When the subject of drug use is raised among veteran bodybuilders from the so-called Golden Era of the 1960s and 1970s, a barrier rises and the discussion becomes heated. They are quite proud of what they have accomplished and do not want their success to be defined by drug use. That is the overall concept. Not amnesty for individuals, nor outright denial, but ensuring how future generations interpret their accomplishments and inventiveness.
Bodybuilding Dedication, Discipline and Drive
So, we can “reverse engineer” much of the training and some of the medicines used by classic legends by referring to past speeches and remarks made by those who claimed to be “in the know” at the time, as well as public interviews. Prior to that, it is vital to remember that these men became great through the same effort, dedication, and passion that generates any champion. As fascinating and significant as reading about their general drug use is, remember their work, sacrifices, and goals as their legacy.
Gym equipment was quickly increasing throughout this time period, and as with any developing field, advancements marched alongside unusual or hazardous practices. Classic bodybuilders were not “specialists” in the modern sense. The majority had a powerlifting background and had participated in sports. Older readers may recall Franco Columbu and Lou Ferrigno competing in the first World’s Strongest Man competition on CBS in 1977.
The workouts were difficult, frequently lasting more than two hours, and would have been catabolic if not for the large amounts of protein, fat, and anabolics. With the development of bodybuilding-focused gyms that were open and available throughout the day, the standards defined two-a-day resistance-training sessions. Powerlifting and Olympic lifting facilities are slower-paced, with mocking, “preening,” and practicing postures that are not tolerated in front of the mirror.
Inhaling chalk dust, on the other hand, delivers the pleasure of a magnesium carbonate high. As their ambition grew, these individuals endured restricted finances, demeaning occupations, and hard schedules in order to exceed their contemporaries. And their peers were there to support them. The day’s legends were focused in certain locations, with some working out in the same gym beside or within eyeshot of one another. The atmosphere was charged with the concentrated strength of rivalry and brotherhood. A renowned documentary, “Pumping Iron,” portrays part of this.
Old School Bodybuilding Legends and AAS
The classic legends, like the bulk of their predecessors from the golden age of bodybuilding and nearly all of their successors in professional bodybuilding, took anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) and other drugs to achieve their superhuman shape. At the time, that class of medications was not regarded a controlled substance, children were not using AAS outside of university sports programs, and accessibility made it widely available, allowing all bodybuilders to compete on a “level playing field.”
This isn’t to suggest it wasn’t harmful, or that less-than-elite bodybuilders didn’t feel forced to take AAS if they wanted to develop in the sport, but many of the moral considerations were lacking at the time. Furthermore, due to the possibility of side effects, most men approach these drugs with caution, rigorously monitoring dose and cycle duration.
Yes, these men cycled their AAS to prevent potential harmful effects on the liver, testes, mood, breast growth, and a plethora of other symptoms.4-6 A substantial majority of today’s professionals are always “on,” whether it’s a full-out cycle or bridging, to avoid muscle loss. Remember how, back in the day, the availability of oral AAS, their quick effect on muscle/strength increases, and clearance made them quite appealing?
Some orals performed well in bulking cycles while others performed well in cutting cycles. In contrast, oral AAS causes cholestatic hepatotoxicity (liver damage caused by bile “backup”). Many times, the darkening of a bodybuilder’s eyes, a symptom of bilirubin concentrations rising in the blood, may indicate if he was “on.” There have been some incidents of classic bodybuilders losing popularity due to gynecomastia, or breast development behind the nipple (sometimes known as “man boobs”). There were no effective aromatase inhibitors available at the time.
Short Steroid Cycles, Big Bodybuilders
The bulk of the cycles lasted between eight and twelve weeks. During this time period, several long-acting injectable steroids would not have achieved anabolic concentrations for several weeks. In a cycle, how many guys would pyramid up and down? Many used short-acting injectables in conjunction with orals to achieve a quick surge in androgens and make the most of the limited time “on cycle.”
The sudden switch from low or normal testosterone levels to supraphysiologic AAS levels typically has a detrimental effect on mood. Because abrupt withdrawal of AAS can result in a depressed effect, as well as a rapid loss of strength and alteration in body composition, cycles are frequently finished with a tapering dose regimen.
“Off cycles” were closely adhered to, lasting approximately the same number of weeks as the previous cycle. In truth, there’s a lot more to AAS cycling pharmacodynamics than that, but that’s what I’ve learned in the field. The timing of the men’s cycles would be determined by their competing schedule. When this was combined with binge eating or overfeeding, some bodybuilders developed a sloppy “off-season” appearance. The “post-cycle” recovery was mostly influenced by hCG and time.
Testicular atrophy was common, and the return of the “boys” to normal size was usually interpreted as a sign of good natural testosterone production recovery. hCG was only administered post-cycle in high-dose injections to reduce/avoid testicular atrophy throughout cycles, as opposed to today. Unlike now, when hCG is injected subcutaneously, it was administered into the muscle, albeit with no benefit. Clomid was used, however not all competitors were aware of the drug’s post-cycle benefits. Although there is no comparable drug for this function, Nolvadex was widely used in later years. Furthermore, Nolvadex may aggravate gynecomastia in rare cases, especially as testosterone levels fall post-cycle.
Classic Anabolic Stack
It’s certainly easy to envisage what a standard AAS cycle may have looked like for a classic-era bodybuilder. Remember, hGH was extremely expensive and scarce; insulin was not generally used in bodybuilding circles; and the more exotic growth factors were yet to be developed. Consider that, in addition to the AAS, fat-burning drugs like clenbuterol and Cytomel were used before to competition.
Here are two examples of standard anabolic stacks, with the proviso that this is only a wide representation of the AAS, not the whole drug arsenal. The first is an off-season cycle aimed at increasing muscle mass, while the second is a pre-competition fat-burning program. Additional information and descriptions of these cycles can be found in William Llewellyn’s Anabolics reference book.
Believe how little AAS was used to reach what many consider to be the pinnacle of physical development as you read the following, which is not advice and does not imply any aspect of safety or moral approval. Remember that the drugs only worked under the conditions of intense training and rigorous diets, and that many of the bodybuilders of the time suffered from unpleasant side effects. Those who claim the pros used a lot more back then may have admitted to using two separate lists. Furthermore, those who were less gifted were significantly more reliant on drug use for their benefits, and were likely more willing to incur greater dangers (as they do today).
Bulking Cycle – 10 Weeks
Sustanon 250. 1 cc, week 1; 2 cc, weeks 2-10
Dianabol, 5 mg tablet. 1 tablet daily, week 1-2; 3 tablets daily, weeks 3-8; 2 tablets daily, week 9; 1 tablet daily, week 10.
Anadrol 50. 1/2 tablet daily, week 2; 1 tablet daily, weeks 3-9.
It should be emphasized that the previous cycle will result in immediate weight, muscular growth, and strength gains. Irritability can influence one’s mood. Gynecomastia can worsen or develop over time. Sustanon 250 post-cycle medication is frequently delayed for two to three weeks to allow the longer-acting ester component to dissolve sufficiently, allowing hypothalamic-pituitary suppression to decrease. Anadrol 50 in combination with Dianabol may produce abnormalities in liver function that should be monitored. Acne and other skin changes are likely.
Cutting Cycle – 12 Weeks
Nandrolone phenylpropionate, 100 mg. 1 cc, week 1; 2 cc, twice weekly, weeks 2-11; 1 cc, twice weekly, week 12.
Primobolan, 100 mg. 1 cc, twice weekly, week 1; 2 cc, twice weekly, weeks 2-12.
Winstrol, 5 mg tablets. 2 tablets daily, week 1; 3 tablets, twice daily, weeks 2-12.
It should be remembered that the previous cycle may result in joint pain. Because the phenylpropionate ester of nandrolone acts more faster than the decanoate ester, post-cycle therapy can begin within two weeks. Winstrol has the potential to harm the liver.