AAS and Prohormones with HST

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Disclaimer: Bryan Haycock does not condone nor recommend that anyone use anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) or other hormones and prohormones (PH). This discussion is for informational purposes only.

SD allows microtrauma to happen at lighter loads. You need to progressively increment the load to accomodate the Repeated Bout Effect, i.e. continue to induce microtrauma. Microtrauma allows IGF-1 inside the damaged musclefibers to leak out into the interstitial space and act on satellitte cells. These satellitte cells lie dormant until stimulated by IGF-1 into proliferating (reproduce) and differentiate (become muscle cells). When they "melt" together with muscle cells, they donate their myonuclei - thus increasing the total number in the cell. There exists a specific ratio between number of myonuclei and the (potential) volume of the muscle, so this chain of events eventually lead to a larger muscle. So, microtrauma - IGF-1 acting on satellite cells - donating myonuclei to muscle cell - muscle cell growing.

AAS stimulate satellitte cell activity independently of microtrauma, so neither the "reset" function of SD nor the need to cause microtrauma each and every workout is a necessity to grow.

Testosterone has the following effects on muscle tissue:

* Enhanced growth factor activity (e.g. GH, IGF-1, etc.)
* Enhanced activation of myogenic stem cells (i.e. satellite cells)
* Enhanced myonuclear number (to maintain nuclear to cytoplasmic ratio)
* Enhanced protein synthesis
* Enhanced new myofiber formation

So you can easily see why testosterone is an incredible anabolic hormone in muscle tissue. It tips the scales in every beneficial way towards muscle hypertrophy.

To put it in a very simple way, if there are no side effects using a prohormone, it doesn't work. Because, if there are no androgenic side effects, the compound is not working on the androgen receptor. Since there is only 1 androgen receptor in the body to do all the variety of things androgens do in various tissues, if you don't see signs of androgen activity in other parts of the body, you aren't getting it in your muscles either.

All the ad copy about "no side effects" is marketing dribble.
Now I never said that these were "serious" or "dangerous" side effects. Did you know that birth control pills are steroids? Asthma in children is treated with steroids. These have the same if not worse side effects than testosterone.

Here is a quote from the Myo Health Clinic:
"Intramuscular testosterone injections (testosterone cypionate and testosterone enanthate) are effective, safe and inexpensive."

Now, I'm not arguing with the opposition to use steroids either. Not everybody is interested in using hormones to improve their body.

The best time to take the any androgen is just “before” the heaviest portion of your cycle.

A number of things are going to happen when you go off. If not countered they will cause you to lose much of what you gained. Of primary concern is the load with which you are using to train when you go off. What often happens is that guys will max out their strength while "on" by pushing low rep weights as heavy as they can possibly go. Then when they go off, they are forced to drop the weight because their strength and exercise tolerance goes down. This creates an environment of both "low testosterone" AND "decreasing weight loads".

So, there are two possible remedies.

1) Don't increase the weight loads just because the androgens are making you stronger. Instead, just increase the reps. So where you were doing 5 reps with a given weight before you started taking some AAS/PH, now you can do 8 or even 10 reps with that same weight now that you are "on". Then when you go off, you simply drop the number of reps, NOT the weight.

2) Train in the rep range just before your most heavy weights in an HST cycle. So, if you are doing a 2-on/4-off cycle, begin using it during the last week of 10s and continue into the first week of 5s. Then when you go off, you will begin the second week of 5s with the weight actually getting heavier for at least a week, and then maintained for an additional 2 weeks. So when you go off the weights are actually getting heavier.

It's the timing that is important. You would want the 2 weeks "on" to happen during the second week of 10s and the 1st week of 5s. The only thing you are trying to accomplish by timing it that way is to have an increase in training load at the same time you are going "off" to offset the effects of low test during that 3-4 week period.

So, you will at least be increasing the weight for 1 week and at the very least, maintaining the training load at 5RM for an additional 2 weeks. This will help you retain the gains you made.

Obviously this doesn't turn out to be exactly 2-on/4-off.

Diet (protein and calories) is going to be probably the most important factor in predicting whether or not you experience gains while using androgens. Training is of course important, but the proper drug regimen and diet is really what determines how big you get. You can train like crap and still grow if your diet and androgens are right.

"However, Bryan wouldn't one need to taking into account the half lives of the androgen, and in fact the general serum blood levels through one's lifting cycle? For example, dbol's average life is 4 hours, while I believe Cyp is more like 15 days."

Well, not with respect to Mag-10 or the other Diols. Their half lives are very short. They don't reside in the system more than a day in any "active" form. So, when your off, your off. Unlike something like Deca or Cyp, which will cause test suppression long after your last injection.

So, as far as countering the catabolic effects of going "off" a prohormone, you still only have the weight load to counter the negative effects of low testosterone levels. You might be able to load creatine begining the first day off to counter the catabolism, but you will still experience some shrinking if you are big to begin with.

1) About SD while on a cycle: SD isn't necessary while "on" a cycle. If you are doing 10 weeks, your weights should stay heavy or be slightly increasing the entire cycle. Then, you shouldn't do SD until AFTER your natural test is back up to at least normal. This is very important. As long as test levels are low, you must continue to train uninterrupted.

2) Increased volume during a cycle: Yes, there is nothing "bad" about high volume. In fact, it is good if your exercise tolerance is high. When on increased androgens your exercise tolerence is higher, and you can train with higher volume, thereby increasing the time that the muscle is actually loaded, without risking overtraining (within reason).

3) Skip the SD and 15s. As long as you are injury free, you should train with heavier weights. There is no benefit to cycle the weight down while you are "on". The only benefit from cycling weight loads down is to increase the muscles sensitivity to being loaded, and to heal injuries. While androgens are high, the muscle remains sensitive to consistant/constant loading much much longer. If you are injury free, there's no need to stop to heal.

Now, if you were going to embark on a cycle lasting several "years" in order to begin competing at a high level, you would want to cycle weights and do some SD in typical HST fashion. When going on a cycle lasting for years, you would pretty much train as if you were natural, accept for taking advantage of increased work capacity and recovery ability. However, you would still benefit from the HST-type cycling of weight loads and SD, its just that the time frame for this cycling would be stretched out considerably.

Guys Like Millard and Boris (click the HST tab above) have adjusted there training pretty much as I suggested above. They will start with 15s or 12s, and increase the weight each workout until they either hit their 5s, or stop because the weight is not safe to use anymore.

Both Millard and Boris, independant from one another, found that they needed to stop increasing the weight beyond their 8 rep max for safety.

They don't do SD, unless they go off completely for an extended period, and if they don't go "off" they only drop the weight back down to 15s if they get a strain injury or sore joints (elbows are very susceptible). The 15s seem to really work well for getting rid of tendon pain.

Of course, the diet is paramount. Continued progress requires sufficient calories and protein.

For those of you who don't know Millard, he is one LARGE man. He is a mean 260 off season. Hopefully he will show some pics soon so people can get over the notion that "nobody big uses HST".

Millard made a very good comment about the lower reps that was also said by Boris Kleine (monster from Germany). That is, that HST seems to induce quite significant increases in strength all by itself, but when the hormonal mileu is optimized, strength goes through the roof. You have to be careful using such high poundages (600 deadlift, 572 incline bench is just plain heavy! ) These guys are getting so strong using HST style routines they have to hold back for safety. This in no way means that HST is not the best way to train, quite to oposite. But, safety is safety, and everyone has to use their head in the gym.

HST is about principles, not blind adherence to somebody's predetermined workout. Anybody can use these proven principles to start growing again...no matter what their current level of development.
Cycling lengths
The short cycle concept was popularized by Bill Roberts, but I heard of it many years ago - even the late Duchaine talked warmly about it. There is only one study that I know of, and that one used Testosterone Propionate for 2 weeks. The reasoning is that using short-acting esters (propionate, acetate + orals) and ending the cycle before the 14 day point will restore endogenous T faster than a longer cycle. Whether it is 14 days or longer is not proven yet, but anecdotal evidence points to 14 days being pretty close to it, and going past this point will prolong recovery.

This translates into it being more reasonable to do a cycle of sufficient duration to actually add some muscle mass, since cycles of 3-7 weeks requires the duration of recovery sometimes equalling the length of time, but occasionally just as long as cycles lasting 8-12 weeks. 8-10 weeks is close to optimal, and 12 weeks is pushing it in terms of increased risk of HPTA recovery problems - or moreso the length of recovery will dictate post-cycle losses which in this case would be excessively lengthy.

I've personally used 2on/4off cycles with great success in many of my clients, and also received positive feedback from the multitude of people who have tried it after being inspired from my online articles. 2 weeks off might not allow full HPTA recovery in individual cases, but should also be OK provided proper auxillary supplements. 4-5 2on/2off cycles can be strung together before taking 4 or more weeks off, and then HCG might be needed in case of testicular atrophy.
One isolated 2 week cycle is ineffective, since the body needs some time to adapt to levels of hypertrophy beyond the genetic potential (or more specifically satellite cell activity and hyperplasia). For most people wanting to achieve as much muscle mass as possible within a short timeframe, I usually recommend 10 week cycles. It all depends on your goals.

The problem with a 4-5wk on/3wk off cycle is that you can't gain enough mass to carry you through the recovery period, (assuming you don't use clomid and hCG). In other words, 2on/4off works because your natural test recovers so quickly that your baseline levels are able to support the new mass you've gained (this does not apply for a bodybuilder who is already sporting a lot of extra muscle) until the next cycle. With the Borresen cycle you are simply wasting your time during the 3 week period because your levels won't return in that period of time, then for 4-5 weeks you won't be able to build "significant" mass either. Will it work at all? Depends on your history of use and current mass.

Now, if using an estrogen antagonist and gonadotropin (e.g. HCG) you can do whatever you like and your baseline test levels will be maintained. Cycle however you want and you will always have a soft landing. This does not mean you will "keep" any amount of mass you gain. Your baseline test will only be able to support a given amount of muscle mass. The amount of mass your natural levels can support will be however big you "stay" once you have been "off" for at least a year or so. This is usually more than you can build naturally simply because of the effects of androgens on satellite cells and fiber number. Fiber number will stay higher even if diameter returns to normal.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if you are going on for longer than 2 weeks, you have to stay on long enough (6-8 weeks) to build more muscle than you will lose when you go off - with low test lasting for at least as long as you were "on". That's at least a general rule of thumb - test levels will stay low for about as long as you were on (without antiestrogens and hCG). If you are bigger than you could have gotten naturally, you will generally lose most of the mass you gained during the cycle. If you are still below your "natural" limit, you may keep a bit more.

Using Test does change things, at least until you max out your dose (voluntarily or otherwise) and your growth stops for at least 8 weeks without changing anything.
So when you reach a point of stagnation both in dose and weight gain, you are essentially in the same situation as a natural lifter, but at a much elevated body mass. If you are competing at a high level and stay "on" year round, you should do HST as prescribed, SD and all.

If however, you are doing cycles on and off. you need to carefully time everything to avoid a crash. One thing to also note, strength seems to increase to dangerous levels when using high dose Test and HST at the same time. It is advised the reps not drop any lower than 8 in such circumstances. Always use your head, not just your ego.
More on Prohormones


Various prohormones require conversion into other androgens before they are actually anabolic and/or androgenic. In essence, until they pass through a enzymatic conversion, they are inert in the body.

4-androstenediol (4-AD) requires conversion but it also posses some anabolic/androgenic activity before conversion. Yes, it acts as a "class II" androgen, meaning it does not bind strongly to the androgen receptor, nor does it appear to stay bound. In contrast, DHT binds both strongly and does not easily separate from the receptor. Keep in mind however that both androgens act on the exact same receptor. The differences in their effects are caused by the strength and duration of their bond with the receptor.

The risks of using any androgen are similar, differing only in their severity. It all depends on the dose. And yes, side effects include alterations in cholesterol ratios, reduction in testosterone production, hair thinning, oily skin, alterations in libido, etc.

The positive effects are increases muscle mass, increased bone mass, decreased fat mass, increased energy levels, increased libido, increased mental focus, and elevated mood, and a few others.

However, it is important to remember that all of these effects are dependant on how androgens are used. There are many thousands of men on testosterone replacement who experience nothing but positive effects.

When someone in the supplement industry talks about prohormones and side effects in the same sentence they are talking about either of 2 things, the conversion into estrogen, and the potency of the androgen itself. If an androgen doesn’t “aromatise” it doesn’t convert into estrogen, therefore it won’t produce any estrogen-related side effect like gyno. Keep in mind that estrogen levels also regulate testosterone production, the more estrogen you have floating around the less testosterone will be produced in the testes. The potency of an androgen is self explanatory and relates to side effects such as hair thinning as well as suppression of test production.

You are fooling yourself is you think that using a prohormone is “not” androgen use. Of course it is. In a general sense, it’s no different than using testosterone from a syringe. But you have to make up your mind about whether you feel male hormones are evil or good. If you feel they are evil, don’t use them and pray for the day when your own natural levels diminish. If you feel they are good, learn everything you can about them and the body’s endocrine system, and them use them as a tool to accomplish your physique augmentation goals.

The notion that knowledge and lifting technique can “replace” androgen use and produce comparable gains in muscle mass is false. Once a person has maxed out his body’s ability to support more muscle tissue, he will not grow any larger until his hormones increase as well. Using androgens before your LBM is naturally maxed out will only get you their faster. Not only that, but a natural lifters physique will almost always show different proportions than an individual using androgens, even if their overall body mass is the same.

There is only one receptor for androgens. Thus, testosterone, prohormones, and synthetic anabolic steroids all work the same way. They all cause anabolism through the androgen receptor. Most do this through nuclear receptors, others also interact with androgen receptors at the cell membrane.

So, anything we say about prohormones, also applies to testosterone and anabolic steroids. The only difference (I’m generalizing a little bit) is seen by different amounts used and for different periods of time. The effects of Androgens are dose dependant.

All androgens cause muscle growth by a similar mechanism(s).

· Enhanced growth factor activity (e.g. GH, IGF-1, etc.)
· Enhanced activation of myogenic stem cells (i.e. satellite cells)
· Enhanced myonuclear number (to maintain nuclear to sarcoplasmic ratio)
· Enhanced protein synthesis
· Enhanced amino acid recycling within muscle cells
· New myofiber formation

All of these things lead to bigger muscles, whether you train or not. Add to these effects, Hypertrophy-Specific Training and Hypertrophy-Specific Nutrition and you see dramatic increases in muscle mass.

Now when a person quits using prohormones/steroids, they have a greater number of myonuclei than they did before and additional new muscle fibers. This allows them to maintain a greater amount of muscle mass than they could have naturally. This “recently-natural” look is what you see in a lot of magazines today.

As long as you can maintain the new myonuclei, and new muscle fibers, you will store up muscle memory and a greater potential for later drug-free regrowth.
A few helpful pointers from Bryan

Focusing on volume would be better than on frequency. Androgens don't accelerate the rate at which a cell repairs itself or builds proteins. Androgens enhance the magnitude of the response....make sense?

I think you will experience better results doing more sets per workout, rather than doing more workouts, as long as you are using a ~48 hour frequency. Take your days off to focus on getting an appropriate amount of protein and good carbs.

The exception: When the weight loads get light enough (especially 1st week of 15) doing higher frequency is recommended while leaving the volume (~2 sets/exercise) pretty much the same. This is because there is less damage/inflammation caused by the lighter weights. 15s cause more of an "acute" anabolic effect (amino acid uptake, PGs, ribosomes, etc) without activating significant satellite cell activity.

Using an antiestrogen can increase testosterone levels, but they will need to increase considerably before you begin to see a significant anabolic effect. For example, if you are taking straight testosterone, you probably won't see a whole lot of extra growth until you reach 400-600mgs per week. below that you do get some effects but it is mostly mood, and perhaps exercise tolerance.

So in short, taking an antiestrogen probably won't be terribly "anabolic" at the tissue level. It may however help you retain some mass you gained while using androgens.

- Bryan
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