Muscle: Testosterone in Men and Women

Whether male or female, our body produces testosterone. The way in which testosterone plays a role in our body depends on our sex, and some other factors. Without testosterone males would not be able to build the amount of muscle that they do. Also, it is testosterone that is responsible for the low-level of body fat that men can achieve, as compared to women.

Testosterone is an androgen, or male sex hormone. It is secreted by the testes in men, and by the ovaries and adrenal glands in women. In women the testosterone is converted into estrogen, while in men testosterone plays a significant role in the development of male sexual characteristics, such as sex organs, body hair, and muscle.

Testosterone plays a very important role in muscle growth. This is the reason why anabolic steroid use is so rampant in those desiring to build big muscles quickly. Anabolic steroids are basically a synthetic form of testosterone. They are illegal and have many potentially negative health related side effects. Natural testosterone, in combination with human growth hormone, helps to stimulate muscle repair after resistance training through increases protein synthesis.

The amount of testosterone released for muscle protein synthesis and growth is dependent upon a number of factors. Resistance training is required to increase production of this anabolic hormone. Additionally, greater testosterone will be released if the resistance training focuses on the large muscle groups, especially with heavy weight loads, and high training intensity. A resistance training program of low weights and intensity will result in less production of testosterone, and therefore less muscle growth.

Women who are afraid of getting big and bulky when weightlifting tend to shy away from the heavier weights, which are also important for muscle strength, and the often desired toned look. This fear is unwarranted, because unless you have a disorder that is causing your body to produce, and not to convert to estrogen, high levels of testosterone, then few women will be able to build large muscles the same way men can.

To benefit from testosterone’s role in muscle growth, focus on heavy weight loads, low repetitions, and multiple sets of each exercise. Target the larger muscle groups at least two days per week as well. Focus your program on the large muscles of the legs, back, chest, and core to produce higher levels of testosterone. The production of testosterone during our workout leaves testosterone circulating afterwards, and this increases our chances of muscle hypertrophy as a result.

Happy Lifting!

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5 comments for “Muscle: Testosterone in Men and Women

  1. September 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Great advice, as always, Matt! On the cycles where we do a 2-day split, we start the first day with Squats and Deadlifts, on Day 2 we start with Bent Rows – for exactly that reason. Each day starts with big compound movements using our heaviest weights – that sets up about a 90-minute testosterone window to get the most from training both those and the smaller muscles that follow. Maximizing your hormonal landscape, pushing both testosterone and growth hormone levels to the max, is especially important in older weightlifters, since the body cuts natural testosterone production by about 2% per year from age 30 onwards.

    • September 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      We can mitigate that drop in testosterone through our weight training efforts, and that’s the plan!

  2. Nathan
    September 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for the reply…Great read great info!

  3. Nathan
    September 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    So in regards to women. I hear this quite often. “I dont lift weights because I dont want to get big.” This is untrue…right? I tell them it will actually tone and burn more calories throughout the day. I mean, I think it takes more than weights to achieve the looks of the bodybuilder up top because of estrogen conversion?

    • September 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      First, men produce 10 times the testosterone than women do, so that’s a pretty big difference. Then, the testosterone they do produce, a good amount is converted to estrogen. Estrogen conversion happens in men also due to many factors. I’m going to write a post on that at some point. Second, building muscle is really hard. Even if you do everything right, there are genetics to consider. Thirdly, ‘toning up’ means building muscle and losing fat-exactly what men do, just different words. There is no such thing as ‘toning up’. It’s silly to think you’re going to get big if you lift weights, otherwise every teenage boy would be huge.

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