by Mike Arnold
How many of us would love to have a bit more peak to our biceps…or maybe some more roundness to our delts…or how about adding some much needed size to our calves? As BB’rs, we are always seeking to perfect our physiques, but genetic short-comings can make this an extremely difficult task. Most of us at one point or another have struggled with weak points, but no matter how hard we try to bring them up, they seem impervious to growth.
Still, others of us aren’t so much concerned with bringing up a weak body part, as we are in attempting to make an already good body part a great one (who doesn’t want Arnold-like biceps?). Regardless of which side of the spectrum we find ourselves on, we are all pushing towards the same ultimate goal of making certain areas of our physiques bigger & better than ever.
To this end, BB’rs have tried just about everything in order to make this a reality and while some of these attempts were met with success, others were not quite so successful. Over the rest of the article, we will go over some of the different methods used to enhance a muscle/muscle group. Perhaps the first site enhancement method ever employed by BB’rs cannot really be defined as a conventional site growth technique at all, but can still result in the same effect as any of the others, which is increased growth of the target muscle. This method is known quite simply as “weak point training” and involves the implementation of uniquely designed workouts (often used in accordance with the priority principle) in order to illicit a superior growth response in the muscle of choice.
The routines which have been used for this purpose, which go back at least to the 50’s, are without number, but one of the more recently publicized programs is known as FST-7. Invented by Hany Rambod, coach and trainer of IFBB pros, this program involves the use of a technique known as “7’s”, in which the BB’r chooses a single exercise at the end of his workout and performs 7 sets of 10 reps with only 30 seconds rest in-between sets. The goal, according to Hany Rambod, is to stretch the muscle fascia by pumping as much blood into the area as possible. He claims that by doing so, the fascia becomes less constrictive, allowing the muscle to more easily expand when exposed to the growth stimulus encountered during weight training. While this method has been met with success in bringing up weak body parts, there is no scientific support to back up this theory, leaving the door wide open for interpretation. Many, including myself, think that the growth experienced when first beginning this type of weak point training has nothing to do with stretching the fascia, but rather, that the growth experienced is a result of the muscle being exposed to an unfamiliar stress. Since this type of training is not typically engaged in by most BB’r prior to utilizing this routine, the latter explanation if certainly plausible. FST-7 is just one training routine of many, which have been used by BB’rs throughout the decades in order to bring up weal muscle groups.
When it comes to true site enhancement methods, perhaps the most common is the injection of oil based steroids directly into the muscle of choice. Increases in size can take place through a few different mechanisms when going this route. First of all, if the BB’r injects a large enough volume of oil into a relatively small muscle, such as the biceps, the oil itself can begin to take up enough space within the muscle, so that it begins to push outward, causing the muscle to expand. Inflammation is another mechanism through which site injections of AAS can cause temporary growth. When injecting on a regular basis for months on end, the swelling becomes a long-term fixture, making it look like the muscle fibers themselves have actually grown. However, this inflammation induced swelling will dissipate upon cessation of use. Lastly, although scientific evidence is sorely lacking for the following theory, some BB’rs adamantly claim that regular AAS injections cause direct and substantial growth of muscle tissue at the site of injection, with drug type(s), dosage, and length of administration all playing a role in their effectiveness. Now, the injected muscle might be exposed to a slightly greater amount of steroid compared to the rest of the body, yet the drug will eventually become systematic and exert its effects throughout the entire body. If AAS injections were significantly effective for site growth, then why aren’t all the many BB’rs who chronically inject into the glutes, delts, or quads walking around with disproportionate development in those areas? With some BB’rs injecting into those areas 100’s, or in some cases even 1000’s of times, we should certainly see some visually significant differences in the size of those muscles among the typical BB’r. However, there does not appear to be any association between the size of those muscles and those who use them as common injection sites. Personally, I reserve judgment on this method of site enhancement, as far as legitimate muscle growth is concerned. We know for a fact it will increase the size of a muscle through inflammation induced swelling, but as far as real growth goes, the jury is still out on that one from a scientific point of view.
Another closely related method of site enhancement involves the use of muscle swelling compounds Esiclene and Nolotil, but unlike traditional AAS, they do not possess any significant anabolic benefits. They’re strictly used as temporary site enhancers, such as before a competition, and are quite effective for this purpose; much more so than using traditional injectable steroids. Users of these compounds have reported an increase in arm and calf size of over an inch within days of use. Esiclene is the more popular of the two, but is rarely used anymore, due to both limited availability and the introduction of Synthol to the marketplace. I find this to be unfortunate, because unlike Synthol, which requires numerous injections over weeks of time in order to cause a large increase in size, Esiclene will produce substantial results in just days of use. More importantly, there is much less risk involved in using Esiclene, as it almost always results in a uniform level of swelling over the entire muscle (as long as it is injected into smaller muscles like arms and calves), resulting in a natural looking, larger muscle. In contrast, Synthol can result in deformation or lumps if improperly administered.
I find Esiclene to be a great product for temporarily bringing up smaller bodyparts immediately before a competition. For many people with mild to moderate weak points, it can completely balance out those muscle groups, allowing them to display a proportionate physique onstage. For those people who have slighting lagging arms, calves, or delts (either individual heads or more than one) and are looking for temporary site enhancement prior to a contest, I believe Esiclene is superior to Synthol not only because of it works more quickly and will not result in deformation or lumps, but because Esiclene tends to result in primarily intramuscular water retention (maintaining hard muscles), unlike Synthol, which can result in noticeable subcutaneous water retention.
Beginning in the 90’s, we witnessed the emergence of Synthol, which when used correctly, can lead to anywhere between a mild to a large increase in the size of the treated muscle, helping the BB’r to rapidly bring up a weak muscle/muscle group in record time. Part of the size increase experienced is temporary, while some size will remain with the user permanently. However, Synthol is not without risks, and it is these very risks which have led a substantial number of BB’rs to shy away from its use. In addition to the daily injects, as well as the pain, swelling, and discomfort one experiences when following a properly structured Synthol protocol, it also carries with it an elevated risk of infection & abscess compared to many other Injectable drugs (due to the large volume of oil injected). Lastly, but certainly not least, a botched Synthol program can leave the user looking anything but better. Distorted and un-natural looking muscles are unfortunately a common side effect of improper Synthol use.
For those who apply Synthol properly and are looking for a mild to moderate increase in muscle size, Synthol can be quite effective and allow the user to maintain a natural and hard muscle appearance. However, for those who try to increase the size of a muscle(s) to massive new proportions with the use of Synthol alone, these individuals are sure to experience an un-natural, soft, and even ugly appearance in the treated muscle, as well as a loss of muscle separation. In other words, the correct, moderate application of Synthol can result in an improved appearance, while the improper, liberal application of Synthol is going to fuck you up!
In my opinion, Synthol should not be administered until the individual has achieved at least an intermediate-advanced level of muscle development. When the person already has impressive development and has determined he has a true weak point which is unresponsive to training, for such a person Synthol may be a wise choice, BUT for the impatient individual who just wants to bring his arms up from 16 -20 inches as soon as possible, this is not for him.
The last method of site enhancement involves the use of peptides. Today we have a number of peptides reported to lead to site enhancement. Of these, the different IGF’s and their variants appear to be the most promising. Let’s start out by looking at DES (1-3) IGF-1 and see why this version is the most effective of the IGF’1s for site growth. First of all, IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor) is a peptide hormone with a similar sequence to Insulin and also shares with it many of its same properties. IGF-1 is produced mainly in the liver via growth hormone and while DES has a direct anabolic effect on muscle tissue, it also exhibits a secondary and indirect anabolic effect through enhanced nutrient shuttling. DES also inhibits muscle cell Apoptosis (prevents injured cells from dying) and has demonstrated an ability to cause muscle cell hyperplasia.
DES differs from standard IGF-1 in that the last 3 aminos acids in the sequence have been cleaved from the chain, resulting in a truncated form of IGF-1, which contains 67 aminos instead of 70. This alteration changes DES in a number of ways from its other IGF-1 cousins. Unlike DES’s counterpart, IGF-1 LR3 (which is a longer acting form of IGF-1), DES’s active-life is much shorter. This shortened half-life enables DES to live out a large portion of its life while still present in the injected muscle and therefore, much of its effects will be exerted locally, prior to the molecule becoming metabolically inactive. With this being the case, one might ask “Then why not just use IGF-1 LR3 and experience whole-body growth, instead of limiting it only to the injected area?” If we were comparing regular IGF-1 to IGF-1 LR3, I would have to agree, but being that we are dealing with DES IGF-1, the game changes considerably.
Des’s ability to stimulate growth of the injected muscle more effectively than other forms of IGF-1 lies in its potency, it’s inability to be bound by binding proteins, and its ability to attach itself to lactic acid altered IGF-1 receptor sites. In short, Des is 1000% (or 10X) more anabolic than IGF-1. Additionally, since DES cannot be consigned to metabolic inactivity due to binding proteins, every mcg of DES which is injected will remain metabolically active and available to attach to and activate IGF-1 receptor sites within muscle tissue. This allows the peptide to exert its pronounced anabolic effects without hindrance.
In regards to DES’s ability to attach to lactic acid degraded receptor sites, this beneficial function is unique to DES alone. During a workout, when a muscle’s IGF-1 receptor sites are exposed to lactic acid, they become temporarily deformed and as a result, both regular IGF-1 and IGF-1 LR3 are effectively prevented from attaching to these receptors. However, DES does not share this same shortcoming, demonstrating a continued ability attach to these receptor sites, despite this deformation. This further increases the potency of the compound, as only DES can act in this fashion to penetrate and turn on a muscle’s anabolic machinery during a workout, which is a critical time for a muscle to be flooded with growth factors.
Due to the nature of this peptide, long-term use is required in order to see meaningful benefit. Unlike many of the other methods explained previously, which cause a rapid expansion of the target muscle due to inflammation, DES IGF-1 will not cause any inflammation, providing size increases solely attributable to muscle fiber growth. Since this is a much slower process, results should not be expected to manifest quickly, but will gradually accumulate over months of use.
Today, there are several site enhancement methods/techniques available to BB’rs. Which one should be employed under an individual’s circumstances will depend on the BB’rs goals, expectations, and personal preferences.