The role and importance of testosterone, compound exercises, workout duration and strength training when trying to build muscle naturally.

You ever wonder why there is so much talk about compound movements? Or why all programs should be based around them? A lot of beginners don’t put much effort in to these types of movements but instead get blurred vision with all the different isolation exercises. They spend hours going from one movement to the other trying to annihilate their muscles.

Or they take a professional bodybuilder’s workout from a muscle magazine and think they should do it too, which I highly do not recommend because they are not a professional bodybuilder. I’ve personally been guilty of this when I first started training but after I threw my ego aside, I learned the importance of basing my workout routine around compound movements.

Compound movements are not only the basics to building a solid foundation, but they are also known to increase testosterone, the muscle building hormone we all love, naturally. These movements involve utilizing more than two muscle groups while performing an exercise (push press, squats, bench press, deadlift, olympic lifts, barbell rows, etc.). It is the use of multi-joint exercises which increases the release of testosterone.

Now when I mention testosterone, I am not talking about “the juice”. I am talking about the testosterone we produce naturally in our own bodies. Testosterone is a male hormone and to the lifting world it is known to primarily build muscle. So the higher our testosterone levels get the more capable we are to build more muscle mass and lowering body fat.

Increasing testosterone via workouts

In order to increase testosterone production during workouts, research shows that there are a few factors one should keep in mind. First off, research does show that resistance training releases testosterone. But the quantity depends on the amount of muscle mass being stimulated, volume, and intensity. Simply just lifting weights doesn’t work. There is much more that needs to go into programming an efficient workout routine in order to achieve this goal. Now let’s get to packing on some serious muscle mass.

The more muscle mass stimulated during an exercise the more testosterone is going to be released. That is one of the main reasons why training with compound multi-joint exercises are key to increase testosterone levels naturally. In a study done by Kraemer et al., subjects performed the bench press and a loaded jump squat. Although there were increases in both exercises, the jump squat showed a higher release of testosterone due to the greater amount of muscle mass stimulated at once.

How much testosterone do you think Olympic weightlifters have running through their bodies? This shows why individuals should not waste most of their time in the gym performing biceps curls or leg extensions, but instead focus their time on lifts such as squats, deadlifts, push presses, etc.

How much volume is too much?

This doesn’t mean that one should go to the gym and perform crazy amounts of reps and sets of these sorts of muscle building exercises. There has to be an optimum amount of volume in order to achieve a high release in testosterone. If you don’t get the right amount of volume during workouts, high levels of testosterone will not be released and the window of muscle building will be lost during that session.

Although high volume does, in fact, increase testosterone, studies have shown there to be a quick decrease after 45-60 minutes of resistance training. So for those who spend hours in the gym performing exercises after exercises, they may need to re-assess exactly what they are doing, and ask themselves if they are training productively.

Workout intensity

Since through research higher volume shows to increase the release of testosterone, it’s counterpart cannot be forgotten: Intensity (% of 1RM). A study did comparison between two different training groups, one group focused on hypertophy using sets with their 10RM resting 1 minute between sets while the other focused on strength using sets with 5RM resting 3 minutes between sets. They found that the 10RM group had a higher increase of testosterone than the 5RM group. That being said, there was still a significant amount of testosterone released in the strength group.

Final thoughts

If you are interested in taking advantage of the natural muscle building hormone we produce in our own bodies, I recommend to take a look over your training program and take out the unnecessary exercises that are in there stopping you from packing on as much muscle as possible.  Your program should consist mainly of compound movements. Performing heaving walking lunges will pack on much more muscle than doing leg extensions and curls.

Most don’t want to do them because they are too hard. If you think an exercise is too hard, those are probably the ones you should be doing. Also, make sure to spend the majority of your time and effort during your workouts to focus on progression in the compound movements, because when you see those weights go up there’s a really good chance you are packing on some serious muscle.


Hakkinen, K., A. Pakarinen Acute hormonal response to two different fatiguing heavy-resistance protocols in male athletes. J.Appl.Physiol. 74:882-887, 1993

Kraemer, W.J., K. Häkkinen, R.U. Newton, B.C. Nindl, J.S. Volek, M.C. McCormick, L.A. Gotshalk, S.E. Gordon, S.J. Fleck, W.W. Campbell, M. Putukian, W.J. Evans. Effects  of heavy-resistance on hormonal response patterns in younger vs. older men. J.Appl.Physiol. 87:982-992, 1999

Kraemer, W.J., L. Marchitelli, S.E. Gordon, E.Harman, J.E. Dziados, R.Mello, P.Frykman, D. McCurry, and S.J. Fleck. Hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise protocols. J.Appl.Physiol. 69:1442-1450. 1990

Volek, J.S., W.J. Kraemer, J.A. Bush, T. Incledon, M. Boetes. Testosterone and cortisol relationship in dietary nutrients and resistance exercise.  82:49-54, 1997. J.Appl.Physiol. 82:49-54, 1997.

May Palmer
Posted on: Sun, 01/19/2014 - 08:44

Dear Daniel:
As a Female in her 50's and a 'newbie' at Strength Training, I greatly appreciate the wisdom of your article. It continues to confirm other information I have read with regards to 'tried and true' recommendations when Strength Training/Body Building. I have seen tremendous gains in my arms, glutes and legs using compound movements, using a rep. range of 6-12 reps, while utilizing progressive overload. I have found a new passion in my life that is such a blessing. I love the "science" of Strength Training/Body Building and I am glad to be part of this growing family!! Great Article!! With Respect, May Palmer

Elmore Frank Br...
Posted on: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 22:59

How can I get that 6 pack abs.

Posted on: Mon, 07/15/2013 - 21:58

When you are planning to build muscles on a certain day, eat good. One hour prior to exercising, take in more calories. Make sure that you don't eat in excess but that you moderately gauge how much you're eating and plan your meals on the days you workout, accordingly.

When you do workout try your best to train muscles that are opposing, so do things like train your back with your chest or your hamstrings with your quads. This method allows one muscle to recover while the other is in action. This will increase the intensity of your workout and the time you're at the gym is reduced.

Posted on: Fri, 05/24/2013 - 03:52

Dear, Hi i recently ch eck with my boby free testosteron level is very low but i teating one month course of testosteron therapy but my body had down muscle strength and cholestrole level are very high. And also now low libido . So i need to increase my testosteron levels naturally . So which kind of compound exercises and other any kind of easy way to increase good natural testostreron levels. Kindly let me know