, you’re telling your testicles to start producing new testosterone, as there’s already enough. Prolonged usage of testosterone injections irreversibly atrophies the testicles making you dependent on those injections for the rest of your life.
Should you stop using them, you may be worse off than you were before. The result is depression, lack of motivation and severely decreased libido. There’s a multitude of other issues, including the risk developing various cardiac issues, especially when the drug administration regimen is not followed precisely and the treatment is not regularly monitored by a doctor.
Now, you may have been doing aerobic/cardio training for quite some time and you may be thinking that that’s enough to keep you in shape and healthy. And it’s true, but it’s also true that it does practically nothing to boost your testosterone levels. Yes, numerous studies have found that regular aerobic training at a moderate level (for example, 30 minutes of walking, 3-4 times a week) can increase testosterone levels in people who are overweight. However, too much of it can excessively increase cortisol, which is the stress hormone which can lower testosterone. It’s been found that a high frequency, high volume type of aerobic training is linked to lower testosterone levels in cyclists and runners.
The best method to increase testosterone levels is without a doubt, resistance training. But not just any type of resistance training. To get the most benefits from lifting weights, you will need to follow a training regimen with specifically chosen loading parameters including sets, reps, rest times, tempo and exercise selection.
A great deal of research has been done on how resistance training affects testosterone production. It has been found that the loading parameters which work best for increasing testosterone production are 6 sets of 6-8 reps using compound movements. The rest intervals between each working set should be relatively short in the range of 45-60 seconds. There was a study done which found that 60 seconds of rest was more effective than 90 seconds when it came to increasing testosterone.
This particular prescription of loading parameters is similar to the ones recommended by the Advanced German Volume Training (GVT) program, a derivative of the popular regular GVT which prescribes a higher repetition range. The advanced version is usually recommended for people who have several years of training under their belt, focuses on compound movements, relatively short rest intervals and 10 sets of 6-8 reps.
The lower reps in GVT are mainly prescribed for advanced lifters because they have better neurological efficiency. Neurological efficiency means how effectively you recruit the higher-threshold, fast-twitch muscle fibers. If your neurological efficiency is low, you will respond better to a higher rep range because you can’t effectively recruit these more powerful muscle fibers to lift the weight. Below is an example of a leg workout using the advanced GVT program:
Example Day 1 (Lower body)
A1. Barbell Back Squats, 6 sets x 10 reps, tempo: 4010, 90s rest
A2. Lying Leg Curl, 6 sets x 10 reps, tempo: 4010, 90s rest
A3. Dumbbell Alternate Lunge, 3 sets x 8-10 reps, tempo:3010, 60s rest
B2. Wide-stance Good Morning, 3 sets x 6-8 reps, tempo: 3010, 60s rest
Seeing this as a starting point, you can then change several parameters, like exercise selection, so that you continue to progress with reaching a plateau. However, you should also consider that this 10-set approach is an advanced one and should not be used throughout the entire year or it will quickly lead to burnout and overtraining.
Using the general recommendations of 6 sets of 6-8 reps, you could also consider a range of 5-8 sets of 6-10 reps. Here’s another example of what a 4 times a week program would look like:
Monday and Thursday – Lower Body
C1. Barbell Back Squat, 5 sets of 6-8 reps, tempo:
C2. Romanian Deadlift, 5 sets of 6-8 reps, tempo:
D1. Lunge, 5 sets of 6-8 reps,
D2. Lying Leg Curl, 5 sets of 6-8 reps
Tuesday and Friday – Upper body
A1. Barbell Military Press, 5 sets of 6-8 reps,
A2. Close Neutral-grip Chin-up, 5 sets of 6-8 reps,
B1. Incline Dumbbell Press, 5 sets of 6-8 reps,
B2. One-arm Dumbbell Row, 5 sets of 6-8 reps
If having low testosterone is an issue with you, try dialing down on the cardio part and start doing some heavy weights.