Can we learn anything from the Arnold Schwarzenegger steroid cycle? Or is it simply an outdated remnant from the bodybuilders of yesteryear?
The fact is, Schwarzenegger’s contribution to modern bodybuilding shouldn’t be underestimated. His exuberant character and entertaining personality exhibited in the 1977 film, Pumping Iron, lead to a massive hike in interest in the sport—and gym attendance.
I know what you’re thinking.
Time has moved on. Improvements in training methods, psychology, and steroids themselves have made Arnold’s workout regime a relic of the past.
Or have they?
You may be surprised to hear that there’s still a lot to be learned from Schwarzenegger’s training and juicing. This guy didn’t become seven times Mr. Olympia through sheer luck alone.1
This article exposes the facts behind the Arnold Schwarzenegger steroid cycle and training regime. It brings you the shocking truth about his phenomenal physique and examines how we can learn from his successes—and avoid his mistakes.
Table of contents:
What Steroids Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Use?
I’m often asked, was Arnold Schwarzenegger on gear?
Well, yes he was. But remember this.
The bodybuilding circuit back in the 1970s was a totally different beast to what we are used to today.
Firstly, there were fewer legal issues around drug use. Arnold has not shied away from his steroid intake—indicating that as long as you were taking them under a doctor’s supervision, you were not hassled by the authorities.2
But that’s not all.
Every bodybuilder on the circuit (at least the successful ones) was juicing—with some experts describing steroid use during this decade as “rampant.”
And, finally, there wasn’t the abundance of synthetics available as there is today.3
This last aspect meant Arnold did not have the greatest choice of steroids available to him.
Through interviews with Arnold himself, other bodybuilders who knew him and evidence from the movie, Pumping Iron, it appears Arnold concentrated on three main steroids—Primobolan, Deca-Durabolin and Dianabol—what could be called an Arnold Schwarzenegger cocktail.
Let’s take a look at these three synthetics he used in the Arnold Schwarzenegger steroid cycle.
In bodybuilding circles, this is often tagged as the Austrian Oak’s favorite steroid. It’s not known exactly how early he started using this synthetic, but photos from his teenage pre-Mr. Olympia years would tend to indicate he started at a young age.
Hailing from Europe, it makes sense that Primobolan (metenolone or methenolone) was his drug of choice.
Despite originally being marketed in the US, the German company, Schering, obtained the rights to this steroid in 1965, and has been producing it there ever since. Hence, obtaining this synthetic would not have proved much of an issue for Arnold in the early days.
Primobolan is considered one of the safer anabolic steroids—even being used medicinally on underdeveloped children, and to treat osteoporosis. 4
How Does Primobolan Work?
Primobolan is an oral steroid, derived from dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Its adaptations mean that it’s not, unlike many synthetics, hepatotoxic (damaging to the liver).
While anabolic (as it boosts muscle protein synthesis and increases the number of red blood cells) its mild nature in this regard means that it doesn’t promote massive muscle gain.
But, it’s still powerful.
Primobolan rapidly raises the amount of nitrogen content in the body—boosting the growth of lean tissue. However, its ability to bind to androgen receptors is what makes this drug stand out.
This binding vastly increases the rate of lipolysis (fat breakdown), probably only comparable to Anavar in this regard. Hence, ideal for a cutting phase when looking to have that lean ripped appearance—typical of Schwarzenegger’s physique.
What Results Can You Expect From Primobolan?
While this steroid will not pile on the pounds in men, it’s a potent muscle builder for women. This, combined with the low masculine side effects, makes it one of the favorites among female juicers.
But what about the guys?
Primobolan is an awesome cutting steroid. During these phases, we need to burn more calories than we consume—to drop the fat and leave pure muscle. The problem is, this can sometimes lead to muscle loss too.
The anabolic nitrogen-retaining properties of Primobolan act to protect the muscles during these cycles—dropping fat but retaining lean muscle tissue.
During cutting, a typical dosage is between 75-100 mg per day on an eight-week cycle. Often, it’s stacked with Trenbolone, Winstrol or Anavar.
Primobolan Side Effects
If used sensibly, the side effects of Primobolan are quite low. The estrogen producing effects are almost non-existent—meaning that the undesirable man-boobs and water retention are avoided.
However, as it’s a steroid, it still provides some negative results. These include:
- Hair loss.5
Derived from nandrolone, Deca-Durabolin (nandrolone decanoate) first appeared in the 1960s as a treatment for osteoporosis. It rapidly gained the attention of the bodybuilding fraternity in the 1970s due to its relatively safe anabolic properties and low estrogen-causing effects.6
As anti-aromatizing stacking wasn’t understood then, a steroid with little estrogen-forming characteristics was immediately desirable.
How Does Deca-Durabolin Work?
This steroid lacks a 19th carbon atom, which alters its functions from both pure nandrolone and testosterone.
Firstly, this adaptation allows it to reduce the speed at which Deca-Durabolin operates. This steroid is injected, which, unless you are a masochist, is not much fun. Hence, its slow metabolizing properties means fewer hypodermic sessions due to the amount of time it remains in the body.
Secondly, it’s not as powerful as testosterone—which leads to fewer side effects. However, there is one aspect in which it functions better than the original steroid—its ability to retain nitrogen.
The more nitrogen in the body, the higher the anabolic state. Meaning that, for every training session, greater muscle mass is achieved.
What Results Can You Expect From Deca-Durabolin?
The most visible effects are that of gaining muscle mass. However, these gains are made steadily.
Its slow-acting characteristics make it ideal for off-season use. This will not pile on the muscle like the potent Anadrol—but will still provide steady and impressive bulk over time—as long as you stick with it.
As a relatively “safe” steroid (if there is such a thing), it’s an ideal first-time enhancer, or one for guys who react adversely to other more powerful synthetics.
Typically 400 mg per week is delivered through injection, with some experienced guys hitting around 600–700 mg. It should be noted that Schwarzenegger is assumed to only have taken around 400 mg at the height of his juicing pyramid.
Deca-Durabolin Side Effects
Due to its low estrogenic nature, side effects are rare. However, if you are hitting the upper-levels of dosage, some guys have encountered:
Also called methandienone or methandrostenolone, Dianabol is probably one of most successful steroids within bodybuilding.
This is one of the few original synthetics which didn’t start out as a medicinal drug. Instead, this was formulated for one purpose—to enhance muscle and increase athletic performance.
Back in the 1960s, when steroids were not looked upon as negatively as they are now, a US doctor called John Ziegler started adapting testosterone to give a boost to the US Olympic team.
Despite being banned under the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990, it remains as popular today as back then. 11
How Does Dianabol Work?
As a derivative of testosterone, its functions are very similar. However, a small alteration of an extra double-carbon bond raises its life and potency within the body.
It has three main bodybuilding benefits—it increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis, boosts glycogenolysis (breaking down of glycogen into usable energy) and raises nitrogen retention levels much higher than testosterone can achieve. 12 13
When it came to pure muscle building power, this is the steroid which massively increased Schwarzenegger’s mass (well, combined with insane training sessions).
What Results Can You Expect From Dianabol?
Impressive muscle gains can be achieved in just a few weeks when using this synthetic. It’s not unusual to see around 20-pound increases after just 21 days of use. In addition, many users report that, after just a few days of consuming Dianabol, strength is vastly improved.
Furthermore, endurance, stamina and recovery times are all boosted.
What’s very appealing about Dianabol is that it combines well with other steroids. This makes it ideal for stacking—few guys have found any adverse reactions that can occur when mixing Dianabol with other steroids together during a cycle.
Around 25–50 mg per day is the usual amount for the serious bodybuilder. H
owever, it’s not unknown for this to reach 100 mg per day in the insane steroid abusers—but that will undoubtedly come with side effects.
Dianabol Side Effects
Although not the most dangerous steroid (which is probably Anadrol), Dianabol must still be respected—especially if exceeding 50 mg per day.
Side effects reported include:
- Reduction of natural testosterone production—sometimes for life.14
- Hair loss.
- Prostate cancer.
- Raising LDL cholesterol.15
Alternatives to Steroids Arnold used
Supplement companies have not created legal steroids that come without side effects.
These kind of supplements contain natural ingredients that mimic the effects of real steroids.
So, you will get a legal, safe supplement that is designed to give you the same effects as real steroids.
Guys have been getting great results using these kind of supplements and posted pictures online.
D-bal – Dianabol Alternative
Jules used D-bal to bulk up and lost some fat in the process, D-bal is a legal and safe alternative to Dianbol the powerful muscle building steroids.
Even though D-bal may not be as powerful as Dianabol it still packs a punch.
D-bal is only available on their official website.
For more info:
Decaduro – Deca Durabolin Alternative
As you may know Deca Durabolin the steroid is very effective to build muscle mass.
Decaduro is a legal alternative to Deca Durabolin that comes without any side effects.
It contains only natural ingredients that were places in this supplement to mimic the effects of Deca Durabolin.
Even though it may not be as effective as the real steroid guys are now getting great results using this supplement and without any health risks involved.
For more info:
Arnold Schwarzenegger Steroid Cycle
From what we know, Schwarzenegger did not abuse steroids to any great extent. In fact, the Arnold Schwarzenegger steroid cycle dosages appear to be less than what many extreme bodybuilders use nowadays.
Back in the 1970s, post-cycle therapy (PCT) was pretty much unheard of—the common Nolvadex used today wasn’t widely available until the late 1980s. 16
This meant two things.
Firstly, Schwarzenegger must have completed his cycle very close to competition days—as there was nothing available to maintain the gains made during the cycling period.
Secondly, although it was understood that steroids reduced natural production of testosterone, there was no PCT to restore normal levels post-cycle, or anti-estrogens used during the cycle to offset estrogenic effects.
Hence, bodybuilders used a pyramid structure—low dose, high dose, low dose again. They assumed this would alleviate any adverse health effects and help return natural testosterone production to normal.
Today, we know this has little effect, and this method has virtually disappeared from bodybuilding training.
What it does explain, however, is the relatively lower doses of steroids taken in the 1970s than today. If they were any higher—then the absence of aromatase inhibitors would lead to unwanted side effects.
So, putting together what we know, the Arnold Schwarzenegger steroid cycle most likely looked like this.
Weeks 1 to 4
Deca-Durabolin 200 mg per week
Dianabol 60 mg per day
Primobolan 600 mg per week
Weeks 5 to 8
Deca-Durabolin 300 mg per week
Dianabol 80 mg per day
Primobolan 800 mg per week
Weeks 9 to 14
Deca-Durabolin 400 mg per week
Dianabol 100 mg per day
Primobolan 800 mg per week
Weeks 15 to 16
Deca-Durabolin 300 mg per week
Dianabol 80 mg per day
Primobolan 700 mg per week
Weeks 17 to 18
Deca-Durabolin 200 mg per week
Dianabol 60 mg per week
Primobolan 600 mg per week
You may be wondering, why no testosterone?
The truth is, even though steroids were obtainable—testosterone remained an elusive drug that couldn’t be purchased easily on the market.
Furthermore, they didn’t understand that Deca-Durabolin was a serious inhibitor of testosterone production and saw no reason to counteract its effects.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Workouts
If you have seen the movie Pumping Iron, and I recommend that you do, one particular scene stands out. Arnold describes how he missed his father’s funeral—as he could not afford to take time off from his workouts.
Forgetting about the emotional and moral aspects of this action, or indeed inaction—one thing is clear.
Schwarzenegger was totally committed to his training regime.
Over recent years, so much stress has been placed on the Arnold Schwarzenegger steroid cycle (low by today’s standards), people forget that he worked out like an absolute machine.
Yeah, his body was enhanced—but it was the hours of work he put in that built his awesome physique.
It wasn’t just how often he worked (usually six days a week, working the same muscle groups 2-3 times in that period)—it was how he worked out.
Firstly, he threw the idea of single-isolated movements out of the window. He considered the best way to grow, and grow big, was to use exercises that used more than just one single muscle or joint.
He favored compound exercises such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, and bent-over row to make awesome mass gains.
He was also a revolutionary.
Arnold said, “Muscles weren’t designed to be bored. They hate monotony.” 17
What he was actually describing, was the fact that the same day-in-day-out training ruins your workout results.
Think of it like this.
How often do you complete the same pattern in the gym? Three sets of bench pressing then heading on over to chin-up bar, for example. The thing is, not only do we get stuck into a routine, so do our muscles.
They know exactly what to expect next, are already prepared for it, and fill themselves with blood and oxygen in anticipation.
Arnold surprised them.
In what’s known as the shocking principle, Schwarzenegger changed up his routines so his body never knew what was coming next. His favorite method was not just to mix up the different exercises, but to change individual ones.
For example, you’ve just completed 6 reps of 90-pound overhead presses. What comes next? I assume you’ll say rest for a couple of minutes and then repeat. That’s exactly what your body is expecting!
Instead, Arnold would—without any breaks—drop the weight to 80 pounds and lift again, but with increased reps.
Once completed, again with no rest, drop to 70 pounds and up the rep count—this would continue all the way down to 40-pound presses. Continually shocking the muscles. He describes it:
“Afterward, I couldn’t even move my arms without pain. But the muscles grew, because I had given them the shock they so desperately wanted.” 17
This Arnold Schwarzenegger workout raises blood flow, places phenomenal stress on the muscles and stimulates incredible growth.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably the best-known bodybuilder of all time—and truly one of the most successful.
Admittedly, he did use steroids. But remember, this was a different time, when not only were they legally available under the supervision of a doctor, no one fully understood their side effects.
Schwarzenegger’s steroid cycle, including the lack of testosterone, an absence of PCT, and ineffective pyramid technique, appears somewhat naive by today’s standards.
Yet, he was the master of training.
During interviews with his 1970s counterparts, they admitted they could not keep up with his intense workout regime. As he said:
“I would hear bodybuilders complaining, “Oh, no! Not another set!’ That destroyed them. I have always believed that if you’re training for nothing, you’re wasting your effort!” 18
If we are to learn anything from Arnold—it’s that serious dedication is the only way to achieve phenomenal muscle returns.
“Did Arnold Use Steroids?”
Yes, in interviews, he has admitted using steroids. The Arnold Schwarzenegger steroid cycle included Primobolan, Deca Durabolin, and Dianabol—also known as the Arnold Stack.
However, it was equally his dedication to beast-like training regimes and a body that was ideal for muscle gain that gave him his massive bulk. This genetic propensity for bodybuilding—and the desire to lift—has been passed on to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son, Joseph Baena. 19
“Why Did Arnold Not Have a Steroid Gut?”
The typical ‘roid gut is caused by the abuse of human growth hormones (HGH) which cause the internal organs to increase in size.
Schwarzenegger, as far as we are aware, did not use HGH.
“What Did Arnold Eat to Build Muscle?”
As mentioned in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Schwarzenegger indicates the foods he concentrated on were those high in protein—chicken, steak, eggs, and fish.20
“What Steroids Did Bodybuilders Use in the 70s?”
In what’s now known as the Golden Age of Bodybuilding, guys primarily used Primobolan, Deca Durabolin, and Dianabol.
“Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Do Cardio?”
Yes. Schwarzenegger included cardio as part of his training during cutting.
“Were Steroids Legal When Arnold Was Competing in Bodybuilding?”
As long as they were obtained on prescription, they were legal for bodybuilding use.
Many lifters of the era have described how they would simply indicate to their Doctor they needed some for training benefits—and it would be prescribed.
9. https://web.archive.org/web/20080528195958/http://www.la84foundation.org/SportsLibrary/JSH/JSH1993/JSH2001 /jsh2001b.pdf