Effects of Strongman Training on Testosterone Levels

(03-22-2013) Training to increase muscle Strongman trainingmass is usually done in the gym performing well known exercises such as the bench press or squat or equivalent machines. Athletes interested in increasing strength and power such as football, wrestling, rugby and basketball players are said to greatly benefit from Strongman training. Strongman training incorporates compound movements such as pulling and pressing oddly shaped objects such as stones, sleds, keg barrels, tractor tires and trucks. An important factor in training for muscle mass is an increased testosterone production following a training session. To determine if Strongman training is an effective way to increase muscle mass, researchers from New York conducted the following study investigating the effect of Strongman training on testosterone levels.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers recruited 16 resistance trained men that up until then, did not have any experience in Strongman training. The subjects’ maximal strength was predicted using a 1 Repetition Maximum test on the squat, leg press, bench press and seated row. Testosterone levels were determined by analyzing the subjects’ saliva taken before, directly after and 30 minutes after ending the workout sessions. Each subject completed three different training protocols separated by one week to minimize influences of the previous training session. The three training protocols were: a classic hypertrophy protocol used by many fitness enthusiasts using 3 sets of 10 repetitions in the back squat, leg press, bench press and seated row exercises. The Strongman training protocol consisted of 3 sets per exercise to muscle failure in the tire flip, chain drag, farmers walk, keg carry and stone lift. The last protocol was a mixed training consisting of three sets of 10 repetitions on the classic fitness exercises or to muscle failure on the Strongman exercises. The exercises in the mixed protocol were the tire flip, back squat, chain drag, bench press and the stone lift.

What were the results?

These were the results of this investigation:

Testosterone levels after different training forms










Figure 1: Testosterone levels (picogram/ml)

All three protocols significantly raised testosterone levels far beyond resting levels. Despite the on average higher peak directly after the hypertrophy protocol, no significant differences in testosterone levels were found between protocols indicating that they were equally effective.

What did the researchers conclude?

The researchers concluded that Strongman training induces comparable increases in testosterone levels as classic strength exercises. It too is an effective means of increasing muscle mass. However, Strongman training consists of unorthodox movement patterns which may prevent people to train as intensely as they would do using regular fitness exercises.

What does this mean for me? 

Strongman exercises are just as effective in raising testosterone levels and increasing muscle mass as classic fitness exercises. They can therefore be used as an alternative training method for those seeking an equally effective variation on their normal strength training.


-Ghihiarelli, J.J., Sell, K.M., Raddock, J.M., Taveras, K. Effects of Strongman Training on Salivary Testosterone Levels in a Sample of Trained Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2013, 27, 3, 738-747.