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Hormonal Effects of Heavy Deadlifting

author image Anthony Marrone
Anthony Marrone holds a Ph.D. in kinesiology from the University of Michigan where he worked in both the athletic and nutrition departments. He began writing in 1985 and his writing has appeared in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" and the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."
Hormonal Effects of Heavy Deadlifting
A woman is deadlifting. Photo Credit: Bojan656/iStock/Getty Images

The deadlift allows you to build muscle and power, strengthen your skeleton and improve your physique. The effect heavy training has on your hormonal system plays a key role in your progress. Hormone levels such as testosterone and growth hormone increase following a heavy deadlift session. Heavy training must be balanced with rest and recovery, or other hormones may limit your progress. Consult your health care provider before beginning any exercise regimen.

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The Deadflit

The deadlift is unlike many other lifts, as the bar starts on the floor and you must pull it from a fixed position. To safely do this, ensure that you do not round your back, and get your hips as low as possible before starting to lift. Your hands should grip the bar just outside your legs, and your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Do not bend your arms or look down when deadlifting. The sumo deadlift is a common deadlift variation, where your feet are wider than your shoulders and your hands grip the bar inside your legs. This allows you to use your legs more and your back less.


Testosterone is the primary anabolic hormone, and men produce far more than women, although women still produce testosterone. This hormone is responsible for many things, including muscle repair and the growth of additional muscle tissue. Heavy deadlift training with short rest periods can increase your production of testosterone. Heavy means training with at least 75 percent of the limit you can lift for a single repetition. High-repetition sets with light weight do little to stimulate your testosterone production.

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone is a hormone produced by your pituitary gland, and it is responsible for tissue healing, bone strength, muscle growth and fat loss. Intense training such as deadlifting can stimulate growth hormone production, but intense training with short rest periods stimulates growth hormone production even more. By keeping your rest periods under 90 seconds, you can stimulate your body to produce more growth hormone. Never rush into your next set if you are not fully recovered, however. Do not sacrifice safety for a slight chance of increasing a hormone level.


Cortisol is a catabolic hormone. Cortisol will allow you to generate energy by cannibalizing other tissue, including muscle tissue. High levels of cortisol are produced by overtraining. Cortisol levels can also rise if you wait too long in between sets when training in the gym. Sitting around for five minutes between sets of deadlifts may make your legs and back feel better, but your endocrine system will increase cortisol production to make more energy available. By keeping your rest periods short, you not only produce more growth hormone, you keep your cortisol levels suppressed.

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