The Effects of Strongman Training on Salivary Testosterone in a Sample of Trained Men

J.Ghigiarelli

Dr. Jamie Ghigiarelli is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Professions and Kinesiology at Hofstra University. He obtained his PhD in Exercise Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

His research focuses on factors to improve human performance through strength and conditioning principles by examining hormonal responses to resistance training. He recently published a paper titled: ‘The effects of strongman training on salivary testosterone in a sample of trained men’ in the journal Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Background of the study

The unconventional style of strongman training that incorporates lifting and pulling oddly shaped objects such as sleds, stones, anvils, and tractor tires has increased in popularity in the strength and conditioning field. The large amount of muscle mass that is recruited coupled with the physiological stress that is imposed on the athlete from performing these lifts is an ideal training program for athletes to increase muscular strength. Strongman training consists of high intensity resistance training sessions with short rest periods eliciting an extreme amount of physiological arousal. This results in an increased amount of lactic acid accumulation which subsequently results in an anabolic response post exercise. Typically, an increase in testosterone and growth hormone levels are reported from high intensity resistance training. However that will depend on a number of factors, such as the training status of the sample size and the selection of exercises.

Albeit some critics believe the increased testosterone response from strength training is not a function of muscle hypertrophy, a much larger body of evidence supports the integral role acute hormonal response from high intensity resistance training has on strength adaptation. The current study examined the salivary testosterone response from two novel strongman training programs compared to an established traditional hypertrophy program that acutely elevates testosterone levels.

Findings

Compared to traditional hypertrophy training, strongman training did not have a pronounced spike in testosterone immediate post exercise. However, strongman training appeared to have a greater extended testosterone release at 30 minutes post exercise compared to traditional hypertrophy training.

Although our sample sized was considered well trained, they were more familiar with the hypertrophy exercises than the strongman exercises, which may have blunted the testosterone response immediate post exercise. The rationale for this is the psychological nature of the hormonal response in our subjects may have a caused a different response to the programs with which they were unfamiliar with or disliked.

Implications

Our findings have practical applications regarding exercise prescription for designing resistance training programs stimulating testosterone release. The unique and exciting style of strongman training provides an effective alternative method for strength practitioners to implement into their strength and conditioning programs.

Additional research

Additional studies should focus on examining the endocrine response from various strongman training programs with larger, stronger, and more experienced strongman athletes. This will provide a better understanding of the hormonal responses to strongman training to subjects who are more familiar with the exercises.

Increasing awareness

Popular media and televised strongman competitions need to continue to be advertised so that strength and conditioning coaches and exercise science researchers can become more familiar with the strongman training style.

Advice from the field

Exercise science is a growing field because of the different career paths people can choose. In addition, strength and conditioning has a more scientific approach now than ever. Therefore, prospective students should seek a strong background in science, physiology, and have a passion for exercise in their personal lifestyle.

About the department

The mission of the undergraduate and graduate exercise science programs at Hofstra University is to prepare highly skilled professionals who can design and implement safe, effective, fitness exercise programs for adults with a variety of fitness needs. Our department provides a broad liberal arts education which includes courses in psychosocial aspects in motivation and interpersonal communications. The Exercise Science curriculum encompasses scientific, physiological, and psychological concepts related to athletic performance, physical fitness evaluation, and chronic disease risk reduction using physical activity.

The undergraduate program in Exercise Science and the graduate program in Sport Science have been officially recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a preparatory program in the field of strength and conditioning.