Testosterone and the secret of athletes success

Thursday, 11 de February de 2021

Testosterone is a hormone characterized as a steroid with a broad concentration in our body. It is one of the most studied hormones for playing an important role in physical performance and behaviour (BHASIN, 2001; CREWTHER et al., 2006; HERBST e BHASIN, 2004).

The contribution of testosterone in physical performance is related to both muscle hypertrophy (KVORNING et al., 2006), as well as in the athlete's strength and power, whether in team-sports (e.g., basketball, rugby) or individual sports (e.g., judo, running). The training process helps to modify the cellular structure to make them more sensitive to testosterone receptors, improving the cells' functioning. Therefore, with training and adequate rest, the athlete improves testosterone in muscle recovery and growth. "Sleep helps muscle growth."  

The bioavailability of the concentration of endogenous testosterone (produced in our body) also is related to behaviour. Yes, we can increase testosterone release when we experience feelings like aggression and anger. When we demonstrated a dominant behaviour, protecting our territory, and raising our libido and during the sexual function.

Several study groups have explored how image visualization can rapidly induce changes in testosterone concentrations in the past few decades. So, what images/videos would these be?    

The first experiment was reported by Pirke et al. (1974), in which participants increases testosterone concentration in plasm after watching "sensual films" compared to a neutral film. In the sport's settings, Cook and Crewther (2011) asked a group of rugby athletes to watch videos with mood content, motivation to train, and erotic content, demonstrating an increase in salivary testosterone concentration after the videos as well as an increase in the jump' power when compared to neutral situation. 

The sport settings can also influence the testosterone concentrations of athletes. It was observed that athletes with greater motivation show an increase in testosterone concentrations and reducing fear (VAN HONK et al., 2005). Other situations are also associated with play: sports teams that play in their stadiums tend to have higher testosterone concentrations compared to games away from home. This increase in testosterone has been associated with territoriality and dominance behaviour, which means, protection of their territory against the visiting team (CARRÉ et al., 2006).

Understanding this priming can increase the athlete's motivation for the next action (AARTS et al., 2009). Along with the previous evidence, it is possible that watching a motivational video, combined with a more evident positive preparation from a trainer (i.e., positive verbal feedback), can produce a greater testosterone response to improve the athlete's behaviour and subsequent performance in a game. On the other hand, watching a stressful video and receiving somewhat negative feedback from the trainer (for example, warning feedback or negative warnings) can have the opposite effect on these results.


Did you know that not only athletes but you as a fan can also increase your endogenous testosterone concentrations on game days? Bernhardt et al. (1998) reported increases in testosterone levels for fans of sports teams that won the game compared to teams that lost the game.

Enjoy these strategies, make an exceptional game!

Text: Profa. Luciane Moscaleski

Review: Profa. Dra. Ana Carolina Paludo



  1. AARTS, Henk; VAN HONK, Jack. Testosterone and unconscious positive priming increase human motivation separately. Neuroreport, v. 20, n. 14, p. 1300-1303, 2009.
  2. BHASIN, S.; WOODHOUSE, L.; STORER, T. W. Hormones and Sport-Proof of the effect of testosterone on skeletal muscle. Journal of endocrinology, v. 170, n. 1, p. 27-38, 2001.
  3. Carré, J., Muir, C., Belanger, J., and Putnam, S. K. (2006). Pre-competition hormonal and psychological levels of elite hockey players: relationship to the ‘home advantage’. Physiology & Behavior, 89(3), 392-398
  4. COOK, Christian J.; CREWTHER, Blair T. The effects of different pre-game motivational interventions on athlete free hormonal state and subsequent performance in professional rugby union matches. Physiology & behavior, v. 106, n. 5, p. 683-688, 2012.
  5. CREWTHER, Blair; CRONIN, John; KEOGH, Justin. Possible stimuli for strength and power adaptation. Sports medicine, v. 35, n. 11, p. 967-989, 2005.
  6. SALVADOR, Alicia et al. Correlating testosterone and fighting in male participants in judo contests. Physiology & behavior, v. 68, n. 1-2, p. 205-209, 1999.
  7. VAN HONK, Jack; PEPER, Jiska S.; SCHUTTER, Dennis JLG. Testosterone reduces unconscious fear but not consciously experienced anxiety: implications for the disorders of fear and anxiety. Biological psychiatry, v. 58, n. 3, p. 218-225, 2005.

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Luciane Moscaleski



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