Designing a steroid cycle is one of the things most people have in their minds when they first begin researching steroids. Whether they choose to look in books oron the internet, once the research has begun, it’s usually geared towardsfiguring out which compound(s) will best help the researcher to achieve hisgoals. So my goal for this piece isn’t to give you “sample cycles” but rather,to show you how to do it for yourself…that is to say, how to design an optimalcycle for your specific goals.
Unfortunately, while doing the initial research is easy, figuring out whichdrugs are best to achieve which goals is usually very difficult. And the morespecific the goals are, usually the more difficult it is to choose how toachieve them. Therefore, since this topic is of interest to both beginners andadvanced steroid users, it’s worth examining in depth and covering both basic aswell as advanced techniques for designing an optimal cycle. It is also adeparture from my usual work, as I have had to rely on far less studies and farmore interviews and consultations with real-world athletes and bodybuilders. Italso means I have had to look into the Russian and German research from theirsports doping programs…but more about that later…
The first thing to really consider is what steroids are going to accomplishin the body. Steroids are going to make both workouts and food more productiveand this will result in added ability to adapt to that exercise, and use thatfood to build muscle. Here’s a chart, based on Russian athletic research,detailing what happens during training, and how the body adapts to it, relativeto the hormones that can be influenced by using steroids:
So, what we see here is that the body gets stressed and primarily respondswith a rise in cortisol and a lowering of testosterone (as well as some otherfactors). Also of note is that there is a period of exhaustion, which isfollowed by (not shown in chart) what is called “supercompensation” with regardsto muscular and neurological adaptation. This is the goal of taking steroids; toincrease the amount of supercompensation per workout. So now there’s a cleargoal, but there are several factors that need to be taken advantage of to createa cycle that achieves it. And of course achieving it will require anunderstanding of what happens to that steroid once you inject it or pop it inyour mouth. In other words, we have a destination, now we need to figure out thebest route to get there…and that requires knowing a bit about how steroidsoperate.
First, receptors on the outside of the muscle cell will bring that steroidinto the cell, or alternately, it can just diffuse into the cell through thecell membrane by itself. Then the steroid molecule will bind to a molecule ofandrogen receptor (AR), which is inside the cell, not in the cell membrane. TheAR has a region that resembles a hinge; think of it like your wallet. It can befolded into either of two shapes (just like your wallet). When it binds amolecule of AAS, the AR folds at the hinge, and is activated; think of openingyour wallet…it’s the same thing with the androgen receptor, in this case- itonly functions if it’s folded…your wallet won’t keep your money inside if it’snot folded right? Ok, so the Androgen (steroid) is like money and theAndrogen Receptor is like a wallet…it isn’t of too much use without the money inside (theandrogen).
Now, the Androgen and the Receptor travel to the center (nucleus) of thecell, combine with another such pair, and give the cell a message like ” Createmore Myosin and Actin” which are major components of muscle, increase withsteroid use, and ultimately create more muscle mass. Am I skipping steps? Yeah,kinda…and I’m leaving out all the really cool words like “gene transcription”
So, is this the end of the story? No, because “create more protein” is notthe only message androgens can deliver, nor does every androgen bind as tightlyor for as long as other androgens. Androgens can create that protein indifferent ways, and in different places according to the different messages theydeliver. Just like you can use money to buy different things, and eachdenomination has a different value, the same is true of androgens. Some steroidsdeliver a message to burn fat, and some even send a message to burn more fatfrom one area than another, compared to other steroids (1)!
I can hear people saying “Just tell me which steroid is the $100 bill!” Well,yeah, it’s nice to have a wallet filled with $100 bills (not that I’d know), butit’s not very practical. What do you do if the cashier can’t break it, ordoesn’t accept large bills after a certain time, or what if you need quarters tofeed a parking meter?
See where I’m going with this? You may, in theory want those hundreds, butthere’s a lot you just can’t do with them. It’s smarter to have a wallet withall different denominations, in some kind of logical amount. So let’s say youare going to the store. You’ll need maybe a couple of hundreds, but you’llprobably need some singles too. And it’s just like that with steroids. Well,maybe slightly more complicated, but you get the idea.
Now, let’s discuss how to fill our wallet. The first thing we (*and I’mtalking to men here) need to put in it is our $20s. They are, unarguably, themost useful denomination, and are in fact the largest bill people usefrequently. The $20 dollar bill of steroids is Testosterone.
So first, for an optimal cycle, we need to consider the use of testosterone.In a broad sense, 99% of other steroids lower your natural testosterone outputby inhibiting your HPTA. While adding testosterone into your cycle won’t preventthis (indeed, testosterone also inhibits the HPTA), it can help prevent one fromexperiencing some of the side effects associated with low testosterone levels:Sexual Dysfunction, lethargy, depression, etc.
So, now we have the first part of our cycle figured out. We need to usetestosterone. Beginners may want to stop here and just do a cycle oftestosterone to see how testosterone affects you.
The rest of us, however, are going to move on to figuring out what our nextcompound will be, so we need to decide if we’re cutting or bulking. If we’regoing to be bulking, then the next compounds are very easy to choose. Generally,we find that steroids follow what’s called a linear response curve. Basically,that means that if you take more steroids, you gain more weight and strength(and usually lose more fat).
The more anabolic steroids you use, quantity-wise (lets say testosterone, forexample), the more size, strength and weight you gain (2). Thus, creating abulking cycle is reasonably simple. In general, I tend to stick with 2 compounds(testosterone and deca, perhaps) and use moderate to high doses of each. Ofcourse, different compounds will give you more appreciable total weight gainthan others, while still different compounds produce more “quality” gains withless water retention, but you get the general idea.
How long do we run a bulking cycle for? This is probably the mostcontroversial part of this piece, but I think bulking cycles ought to be rununtil the target weight is achieved. In other words, if you have a goal ofgaining 15lbs, you should run the cycle until you have reached the goal. This,of course is dependent on having realistic goals, but that’s a given, right? SObasically, my advice if you want to gain “X” lbs, then you stay on the cycleuntil you have. Why is it that on the internet and in magazines peoplearbitrarily say they’ll be cycling for 12 weeks or 8 weeks or 10 weeks? Why isit never 9 or 11 weeks? Because it’s arbitrary, that’s why. I think you shouldstay on a bulking cycle until you achieve your ultimate weight gain goal, oruntil such a time that you are uncomfortable staying on that cycle for. If youwant to gain 20lbs, and you gain it in 10 weeks should you stop? Yeah, probably.Is there anything wrong with going to week 11 or 12? Of course not. Butremember, at this point, you need to remember that your goal has been achievedand you should consider beginning PCT. Likewise, if you have gained 18lbs byweek 12, I think you ought to stick out the cycle into week 13 to achieve yourgoal. Yes, that’s right…an odd numbered week. How controversial…
Cutting cycles are another animal altogether. Instead of simply relying onlarge amounts of drugs, you need to remember that when you are in a calorierestricted state, your sensitivity to exogenous androgens is going to be greater(3). Therefore, your selection of compounds needs to be given greater care thanwhen you are simply trying to gain large amounts of weight. Remember, AAS aregoing to have a pronounced effect in the absence of ad libitum calories.
And to touch on the idea of how long you should stay on a cutting cycle, thisis usually quite different from a bulker. Why? Because usually there is a veryspecific date or event that a cutting cycle is geared towards (a bodybuildingcontest, swimsuit season, a photo shoot, etc.). So basically the “when do I enda cutting cycle/diet” is answered before you start…but if the goal is to get toX% bodyfat, then I think you should stay on until you reach that goal- again ithas to be realistic however.
To figure out how to design a cutting cycle, I’ve been looking around atvarious cutting cycles, interviewing athletes and bodybuilders, reviewingrecords kept by the Russian and East German coaches and athletes, asking peoplewhat they’ve gotten their best results from, and keeping track of what compoundsand dosages have been used. My main concern was (and is) what type of cycle hasbeen producing the best results for people, and what similarities do the mostproductive cutting cycles share. The more I researched, the more I found outthat there were trends within cutting cycles among experienced users, some ofwhich will no doubt be surprising to you, and some of which will be prettyobvious.
One of the most clear and obvious trends I’ve noted has been the use of shorteresters in cutting cycles and longer esters in bulking cycles. This is notsupported by any literature, but anecdotally, shorter estered drugs seem to beless likely to cause bloating. The Russian and East German programs also seemedto make more use of short esters. This means Testosterone Propionate would bepreferable to Testosterone Enanthate or Cypionate and Nandrolone PhenylPropionate would be preferable to the standard Deca (Nandrolone Decanoate),while testosterone Enanthate or Cypionate would still be fine for a bulkingcycle.
This should come as no surprise to most people who are versed in the more commonusage of anabolic steroids.I once made the statement, in a previous work, that: “The most productivecutting cycles I’ve read about on the ‘net ALL followed a simplestructure. Every single one.”
After explaining what the pattern was, hordes of experienced users on variousinternet discussion boards tried my idea. This was first discussed over a yearago, and since then, I’ve received numerous e-mails and read on variousdiscussion boards that my methodology has been highly successful. And here’swhy:
Every single highly successful cutting cycle I’ve ever looked at containedTestosterone. Some also contained another testosterone based compound as well.Eq is a popular addition here, and recently I’ve personally become a huge fan ofBoldenone without an ester.
Every single highly successful cycle (but especially the “cutting cycles”)utilized a 19-nor-testosterone based compound as well. The 19-nor family is wellknown for being very anabolic and not incredibly androgenic; indeed, this is whythey were developed: to create a compound that widened the gap between theandrogenic and anabolic characteristics, with emphasis on the anabolic portion.While the Trenbolone branch is very androgenic as well as anabolic, it has thedistinction of possessing the strongest androgen receptor binding affinity ofany injectable. Although my opinions often differ from Bill Roberts (and am notrelated to him, despite our names), at this point it is prudent to mention thatI have noticed a trend in cutting cycles that makes use of his classification ofandrogens (which he referred to as class I and II respectively). While I am notin total agreement with that idea or classification theory, it is very useful insome ways. In short, I feel that a proper cutting cycle will contain somecompounds which bind very strongly to the Androgen Receptor, and perhaps someothers which have several non-receptor mediated mechanisms of action. These arecalled Class I and Class II androgens by Bill Roberts, and that nomenclature issimply a shorthand version for denoting whether a given androgen has mostlygenomic or non-genomic effects.
And finally, whether looking at cycles posted on the internet, cycles ofchampion bodybuilders, or cycles based on the East German or Russian research,I’ve found that every really successful cycle I have looked at contained a DHTbased compound as well. Generally Winstrol and/or Masteron were used. The EastGermans used an obscure compound called Mestanolone as their DHT-derivedcomponent, but usually only towards the end of a cycle, and in minor amounts.This was most likely due to its effects on the CNS, which is typical of DHTderived steroids. And speaking of the East Germans, let’s take a look at exactlywhat compounds they used:
| Major Doping Substances Used in
High-Performance Sports in GDR
|Trivial name||Alternative or international name||Code name||Chemical name|
|Oral-Turinabol (tablets)||–||OT, M1||Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone, 4-chlor-1-dehydro-17a-methyl-testosterone|
|Steroid substance 646||Mestanolone||STS 646, M2||17 a-methyl-17b-hydroxy-5a-androstane-3-on|
|Steroid substance XII||–||SXII, U2||11-B-hydroxy-OT|
|Steroid substance 482||–||STS 482||4-Chlor-17a-methyl-17b-hydroxy-5a-androst-4-en-3-one|
|Steroid substance 648||–||STS 648||4-chlor-17a-methyl-17b-hydroxy-5a-androstane-3-one|
|Turinabol-Ampullen||Nandroloone phenylpropionate, Durabolin||TA||Phenylpropionate ester of 17b hydroxy-19-norandost-4-3n-3-one|
|Substances stimulating testosterone synthesis|
|Gonabion-Ampullen (injectable)||Chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)||–||–|
|Clomiphen, Clomifen (tablets)||–||–||–|
|Human growth hormone||Somatotropin|
|* 25mg of TP and 1000 IU of hCG per milliliter|
|Adapted from: “Pharmacology and Sport; Sport Pharmacology in the Soviet Union.” Hormonal Doping and Androgenization of Athletes: A secret program of the German Democratic Republic Government|
So what we have here is all 3 major families of Anabolic/Androgenic Steroidsbeing represented in the East German research (Testosterone,19-nor-Testosterone, and DiHydroTestosterone), and I also saw that in 99% of allHIGHLY PRODUCTIVE cycles that I examined. Remember, A/A steroids will allfall into one of the 3 categories I have mentioned, so combining all three intoone cycle will make use of various different properties that they each haveunique to their family. The athletic cycles I looked at seemed to be higher inthe DHT category, and I found that the East Germans were quite fond of usingwhat is known as a 4-chloro alteration in their steroids (Oral-Turinabol,Clostebol, etc…were all popular). For cycles where athletic performance is to beoptimized, I’d recommend relying heavily on both DHT-derivations as well asanything with that 4-chloro alteration.
The East Germans also generally tended to rely on a testosterone variation(or testosterone itself), and usually something DHT-derived towards the end.Here’s an example of how Oral Turinabol was utilized along with Mestanolone atthe end, to provide a slight increase in performance, probably due to itsCNS-stimulation:
Remember that earlier part of this article where I told you that the body ismore responsive to androgens when in a calorie deficient state? Well, I alsonoticed that most of the magic in successful cutting cycles is easily achievedwith dosages under 2grams (total). Bulking cycles would appear to be hovering atthe 1-2 gram mark, however. I know that personally, if I were to do a cuttingcycle, I’d run around 400-500mgs or so each of a DHT, 19-nor, and Test basedcompound. Price would factor into things, I’m sure, as would availability.Currently, I think athletic cycles would still fall into the category of stillhaving all 3 families of compounds in them, but the majority of that would beconstituted by testosterone and DHT based drugs primarily,…if joint health is aproblem, or joint pain, then more of a 19-nor (I would suggest NandroloneDecanoate or Phenylpropionate) could be added in or substituted for the DHT-basedone…with the DHT based one being added in only at the end. In other words, itwould probably be a predominantly two compound cycle, with the DHT/19-norcompounds being subject to manipulation for joint comfort.
SO what is the cash-value of all of this? What are we going to take with usin our steroid “wallet” to design a cycle? Well, since we know we’re startingwith testosterone, I can tell you that I’d almost always include something likeTrenbolone with Winstrol in a cutting cycle. Tren binds very strongly to theAndrogen Receptor, and Winstrol binds rather poorly…by combining them, we mayhave some additional synergy with regards to genomic and non-genomic action. NPP(Nandrolone Phenylpropionate) also has a reasonably strong bind to the AR, so itmay be substituted for Tren, but probably not used alongside it with anyappreciable synergy. And of course, using either of those without Testosteronewould kill your sex life. DHT based steroids tend to bind poorly, and 19-norstend to bind tightly…which makes our decision on what to include in a cycle veryeasy…by combining DHT-based and 19-nor-based steroids, we’ll almost always bemaking use of strong Androgen Receptor Binding and weak binding. In this regard,we’re now filling our wallet with the hundreds and fifties. The hundreds are thecompound (aside from testosterone) that we are going to be relying on primarilyto influence the cycle. If we’re going for a cutting cycle, those would be ourDHT-derivations (Masteron, Anavar, etc.). If we have joint problems, then we arethrowing in some Nandrolone. If our primary concern is athleticism but we stillwant to get cut…well….then our wallet needs to be filled with perhaps sometwenties, some fifties, and maybe a few tens also…so that would be ourtestosterone, a low dose of Nandrolone to keep joints healthy, and them maybesome Anavar or something to that effect the week or two prior to a competition.Oh…and don’t forget some singles…Methyltestosterone or Halotestin to be usedjust prior to competing.
Since I haven’t really touched on orals yet, I have to say that generally Iconsider them very much to be situational specific tools, because we can’texactly run them for the same amount of time we run injectables. In general, I’dsay that even moderate to high doses of orals can be run for up to six weeks atleast, and low to moderate doses can be run for even longer- up to 10 weeks I’dsay. Now, I know that this goes against traditional thinking, but honestly, I’vedone the research and really haven’t seen any irreversible effects from suchdosing when it’s done in healthy males. Of course, if you have a pre-existingliver problem or high cholesterol, then this wouldn’t apply to you. Orals likeanadrol and dianabol are generally used in spurts to achieve massive but quickgrowth. Anavar or Winstrol are typically used at the end of cutting cycles,etc…basically most of the time, I consider orals to be the singles in ourwallet. You usually only need them for very specific instances and usually onlybriefly. Generally they find their way in my cycles only to achieve veryspecific goals, just as singles usually only find their way into my REAL walletwhen I need tip money at the bar…
What I’m ultimately saying here, is that we need a bunch of different typesof bills in our wallet, depending on where we’re going – meaning that we need todesign cycles around our goals, not just around what sexy new drug we feel likeusing. You wouldn’t go to McDonalds with a wallet full of hundreds, right? Youcan’t even use them there! So, while it’s appealing to try to use obscurecompounds that look sexy and cool…and get a lot of play on silly invite-boardsand such…its not a great idea. Just like a hundred dollar bill at McDonalds…it’snot going to get you what you want.
There it is…how I would design a cycle for optimal results, using optimalcompounds and dosages. As a last word, I’d like to remind everyone that diet andtraining will be part of your cycle-puzzle, and that the dugs mentioned abovewill make things easier…but they certainly will not make you ripped or huge ontheir own.
Combine those 3 families of steroids, and different receptor bindingabilities, and you’ have a very potent cycle. Use high(ish) doses and you have avery nice bulking cycle. Now that you have an understanding of how I design myown cycles, I’ll leave you to design your own.
Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1995 Sep;19(9):614-24.
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Dec;281(6):E1172-81.
Neuroendocrinol 1994;6: 397-402
“Pharmacology and Sport; Sport Pharmacology in the Soviet Union.” Hormonal Doping and Androgenization of Athletes: A secret program of the German Democratic Republic Government
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About the Author:
Anthony Roberts has been researching anabolic steroids for over a decade and is the author of “Anabolic Steroids: Ultimate Research Guide,” addition to the ebook “Beyond Steroids,” and is the co-author of the book “Jekyll to Hyde: Physique Transformation from Both sides of the Force.” His latest book, Generation S, is in the final stages of publishing and will be released shortly by ECW Press. Anthony holds a degree from Seton Hall University in English, another degree in Philosophy, and is a current member in good standing of MENSA. His steroid articles have been featured on iSteroids, Steroid.com, EliteFitness, MesoRx, T-Nation, Mind and Muscle, and many other sites. Anthony has designed and developed 4 nutritional supplements, 1 of which became a #1 best seller for Protein Factory. As a trainer and consultant he has helped athletes at all levels of competition, including Professional Bodybuilders, MMA competitors, and Powerlifters.Anthony keeps active in the print world, and has been writing a column for the South African based bodybuilding magazine, Muscle Evolution, for the past several years, focusing on anabolic steroids and other related performance enhancing drugs.Anthony’s Blog: www.anthonyroberts.co.za