“You’re All a Bunch of Pathetic Weaklings,” Says the Steroid Using Powerlifter

“Why is it, that weak lifters always have to make the claim that stronger people are using steroids?”

Recently, an anabolic steroid using powerlifting poked fun of me (a natural lifter) for being weak. When I asked him if he used steroids (I already knew the answer to the question), rather than answer me, the anabolic steroid using powerlifter replied with the question above.

I would now like to take the time to answer this question. Here’s why.

Anabolic steroids make the average lifter WAY stronger and more muscular. When steroids are added to the mix, it changes the rules.


For the record, I have no problem with lifters who use anabolic steroids. Dozens of lifting partners of mine over the years have used them, and I honestly couldn’t care less, as long as they went about it in a wise and safe manner. However, I have a HUGE problem with anabolic steroid using lifters who poke fun of natural lifters for being weak. In fact, I believe it’s one of the most deplorable things I see on the internet. Think about it – these individuals are taking substances that artificially make them bigger and stronger, then going around and bullying lifters who are natural. If you do this, it makes you absolutely pathetic.

Lately, I’ve seen an onslaught of comments from steroid-using powerlifters that are quite puzzling to say the least. Here are two of them: “Steroids don’t do the work for you, sure they help you recover faster but you still have to put in the work,” and, “Natural lifters love to play the steroid card, but 90% of it is hard work, nutrition, and consistency.” WHO DO THEY THINK THEY’RE KIDDING? Do these guys really believe this? Steroid-using powerlifters and bodybuilders don’t work any harder than natural powerlifters and bodybuilders. We all put in the work, it’s just that steroid-users have drastically altered physiology which causes them to see much greater gains.

In my experience, many steroid-users grossly underestimate the role that steroids play in their strength development. I’d have a lot more respect for the lifter who admitted that without steroids, he’d be pretty ordinary in terms of strength and physique. In fact, one of my lifting friends openly admits this, and it cracks me up. He’s a jacked cop (ironic, I know), and he’s said on numerous occasions that, “Man, before I took roids, you could barely tell I lifted weights. Now guys envy my physique and women flock to me.” This guy is honest to a fault, but he makes us all laugh.

Many steroid-using powerlifters don’t have a good grip on what transfers best for the natural lifter, and they don’t optimally understand program design for the natural lifter. Why? Because many of them have never controlled variables. Fluctuating drug cycles confound training/nutrition cycles. Because when the going got tough, many of them simply took more steroids. Many figure out quickly that taking another gram of testosterone or adding in trenbolone transferred very well to strength and got them through their training ruts. Because it came too easy for many of them. Most never spent 8 months hammering the bench press, only to gain a meager 10 lbs of strength. Many never took the time to learn the effects of different protocols. When they were stagnating, many simply took more juice.

It reminds me of this Robert DeNiro speech in Limitless.

As a consequence, I’ve found that many training programs written by steroid users are too harsh for natural lifters; some of these programs contain excessive volume which the average natural lifter could not recover from. This is why it’s important for lifters and coaches working with natural lifters to train naturally themselves (or at least cycle on and off for ample amounts of time) and to train or train with natural lifters.

Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, I’d like to discuss some aspects of testosterone and androgen usage. There are several articles that I will call upon, which are linked below. Please click on them if you’d like to download the full papers.


Testosterone dose-response relationships in healthy young men


Testosterone Concentrations in Women Aged 25–50 Years: Associations with Lifestyle, Body Composition, and Ovarian Status

Testosterone Facts

The first thing you should know about testosterone is how much a normal person makes. Healthy men produce approximately 4.0–9.0 mg of testosterone per day, with blood concentrations ranging from 300 to 1,000 ng/dL (10.4–34.7 nmol/L). Females typically make 1/10 to 1/20 of this amount and have blood concentrations in the range of 15 to 65 ng/dL (0.5–2.3 nmol/L).

So, if you’re a male, your testicles pump out approximately 7 mgs/day of testosterone. In males, around 95% of this testosterone is made in the Leydig cells of the testis, whereas 5% is made via conversion in the adrenal cortex. Around 2% of this testosterone is free (unbound) in the bloodstream, whereas 35-38% is bound to albumin and 60-63% is bound to sex-hormone-binding-globulin (SHBG). In women, around 50% of testosterone is produced through peripheral conversion of androstenedione, with the remainder of production concentrated in the ovary (25 percent) and adrenal cortex (25 percent).

Quantities Taken by Elite Lifters

Now let’s look at what amounts the top lifters are taking. Here is a quote from a recent Ryan Kennelly video. For those of you who don’t know who Ryan Kennelly is, he used to be the strongest geared bench presser in the world, until he got put behind bars for selling steroids and other drugs. Here’s what Ryan had to say about steroid use and strength development.

“Basically later on in life instead of getting steroids from my friends and having to buy them, I got on the internet and realized that they can be purchased on the Internet in raw form. Basically testosterone powder and all the raw forms of the ingredients and it was much cheaper. So I invested in that because in 2003 when I benched eight hundred and knew I had to go for 900 I knew I needed a large amount of steroids.


The amount that I was taking like I referenced earlier, waking up to three syringes which was nine cc’s pointing up in the air in the bathroom when I woke up each morning. I also ended up going to the ranch home store because, why have three needles when you can buy a large syringe that were used for horses that had like 25 CC’s/25 milliliters and just fill that up? So the amount of steroids that I had were for personal use and not for resale or distribution.

Let me make a point, the amount that I was taking in 2003 consisted of at that time, going for 900 pounds, I was taking twenty five hundred milligrams of testosterone a week, eight hundred milligrams of nandrolone deconate a week, 75 milligrams of dbol a day and there was also fast-acting testosterones that I was taking upwards of a hundred milligrams of those a day.

The long-acting testosterone from my calculations the plasma half-life is about 14 days they kick in in about seven days but seven days wasted I need some that’s kicking in now. I would take testosterone propionate or testosterone no ester that I would make up myself in oil with sterile alcohol, sterile needles, sterile syringe filters. I would make bottles of it because I was going through upwards (bottle holds pan 10-13 milliliters of liquid) through roughly 10 bottles every 10 days at the time.


At that point it didn’t seem like a lot because if you know anything about injecting and how steroids work in the body, there are things your body called receptors. They are like flowers and after a while your flower start to will, meaning the amount you’re taking to 1500 milligrams and you’re not getting the desired effect. This is because your body is not accepting it so in return you take more. Or you take more of a different ester like testosterone cypionate is one ester.  You take twenty five hundred milligrams. Once your body gets used to that, you change to testosterone enanthate, which can attach it to a different receptor.

By juggling these things at the time you learn that you can only inject so much. Your body can only handle so much injected into itself. Then you start consuming these oral powders and using insulin as a transport drug. What insulin does is it unlocks the cells in your muscle and it is very dangerous taking insulin. People could die and it’s something you go to your local Walmart and buy a bottle of humulin-r insulin for twenty-five dollars. Basically what insulin does is it shuttle’s all what you consume in your body into your muscle.

So basically I was taking the steroid powders, taking a tablespoon of certain ones adding it with orange flavored tang and I would drink these throughout the course the day. I would inject this medium acting insulin that in my mind, according to other athletes I spoke with at the Arnold classic and other athletes from overseas, this a technique that they are using now. They claimed increased water retention increased size and increase strength.

images (1)

So on top of injecting 3- 4,000 milligrams a week I was also consuming orally as time went on. This upset my stomach, made me pale, and made me puke. That didn’t last very long because you cannot lift and gain weight when your pale sick and puking. In my mind that’s not going to be what benefits you in the long run.”

Ignoring the fact that Ryan was wrong about some of his steroid knowledge, he confesses to taking the following amounts of steroids:

  • 2,500 mgs testosterone enanthate per week
  • 800 mgs of deca durabolin per week
  • 75 mgs of dianabol per day (525 mgs/wk)
  • 100 mgs of testosterone propionate per day (700 mgs/wk)
  • 4,525 mgs of anabolic steroids per week

6dc6c_ORIG-Ryan_Kennelly_Double_BicepsWhen Ryan wanted to get to a 1,000 lb bench press, he knew he needed even more steroids. He didn’t mention that he needed another two years of solid training, where he’d periodize his training and implement strategic assistance lifts at various time points. It was all about the steroids. He knew that this amount would take him to this level, and to get to the next level, he’d need to take this amount. At any rate, let’s compare the milligrams of androgens for a natural lifter and world class bench presser:

Natural Lifter: 7 mgs testosterone/day
Ryan Kennelly: 646 mgs androgens/day

It has been reported that many top bodybuilders will take between 1,000-2,000 mgs/wk of anabolic steroids per week, with some reaching up to 5,000 mgs/wk (see HERE, HERE, and HERE). I’ve heard rumors of powerlifting gyms bragging that their main lifters take a minimum of 3,000 mgs/wk of testosterone as a base, while adding orals on top of it. As I mentioned earlier, normal blood levels of testosterone range from 300-1,000 ng/dL. It has been reported that pro bodybuilders tend to have testosterone levels of around 3,500 ng/dL, with a maximum of 21,000 ng/dL (see HERE), but keep in mind that they’re taking a lot more than just testosterone (they also might be taking steroids with names such as Deca-Durabolin, Dianabol, Winstrol, Primobolan, Equipoise, or Trenbolone, along with other drugs such as IGF-1, Cytomel, Human Growth Hormone, and Clenbuterol).

What Does Testosterone Do? 

Here are the various effects of testosterone:

  • Increases lean body mass
  • Increases cardiac tissue mass
  • Decreases body fat percentage
  • Increases isometric and dynamic muscle strength and power
  • Enhances recovery ability between workouts
  • Increases protein synthesis, accretion, and nitrogen retention
  • Decreases catabolism
  • Increases muscle cross-sectional area
  • Stimulates growth of the epiphyseal plate
  • Increases erythropoiesis, hemoglobin, and hematocrit
  • Increased vasodilation
  • Increases bone mineral content, density, and markers of bone growth
  • Regulation of osteoblasts, bone matrix production, and organization
  • Increases glycogen and creatine phosphate storage
  • Increases lipolysis and low-density lipoproteins and decreases high-density lipoproteins
  • Increases neural transmission, neurotransmitter release, myelinization, and regrowth of damaged peripheral nerves
  • Repression of myostatin
  • Behavior modification (i.e., aggression)
  • Acute elevations in skeletal intramuscular calcium concentrations
  • Decreases sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)
  • Increased androgen receptor density (depending on the androgen, the dose, the duration, the muscle, and the tissue)
  • Increased satellite cells and androgen receptors in satellite cells

Many are aware of some of these effects, but most aren’t aware of all of them. Testosterone works through a variety of anabolic, anti-catabolic, neural, and psychological mechanisms.

How Does Testosterone Effect Strength, Hypertrophy, and Body Composition?

Hopefully you downloaded the articles that I linked earlier and can explore the studies to a greater extent, but here are a couple of highlights from two of those papers:

In the following study, subjects were given either 25 mg, 50 mg, 125 mg, 300 mg, or 600 mgs of testosterone per week. The graphs below illustrate that testosterone’s effects on hypertrophy are fairly linear.


In the study below, subjects were given 600 mgs/wk of testosterone. In the group that exercised, this caused total testosterone levels to raise by approximately 800%, and free-testosterone levels to raise by over 600%. As you can see below, taking ample testosterone is better for hypertrophy than lifting weights, and taking testosterone on top of exercising is markedly better for strength than exercising-alone.


Anabolic Steroids are Used with Females Too

Most people assume that anabolic steroids are used only by males, but many top female powerlifters, top female bodybuilders, top female figure competitors, and even top female bikini competitors take anabolic steroids too. They do not openly discuss this, as they would be judged and ridiculed too extensively, but nevertheless it’s happening all over the world.

In this case, they don’t take testosterone as it’s more harsh for women and leads to too many undesirable side effects. Therefore, they’ll often take oxandralone (aka Anavar), which has a favorable anabolic: androgenic ratio for women. Because women typically possess 5-10% of the blood levels of testosterone that men do, they tend to respond very well to small doses of androgens such as oxandralone.

For this reason, often the routines espoused by steroid-using female lifters tend to not be progressive enough for natural lifting women.

It Goes Both Ways

While the steroid-using lifters need to be sympathetic of the natural lifters, the natural lifters also need to be sympathetic of the steroid-using lifters. Many natural guys tend to assume that if they did a steroid cycle, they’d blow up and be just like Dan Green. First of all, just like with natural lifting, there’s a large inter-individual variation in the response to steroids. Some guys blow up and other guys don’t grow too much. Second, these guys should certainly be respected as they’re putting a boatload of weight on their backs or in their hands every day. One minor mistake can lead to Snap City. When you’re squatting 3 hundy, you have more wiggle room with improper form, but with a grand, your form better be spot on. This is why bodybuilders often adjust their programs so they’re not using so much weight on big lifts, for example utilizing pre-exhaustion techniques, high reps, drop sets, ultra-strict form, and pause reps.

Finally, the life of a steroid-user is not as glamorous as it seems. Steroids are expensive and illegal. They can do jail time if caught, and there are a lot of ancillary drugs and supplements that must also be taken to minimize the damage to their organs or to keep certain hormones in normal ranges (ex: Nolvadex). Their bloodwork (hematocrit, cholesterol profile, etc.) and blood pressure is often atrocious. They battle with sleep apnea and fluctuating moods and sex-drives, and many have trouble performing simple daily task such as wiping their butts or washing their backs. Last, their caloric intake is much higher (and expensive), and it becomes a chore to meet calorie and protein requirements day in and day out. The grass is not always greener on the other side.



Most of us lifters couldn’t care less if our colleagues experiment with anabolic steroids. Personally, I don’t judge lifters who take roids. However, I do have a problem with steroid-using lifters who surf the net and poke fun of natural lifters, and with steroid-using lifters who deny or attempt to understate their efficacy. If you take anabolic steroids, remain humble and enjoy your expedited strength and hypertrophic gains. Ripping on natural lifters when you take steroids make you a pathetic, mentally-fragile bully.

Ten years ago, I did some MMA training for a couple of years. We had around a dozen gym rats come through our doors during this time, and most of them only lasted a day. They’d get choked out or pounded around by guys half their size, and the vast majority had egos that got the best of them which enticed them to quit on the spot. I can’t help but wonder if some of these same bullying powerlifters would poke fun of the much weaker MMA fighters if they were face-to-face. If so, they’d get their butts handed to them. I respect powerlifting strength very much, but I respect humility even more. At any rate, I hope this article sheds some light on why natural lifters “play the steroid card” when steroid-using lifters are talking smack.


63 thoughts on ““You’re All a Bunch of Pathetic Weaklings,” Says the Steroid Using Powerlifter

  1. @jansen_ongko

    Thanks for writing this sensitive topic Bret. Much respect to you.
    I don’t have problem with roiders actually but I have problem with some of them who lied to people that taking certain fitness supplement can make their muscle grow bigger in short amount of time. Sound familiar, huh?

    Jansen Ongko

    1. Cass

      Thanks so much for this article. @ Scott Parson, I agree. I am a natural pro figure competitor with the IFPA and these days I have no clue if the women I’m competing against are truly steroid free, or anabolic-supplement free or whatever you call it, because a friend of mine in an amateur “natural,” drug-tested show confided to me after her first show, that she and a couple other competitors working with one trainer in particular were all on HGH during the show. They passed their poly’s before the show and got in. My trainer, who used to use, and I had a conversation about this and as I understand it now after that conversation and more that followed with him and a person who works in a lab, is that urine testing for drug-free shows does not include tests that detect steroids or HGH. How in the world are we “natural” competitors supposed to know what we’re actually going up against? I used to be so naive about these things, now I know that after 20 years of non-stop training, when I compete I can only go in hoping I’ve improved from the year before and that maybe after this many years of lifting, I can show what consistent training will do for the over-40 lifters, compared to the young pups in their 20′s who use. I can’t go in thinking it’s a level playing field and worry about how I place compared to others who I don’t know if they are using or not. At 42, I still feel like I’m growing, getting stronger, and look better every year, whereas by 40, heavy gear-users likely won’t feel that great, right? I wouldn’t trade the feeling of being healthier and stronger the older I get for anything. ANYTHING!

      1. Chris

        Yeah, its incredible. Incredibly dumb: What he basically and only repeats ad nauseum as a counter argument is that “people are different”.

        Well, this is true, and thats why his anecdotal evidence and studies alike show variation. (for the smartass lifters: the “standard deviation”, SD, and other measurements of variation are written in every single study along arithmetic means).

        BUT what they also clearly show is that steroid use DRASTICALLY alters the mean. And that means that some in fact may react little to steroids, but not many, because otherwise it wouldnt show those huge improved means (and especially medians). its simple math. So AS AN AVERAGE, steroid use strongly pushes boundaries. you dont believe this? go read the graphs again.

        1. Paul

          LOL so is what I wrote”incredibly dumb” or “true”? Because generally the truth isn’t dumb.

          You can refer to graphs all day but it doesn’t cancel out the anecdotal evidence of what I and many others have seen. And that is, steroids aren’t going to make you elite, or make you a champion, and that for a lot of people it doesn’t even make them very good. Will it make them better than if they trained without them? Of course. However, the point I was trying to make was that variations between what people get out of them are far and wide, and for some people you’d never even know they took anabolics based on looks and lifts alone. And that’s sort of what Bret was getting at. That they will improve by a far and wide margin, and I can tell you that’s not the case every single time.

          Thanks for playing.

          1. Bret Post author

            This is a great dialogue, and both sides of the argument deserve attention. Chris is right; despite there existing large variation, the averages (means) will be dramatically increased (as shown in the studies). So yes, steroids increase strength and power and hypertrophy – there’s no arguing that. Otherwise all these lifters wouldn’t be taking them.

            But what’s so puzzling is the interindividual variability with steroids. If you’ve been training in commercial gyms for a decade or two, then you’ve undoubtedly witnessed this first hand, and this is what Paul was getting at. I knew of a guy 15 years ago who would take 200mgs of test cypionate per week while barely training, and would blow up. He looked like a different person – acne breakout, bloated face, and hulking muscles. I know of another guy who currently takes 500mgs of test enanthate per week while training hard and consistently, and you seriously can’t even tell that he lifts weights. How is this so? How can an individual take a boatload of steroids and not gain a ton of hypertrophy and strength? Knowing their physiological effects, it’s puzzling that this occurs (but it does). Is it androgen-receptor density? Is it lack of satellite cell response? Is there some sort of “anti-chemical” that’s produced that negates the effects? I’m quite curious about this and would like to know more.

          2. Chris

            Sorry for the harsh words, Paul, but what you dont seem to understand ist that the evil, evil graphs show your anecdotal evidence of variation: Its the small lines on top of the big blocks; they depict the range, the so called “standard deviation”. that is the range between the upper and lower threshold (the lower part of the line goes downward into the block and cant be seen in the second study, as the blocks are bold black) two thirds of the people fall in. If you double the length of the small lines, youll have the range 95% of the people fall in. Do that with the graphs above and youll see the ranges.

            Please fetch a ruler and really do that because then you will see the great average impact and your anecdotally “implored” outliers. Remember: two thirds within the given small lines, 95% within double the length of the lines – freaks beyond both ends (the genetically gifted and cursed) then comprise 5%.

            For example, go to the second study, the two black blocks in the lower right corner, “squatting strenght, training groups, with and without steroids”: Youll see that even if you double the small line on top of the block and draw it downwards into the block – it still ends up at a higher point than the top of the black block at its left. That means 97.5% of the people taking steroids with exercise have a higher squatting strength than those taking no steroids and training (training exactly the same, as that was made sure in the study) – the 2.5% that dont respond to taking steroids and respond worse (due to really fucked up genetics or an underlying disease) to the training despite taking steroids are your outliers – do you really wanna spend your whole argumentation on those 2.5%?

            And insisting that there is variation when everyone knows there is and using that as a counter argument that steroids dont work for all that good all the time IS dumb. So, the differences in mean shown in various studies which only some of them are depicted above (steroids are known for a long time now and have been studied extensively as there are important potential applications for them even beyond jacking up the hobby powerlifter :) ) are so chchchcoooooge in the medical research realm that its like arguing there are people surviving a fall from the fourth floor: of course there are – but they still get an impact and the AVERAGE impact is pretty substantial. So while as I said I agree with your “truth” – its irrelevant in the big picture, that means the overwhelming majority of persons.

            Btw, the “poor” people who dont respond greatly to their self-prescribed steroids will respond to a kind of steroids if they were treated by an endocrinologist, which of course is difficult given the legal situation. In elite sports, this professional medical support is there and so are the success rates of treating even weak responders. Of course, elite sports is self-selective and not many not-so-gifted athletes even get there (the true, endlessly repeated, but irrelevant argument that XY would crush the majority of natty lifters even if taking no steroids).

          3. Chris

            Correction to my comment above: Its the mean CHANGE in squatting strength, not the absolute strength, after the training program.

          4. Patrick

            You can’t claim that lifter a gets strong on tren but lifter b doesn’t without a GC/MS done on both vials of tren. Surely you know that the black market isn’t known for quality control. Steroids work. Very, very well. Not every steroid source sells high quality gear, far from it. 50% of the labeled dose is pretty good for tren.

          1. Chris

            A a cardiologist doesnt need to have a heart attack to talk and treat about atherosclerosis, a psychologist doesnt need to take drugs to treat substance users, you dont need to put yourself in a frying pan to talk about steaks (—> by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxim_Gorky ) and no, i dont need to run cycles to talk about steroids.

            Any arguments on the topic?

  2. Brandon

    Good article. However, I do think you are overemphasizing how much work steroids do. I am a natural lifter, always have been, and I train with a few guys that are on anabolics. Our absolute strength levels are actually comparable and they actually all outweigh me by 50 lbs. In terms of powerlifting coefficient, it’s not even close.

    I also train with more volume than these guys. This brings me to my second point. I actually believe that natural trainees need MORE volume than drugged competitors. As you mentioned, steroids give lifters and advantages and as a result, they don’t need as much of a stimulus to achieve the same results. All you have to do is compare the volumes of lifters like Mike Tuchscherer and the Lilliebridges. While I can’t say for certain Mike T is drug free, I think there is a good chance he is considering he competes in the IPF, which is drug tested. Mike T trains very high volume and I think squats several times per week. Compare that to the Lilliebridges who only train 3 times per week and squats heavy every other week. Another example is Sheiko vs Westside. Drug free lifters in the IPF love Sheiko and get very good results with it. Westside is much lower volume than Sheiko and Westside is the training system of choice for steroid using multi-ply powerlifters.

    I enjoyed the rest of the article and by the way the guy that picked on you (I can’t remember his name) is a nobody, so don’t worry and keep doing what you are doing.

    1. Bret Post author

      Brandon, very good points. I’ve thought a lot about this and here are my thoughts. I think that natural lifters do better with more frequency, and their total volume probably should be higher too. However, I’m referring to a couple of systems I’ve seen that would run most people into the ground. For example, if a program has you doing deadlifts along with good mornings and shrugs and bent over rows on the same day (with two of these types of days per week), or working deadlifts along with block/rack pulls and deficit work on the same day – all done to failure, or if a system doesn’t deload and has you trying to PR on deadlifts every single week, or if a program doesn’t taper the volume as intensity is ramped up to a meet, etc. My assumption is that the lifters who could get away with this are taking tons of stuff, and the natural lifters would be run into the ground (and also I believe that these programs aren’t ideal for the assisted-lifters, but they can still make some progress on these types of programs). And I agree with your statement about coefficients. Thanks for chiming in here!

  3. Jim

    Bret – I’m 47 year old man and weigh around 200# at 5’7″. I’m on a TRT program from my doctor that consists of 1 cc of Testosterone Cypinate a week. I was on a cream but did not want my wife or kids being exposed to it. I do local powerlifting meets and while I know that I can’t say that i’m 100% natural I also don’t feel that my usage gives me an unfair advantage, without TRT my testosterone levels were in the tank around 250. Am I fooling myself?

    1. Bret Post author

      Jim, in your case I definitely agree that you should be using TRT. I also think that federations should clearly define what ranges are allowable for TRT. For example, if 1 cc per week has you at 1,200 ng/dL, then this would probably give you a bit of an unfair advantage. But if it puts you at 800, then it’s more reasonable. I have natural lifting friends who are at 400, and other friends who are at 800 naturally, but I’ve never had any friends at over 1,000 (though it’s “normal” in the literature). Perhaps if you had an experienced sports doc/endocrinologist, they could get you back to a more normal range through hCG/clomid/nolvadex, but I doubt it would get you to the same level that 1 cc of cypionate/wk would get you to. This is a controversial topic for sure.

    2. John V

      I would say that if your T levels are now within normal range, then you don’t have an unfair advantage. However, natural lifters can have their T levels fluctuate due to age, injury to the testes, etc. If you’re injecting I assume you won’t fluctuate. In addition, age is a factor in natural T production. At 47 you should expect a natural decline in T. So, again, if your T levels are 800 + then you’re definitely getting something most people don’t have young OR old.

  4. David

    Well done Brett. Great research with nice segues from one subject to the next. When I train myself (and when I trained others), it is all about being the best a body can be, and that is different for each one of us. I have seen steroids and HGH destroy the lives of formerly disciplined and well meaning people, so I prefer that genie stay in the bottle. It is only a matter of time before even the most conservative steroid user gets burned; either by injury, internal organ/psyche/health problems, and as you mentioned, even the law.

  5. Menno Henselmans

    “Most of us lifters couldn’t care less if our colleagues experiment with anabolic steroids. ”

    I agree with everything except this. Steroids are extremely stigmatized. Admitting to using them often entails career suicide. If only people didn’t care what other people did to their own bodies, a lot of societal problems would disappear…

    1. sarah

      Actually the opposite would happen. More societal problems would occur. When people lose personal responsibility others have to make up for it.

      For instance, what happens to the drug abuser with no health insurance who overdoses? He requires medical care but cant pay for it. Everyone else has to pay more to make up for it.

      We should care, and things that can be a burden to society should be stigmatized. Unconditional tolerance is only nice in theory…

  6. Rick

    Great article and I smiled when I read “Snap city”. Are you a Hodgetwins fan? Regardless, it’s a great phrase.

  7. Andrew D

    Hey Brett,

    Do you ever consider just doing a cycle of T just to see the effects. You know, for scientific research. I must admit as I grow older, my curiosity grows stronger. Not sure it will ever happen, but as a trainer it would be interesting to know what impact it has from a personal perspective.

    1. Bret Post author

      I don’t think there’s any serious lifter who doesn’t wonder these things. I don’t just wonder about test, I wonder if I’d see great results from doing a heavier cycle. I wonder what I would look and perform like if I did a series of heavy cycles. However, I don’t want to be doing things that are illegal, I don’t want to become spoiled and accustomed to the rapid strength gains, I don’t want to be irritable (I already am from time to time LOL), and I don’t want to toy around with my hormonal balance, so I refrain.

  8. Dunkman

    Great stuff Brett. The other challenge is psychological. As with any other rewarding behavor, there will always be a high risk of developing an addiction or pattern of overuse. Most of the guys I knew who were using had difficulty knowing when enough was enough, and only backed off when something happened, like illness or injury. I’m not saying it is universal but it happens pretty often.

    1. Bret Post author

      Yep, I totally agree. I’ve seen patterns. Some end up taking more and more until it becomes a huge problem in their lives. Many for some reason deny their effectiveness (“sure, I take them, but they don’t help me much…I’d be just as strong and big without them.” – I’m like, “then why are you taking them???”). Some experience horrible side effects – I’ve known a couple of guys who couldn’t attain erections. To me, that’s more important than being hyooge! But their usage didn’t subside, nor did they try to investigate and figure out how to cycle more effectively so that these issues didn’t occur.

  9. Daniel

    Ok, you say that you don’t like it when guys that use steroids make fun of you because they have to use something to change them? make them bigger? Sooooo technically the same thing the natural guys do when they goto GNC or supplement store and buy that crap…. it isnt FDA approved and some are found to be close if not on level with steroids. So that sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. Truth is natural users want to get big as well, steroid users supplements just cost more. They normally put a hell of a lot more hours in the gym so yes they are allowed to call us weak,

    1. Martin

      Can you name one of these store-bought pills and powders which are in any way comparable to steroids?

      1. Derrick Blanton

        Man, a few years back, I scored some really POTENT, legal supplement shit on the interwebz. Shit, dude, I must have packed on like, 25-lbs. of pure muscle GAINZ in 6-weeks! For real, cuz..

        Then I jumped on this other one that damn near gave me SUPERPOWERS, bro! Hell, I felt so unbreakable, I started maxing out my DL EVERY DAY.

        But the madness didn’t stop there, boss.

        Nah, chief, I was on some kind of CRAZY, DIESEL TRAIN with a one way ticket to BAD-VILLE!

        I started maxing out FOUR OTHER COMPOUND LIFTS, too… every single day, bro.

        Anyways, dude, I gotta split. Dr. Oz. is on…

    2. Bret Post author

      Daniel, the only supps I take are whey protein, fish oil, and a multivitamin/mineral. These are found in food. If you’re referring to pro-hormones, then I agree, this would fall into the same category. But I disagree in that they put in a lot more hours than the rest of us serious lifters, and nobody should call others weak. We should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down.

    3. Dunkman

      How is time in the gym and effort a counter-argument? Those are both significantly enhanced by these drugs.

  10. Pawel

    I can’t really agree on the need of mutual respect between us (natties) and them. For starters, it’s them who we owe this view of a typical gym-goer (at least here in Poland) who is brainless and aggressive. Overheard story from my gym: a guy told his mate that he was on the verge of beating a policeman who pulled him over but in the end it “only” ended up with a n uncontrolled outburst of rage and a few minutes of swearing at him…Obviously they were both pretty amused by this story.
    Secondly, as mentioned in your article, a lot of naturals suffer from using inappropriate programs which were designed for juiced guys and who do them more harm than good for sure. And psychology should be mentioned, we don’t do records every single workout nor our muscles grow like theirs etc. So at the end of the day it’s us who seem to be “pathetic losers” while the truth it’s anyone but them! Sadly, at the end of the day we’re lumped together and people “judge” us as we were playing the same sport. Obviously, whether being concerned by opinions of other people is a good thing isn’t discussed here but if strength and muscle size are the biggest yardsticks in our field, we can’t really avoid the issue of comparisons. The thing is you can’t compare two different sports! It’s a fallacy (false analogy!).

    I have a slight feeling that your article could do with a tad bigger insight on the aftermath of steroids. Obviously I understand that it wasn’t meant as a thorough analysis of this matter so don’t worry :). However, so many young people literally fuck up their lives it’s not even funny (saying this even though I wholeheartedly despise people who take extremely risky shortcuts (so typical nowadays) just because they want to be smarter and avoid long, hard, often not very rewarding but beautiful journey which at the end of the day repays not only with ‘aesthetics’ but also great mental strength and personal development. Instead, thanks to this guys our sport is associated with a needle, overdeveloped traps and a poor quality of workouts (they don’t really need neither good form nor best exercises (e.g. they often choose leg press over squat which I find laughable but sums them up nicely).

    1. poor pawel

      you sound like you have a very pathetic amount of hostility to those who use drugs. also your knowledge of steroids is extremely poor. it sounds like you have low self esteem and those who you view secretly as “better than you” (they probably are, but not from a strength and size standpoint) make you feel even worse. get some counselling

      1. Pawel

        Well done, sir. “Criticize the post, not the poster” at its best.
        Rate Bret’s page too highly to waste its space on any pointless discussions with you.

        1. poor pawel

          all right then

          “Secondly, as mentioned in your article, a lot of naturals suffer from using inappropriate programs which were designed for juiced guys and who do them more harm than good for sure. And psychology should be mentioned, we don’t do records every single workout nor our muscles grow like theirs etc. So at the end of the day it’s us who seem to be “pathetic losers” while the truth it’s anyone but them! ”
          so you being too dumb to actually use a program suitable for you is the fault of people using steroids? ok…
          them PRing every session makes them pathetic losers? ok…
          “I can’t really agree on the need of mutual respect between us ” basically you’re an asshole who cant accept that other people have goals different to yours?
          “nstead, thanks to this guys our sport is associated with a needle, overdeveloped traps and a poor quality of workouts (they don’t really need neither good form nor best exercises (e.g. they often choose leg press over squat which I find laughable but sums them up nicely).”
          i am on gear, and i guarantee i squat deeper, more often, heavier and with more volume than you.
          “However, so many young people literally fuck up their lives it’s not even funny ” please show examples of this.
          “saying this even though I wholeheartedly despise people who take extremely risky shortcuts ” you dont seem to understand that steroids can be a shortcut, and also not be a shortcut. some idiots take them to have abs at the beach because they are too lazy to work for them, some take them to be the best at their sport where everyone else is also using them, and they would not reach that top level without them. is that a shortcut? after busting their asses for 5-10 years? moron

          1. Sven

            I don’t have much respect for most users either, and poor p’s post is not going to change that…

          2. poor pawel

            to sven below me, i strongly doubt most users would give a shit what someone who knows nothing about the topic thinks of them.

  11. Samuel Russell

    This study was eye-opening when I read it: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101#Results=&t=articleResults

    Basically, they tested four groups of people. One trained with steroids. One trained with placebo. One took steroids but didn’t train. One didn’t train and took placebo. Of course training with steroids is best and not training and taking placebo didn’t do much. But the group that took steroids without training actually had marginally better results in terms of muscle growth and strength improvement than the guys training naturally. It’s one study. But it’s incredible to think that taking steroids is literally more effective than strength training.

  12. random former juicer

    Great article on a basic level making fun of people is well….childish , i think all of us adults basically know that. I find it funny that the majority of things that people brag about they were born with and frankly didn’t earn so its not really to their fault or credit they attained said characteristic.

    If someone is chemically giving themselves an advantage what are they bragging about exactly ?…….This is not a condemnation of those that enhance merely that it seems a bit silly to brag about something that you had ‘chemical assistance’ in attaining. I am in my early 40′s i am mostly lifting now for function and quality of life so the idea of getting back on steroids just seems nuts to me so ya its been at least 15 years since i have taken any.

    I forgot the name of the principle but there is a danger in assuming that our own experience can be applied to others so i don’t want to generalize my experiences to be true for everyone because there are a myriad of both physical and psychological factors that do not apply to everyone equally. So with that said lemme get to a point that i feel is worth mentioning with this discussion.

    When i was on steroids the amount of exercise i was able to do and the level of intensity i was able to maintain without feeling like i was dead tired , was dramatically higher. I do have high natural levels of hematocrit ( so to be fair i have to mention this ), and have battled depression all my life so i had A LOT of incentive to wanna be in the gym and to work very hard. Exercise for me was my escape its what made me feel good and made me feel more alive. Most of my fellow steroid using friends without a single exception all had a similar thing going on they simply were able to do more work however you want to define that. So i do feel that drug taking athletes can maintain high intensity for longer, along with increased recovery and more aggression to train harder its just another advantage that drugs give.

    I am also of the belief that people who train hard do so regardless of the drugs they take or don’t take, i didn’t train less hard off drugs i just got tired sooner……

    I am by no means a doctor or an expert but i simply discussing what i experienced and saw being around a variety of athletes both natural and drug takers in a variety of sports. I may be wrong about this but i think the reason steroid using athletes don’t get as tired as quickly is because the amount of testosterone in their blood stream does not drop off after a certain point which it does with natural athletes.

    If you watch the documentary Bigger Stronger Faster and see the interview with Louie Simmons he make the point that drug taking athletes work harder and if your someone who is inclined to work your butt off in the gym and you can do that for longer and still make progress why wouldn’t you ? Your personality is already inclined to work hard. This does not mean that natural athletes are lesser in any way , frankly i could make the argument that if your not willing to harm your health just to get a bit bigger and stronger than maybe your a more well rounded less obsessive more mentally healthy person and THAT is a much bigger deal than occupying more space physically or having a larger amount of weight being lifted…..

    My personal view on steroids is why put yourself at risk when you don’t have to ? If i had my 40 yr. old brain in my young body would i have taken steroids …hell no. But if i had to do it over again with the mentality i had as a younger man would i take steroids again….of course.

    Another thing i wanted to point out benching squatting and dead lifting take on a whole different feel when you get into the really heavy weights. Certainly i could high rep squatting and feel like i am gonna die afterwards but what if you feel that way just backing out of the rack because for me personally when i started getting into the really heavy weights lifting weights stopped being fun. Around that same time i started getting into MMA so lifting really heavy was no longer that important but…….just remember those elite level powerlifters on drugs or not have a drive to push themselves that is hard to appreciate unless you have experienced it.

    1. Derrick Blanton

      Hi rfj, great post. This is a very honest and thoughtful perspective. Thank you for sharing it!

      You mentioned that if you had it all over to do again, as a younger man, you would likely still choose to juice. You sound like a very thoughtful and introspective guy. I am extremely interested in psychology and sociology and curious as to what extent social context plays into this, so if you are still around, I had an honest question/scenario:

      Say at age 20, you found yourself shipwrecked, and miraculously managed to swim to safety to a remote island. You are the lone survivor, and the small island is absolutely deserted. Much to your relief, you find the island has plentiful sources of natural food, protein, and fresh water. In addition, you discover an abandoned fully equipped gym, as well as comfortable sleeping arrangements, etc.. Inside the gym’s storage room, you also find crates and crates of anabolic steroids of every variety.

      After a few months, you begin to accept that you will live out your life on this island in social isolation. No social media, no PL competitions, no bros slapping your back, no women, nada. Nothing but you, the island, and the gym.

      Train or no train?

      Juice or no juice?

      1. Trev

        No juice for me, but I might talk to it though, like Tom Hanks in Castaway to the volleyball;

        “Don’t worry Diana, I’ll do the paddling. You just hold on.”

        1. Derrick Blanton

          Ha ha, hilarious, Trev!

          Little known fact: “Wilson” the volleyball? Yeah.. Chemically assisted. On the needle in more ways than one.

          I know, man. I know…Just, why? :)

          1. Trev

            Thanks Derrick. I’m quite proud of the pun – Diana (bol)

            BTW – After a serious re-read of your scenario I just decided I would get juiced. It actually might be a survival advantage to be insanely strong, should I one day choose to leave!

          2. Derrick Blanton

            @TREV: Engaging with “Diana”

            I considered that as well. I also considered that I would plateau and just get bored, and curiosity would prevail. Then I remembered that this has happened in civilization, and I have still had no desire to juice, ha ha!

            Here’s the thing, though: You would more than likely need strength endurance in a survival scenario, or even more likely, just pure endurance. Past a point, increased raw strength may not be that useful, and extra body mass might start to work against you as well.

            Bret has a pic of Marius on the article. I absolutely love this guy. But he has not had the greatest success in MMA, for example. In a mountain run, say, he would be in serious trouble almost immediately. Just thinking it through here.

            Not to mention, if you had any kind of reaction, either acute or long term, with no medical care….could get ugly.

  13. Jason VanEpps

    Bret one factor that hasn’t been mentioned is that many people get their gear from underground labs that are often fake or underdosed.

  14. Adrian Day

    Brett, fantastic post. Work hard, get quality rest and quality nutrition. Recover well and listen to your body. Don’t let your ego dictate your goals.

    That’s why you are one of the go to guys in the exercise science arena.

  15. Julie Smith

    In my opinion, the use of steroids shouldn’t be abused. It was created mainly to help us on healthcare like therapy for anemia and muscle growth stimulation, not to make you look ripped. It has many side effects like addiction, mood swings and fatigue. There are many bodybuilders out there who don’t use it. If they can do it, why can’t you.

  16. Carlos

    Hey, Bret, great article. And about this powerlifter, stupid people say stupid things, that’s the way it is.

  17. dlh

    Completely off-topic, THANK YOU for using the phrase “Couldn’t care less” properly! I cannot tell you the countless number of times folks say “Could care less”. Drives me nuts! : )

    1. Bret Post author

      LOL! That’s a pet-peeve of mine too. Whenever someone says to me that they could care less, I say something like, “Well, if you could care less, then you must care about it at least a little bit, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to care to a lesser degree. Now, if you couldn’t care less, then you’re at the bottom of the barrel in terms of concern – it couldn’t get any worse.” Usually people just roll their eyes and ignore my tangent.

        1. Bret Post author

          Geez. Lots of steroid-users on here whose identity is shaped by their strength. I’ve never claimed to be the strongest guy out there; I’ve lifted with guys who are far stronger for my entire life. I’ve trained plenty of freaks. The hip thrust is not useless, it’s helping hundreds of thousands of lifters out there reshape their backsides. And the efficacy of my programs aren’t determined by who I’ve trained or how strong I am; if they work, they work. But it’s not worth it for me to go onto this forum and argue; they’re looking for someone to tar-and-feather, not to engage in logical reasoning. I don’t like reading forums for this reason!

        2. John

          Sven if you disrespect an entire group of people for one, personal decision they make that doesnt harm anyone, you are a moron. sorry

          1. Sven

            I did qualify that statement earlier on, I said “most” users…that’s just my experience.

  18. Pingback: The Lean Year Round Weekly 28/6/14 | Anthony Dexmier

  19. Sven

    @John: P.S. Harm to others is a real possibility. Bret’s article does mention behaviour modification and aggression.
    BTW, it appears that some of them have a lot of trouble keeping it civil. Also, read the link that I posted to the t-nation forum, and the general tone there: quite typical of them, sadly.

  20. Brandon Green


    I have been on and off for over 20 years. I am dedicated now to being
    a “natural” . The eastern bloc athletes had the most intelligent and scientifically
    advanced protocols in their day. May or may not be better than today. East German
    women’s track records are 25-30 years old and won’t be equaled soon. They just
    recently eradicated the women’s swimming records but only on a popular swim site.
    I had a Russian biochemist friend who related to me the protocols of Russian
    wrestlers in the 90′s- 2 weeks steroids,2 weeks plant sterols (Rhaponticum).
    Very good result switching between mechanisms . The HPTA axis does not have time
    to react and down regulate.


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