The Difference Between Natural and Enhanced Lifting

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Mar 4,2024|12 min| 1457

Unraveling the differences in training

When joining a gym, people typically aim to train for strength or hypertrophy, meaning they want to be strong like a powerlifter or have great amounts of muscle mass and look good like a bodybuilder. A new lifter may make some serious gains throughout their first few months or even a year of lifting, but eventually the gains will slow down, and people think that they’ve already achieved their genetic potential. Now, this more than likely is not the case, but it can be defeated, and in turn people can turn to substances such as anabolic steroids to continue to make gains. That being said, what are the differences between natural and enhanced lifting?

Let’s take a look at what to expect when you are a natural lifter and when you are an enhanced lifter.

What are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are substances that are created to help you pack on muscle mass and strength, burn body fat, or other medical purposes. Now, these are not your typical nutritional substances, but instead are taken through injections or orally, and are typically illegal unless medically prescribed. While anabolic steroids are meant to help you grow bigger and stronger, they also come with some serious side effects such as:

  • Blood clotting

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Hypogonadism 

  • Acne and oily skin

  • Hair Loss

  • Weakened joints

  • Cardiovascular issues

These just name a few side effects of anabolic steroids. Depending on the type of steroid that you are using, there will be different side effects. 

Breaking Down What Defines “Natural” Lifting

Natural lifting is training without any anabolic substances. Now, natural lifters still take their creatine and protein powders and all of those supplements, you can even use testosterone boosting supplements as a natural lifter. The key thing to remember with natural lifters is that they do not use exogenous hormones that are banned by different anti-doping agencies. 

Natural vs. Enhanced Lifting

Now that we have established what anabolic steroids are, let’s take a look at what to expect when you are a natural lifter, and what to expect when you are an enhanced lifter. 


In natural bodybuilding, the concept of recovery greatly differs from that of enhanced bodybuilding. Natural bodybuilders, who do not rely on exogenous hormones may require more recovery time than an enhanced lifter. This is because enhanced lifters who are using anabolic substances have an advanced recovery, meaning they can recover quicker and come back bigger and stronger week over week due to the substances they are taking, even after repeated abuse. With a natural lifter, recovery is not as quick and effective, meaning they essentially have to take more time to recover and make sure they have proper protocols in place, such as diet and sleep schedules.

Now, on the flip side, an enhanced lifter CAN take more recovery time than a natural lifter and still see more gains. This is because an enhanced lifter is constantly in a state of anabolism (muscle building), which leads to the next point.

Making Gains

When it comes to making gains as a natural lifter vs. making gains as an enhanced lifter, the enhanced lifter typically will see faster progress than the natural one. A natural lifter will make some great gains when they first enter the gym and the body is adapting to the new stimulus, but after that the gains will slow down and taper off. It has been said that a natural lifter, even with a perfect diet and recovery protocol, will only put on about 1-5 pounds of muscle each year, but it is more likely to be closer to the lower number.

On the flip side, or the “dark side" as some refer to it, the additional help from anabolic substances helps to get to your goals faster, whether you are trying to cut down or bulk up, or get stronger. However, making gains this fast can come with some serious side effects that may want to make you stay natural. For example, putting on that much muscle and strength in a very fast manner can lead to not only increased cardiovascular issues, but also injuries.

When you are getting bigger and stronger, anabolic steroids do not help to strengthen your joints. That being said, while your muscles can take a bit more overload, your joints may suffer under the newfound one rep maxes, and ultimately you run the risk of injuring yourself. 

How to Make Continuous Gains as a Natural Lifter

Now you have to remember that as a natural lifter, progress is not necessarily linear. However there are plenty of things you can do to continue to stay on the right track and make great progress long term. 


Diet is huge when it comes to making gains. People too often think that if they are lifting, they can eat whatever they want. This is not the case, and you need to focus on getting the right amount of macronutrients each day to continue to see gains in your size and strength. 


As stated above, recovery is huge, and a big part of recovery is sleep. Sleep is actually where your body generates a great amount of testosterone and human growth hormone, which are responsible for regulating body fat, gaining muscle, and an abundance of other bodily functions.

Follow a Program

One of the biggest mistakes you will see amongst lifters, both natural and enhanced, is that they go into the gym each day without a set training plan. Sure, they may plan on hitting chest one day and legs the next, but you catch them doing the same exercises with the same volume and intensity each week. Having no plan is not how to make gains a natural or an enhanced lifter. 

Instead, follow a workout program that helps you incorporate different exercises, rep ranges, and weights. This will help to keep you on track and make progress in the right direction.

Finding Workout Programs

No matter if you are a natural or an enhanced lifter, keep in mind that there are plenty of good programs available on Boostcamp to help you make progress. A good program will keep you on track, making sure that you are making the most gains and maximizing your time in the gym. If you are looking to stay on track and continue with linear progression, then finding a good workout program is the key. Where do you look for a good workout program? Check out the Boostcamp App for some great programs.

Boostcamp is home to over 50 FREE workout programs that consist of strength, hypertrophy, or functional fitness, or both, from the push pull legs program all the way to upper lower, there are so many programs to choose from that can help fit your needs. However, with Boostcamp, you don’t have to just follow a pre-written program (although each program is written by a professional), you also can create your own program as well, and track your progress to make sure you are on the right track. That being said, when you are looking to incorporate some serious training to further your progress as a natural or enhanced lifter, then check out Boostcamp.

Natural vs. Enhanced Lifting Wrap Up

Overall, there are some key differences when it comes to natural vs. enhanced lifting. What it all comes down to is your personal choice, but keep in mind that there are ways to make great gains as a natural lifter.

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