by Mike Arnold
The question, “which steroids are best for building muscular size?” is asked constantly on BB’ing boards all over the Net, but the question, “which steroids are the best for gaining muscular strength?” is less frequently asked. Many BBr’s assume this is a topic best left for strength athletes because after all, BB’rs shouldn’t be concerned with strength, right? The answer is both yes and no, with the correct answer being determined by the context within which the question is framed.
It is correct that the amount of weight lifted is irrelevant to a BBr’s goals; weights are only used as a means to an end…for the sculpting of the physique alone. We are taught that one’s ego should be checked at the door when trying to develop the physique and that placing optimum stress on the target muscle should be the focal point when selecting which weight we will use for each exercise.
While it is true that BBr’s don’t win contests based on the amount of weight they use during training, this does not mean that muscular strength is irrelevant to a BBr’s progress. It is actually quite the opposite. In fact, the accrual of muscular strength is the single most important factor in determining how large our muscles will become. While muscular size is comprised of multiple components, such as vascular proliferation, glycogen storage capacity, and muscular volumization (hydration), the most influential among these is the amount of contractile tissue (muscle fiber) present. The primary determinant responsible in the development of contractile tissue is intensity of exercise. When used in combination with the progressive resistance principle, muscle fiber hypertrophy can potentially become a regular occurrence.
The progressive resistance principle is utilized by incrementally increasing the amount of weight used on each exercise. The muscles respond to this ever-growing demand by becoming stronger over time and therefore, larger. We have all heard the saying that “a stronger muscle is a larger muscle” and while strength certainly does have a direct relationship to muscular size, there are multiple other factors which also influence strength, such as muscle attachments, muscle fiber recruitment, and muscle fiber type make-up. Since these factors can show significant variance from person to person, making any comparison between individuals in attempt to demonstrate the strength-size relationship will prove futile. This relationship can be accurately established only by comparing an individual against himself.
Have you ever seen anyone who could bench press 4 plates for 15 reps while showcasing a puny chest? Have you witnessed anyone curling 185 for reps with golf ball biceps? What about someone who could squat 600 pounds for 10 ass-to-ground reps with toothpick legs? On the flip-side, have you ever seen anyone with a chest like Arnold, but who can only bench 135 lbs for a single rep? Have you ever noticed someone with melon-size delts only being able to overhead press 95 lbs? The obvious answer to all these questions is no, and while each person will end up with a different amount of muscular size at a certain level of strength, everyone will continue to grow larger as they get stronger.
There is no doubt that some steroids are more effective than others when it comes to the improvement of muscular strength. Some steroids achieve this primarily through improvements in neural firing (nervous system enhancement), while others do so primarily through an increase in muscle fiber size, but regardless of what steroids are used to accomplish this objective, getting stronger on every exercise the BB’r does should be his #1 focus while attempting to build up his overall size. Of course, this goes hand in hand with the principles covered in the 1st paragraph of this article, as the weight used truly is a means to an end, but the stronger your muscles become under those conditions, the more massive you will become. Of course, not every cycle you do as a BB’r should be comprised purely of the best strength builders, but occasionally implementing cycles designed purely for increasing your strength as much as possible can help bust you out of a rut, leading to improvements in mass you would not have realized otherwise.
Let’s take a look at some of the best steroids available for building strength. Please keep in mind that just like everything else in BB’ing, each person will respond differently to these drugs. While the following steroids were selected because they tend to result in the most strength gains in general, there will be cases where an individual does not respond well to a particular drug. For this reason, each person will have to design his program based on what works best for him. Below is a list of steroids, along with a dosing range which has proven effective for inducing significant gains in strength,
Certainly, the above list is not exhaustive, but rather, contains steroids which are known to work well in the majority of the population. In addition, there will be some individuals who respond positively to steroids not typically known for strength gains, just as there will be individuals who gain very little strength when using steroids that have developed a tremendous reputation for dramatic strength gains. Personal response can play a decisive role in determining what steroids are ideal for each individual.
When deciding which AAS should be used in order to experience your best strength gains, there are a few general rules which usually apply. Typically, you will want to combine at least 3 steroids, each of which have different, yet complimentary effects. This will provide greater overall strength gains compared to loading up on a single steroid or steroids which function in a similar fashion.
One steroid should be proficient at increasing contractile ability independent of muscle fiber gain. I am not referring to androgen initiated improvements in neural firing or emotional-aggression related strength increases; I am referencing a still somewhat understood effect which takes place with various steroids, regardless of their anabolic or androgenic potency. Some steroids, despite their anabolic or androgenic status, are capable of significantly improving contractile ability in the absence of muscle gain. Some examples of steroid which are capable of accomplishing this would be Anavar and SD. While SD typically leads to large increases in body mass, it is also capable of improving strength considerably even when the user intentionally attempts to maintain bodyweight through dietary manipulation. Steroids such as these, as well as several others, seem to allow the muscle fibers to contract more forcefully for a longer period of time. This effect can be felt by most users after administering these drugs for just a week or two. Since the 2 steroids mentioned above are exceptionally weak androgens, it rules out the possibility of this effect taking place through androgenic pathways. Up until this point I have heard no good explanation as to what causes this effect to occur when using certain steroids.
The 2nd type of steroid selected should be one which does an exceptional job at inhibiting 11-beta hydroxylase, as these steroids will cause massive increases in intramuscular water retention (which may or may not be accompanied by sub-q water retention), as well as rapid mass gains over a short period of time. The sheer mass gain attained by the use of these drugs, as well as the improvements in leverage generated through enhanced muscle fullness, will result in significant and immediate gains in strength.
The 3rd type of steroid selected should exhibit fairly decent androgenic properties, for the purpose of further increasing motor unit recruitment and perhaps benefitting the user by way of controlled aggression. It is relevant to note that some steroids provide more than one of these effects at once, so keep this in mind when deciding what drugs are best suited for you.