Bulking steroids can be defined as:
Certain anabolic steroids that have exceptional capabilities, in regards to building muscular size and strength.
Simply put, if you want to get jacked; bulking steroids are the key.
They were used in Arnold’s day to pack on mass in the off-season and are still used today with great success (albeit with higher dosages and more potent compounds available).
If a bodybuilder were to be a sculpture, bulking steroids would be the equivalent of adding the clay. This is the mass needed to stand out, command a presence and become a masterpiece.
In this article we’ll dissect the top 5 steroids in bodybuilding and the pros and cons of each; helping you get a better understanding of each compound.
Top 5 Bulking Steroids
Dianabol is the most popular bulking steroid, which is to no surprise considering it helped bulk up a certain young Austrian kid — who went on to become the greatest bodybuilder of all time.
Dianabol was created by Dr John Ziegler in 1955, an American doctor who worked with the USA Olympic weightlifting team. Coincidentally, it was in Austria when Dr Ziegler experienced a eureka moment to synthesize dianabol. He was speaking with a Russian physicist in a bar, when over a few drinks he revealed that the Soviets success was due to the fact they were doping — specifically using testosterone.
Thus, Dr Ziegler realized that he would need to create a compound significantly more anabolic than testosterone, in order to restore the American’s athletic success.
Dr Ziegler did just that, formulating dianabol — a steroid with over 2x the anabolic rating vs testosterone. However, merely creating a new, revolutionary steroid wasn’t enough to prevent the Russian’s continued dominance.
To many people’s delight, and unlike testosterone, dianabol is an oral steroid (requiring no injections).
Dbol can also be taken as an injectable, however tablets are a lot more common on the black market.
Dianabol has the power to add 20-30lbs of mass from a single cycle. Strength levels can also increase significantly, with users often lifting 50+lbs heavier on compound exercises.
In regards to gains, dbol’s up there with the very best steroids on the market.
Dianabol also is not very androgenic. Thus, hair loss, acne, oily skin and prostate issues are less likely. This was the second goal of Dr Ziegler’s masterplan — not only was dianabol to be more anabolic than testosterone; but also less androgenic.
This was important after hearing the young Russian athletes had to be catheterized in order to urinate, signifying prostate enlargement.
Dianabol is a very hepatotoxic steroid, being a C17-alpha alkylated drug. Thus, in order to stay active it needs to pass through the liver, consequently causing significant stress.
The good news however is, such stress is typically temporary, often reversing post-cycle. However, the risk of liver damage increases if large doses are taken for extended periods of time.
For maximum protection, users should limit their dianabol cycle to 6-8 weeks. More cautious novice users may only take dianabol for 5 weeks.
Users should also supplement with TUDCA to prevent ALT/AST liver enzymes rising too high. These are markers of stress to the organ.
Dianabol also happens to be one of the worst steroids for elevating blood pressure. This is mainly due to 3 reasons:
- Exogenous testosterone
- Hepatic lipase stimulation
- Water retention
Dianabol raises LDL cholesterol, whilst lowering HDL levels; simply because it’s exogenous testosterone. When testosterone levels reach sky high levels, the body will naturally raise estrogen levels; to regulate cholesterol. This is because testosterone spikes LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), whilst high estrogen spikes HDL (the good kind).
The second reason why dianabol strains the heart is because it’s an oral steroid. Many orals when passing through the liver, stimulate an enzyme known as hepatic lipase. This consequently lowers good cholesterol (HDL) and further elevates BP.
Thirdly, dianabol can impact blood flow to and from the heart, because it’s an estrogenic steroid. This is due to the process of aromatization — when testosterone converts into estrogen.
Unfortunately, when estrogen rises — water retention follows.
Fluid retention on dbol can be significant with bloating a common side effect. The reason water retention strains the heart is because it increases blood viscosity (as water makes up more than half of total blood volume). This causes the heart to beat harder for optimal blood flow and thus blood pressure spikes.
Dianabol also comes with a risk of gynecomastia, due to its strong conversion of testosterone into estrogen. It is not recommended to take an AI (aromatase inhibitor) to prevent gyno, as doing so will worsen blood pressure (as HDL levels will drop).
Instead, a SERM may be taken, such as Nolvadex, which will not lower estrogen levels but instead inhibits estrogen’s effects specifically located in the mammary glands.
Dbol will cause a large spike in testosterone levels, because users are injecting a potent form of exogenous testosterone into the body. However, natural testosterone will come to a halt, because the body will detect that total testosterone levels are too high. Thus, it tries to keep a homeostasis this way; which is why bodybuilders require a PCT — in a bid to restore optimal hormone function.
- Dianabol/deca durabolin
Testosterone was the first ever steroid, created in 1935, after being extracted from a bull’s testicles.
Testosterone is a bulking steroid that can produce similar effects to dianabol, with large gains in muscle size and strength to be expected.
20+ pounds of weight gain can be expected from a testosterone cycle, which is still today considered the best cycle for beginners. This is due to testosterone being a milder compound than dianabol, causing significantly less strain on the heart and virtually no risks to the liver.
The main difference between testosterone and dianabol, is the method of administration; with test being an injectable steroid. Testosterone also has a higher androgenic rating, thus users can experience more: hair loss, prostate enlargement, acne and oily skin — in comparison to dianabol.
A more androgenic steroid however can promote fat loss when bulking, due to androgen receptors reducing lipid uptake, whilst stimulating lipolysis.
This means that despite test being a bulking steroid, testosterone has the power to burn fat; as well as build large amounts of muscle. This is why test is sometimes used during cutting cycles, to enhance fat burning.
Testosterone is possibly the safest steroid in existence — and available as an injectable or an oral.
Test is predominantly an injectable steroid, however testosterone undecanoate is the oral form. The main difference here is that the oral for is a lot more expensive.
Testosterone is androgenic, thus some hair loss can be expected on the scalp. Those who experienced acne during puberty, may also be triggered with new bouts (due to enhanced sebum production).
Testosterone has the potential to cause gyno due to aromatization, thus sensitive individuals may want to take a SERM, especially when stacking test with other estrogenic bulking steroids.
Testosterone suppression will be significant post-cycle, thus it’ll take several weeks or months to recover testosterone to normal levels (depending on the effectiveness of the PCT).
Due to testosterone being predominantly an injectable, it’s not great news for those who want to stick to orals. Although it’s available in tablet form, this is less commonly found on the black market.
Some testosterone injections are known to cause discomfort/pain, particularly propionate. When taking a testosterone with short esters, this also requires frequent injections to keep serum testosterone levels consistently peaking (instead of crashing). Thus, most users will opt for test enanthate or test cypionate which only require injections every 4/5 days.
Anadrol (oxymetholone) is a potent bulking steroid, created in 1959 and initially used in medicine to help chronically underweight patients.
A single anadrol cycle can add 30+ pounds to users, as well as enhancing strength to monstrous levels. Strength gains are literally so impressive, users should be cautious about lifting too heavy.
This is because injuries, such as ruptured tendons and torn muscles are more likely when lifts go up too much, too soon. The body needs time to adapt and thus adding 50lbs to your bench press in the first 2 weeks on anadrol will strain the body significantly. Therefore, it’d be wise to add weight slowly and perform more repetitions where possible on anadrol.
Anadrol is an oral bulking steroid, thus it’s easy to administer. Anadrol typically comes in 50mg pills, which is convenient considering bodybuilding dosages are often 50/100mg per day.
The size and strength gains on anadrol are unrivaled by any other bulking steroid. The pumps, due to a significant increase in intracellular volume are also mind-blowing (and sometimes painful). Thus, it might be worth saving the super sets and drop sets until your anadrol cycle is over.
By this point you’re probably wondering why anadrol isn’t more popular, given its exceptional power for building muscle and strength.
The reason why is because of its toxicity. Anadrol is not suitable for beginners and is predominantly taken by advanced-users only. This is due to anadrol’s deleterious effects on the heart and liver.
Anadrol typically causes sharp rises in blood pressure, due to it increasing water retention, testosterone levels, red blood cell count and stimulating hepatic lipase (lowering HDL cholesterol). All of which makes the blood more viscous, taking a toll on the heart; having to pump harder to keep necessary blood flow to and from the heart.
Anadrol is also one of the worst steroids for the liver, being very toxic. Thus, anadrol cycles should be kept short and should be avoided by users who would typically drink alcohol during a cycle.
The risk of gynecomastia is also a risk on anadrol, with it possessing potent estrogenic properties. However, unlike testosterone and dianabol, it doesn’t aromatize. Thus, users who want to combat this effect by taking an AI will do so to no avail. A SERM however will be effective, as it will target the mammary glands directly, blocking estrogen’s effects. Nolvadex and clomid may be taken together on anadrol for extra protection.
As estrogen levels rise, water retention also follows. This can be particularly severe on anadrol when bulking in the off-season (consuming excess calories and high levels of sodium).
However, water retention can be kept at bay on anadrol when calories are lower (small calorie deficit or maintenance calories) and the person consumes low levels of sodium.
Men’s physique competitors are prime examples of this — often cycling anadrol before a competition to look big and full (with no water retention). Thus, there appears to be a connection with sodium intake and water accumulation when estrogen levels are high. So, your diet on anadrol can be the difference between looking smooth/bloated or jacked.
However, anadrol in most cases does cause significant fluid retention, causing users to lose some weight post-cycle (approximately 10lbs).
Considering our muscles are made up of 70-75% water, some muscle shrinkage can be expected once coming off anadrol.
Androgenic side effects are also probable, due to anadrol having notable androgenic properties. Some level of hair loss/thinning/recession is common — and oily skin.
Users will typically crash post-cycle requiring an aggressive PCT.
- Anadrol/deca durabolin
Trenbolone is arguably the most aesthetic bulking steroid on the planet. This is because it builds exceptional amounts of lean mass, whilst drying out the body.
This creates a big and ripped appearance — not your typical ‘off season bulking look’.
The two most popular forms of trenbolone are enanthate and acetate — both being injectables.
In terms of lean muscle gains, trenbolone certainly rivals dianabol and anadrol. However, it won’t reflect that on the scales as it doesn’t cause any water retention; thus users won’t gain a tonne of weight.
Instead, it actually rids the body of water, hence why muscle definition increases during trenbolone cycles. Generally, people have some extracellular fluid that collects around the outside of the muscles. Tren reduces this water, causing the lines that detail your muscles to become more pronounced (combined with enhanced vascularity).
Trenbolone, being an injectable, isn’t harsh on the liver; thus there’s no need to worry about liver damage when following moderate cycles.
Trenbolone is one of the most potent steroids on the market for simply transforming your body and taking it to new levels.
With other bulking steroids you will gain a lot of size, but with trenbolone the difference in the mirror is more dramatic; as you have its muscle-building attributed coupled with simultaneous fat loss.
Trenbolone is a potent fat burner, due to it being highly androgenic. Androgenic receptors have the power to kickstart lipolysis and thus help strip away fat.
Some trenbolone-users don’t notice much fat loss when bulking, however this can be attributed to some individuals eating in a big calorie surplus. Thus, if users aren’t grossly overeating, they are likely to see their body fat percentage decrease. This is why trenbolone isn’t just used as a bulking steroid — but also a cutting one.
Trenbolone is 5x more androgenic than testosterone.
Trenbolone is also very powerful for enhancing strength, being considered one of the best steroids for explosive power (hence why its use among athletes).
Trenbolone acetate also kicks in fast, with users experiencing huge gains in the first couple of weeks. Tren acetate has a half life of 72 hours, however enanthate takes a little longer to take effect (containing longer esters).
Tren enanthate’s half life is is 11 days, however it will require less frequent injections, with it taking longer to exit the body.
Trenbolone’s benefits are quite phenomenal — however the side effects are enough to put off the faint-hearted.
Trenbolone will cause testosterone levels to shut down, causing an imminent crash post-cycle. Thus, a powerful PCT is recommended to prevent physiological and psychological health — as well as cementing gains.
Tren will also cause big rises in blood pressure, due its stimulative effects, combined with its devastating effects on cholesterol. Consequently, some users will develop a pinkish colour to their skin, signifying an elevated body temperature/higher blood pressure. This can also increase sweating, known as ‘tren sweats’.
Trenbolone also appears to arouse the central nervous system more than other steroids; thus insomnia, anxiety and depression have been reported in some users. If you are sensitive to caffeine, energy drinks or pre workouts — trenbolone is likely to exacerbate mental health.
Users have also experienced shorter tempers, feeling irritable and even paranoid about normal situations (sometimes leading to jealousy in relationships).
Trenbolone can also trigger violent coughing, experienced immediately after injecting. This is due to tren being more susceptible to irritating the lungs, compared to other bulking steroids. This occurs when the oil hits a blood vessel, happening in roughly 20% of injections. Due to the frequency of injections, this may not happen often on tren enanthate, but more so with tren acetate.
Tren will also cause androgenic side effects, with sensitive users experiencing bad cases of acne and hair loss/recession. If you desperately want to keep your precious hair follicles intact — tren may not be the steroid for you.
5. Deca Durabolin
Deca durabolin (nandrolone) is a very underrated bulking steroid. In bodybuilding circles it probably doesn’t receive the praise it deserves, however the fact Arnold and bodybuilders from the golden era cycled it religiously with dianabol — speaks volumes.
There’s a few reasons why Deca durabolin is NOT the number one steroid on juice heads shopping lists.
Firstly, it’s an injectable which is a turn off for some.
Secondly, it’s made up of long esters, thus it takes a while to kick in (requiring patience).
Thirdly, it’s not a steroid that’s powerful enough to produce big gains by itself. However, deca is a unique steroid with several benefits that make it worthy of being included in our top 5 bulking steroids.
Muscle and strength gains are the two main benefits of taking deca. If someone were to gain 20lbs on dianabol, and then stack their next cycle with deca (for the first time), they’d likely gain a further 10-15lbs.
Deca durabolin is good for the joints, due to it increasing collagen synthesis and fluid retention. Thus, with extra water cushioning the joints, combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of collagen — deca is ideal if you like to lift heavy (and want to avoid joint problems later in life).
Deca durabolin is not androgenic. Thus, users have a significantly reduced risk of hair thinning or recession on the scalp. This may explain why bodybuilders from the 70’s had thick hair, compared to the bodybuilders today (who take more androgenic steroids).
Due to its weak androgenicity, deca’s also taken by some women successfully, with low incidences of virilization (although still possible).
Deca is one of the mildest steroids you can take. It doesn’t pose excessive strain on the heart, with it raising raising blood pressure just slightly more than testosterone. Liver toxicity is also very unlikely, with it not being c17 alpha-alkylated.
Erectile dysfunction is a notorious side effect associated with nandrolone, known as ‘deca dick’.
There are a couple of reasons why this can occur. Firstly, deca durabolin raises prolactin which is known to reduce libido in men.
Also when endogenous testosterone levels are low, the androgenic properties of steroids can maintain sexual performance. This is due to DHT playing a role in nitric oxide production and thus blood flow to the penis. Thus, when taking deca alone — performance can suffer.
One way to counteract deca dick is to stack deca durabolin with an androgenic bulking steroid, such as testosterone, trenbolone or anadrol. Even dianabol will have enough androgenicity to prevent your penis from going limp.
Another option is to supplement with Dostinex (cabergoline) during each deca cycle, which will inhibit prolactin production, maintaining a normal libido.
Deca can cause gynecomastia in men, despite not being estrogenic. It does this by raising progesterone, which has similar effects in regards to the mammary glands — causing swollen nipples and enlarged breast tissue. Users shouldn’t run a SERM (such as nolvadex) when taking deca as they have the potential to exacerbate progesterone levels and increase the chance of gynecomastia forming. Instead, an anti estrogen has proven to be effective, although at the cost of raising blood pressure further.
Testosterone production will also take a hit post-cycle on deca (as with other bulking steroids).
- Deca durabolin/dianabol
- Deca durabolin/testosterone
- Deca durabolin/anadrol
What is the best bulking steroid?
This is subjective to the user and their goals. For example, if the goal is to gain as much mass as possible — dianabol or anadrol would be optimal compounds.
However, if a person wanted to perform a ‘lean bulk’, packing on muscle without gaining water or fat — trenbolone would be the best option.
Furthermore, if they wanted to use a bulking steroid, that was the safest in terms of side effects; testosterone comes out on top.
Have you used any of the bulking steroids mentioned in this article? If so, which ones are your favourite? Leave a comment below.