Steroids in Strength Sports

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Mar 2,2024|15 min| 6427

How common are PEDs?

When it comes to strength sports, such as powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, many of those guys carry higher amounts of body fat, they do not look like bodybuilders, who diet down to step on stage on a certain date, sporting a ripped physique and have packed on significant amounts of muscle mass. That being said, there is no way that strength athletes use anabolic substances, right? They only use over-the-counter supplements? Wrong. 

Steroids have just as much, if not more, influence in strength sports than in bodybuilding. Just because someone does not look like they are using these drugs, does not mean they are all natural. Let's take a look at the influence of steroids in strength sports.

Disclaimer: The Boostcamp team are not doctors, nor are they giving medical advice in any way. This article is purely for entertainment purposes, and is not meant to be taken as advice. We will be refraining from any discussion of specific substances and dosages, to avoid anyone mistakenly believing that this is advice.

What are Steroids?

Steroids, also known as performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), have been around for a long time. But what exactly are they? What do they do? Well, steroids help get you to your fitness goals, faster. They help to build muscle to bulk up, burn fat to cut down, and typically they will help to improve your strength, but they are not a magic pill, they do not replace the hard work that you do in and out of the gym. Instead, steroids accelerate your progress, rather than replacing your workout routine and diet.

PEDs enter your system, some via injection, and some orally, and they raise your hormone levels, particularly your testosterone hormone, so your body is able to build strength and muscle mass at a higher rate. There are also different types of anabolic steroids that lifters will “cycle”, some are used to bulk up and you will experience more water retention, meaning you will have a puffier look. You will also have larger strength gains here, as the joints have a bit more cushioning and you can typically move more weight on those heavy lifts when you are bulkier. Then there are the types that help to burn fat and harden the muscles, typically used more by bodybuilders during a show prep to dry out, and look more ripped.

However, there is one anabolic substance that is used as a base throughout all cycles, and that is testosterone. This is to make sure that things like sex drive work properly, as when you take steroids, your body’s natural testosterone production is shut down, so lifters will take testosterone to make sure there is still an adequate amount in the body and they can still perform well in the bedroom, not just in the gym.

Steroids are typically taken in cycles on top of the testosterone base, meaning a lifter will utilize these substances for a set amount of time, which is usually 3-4 months, then cycle off. Upon cycling off, the lifter will have to take more substances to restore their natural hormone levels to what they were, but there is always the risk of the body not going back to normal which is certainly less than ideal. With this you run the risk of an array of issues, one of the biggest ones being erectile dysfunction, and you are left looking for things like generic viagra and other supplements to fix them.

There is also the “blast and cruise” method. This is where athletes will “blast”, meaning they take a large amount of anabolic substances to put on a good amount of strength and size for a set amount of time. Then they will follow that up with a “cruise”, which is just a lower dose of less substances, usually testosterone. 

What are the Side Effects of Steroids?

Now, it may sound like steroids are glorious, and that they are the holy grail of things to add to your gym bag so you can throw a couple pounds onto your squat and deadlift, but there are a lot of side effects and health risks associated with them. Let’s take a look at a few.

Common Side Effects of Steroids: 

  • Hair loss

  • Acne

  • Heart issues including heart attacks/strokes

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Lower sperm count

  • Weight loss

  • Prostate issues

  • Increased risk of injury

Wait a minute, increased risk of injury? Aren’t steroids supposed to make your muscle fibers bigger and stronger? Well, yes, that is what they do, but they do not strengthen ligaments and joints. That being said, on a steroid cycle, you may be using progressive overload a little more than you should be and not deloading properly because you feel like Superman, which leads to a higher risk of injury. For example, your bench press might feel lighter than it ever has, but you throw on a weight that you have never done before, and then boom you tore your rotator cuff. That is just one of many risks.

Aside from that, you run the risk of cardiovascular issues which can definitely be detrimental. Sure, you can hop on the treadmill and get your cardio work in, but it may not be enough and you still are taking a huge risk.

Steroids in Strength Sports

Now onto the main topic, which is steroids in strength sports, such as powerlifting and weightlifting. Though people picture the big, ripped bodybuilders as steroid users, these substances have a place in strength sports just as much, even though not every strongman or powerlifter looks like they take steroids. There are tested, and untested competitions, meaning that some competitions or meets consist of all natural lifters, then others will be more likely to have enhanced athletes. An untested meet or competition does not mean that the leagues condone the use of anabolic substances, but it is more so them leaving the choice up to the competitors. 

Anabolic substances certainly are used in strength sports, more so powerlifting and strongman rather than Olympic Weightlifting, as Olympic athletes are under the microscope of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) than other strength sport federations. However, if you look at athletes such as Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw, and Hafthor Bjornsson, these athletes do not get to the elite level that they are at without the help of anabolic substances. 

Now, when it comes to the steroid cycles of strength athletes, they will tend to differ from bodybuilders. Bodybuilders have to look lean, muscular, and dry for their competitions, while strength athletes have to be, well, strong. Whether they are trying to pull a deadlift one rep max or squat record, the bottom line is that a strength athlete needs to be strong. That being said, you will see a large amount of different substances and doses amongst strength athletes and bodybuilders.

However, just because these athletes utilize anabolic substances to push them to the elite level, this does not mean they are not putting everything they have into their craft. As stated above, steroids are not a magic pill, but rather a performance enhancing drug. These athletes still stick to strict training regimens, diets, and get adequate amounts of sleep and rest to be the absolute best that they can be. 

Our Opinion on Steroids

What the team at Boostcamp stands by firmly, is proper training, nutrition, and supplementation. Find a program that best suits your goals, eat the right foods to help you build that muscle and strength, and take the right supplements to further get your nutrients in and a proper recovery protocol. Also get in your 7-8 hours of sleep

Do You Need Steroids to Compete in Strength Sports?

Instead of taking steroids to compete in strength sports, you could always try finding a good workout program to help guide you when it comes to making progress with your strength. Keep in mind that good programs will help with your fitness journey, you would want to find a program that caters to your needs and guides you in the right direction, making sure that you are making the most gains. 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 in strength sports, then check out Boostcamp.

Steroids in Strength Sports Wrap Up 

Overall, steroids are just as prominent in strength sports as they are in bodybuilding. While we do not condone the usage of them, the team at Boostcamp recognizes that they are a part of the fitness industry. Instead, we recommend checking out some quality programs to stick to and make some quality, natural, linear progression. 

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