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How big can you get without steroids?

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by Yuan

The best way to figure out ’how big you can get without steroids’ is to look at the top natural bodybuilding competitors. Lyle McDonald, Alan Aragon, Casey Butt and Martin Berkhan have years of experience from working with the best and they have all arrived at similar numbers. Check out this page for an explanation of each model.

Martin’s model is the simplest, so it’s the best place to get an initial estimate:

Height in centimeters – 100 = upper limit of weight in kilograms in contest shape.

How big can you get without steroids 2

According to Lyle McDonald:

“We might realistically add 5-10 pounds of lean body mass to the above values to account for dehydration/etc.  With that adjustment, they are more or less identical to Casey’s values.”

Who are the real world role models

We have general data of the upper physical echelon, but people are still looking for specific role models to follow. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to figure out who is truly natural. It’s not uncommon for ‘naturals’ to get busted for steroid use. Rich Frowning

“You still need to work hard if you use steroids” is a common straw man that gets thrown around when people talk about finding natural lifters as role models. The problem is that people in general can’t relate with steroid users and they simply don’t want to identify with them.

People want to find natural lifters because they want to look up to someone that they can identify with. Instead of arguing about who is really natural today, we can simply look back to a time before steroids were invented.

The history of steroids in America

The first steroid can be traced back to the 30’s. Nazis needed tens of thousands of litres of urine to distil 15 ml. It wasn’t until the the late 40’s/early 50’s when the Soviets were able to synthesize significant amounts of synthetic hormones. These hormones were used to enhance their Olympic weightlifters, but they experienced terrible side effects. For example, the lifters couldn’t even urinate on their own and needed the help of a catheter.

American athletes only started using steroids in the late 50’s/early 60’s. In 1954, Bob Hoffman (founder of York Barbell) invited a doctor named John Bosley Ziegler to the world weightlifting championships in Vienna. Ziegler had an unique perspective because he conducted chemistry research for Ciba Pharmaceutical company and he loved to lift weights.

In Vienna, they witnessed huge Russians lifting an enormous amount of weight. Later that night, Ziegler discovered that Russian athletes were injected with more testosterone. However, Ziegler only got minor strength gains when he injected American lifters with testosterone. During that time, American doctors could only treat burn victims, the handicapped and the seriously injured with the earlier form of steroids.

In 1958, Ziegler synthesized a hormone called Dianabol. Besides helping burn victims and the elderly, Ziegler brought this drug to York Barbell and created a new breed of lifters. Dianabol was very effective for strength and muscle building and it quickly spread to every athletic endeavour.

Famous lifters before the age of steroids (ordered by height)

In the case of Steve Reeves and Reg Park, only their stats prior to 1958 are considered (pre-steroid era). Remember that none of these guys are 4-5% bodyfat, which is the modern standard for bodybuilding competitions.

Milo Brinn (Luigi Borra)

Milo Brinn AKA Luigi Borra

Height: 5’5.25
Weight: 160 lb

Training: gymnastics, acrobatics, wrestling, weight training
Interesting Fact: Milo could juggle canonballs.

Bobby Pandour

Bobby Pandour

Height: 5’6”
Weight: 160 lbs

Training methods: He refused to use heavy weights, used 10 lbs dumbells only, flexed constantly
Interesting Fact: Bobby posed on a 10 ft pillar with overhead lights to emphasize definition

Marvin Eder

Marvin Eder

Height: 5’7”
Weight: 203 lbs

Training: Weight training with high volume/intensity/frequency (Marvin has amazing genetics)
Interesting Fact: At 198 lbs, he did a single dip on parallel bars with 493 lbs.

Eugen Sandow

Eugen Sandow

Height: 5’8”
Weight: 180 lbs

Training: Weight training with dumbbells and barbells
Interesting Fact: It is estimated that Sandow made over a million dollars ($20 million today)

John Grimek

John Grimek

Height: 5’8.5”
Weight: 190-230lbs (210 in 1949)

Training: gymnastics, weight training
Interesting Fact: John Grimek rarely did curls, he told Bill Hinbern that he hated them while warming up with 190 lbs. He also hated the bench press.

Ronald Walker

Ronald Walker Olympic Weightlifter

Height: 5’11”
Weight: 195 lbs

Training: Olympic Weightlifting
Interesting Fact: Ronald Walker was a heavy smoker and he was frequently jobless, so his training was not even ideal.

Reg Park

Height: 6’1”
Weight: 180-225 lbs (He was probably around around 210-215 in the 1957 guest posing video above)

Training: Weight training, gymnastics in his youth (according to his article “How I Trained to Win Mr. Universe” for Health and Strength 1967)
Interesting Fact: Reg Park was Arnold Swartzenager’s mentor. Arnold modelled his bodybuilding/acting career after Reg. According Marvin Eder, Reg Park was one of the only people that could keep up in a workout.

Steve Reeves

Steve Reeves

Height: 6’1″
Weight: 214 lbs

Training: Weight training,
Interesting Fact: His favourite leg exercise was the front squat

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