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Designing an Anabolic Steroid Cycle

April 8th, 2009 · No Comments

Designing a 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 or on the internet, once the research has begun, it’s usually geared towards figuring out which compound(s) will best help the researcher to achieve his goals. 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 optimal cycle for your specific goals.

Unfortunately, while doing the initial research is easy, figuring out which drugs are best to achieve which goals is usually very difficult. And the more specific the goals are, usually the more difficult it is to choose how to achieve them. Therefore, since this topic is of interest to both beginners and advanced steroid users, it’s worth examining in depth and covering both basic as well as advanced techniques for designing an optimal cycle. It is also a departure from my usual work, as I have had to rely on far less studies and far more interviews and consultations with real-world athletes and bodybuilders. It also means I have had to look into the Russian and German research from their sports doping programs…but more about that later…

The first thing to really consider is what steroids are going to accomplish in the body. Steroids are going to make both workouts and food more productive and this will result in added ability to adapt to that exercise, and use that food to build muscle. Here’s a chart, based on Russian athletic research, detailing what happens during training, and how the body adapts to it, relative to the hormones that can be influenced by using steroids:

So, what we see here is that the body gets stressed and primarily responds with a rise in cortisol and a lowering of testosterone (as well as some other factors). Also of note is that there is a period of exhaustion, which is followed by (not shown in chart) what is called “supercompensation” with regards to muscular and neurological adaptation. This is the goal of taking steroids; to increase the amount of supercompensation per workout. So now there’s a clear goal, but there are several factors that need to be taken advantage of to create a cycle that achieves it. And of course achieving it will require an understanding of what happens to that steroid once you inject it or pop it in your mouth. In other words, we have a destination, now we need to figure out the best route to get there…and that requires knowing a bit about how steroids operate.

First, receptors on the outside of the muscle cell will bring that steroid into the cell, or alternately, it can just diffuse into the cell through the cell membrane by itself. Then the steroid molecule will bind to a molecule of androgen receptor (AR), which is inside the cell, not in the cell membrane. The AR has a region that resembles a hinge; think of it like your wallet. It can be folded into either of two shapes (just like your wallet). When it binds a molecule of AAS, the AR folds at the hinge, and is activated; think of opening your wallet…it’s the same thing with the androgen receptor, in this case- it only functions if it’s folded…your wallet won’t keep your money inside if it’s not folded right? Ok, so the Androgen (steroid) is like money and the Androgen Receptor is like a wallet…it isn’t of too much use without the money inside (the androgen).

Now, the Androgen and the Receptor travel to the center (nucleus) of the cell, combine with another such pair, and give the cell a message like ” Create more Myosin and Actin” which are major components of muscle, increase with steroid 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” for now too.

So, is this the end of the story? No, because “create more protein” is not the only message androgens can deliver, nor does every androgen bind as tightly or for as long as other androgens. Androgens can create that protein in different ways, and in different places according to the different messages they deliver. Just like you can use money to buy different things, and each denomination has a different value, the same is true of androgens. Some steroids deliver a message to burn fat, and some even send a message to burn more fat from 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), but it’s not very practical. What do you do if the cashier can’t break it, or doesn’t accept large bills after a certain time, or what if you need quarters to feed a parking meter?

See where I’m going with this? You may, in theory want those hundreds, but there’s a lot you just can’t do with them. It’s smarter to have a wallet with all different denominations, in some kind of logical amount. So let’s say you are going to the store. You’ll need maybe a couple of hundreds, but you’ll probably 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’m talking to men here) need to put in it is our $20s. They are, unarguably, the most useful denomination, and are in fact the largest bill people use frequently. 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 output by inhibiting your HPTA. While adding testosterone into your cycle won’t prevent this (indeed, testosterone also inhibits the HPTA), it can help prevent one from experiencing 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 use testosterone. Beginners may want to stop here and just do a cycle of testosterone to see how testosterone affects you.

The rest of us, however, are going to move on to figuring out what our next compound will be, so we need to decide if we’re cutting or bulking. If we’re going 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, for example), the more size, strength and weight you gain (2). Thus, creating a bulking 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. Of course, different compounds will give you more appreciable total weight gain than others, while still different compounds produce more “quality” gains with less water retention, but you get the general idea.

How long do we run a bulking cycle for? This is probably the most controversial part of this piece, but I think bulking cycles ought to be run until the target weight is achieved. In other words, if you have a goal of gaining 15lbs, you should run the cycle until you have reached the goal. This, of course is dependant on having realistic goals, but that’s a given, right? SO basically, my advice if you want to gain “X” lbs, then you stay on the cycle until you have. Why is it that on the internet and in magazines people arbitrarily say they’ll be cycling for 12 weeks or 8 weeks or 10 weeks? Why is it never 9 or 11 weeks? Because it’s arbitrary, that’s why. I think you should stay on a bulking cycle until you achieve your ultimate weight gain goal, or until such a time that you are uncomfortable staying on that cycle for. If you want 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. But remember, at this point, you need to remember that your goal has been achieved and you should consider beginning PCT. Likewise, if you have gained 18lbs by week 12, I think you ought to stick out the cycle into week 13 to achieve your goal. Yes, that’s right…an odd numbered week. How controversial…

Cutting cycles are another animal altogether. Instead of simply relying on large amounts of drugs, you need to remember that when you are in a calorie restricted state, your sensitivity to exogenous androgens is going to be greater (3). Therefore, your selection of compounds needs to be given greater care than when you are simply trying to gain large amounts of weight. Remember, AAS are going 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, this is usually quite different from a bulker. Why? Because usually there is a very specific date or event that a cutting cycle is geared towards (a bodybuilding contest, swimsuit season, a photo shoot, etc…). So basically the “when do I end a cutting cycle/diet” is answered before you start…but if the goal is to get to X% bodyfat, then I think you should stay on until you reach that goal- again it has to be realistic however.

To figure out how to design a cutting cycle, I’ve been looking around at various cutting cycles, interviewing athletes and bodybuilders, reviewing records kept by the Russian and East German coaches and athletes, asking people what they’ve gotten their best results from, and keeping track of what compounds and dosages have been used. My main concern was (and is) what type of cycle has been producing the best results for people, and what similarities do the most productive cutting cycles share. The more I researched, the more I found out that there were trends within cutting cycles among experienced users, some of which will no doubt be surprising to you, and some of which will be pretty obvious.

One of the most clear and obvious trends I’ve noted has been the use of shorter esters in cutting cycles and longer esters in bulking cycles. This is not supported by any literature, but anecdotally, shorter estered drugs seem to be less likely to cause bloating. The Russian and East German programs also seemed to make more use of short esters. This means Testosterone Propionate would be preferable to Testosterone Enanthate or Cypionate and Nandrolone Phenyl Propionate would be preferable to the standard Deca (Nandrolone Decanoate), while testosterone Enanthate or Cypionate would still be fine for a bulking cycle.

This should come as no surprise to most people who are versed in the more common usage of anabolic steroids.

I once made the statement, in a previous work, that: “The most productive cutting cycles I’ve read about on the ‘net ALL followed a simple structure. Every single one.”

After explaining what the pattern was, hordes of experienced users on various internet discussion boards tried my idea. This was first discussed over a year ago, and since then, I’ve received numerous e-mails and read on various discussion boards that my methodology has been highly successful. And here’s why:

Every single highly successful cutting cycle I’ve ever looked at contained Testosterone. Some also contained another testosterone based compound as well. Eq is a popular addition here, and recently I’ve personally become a huge fan of Boldenone 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 well known for being very anabolic and not incredibly androgenic; indeed, this is why they were developed: to create a compound that widened the gap between the androgenic and anabolic characteristics, with emphasis on the anabolic portion. While the Trenbolone branch is very androgenic as well as anabolic, it has the distinction of possessing the strongest androgen receptor binding affinity of any injectable. Although my opinions often differ from Bill Roberts (and am not related to him, despite our names), at this point it is prudent to mention that I have noticed a trend in cutting cycles that makes use of his classification of androgens (which he referred to as class I and II respectively). While I am not in total agreement with that idea or classification theory, it is very useful in some ways. In short, I feel that a proper cutting cycle will contain some compounds which bind very strongly to the Androgen Receptor, and perhaps some others which have several non-receptor mediated mechanisms of action. These are called Class I and Class II androgens by Bill Roberts, and that nomenclature is simply a shorthand version for denoting whether a given androgen has mostly genomic or non-genomic effects.

And finally, whether looking at cycles posted on the internet, cycles of champion 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 DHT based compound as well. Generally Winstrol and/or Masteron were used. The East Germans used an obscure compound called Mestanolone as their DHT-derived component, 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 DHT derived steroids. And speaking of the East Germans, let’s take a look at exactly what compounds they used:

So what we have here is all 3 major families of Anabolic/Androgenic Steroids being represented in the East German research (Testosterone, 19-nor-Testosterone, and DiHydroTestosterone), and I also saw that in 99% of all HIGHLY PRODUCTIVE cycles that I examined. Remember, A/A steroids will all fall into one of the 3 categories I have mentioned, so combining all three into one cycle will make use of various different properties that they each have unique to their family. The athletic cycles I looked at seemed to be higher in the DHT category, and I found that the East Germans were quite fond of using what is known as a 4-chloro alteration in their steroids (Oral-Turinabol, Clostebol, etc…were all popular). For cycles where athletic performance is to be optimized, I’d recommend relying heavily on both DHT-derivations as well as anything 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 at the end, to provide a slight increase in performance, probably due to its CNS-stimulation:

Remember that earlier part of this article where I told you that the body is more responsive to androgens when in a calorie deficient state? Well, I also noticed that most of the magic in successful cutting cycles is easily achieved with dosages under 2grams (total). Bulking cycles would appear to be hovering at the 1-2 gram mark, however. I know that personally, if I were to do a cutting cycle, I’d run around 400-500mgs or so each of a DHT, 19-nor, and Test based compound. Price would factor into things, I’m sure, as would availability. Currently, I think athletic cycles would still fall into the category of still having all 3 families of compounds in them, but the majority of that would be constituted by testosterone and DHT based drugs primarily,…if joint health is a problem, or joint pain, then more of a 19-nor (I would suggest Nandrolone Decanoate or Phenylpropionate) could be added in or substituted for the DHT-based one…with the DHT based one being added in only at the end. In other words, it would probably be a predominantly two compound cycle, with the DHT/19-nor compounds being subject to manipulation for joint comfort.

SO what is the cash-value of all of this? What are we going to take with us in our steroid “wallet” to design a cycle? Well, since we know we’re starting with testosterone, I can tell you that I’d almost always include something like Trenbolone with Winstrol in a cutting cycle. Tren binds very strongly to the Androgen Receptor, and Winstrol binds rather poorly…by combining them, we may have some additional synergy with regards to genomic and non-genomic action. NPP (Nandrolone Phenylpropionate) also has a reasonably strong bind to the AR, so it may be substituted for Tren, but probably not used alongside it with any appreciable synergy. And of course, using either of those without Testosterone would kill your sex life. DHT based steroids tend to bind poorly, and 19-nors tend to bind tightly…which makes our decision on what to include in a cycle very easy…by combining DHT-based and 19-nor-based steroids, we’ll almost always be making 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 the compound (aside from testosterone) that we are going to be relying on primarily to influence the cycle. If we’re going for a cutting cycle, those would be our DHT-derivations (Masteron, Anavar, etc…). If we have joint problems, then we are throwing in some Nandrolone. If our primary concern is athleticism but we still want to get cut…well….then our wallet needs to be filled with perhaps some twenties, some fifties, and maybe a few tens also…so that would be our testosterone, a low dose of Nandrolone to keep joints healthy, and them maybe some 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 used just prior to competing.

Since I haven’t really touched on orals yet, I have to say that generally I consider them very much to be situational specific tools, because we can’t exactly run them for the same amount of time we run injectables. In general, I’d say that even moderate to high doses of orals can be run for up to six weeks at least, and low to moderate doses can be run for even longer- up to 10 weeks I’d say. Now, I know that this goes against traditional thinking, but honestly, I’ve done the research and really haven’t seen any irreversible effects from such dosing when it’s done in healthy males. Of course, if you have a pre-existing liver problem or high cholesterol, then this wouldn’t apply to you. Orals like anadrol and dianabol are generally used in spurts to achieve massive but quick growth. 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 our wallet. You usually only need them for very specific instances and usually only briefly. Generally they find their way in my cycles only to achieve very specific goals, just as singles usually only find their way into my REAL wallet when I need tip money at the bar…

What I’m ultimately saying here, is that we need a bunch of different types of bills in our wallet, depending on where we’re going – meaning that we need to design cycles around our goals, not just around what sexy new drug we feel like using. You wouldn’t go to McDonalds with a wallet full of hundreds, right? You can’t even use them there! So, while it’s appealing to try to use obscure compounds that look sexy and cool…and get a lot of play on silly invite-boards and such…its not a great idea. Just like a hundred dollar bill at McDonalds…it’s not going to get you what you want.

There it is…how I would design a cycle for optimal results, using optimal compounds and dosages. As a last word, I’d like to remind everyone that diet and training will be part of your cycle-puzzle, and that the dugs mentioned above will make things easier…but they certainly will not make you ripped or huge on their own.

Combine those 3 families of steroids, and different receptor binding abilities, and you’ have a very potent cycle. Use high(ish) doses and you have a very nice bulking cycle. Now that you have an understanding of how I design my own 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

Tags: Anabolic Steroids · General · Steroids Cycles

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