Whether you’re lifting as an amateur or for competitive sports, compound exercises (like the squat, bench press, and deadlift) are crucial for enhancing muscle mass and athletic performance.
In my 10+ years of training clients, I’ve always incorporated squats in their training, and some of them asked me if this particular exercise can help boost their T-levels.
I decided to read up on what the scientific literature said about this, so I spent a few weeks researching various studies and discussing them with my colleagues to understand more about the hormonal effects of squats.
- Squats have a high anabolic response and may trigger the release of testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone), which is vital for muscle growth and improving muscle mass.
- Squats induce a higher anabolic response than most exercises because they engage the highest number of muscles.
- Squats are an excellent exercise to help you build muscle mass and strength; they’re also great for strengthening your core and lower body.
Do Squats Increase Testosterone Levels?
Yes, squats, like many other exercises, may trigger an increase in testosterone levels when done safely and effectively.
Many studies have demonstrated that squats are intense enough to increase your testosterone and growth hormone levels .
However, this is true for any exercise that activates several muscles. Clinical trials found that resistance training that involves heavy weights and targets more muscle groups activates post-exercise increase of testosterone .
And in my experience as a fitness trainer, there’s no other exercise that involves as many muscle groups as the squat.
In fact, squats are regarded as one of the most effective exercises for enhancing athletic performance.
That’s because they strengthen prime movers that support important athletic movements like lifting, running, and jumping .
This is one of the main reasons I consider squats the king of all exercises that boosts testosterone, be it whether I’m training clients for bodybuilding, powerlifting, or calisthenics.
Now that it’s clear that squats increase your testosterone levels, let’s take a look at some of the many benefits this exercise offers
When training clients who suffer from low testosterone, I’ve noticed that squats help them build muscle more quickly than some other compound exercises, provided they eat well and engage in the right recovery.
This is probably due to the fact that squats stimulate hormonal responses, namely, an increase in human growth hormone.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is the primary hormone your body uses for cell growth. HGH levels significantly increase during childhood, reach their peak during puberty, and decline after middle age .
Two of the best ways to increase HGH levels as an adult are sleep and exercise . Studies found that heavy resistance exercises, in particular, stimulate the increase of HGH in men and women . In this study, both men and women who performed heavy squats showed an increase in HGH levels.
Squatting has many functional benefits, which is why many athletes incorporate it into their workout regimen.
Here’s a list of some of the main functional benefits of barbell squats:
- Stronger core muscles: A 2018 study found that squats activate your core more than most exercises (even planks) . To build a stronger back and abs, you must brace your core when squatting.
- Stronger lower body: Squats strengthen your lower body muscles, which can have an incredible carryover effect on athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury.
- Calorie burner: Squats burn a high number of calories despite not being a cardio exercise. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person could burn 223 calories during 30 minutes of squat training .
- Stronger athletic abilities: Squats are so popular among many athletes because they work out various muscles. This makes it a prime exercise for boosting overall athletic ability.
- Lower risk of injury: When done with proper form, squats strengthen your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. According to the American Council of Exercise, this may help reduce injuries .
- Versatility: One of the best things about the squat is that it has many variations that can be done anywhere with little or no equipment. So, it’s one of the easiest exercises to perform when traveling.
Why Should You Squat With Proper Form?
You should squat with proper form because it will help you engage multiple muscle groups efficiently and prevent unnecessary injuries.
Squatting with poor form often leads to knee and back injuries that’ll set your progress back for weeks, months, or even a year.
Depending on how bad they are, squat-related injuries tend to have a nasty carryover effect on your other exercises.
For example, a back injury from squatting will prevent you from properly performing deadlifts and other exercises that require your posterior chain.
With injuries, you’re highly likely to miss out on heavy workouts that can further your progress.
In addition to squatting with perfect form, you also need to ensure that you’re well-warmed up before the squat.
A proper warmup increases muscle temperature and blood flow, which results in improved exercise performance and reduced chances of injury .
“Learning how to squat correctly is important for many movements you perform during everyday life, as well as for just about any type of sport.”
- Dr. Matthew T. Boes, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon
6 Variations for Beginners
One of the best things about the squat is that it has many variations that help you build a strong core and lower body. All these variations are compound exercises that’ll help you build muscle in many areas.
Here are some of our personal favorite squat exercise variations, ranked from hardest to easiest. The first three will require a squat rack.
1. High Barbell Back Squat
To perform the high barbell squat:
- Load the barbell safely on your back and shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing outward.
- Brace your core, and keep your chest up. Take a deep breath through your mouth.
- While holding your breath, lower yourself by initiating the squat movement. You can either squat till your thighs are parallel to the floor or go as deep as possible.
- Push through with your whole body, and return to the starting position.
2. Low Bar Back Squat
This is performed the exact same way as the high barbell squat, except you’d place your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart and the barbell a little below the traps.
This squat usually allows you to bear a heavier load.
3. Front Squat
To perform a front squat:
- Stand facing the barbell on the squat rack, and position it, so it rests in front of your shoulders. Keep it stable by holding it with your fingers under the barbell.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and toes slightly outward.
- Follow steps 3 and 4 of the High Barbell Back Squat.
A quick word of caution: this variation demands highly flexible wrists. So if you have limitations, use wrist straps to support the barbell when you front squat.
4. Deep Squat
To perform a deep squat:
- Do a regular bodyweight squat. But instead of stopping when your thighs are parallel to the floor, go as low as possible while maintaining a straight back.
- Once you reach the bottom, pause and explode up.
- You may add weight by holding a dumbbell or kettlebell.
You can also incorporate a jump when exploding up to make this a plyometric exercise, but beware of the additional weight, as it may cause injury upon landing.
5. Prisoner Squat
To perform the prisoner squat:
- Stand with your legs placed a little less than shoulder-width apart. Place both your arms behind your head (with your palms touching the back of your head).
- Pull back your elbows and keep your chest lifted.
- Lower yourself down to a parallel or full squat.
- Straighten up and repeat.
6. Bodyweight Squats
If any of these are difficult, you can simply start off with bodyweight squats. To perform these:
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Squat down by bending your knees, keeping your arms in front of your and your back straight.
- Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, come up.
- Repeat until you’re ready to add weights.
“Performing body weight squats daily can help to maintain your body's tolerance to daily activities. Strengthening the back muscles is ultimately the best way to prevent back injuries when lifting and carrying heavier objects.”
- Dr. Tim Schuckers, PT, DPT, OCS
While squats are a super effective exercise, it’s easy to mess them up and injure yourself. So, here are some precautions to keep you squatting regularly and effectively:
- Use proper form: Using proper form is key to preventing injuries and making the best of your compound lifts.
- Get enough rest and recovery: Squats demand a high level of mental and physical exertion, especially when you perform heavy squats. And I’ve seen one too many squat injuries that result from over-exertion and lack of rest.
- Eat well: Eat only foods rich in protein to gain muscle and help your muscles recover . While lifting light with sore muscles is okay, don’t lift heavy reps on rest days.
- Take the right supplements: If you want to see a significant increase in testosterone naturally, we highly recommend taking natural testosterone boosters to enhance your performance with your resistance exercises.
Should I Add Squats to My Lifts Even if I’m Doing Other Leg Exercises?
Yes, you should add squats to your lifts even if you’re doing other leg exercises. Squats demand a high level of leg-muscle activation (in addition to other muscles). Adding squats to your weight training regimen will only have benefits unless you suffer from injuries.
How Frequently Should I Perform Squats to Increase Testosterone?
You should perform heavy squats at least once a week to increase testosterone. However, research shows that 6 sets of 10 squats might be most effective in increasing post-exercise testosterone . However, this will also depend on how heavy you’re lifting and your current testosterone levels.
Can the Leg Press Increase Testosterone as Well as Squats?
No, the leg press cannot increase testosterone levels as well as squats because they don’t engage as many muscles as squats. Additionally, different variations of the squat may affect your post-testosterone levels differently based on the muscles they engage.
Why Haven’t My Testosterone Levels Risen After Squatting Regularly?
Your testosterone levels haven’t risen after squatting regularly, probably because you may not be recovering well, among a host of other reasons. Another reason is that you may not be doing your squats using a proper form; this affects how many muscle groups you engage and, by extension, your post-workout testosterone levels.
More Squats Means More Testosterone
Squats are not only the king of resistance training, but they might cause a higher increase in testosterone than most exercises.
If you’d like to see a significant increase in muscle strength and size, we highly recommend taking only the top-grade testosterone boosters for men alongside your resistance training program.
We’ve personally tested each of these products and found outstanding results. Our testing data shows that clients who took them experienced enhanced muscle growth, higher energy levels, and an increase in overall mental and physical acuity in the first two months.
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