by Mike Arnold
One of the most frequently asked questions among competitive BB’rs is “what steroids should I use pre-contest and how do I use them?” While this question may seem elementary, there are quite a few aspects of steroid use to consider when designing your program. Even among the experienced, mistakes are common, so in this article I wanted to cover the basic rules or guidelines of steroid use during pre-contest preparation.
The goal of all BB’rs is to present the leanest, hardest, driest, densest, most vascular physique possible on comp day. This is not possible without the right combination of steroids, in which type, duration, and the number of AAS utilized are all critical factors in maximizing these muscular characteristics. However, without bodyfat levels being low enough, even the most cleverly orchestrated steroid regimen will prove futile. In order to take full advantage of the benefits AAS have to offer, this prerequisite must be firmly in place. I mention this most basic tenet of success for those BB’rs who tend to play the blame game, in which lack of condition is often attributed to water retention, when in reality the individual is simply fat. These BB’rs often try to make up for the deficit by taking excessive diuretics on game day, which backfires, leaving them looking softer, smaller, and watery.
When a BB’r has reduced his bodyfat levels sufficiently and has used the correct AAS, his need for diuretics is either eliminated or drastically reduced. It should be the goal of every competitive BB’r to get in great condition without the use of diuretics, as diuretics are impartial their effects. In other words, in addition to pulling water out from under the skin, they also pull water out of the muscle. This results in a smaller, less impressive muscle…and the more diuretics one uses, the worse the problem becomes. It is impossible to avoid this effect, so the ideal scenario is to avoid it altogether by using alternative methods of staying hard & dry.
I can guarantee you this: if you are able to bring your bodyfat down to 3-4%, while simultaneously employing the right steroid regimen, you will have won 98% of the battle. In the following paragraphs we will discuss the basic tenets of steroid application as it applies to the pre-contest BB’r.
Anyone who has even moderate experience with AAS will tell you that steroids can have a diverse range of effects on the body. Some make you big & watery…others make you hard & vascular…and still others do a greater job of increasing muscle fullness. Understanding how the various steroids affect the body is vital in being able to achieve your goals and will directly determine how you structure your PED regimen. With the majority of BB’rs dieting for 12-16 weeks, I tend to group pre-contest steroid programs into 2 phases, with each phase lasting roughly 6-8 weeks each. The 1st phase is largely inconsequential in terms of stage condition, as the AAS used during this time will no longer be exerting their effects on the body by the day of competition. Therefore, we need not concern ourselves with staying hard & dry during this time. The primary goal of using steroid during Phase #1 is simply to help maintain our muscle mass & strength as we go about whittling away bodyfat. With less to worry about, steroid selection is much, much less important. As long as the BB’r is able to maintain his lean tissue and control estrogen levels (excessive estrogen can have a negative impact on fat loss), he can use whatever steroids he chooses. Want to use Test, Deca & D-bol? Fine. How about Test, EQ, and Anadrol? No problem.
It is quite different in Phase #2, as the steroids used during this time are ultimately responsible for the look we present onstage. For this reason, the rest of the article will be centered on this stage of prep. The first factor we will address is estrogen. Being one of the most prominent causes of water retention in steroids users, management of this hormone is crucial to achieving a hard and dry appearance. Many steroids are estrogenic in nature, elevating estrogen levels through a process called aromatization. It is possible to block this process through the concomitant use of aromatase inhibitors, but when administering high dosages of aromatizable drugs, aromatase inhibitors alone are not adequate. Even with lower dosages, we cannot completely block this process. For this reason, many achieve their best results by completely eliminating aromatizable steroids from their program prior to competition. However, some users find that using a low-moderate dose of testosterone (propionate is the best choice, due it is lower rate of aromatization) allows them to stay fuller without compromising results. For those individuals who achieve superior results by eliminating testosterone, it is generally advised that the propionate version remain in your program until about 3 weeks out, after which point no further injections should be given. This will assist in maintaining size, strength, and proper male function. For those of you who are undecided on this issue, you must rely on trial & error as your teacher.
Aside from the possible exception of testosterone, there is no benefit to be found in using any other aromatizable drugs during the last 6-8 weeks before the comp. The elimination of aromatizable drugs is not enough, though, as there are many other steroids which cause water retention through non-estrogen related mechanisms. Of course, all such steroids should be strictly avoided during Phase #2, especially as the contest approaches.
In the search for optimal results a combination of both injectables and orals should be used. With a smaller number of suitable injectables to choose from, selection is relatively simple. Taking into consideration availability as a whole, the most effective steroids for this purpose would be trenbolone (Tren), methenolone (Primobolan), and drostanolone (Masteron). Some choose to use EQ at this time as well, but in my opinion, its inclusion is unnecessary and potentially injurious to one’s condition. All of the above mentioned steroids are not only more effective at improving muscle quality and hardness, but unlike Boldenone (EQ), they do not aromatize to any degree and two of them even possess anti-estrogenic activity. Online myth has imbued EQ with an almost magical quality, with many claiming that the drug produces an exaggerated increase in vascularity far in excess of what is experienced with other steroids. In reality, there are multiple steroids which are equally competent in this regard and a few work even better.
There are other injectables which can be used successfully in Phase #2, but I have chosen to list only the most common, as not everyone has access to some of the more exotic steroids. In my opinion, orals are an indispensable part of the final 6-8 weeks, as it is not possible to achieve maximum muscle hardness, density, or fullness in their absence. Again, the same basic rule applies with orals as with injectables. None of them should aromatize. Also, just like with injectables, some orals are well known to produce a watery appearance without aromatizing. Do not use them, regardless of any other positive attribute they appear to offer. There is never a good reason to accept a negative trait in exchange for a positive one, as there are enough AAS at your disposal to accomplish everything you need.
The main reason I have suggested that certain orals be introduced at 6-8 weeks out is because most orals take a minimum of 5 weeks to deliver their full effects…and in some cases it can take as long as 8 weeks. With even small variances in physique determining one placing from the next, there is no room for half-measures. In terms of dosage, one need not resort to extremes in order to elicit maximum effect. Aside from a few notable orals, most provide a maximum increase in muscle hardness, density, dryness, and fullness when dosed between 30-50 mg per day. In fact, the excessive use of some orals (and injectables) can provoke the opposite reaction and cause a slight degree of water retention. The take home message here is that you don’t need to go crazy with your AAS dosage during pre-contest prep. As long as the dose is adequate for the maintenance of lean body mass and is providing maximum benefits in hardness, etc, there is no need to go higher.
When deciding which orals to include in your program, I recommend co-administering an anabolic and an androgen. Of course, all steroids exhibit both anabolic and androgenic properties, with no AAS being defined as a pure androgen or anabolic, but the A:A ratio of each drug can vary dramatically. While both types of AAS are capable of increasing muscular hardness, density, etc, there is a distinct difference in the look that each imparts on the musculature. For example, both Anavar and Halotestin are great drugs for providing a hard and dry appearance, yet the more subtle qualities associated with these characteristics can be clearly differentiated with each drug. In other words, the muscles just look different when using Halotestin than they do when using Anavar, even when sub-q water and bodyfat levels are virtually identical. I have found that the best results in hardness & density are obtained when administering a combination of these two types of orals. In my opinion, Halotestin is the single best oral androgen, while I am less picky about the anabolics. Most people eventually develop a preference, so I advise trying one at a time until you settle on your personal favorite(s). Two of the most common oral anabolics are Anavar and Winstrol. For those of you who are sticking with legal steroids, Epistane and Halo Extreme by IML (not to be confused with Halotestin) are equally effective alternatives.
As final, yet equally important consideration in showcasing your best physique is muscle fullness. There are a few orals which do an excellent job at this, which they accomplish by inhibiting the 11-beta hydroxylase enzyme. However, many of the best drugs for this also cause a significant amount of sub-q water retention, as well. Stay away from these drugs. I realize Anadrol has become a popular drug for this purpose, with individuals consuming anywhere between 100-500 mg per day the final week or two of prep. There is no doubt that Anadrol is effective in this capacity, yet many people experience at least a small degree of water retention from it, especially at higher dosages. You may have heard the claim that Anadrol will not cause any water retention when the user is in shape and following a clean diet, but this is not always the case. Personal response can vary substantially, so if you ever decide to experiment with Anadrol in this fashion, do so in the off-season…or a few weeks out from the competition, in order to see how it affects you personally when there is no risk involved. Even if you don’t hold a drop of water from it, you are likely to witness a reduction in muscle density, as it tends to partially mask the effects of steroids like Halotestin and Winstrol.
I have found SD to be a far superior alternative to Anadrol, as it is not only at least equally effective for increasing muscle fullness (more so in many instances), but it does not carry with it the same risk of sub-q water retention. Pure, properly compounded SD (20-30 mg/day) results in a hard, dense, and dry appearance, which works synergistically with the other orals mentioned above to ensure you come in as full and conditioned as possible. However, as with all steroids, I suggest experimenting with it prior to the competition in order to gauge its effects on your own body, as a small percentage of individuals do not respond as well to this drug. Another option is Dimethazine. This oral is closely related to SD (it is 2 SD molecules attached by an azine bond) and provides visually identical effects at a slightly higher dosage (45 mg/day).
This subject would not be complete if we did not touch on the ability of AAS to incite fat loss. There is much speculation in this arena, as many of the drugs BB’rs utilize during prep were never clinically studied in human beings, leaving us with the sometimes job of discerning which drugs work best. While anecdotal evidence has served us well over the years, the presence of a clinical study offers further confirmation that we have been on the right rack (or not). Fortunately, two of our most commonly used pre-contest drugs have been proven capable of increasing the rate of fat loss. These are testosterone and trenbolone. Trenbolone in particular has consistently demonstrated impressive results, which is why I almost always recommend its inclusion as a core injectable. Some individuals choose shy away from tren due to its high side effect profile, but for those who can tolerate the drug, few, if any drugs will offer an equal number of benefits during contest prep.
There has also been talk of terminating the use of all injectables at 2 weeks out. Advocates of this method claim that it is necessary for achieving optimal condition. The logic used to sustain this assertion is that injectables, by way of intramuscular delivery, result in a minor degree of water retention via increased inflammation. It is true that even slightly invasive procedures, such as an injection, will produce an inflammatory effect, but the level of inflammation necessary to result in a visible response is unlikely to occur when using non-irritating, sterile steroid preparations, especially when delivered with a 25 g. syringe or smaller. If anyone is worried about this, one can simply discontinue all injections at 3-4 days out. By the time the comp rolls around, the inflammation will no longer be present.
By following the guidelines laid down in this article, you will greatly improve your odds of competitive success, but it is up to you to continue the learning process, as the information presented here is only a partial compilation of one aspect of contest prep.