When the question of drug use is brought up among veteran bodybuilders from the so-called Golden Era of the 1960s and 1970s, a barrier rises and the talk turns hot. They are tremendously proud of what they have accomplished and do not want their accomplishment to be characterized by drug use. That is the overarching idea. Not individual amnesty, nor open denial, but safeguarding how future generations perceive their achievements, their creativity.

Bodybuilding Dedication, Discipline and Drive

So, by referring to previous talks and statements made by those who claimed to be “in the know” at the time, as well as public interviews, we can “reverse engineer” much of the training and some of the drugs utilized by classic legends. Prior to that, it is critical to recognize that the same effort, discipline, and desire that produces any champion is what made these men great. Remember their efforts, sacrifices, and dreams as their legacy, as fascinating and significant as reading about their general drug use is.

During this time, gym equipment was rapidly improving, and as with any burgeoning field, advancements marched alongside strange or harmful approaches. Classic bodybuilders were not “specialists” as we know them today. The majority had a background in powerlifting and had engaged in sports. Older readers may recall Franco Columbu and Lou Ferrigno competing on CBS in 1977 in the first World’s Strongest Man competition.

The workouts were tough, often lasting over two hours, and would have been catabolic if not for the massive amounts of protein, fat, and anabolics. The guidelines established two-a-day resistance-training sessions with the introduction of bodybuilding-focused gyms that were open and available throughout the day. Powerlifting and Olympic lifting facilities are slower-paced, with noise, taunting, and “preening” in front of the mirror practicing postures not tolerated.

Instead, inhaling chalk dust provides the pleasure of a magnesium carbonate high. As their ambition developed, these men suffered living on tight budgets, doing menial jobs, and working grueling schedules in order to outperform their contemporaries. And their classmates were right there with them. The legends of the day were concentrated in specific places, with several exercising in the same gym alongside or within eyeshot of one another. The atmosphere was electrified with the focused power of competitiveness and brotherhood. “Pumping Iron,” a famous documentary, depicts some of this.

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Classic Legends and AAS

Classic Legends and AAS

The classic legends used anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) and other medicines to obtain their superhuman shape, just like the majority of their predecessors from the golden age of bodybuilding and nearly all of their successors in professional bodybuilding. This was a time when that class of drugs was not considered a restricted substance, kids were not using AAS outside of university sports programs, and accessibility made it widely available, allowing all bodybuilders to compete on a “even playing field.”

This isn’t to say it wasn’t dangerous, or that bodybuilders of less-than-elite level didn’t feel obligated to use AAS if they wanted to advance as a bodybuilder, but many of the moral issues were absent at the time. Furthermore, because of the risk of side effects, most men regard these medications with caution, meticulously monitoring dose and cycle duration.

Yes, these men cycled their AAS to avoid adverse changes to the liver, testes, mood, breast development, and a slew of other symptoms that were probable at the time.4-6 A large proportion of today’s professionals are always “on,” whether it’s a full-out cycle or bridging, to avoid muscle loss. Remember how, in the classic age, the availability of oral AAS, their immediate action on muscle/strength improvements, and clearance made them very enticing.

Some orals worked well in bulking cycles and others in cutting cycles. Oral AAS, on the other hand, cause cholestatic hepatotoxicity (liver damage caused by bile “backup”). Many times, the darkening of a bodybuilder’s eyes, a symptom of bilirubin concentration building up in the blood, might indicate if he was “on.” There are several cases of classic bodybuilders falling out of favor owing to gynecomastia, or breast development behind the nipple (sometimes known as “man boobs”). At the time, there were no effective aromatase inhibitors.

Short Steroid Cycles, Big Bodybuilders

The majority of cycles lasted eight to twelve weeks. Some long-acting injectable steroids would not have reached anabolic concentrations for several weeks during this time period. Remember how many males would pyramid up and down in a cycle? To achieve early gains, many employed short-acting injectables in conjunction with orals to achieve a rapid surge in androgens and make the most of the limited time “on cycle.”

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The abrupt transition from low or normal testosterone to supraphysiologic AAS concentrations frequently has a negative impact on mood. Because a depressed effect, as well as a quick loss of strength and change in body composition, can occur with the abrupt withdrawal of AAS, cycles are often concluded with a tapering dose plan.

“Off cycles” were strictly followed, usually lasting the same number of weeks as the previous cycle. Of fact, there is much more to AAS cycling pharmacodynamics than that, but that was the general “field” experience. The men’s cycles would be timed according to their competition schedule. This, combined with binge eating or overfeeding, led to some bodybuilders developing a sloppy “off-season” appearance. The “post-cycle” recovery was mostly determined by hCG and time.

Testicular atrophy was prevalent, and the return of the “boys” to normal size was frequently a sign of successful recovery of natural testosterone production. In contrast to today, hCG was only administered post-cycle in high-dose injections to reduce/avoid testicular atrophy during cycles. Unlike today, when hCG is injected subcutaneously, it was injected into the muscle, albeit the intramuscular dose had no advantage. Clomid was employed, however not all competitors were completely aware of the drug’s post-cycle benefits. Although there is no analogous medicine for this function, Nolvadex was extensively utilized in later years. Furthermore, in rare situations, Nolvadex might worsen gynecomastia, especially as androgen levels fall post-cycle.

Classic Anabolic Stack

Classic Anabolic Stack

It is probably easy to imagine what a regular AAS cycle for a classic-era bodybuilder could have looked like. Remember that hGH was exceedingly expensive and scarce; insulin was not widely used in bodybuilding circles; and the more exotic growth factors had not yet been created. Consider that, in addition to the AAS, fat-cutting medications such as clenbuterol and Cytomel were utilized prior to competition.

Here are two cycles, with the caveat that this example of the standard anabolic stack is a broad representation of simply the AAS, not the entire drug arsenal. The first is an off-season cycle designed to help grow muscle mass, while the second is a pre-competition reducing cycle. Readers may find William Llewellyn’s Anabolics reference book useful for additional information and descriptions of these cycles.

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Believe how little the doses of AAS were employed to achieve what many consider to be the peak of physique development as you read the following, which is not guidance and does not imply any element of safety or moral approbation. Remember that the medicines only worked under the conditions of intensive training and strict diets, and that many of the bodybuilders of the time experienced negative side effects. Those who claim that the pros used a lot more back then may have admitted to and used two separate lists. Furthermore, the less gifted were far more reliant on drug use for their benefits, and were likely more ready to accept higher risks (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 noted that the preceding cycle will result in quick weight, muscle mass, and strength improvements. Irritability can have an impact on one’s mood. Gynecomastia can develop or worsen over time. Post-cycle treatment is often postponed for two to three weeks to allow the longer-acting ester component of Sustanon 250 to dissolve sufficiently, allowing hypothalamic-pituitary suppression to decrease. Anadrol 50 with Dianabol can cause changes in liver function, which should be monitored. Acne and other skin changes will be common.

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 noted that the preceding cycle may induce joint pain. Because the phenylpropionate ester of nandrolone is substantially shorter acting than the decanoate ester, post-cycle treatment can begin within two weeks. Winstrol has the potential to cause liver damage.