The importance of knowing what’s possible
“Shoot for the moon, and you’ll land among the stars”
It’s a nice saying. Aim high and you’ll get further than you thought.
But it’s equally pretty important to aim realistic, as well as high. Shooting for one of Jupiter’s moons is not really a goal, because you’re never going to get near it.
How do you aim realistically? By knowing what is possible and what is impossible.
The distinction is hugely important, because if you don’t know, you’re ripe to be sold a bunch of crap and an impossible goal.
Yep, I’m going to talk about vitamin S again.
As I’ve stated a few times, I’m by no means an expert on steroids.
I know I’m going on about them. Who really cares?
Personally it makes no difference to me whether someone is using or not. It’s your choice. It’s a personal decision, just like choosing to chemically change your body through taking recreational drugs or drinking alcohol.
If you’re an adult, aware of the risks, both health-wise and possible legally, knowledgable and ready to take responsibility for your choices then go right ahead. I’m not judging anyone.
The real problem is their role in the distortion of expectations and misleading of the fitness public to help companies sell products.
If you want to take steroids then it’s up to you. But don’t lie about it.
This, as you know, happens all the time in the fitness world. And it’s easy to lie, because if you haven’t trained for a long time and done research into it, you just don’t know what is possible and what is true.
I think it’s important to be aware of what is possible naturally, because otherwise you might get dejected when your results don’t measure up to what you are led to believe is possible.
What’s more once you know that steroids and drugs are pretty much the ONLY ‘supplement’ that works you can stop wasting time and money on powders, pills and formulas that are totally unnecessary.
Awareness also means you can set realistic goals and be proud when you reach them naturally.
Steroid users come in all shapes and sizes. Look at Lance Armstrong and Arnold. Both used a lot of PEDs. But one was 150 lbs and looked anorexic, the other was 240 lbs of beef.
You can never definitely tell whether someone is or has used steroids, just by looking.
However there are some signs that usually flag up someone who is using more than protein shakes and pre-workout.
Try applying this to fitness models, athletes or people you know. Ticking off something on this list doesn’t by itself mean they are ‘on’. But once you start ticking off a few…just be aware!
1. Rapid jumps in mass or strength after first few years of training
The only time you will make drastic changes in strength and size as a natural is during the first couple of years of hard training. After this progress becomes slower and less noticeable the longer you continue to train.
If someone you have seen or trained with in the gym for a few years suddenly starts making huge leaps in progress or size, it’s probably not down to the new supplement he just bought. Unless that supplement is vitamin S.
The more trained you are, the smaller your gains will be. High-level athletes who go away over the off-season and ‘bulk up’ or come back very noticeably bigger, stronger or leaner are not just putting more hours in at the gym, despite what they’ll tell you.
2. Extreme strength or performance
In these days of the ‘fake’ natural people’s expectation of what is achievable without drugs has become pretty wildly calibrated.
Considering the flaky nature of powerlifting federations drug-testing programs and the flakiness of drug testing as a whole I’m gonna say that looking at their records anyone who is hitting numbers like benchpressing over twice their bodyweight or deadlifting 3 or more times their bodyweight is likely to be ‘supplementing’.
I just don’t think it is possible without PEDs, no matter how hard you work.
There are of course some ‘freaks’ out there who are incredibly strong for their size. But true genetic outliers are by implication, rare. When everyone on YouTube is a self-proclaimed genetic anomaly, something doesn’t add-up.
This goes for physical achievements in general: if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Paula Radcliffe holding a marathon world record 3 minutes better than her closest rival who has been busted for drugs, all-natural? Ok.
Chris Froome practically matching Lance Armstrong’s doped up record going up Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France, completely clean? Sure.
Possible? Maybe. Probable? Extremely, extremely unlikely, especially when you consider the fact that people they are beating are also genetic freaks, by virtue of the fact that they are top professional sportspeople.
3. Unreal ‘photoshopped’ quality
Obviously any picture you see in a magazine has been photoshopped. But sometimes you can see someone in real life who has that dry, extremely defined and hard look. They might not be that big, but every muscle seems pronounced and full.
Again, does it look unreal? Even if you are very lean, and have great definition as a natural, you can’t get that level of conditioning.
4. Very large traps and ‘3D’ shoulders
Your traps are the large muscles either side of your neck and along with the shoulders are known as having a lot of ‘androgen-receptors’ which respond well to steroids.
As a result steroid users can often have ‘oversized’ traps and shoulders relative to the rest of their bodies, with very round and unnatural looking shoulders.
This is obviously not the case for endurance people like cyclists but if you look at people training for strength and size the ‘no-neck’ and pronounced shoulder muscles can be a giveaway that their ‘creatine’ likely comes in a syringe.
Ever watched World’s Strongest Man? Have you noticed that almost all the competitors are bald or balding?
They also all look a lot older than their age. Balding and aging are two common side effects of steroid usage, although some people are lucky that they experience neither, or to a lesser degree.
One of the natural processes of the body is to convert a proportion of the hormone testosterone into estrogen.
Testosterone is an androgenic (meaning it causes development of male characteristics) and anabolic (builds muscle and strength) hormone found in much greater quantities in men then women; estrogen is the hormone more present in women that is responsible for the development of female secondary sexual characteristics.
If you start injecting and increasing your testosterone levels you will benefit from its androgenic and anabolic effects like increased muscle size and strength.
But it also means that your estrogen level will become higher, since your body is now converting the same proportion of a greater quantity.
As a result, you can start to exhibit some of the effects of estrogen: notably the development of breast tissue around the nipple.
So bodybuilders can end up with large and developed pectoral (chest) muscles but puffy breast tissue around the nipple. Here’s an example:
This is known as gynecomastia, and the only solution is surgery to remove the fatty tissue. Obviously though if you keep injecting, it can come back.
7. Extremely muscular AND very lean
When I say lean, I mean a legitimate 9-10% bodyfat (lower abs clearly visible). Everyone underestimates how fat they are.
As a natural if you’re very lean you’re not going to be carrying huge amounts of muscle at the same time. You’ll look great with your shirt off, but shirt on you won’t be filling out XL T-shirts.
High muscle mass and low bodyfat is a dangerous position to be in for the body, from a survival standpoint. It’s not meant to be that way.
There are drugs out there that help you preserve muscle mass while dieting: there are drugs out there that help you shed fat fast while keeping most of your muscle.8It’s not possible to do that just eating chicken breast and drinking water.
8. Ability to work out multiple times a day regularly
One of the most beneficial aspects of steroids for professional athletes is the ability to drastically accelerate recovery, from both injury and training sessions. This allows you to train hard everyday, even multiple times a day, which in turn means faster progression.
Some fake natural fitness ‘gurus’ love to tell you that overtraining is just in the mind, or that recovery is for wimps. That’s fine for them, if they are using drugs.
If you’re natural recovery is just as important as working out: keep hammering it everyday and you will soon start going backwards.
This is just one of the reasons why natural people should avoid the 6 days a week high volume training advocated by so many fitness and muscle magazines.
They won’t get you to 18 inch arms, just a burned out system and your results grinding to a halt.
You can put the hammer down for a couple of weeks maybe before you start overtraining. People who are working out multiple times a day or every single day continuously with no signs of slowing down are suspect.
Walking 30 minutes a day is not what I mean either. I mean training hard and intense every session. You can’t do that without adequate recovery naturally.
So there’s a few truths to consider and signs to watch out for. Unfortunately in any fitness discussion, especially when it comes to lifting, the topic of PEDs, steroids and drugs will rear its head.
To reiterate, I don’t care if anyone is using or not. A 600 lbs deadlift with drugs is still incredibly impressive. You still have to put the time in to get the 220 lbs 8% bodyfat physique even with the drugs.
I just want those new to training to be aware of the fact that drugs are everywhere and that you should never benchmark your natural progress against those on them.
I used to kill myself training and eating in a futile quest to emulate the guys I saw on the adverts or the TV. I really believed I could get to 200 lbs at 5′ 10″ with 10% bodyfat.
The more it didn’t happen, the more I looked for ways in which to do it. The supplement or the weight-gainer or the elusive routine to get me there.
I didn’t know it was impossible. I was just spending a lot of time and money building my spaceship to get to the moon, without any fuel to actually achieve lift-off.
Save you time and your money, as well as your esteem. Be aware of what is possible naturally and set your sights accordingly.