How Do Male Gymnasts Get So Muscular? Are they using anabolic steroids?

Male gymnasts have upper bodies that many people consider ideal and aspire to acquire. Gymnast are guilty of big arms, broad shoulders, wide backs, square chests and are also really lean – a combination that creates a physique that can easily be considered ‘aesthetically’ pleasing. Unfortunately, when things are too good to be true they could end up being false. In this case the question is, once again: do gymnast use anabolic steroids to build such insanely powerful and muscular bodies? Are gymnasts natty or not?

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There Are Sports That Do Not Require Steroids To Reach The Top

While steroids are widely used from bodybuilders to ping-pong players there are sports which do not require the usage of PED to get to the top. Usually those sports are highly technical. A good example would be skateboarding. Skaters perform extremely difficult tricks and there is no doubt that most of them don’t rely on steroids to get an edge. (There’s weed for that.)


Steroids may be used by some skaters for recovery from injuries but nobody considers those guys cheaters due to the nature of the sport.

The sport of gymnastic could also be added to the highly technical ones. The athletes start very young and train hard for years. That’s because the performed movements require flexibility, agility and functional strength that take a lot of time to develop. This leads to the conclusion that unlike sports like bodybuilding and powerlifting gymnastics are not as dependent on anabolic steroids. If steroids, insulin and GH were to be removed from the sport of bodybuilding, the competitors would lose 100+ lbs of muscle. At the same time sports like gymnastics would not be as affected by similar surgical procedure. The level of achievement would still be just as high.

The Primary Goal Of Gymnasts Is Not To Be Big And Shredded

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It’s more about skills, not muscle.

The goal of gymnastic training isn’t to produce mass muscle monsters attracting attention on the street and in clubs. The aim is to perform advanced movements part of a classic repertoire.

The mass development is more of a side effect rather than the main focus. In general, gymnasts don’t benefit as much from gaining muscle mass because being heavier can hurt their performance.

Gymnasts Are Short And Have Poor Lower Body Development

One of the requirements to be a successful gymnast is to be short. There may be some exceptions but most famous gymnast taking the medals are extremely short. The reason for this hides in the mechanics required to perform all the stunts. Obviously, somebody who is 5’3″ will have much easier time achieving strength feats such as the Iron Cross on rings compared to a 6’7″ NBA superstar. The chances of a really tall guy becoming a successful gymnast are small to none. The opposite is also true – when was the last time you’ve heard of a basketball superstar who is 5’3″. It just doesn’t work as well.

Being shorter has many advantages when it comes to building muscle. A man who is shredded and is 5’4″ tall at 135 lbs would look great. Somebody who is 6’1″ would look anorexic. Shorter guys need to build less muscle in order to look impressive. That’s because each gained pound represents a higher percentage of their optimal bodyweight. A pound gained by a short guy equals 5 or more pounds gained by a taller individual. On top of everything when you’re taller you also have to eat more because your maintenance calories are higher.

Truth be told most gymnast don’t look as impressive in person as they do in videos and pictures. That’s because in real life you actually get to see how short they are.

When you combine shortness and non-stop upper body training since childhood you get a thick muscular development. However, as we’ve already said gymnasts don’t need large legs since muscular wheels can slow them down. That’s why most gymnasts rarely perform hypertrophy routines for their legs. There are even coaches who have completely forbid lower body training other than floor routines. This is not always the case and sometimes gymnasts would also be squatting but with really low volume and heavy weight in order to build strength with as little hypertrophy as possible.

The fact that the lower body growth is minimized means only one thing – there’s more room for the upper body to grow.

A human individual has a certain level of testosterone in his body. During the early twenties or so this level reaches its maximum peak. After that it’s a steady decline. That amount of testosterone allows a certain amount of muscle mass to be gained over what the individual naturally carries without training. This means that if you only train your upper body for a number of years with little emphasis on the legs, most of your capacity will be stored there and your legs will remain weak forever because you’ve already spent your fair share of muscle credit. The opposite is also true – if you train mostly your legs and you’re natural, the lower body will be muscular but the upper body will be lagging.

This phenomenon is also backed by another frequent observation – true natural bodybuilders can often build an impressive upper or lower body but never the two at the same time. There’s just not enough testosterone to support it. The same is often observed with gymnasts – since the sport is arm and shoulder girdle dominant, the upper body takes most of the profit.

Gymnasts Are Much Smaller Than Bodybuilders

Not really as big as a bodybuilder

Not really as big as a bodybuilder

When you put gymnasts next to bodybuilders you will realize how small they look, especially with the lagging lower bodies. Bodybuilders hold a lot more mass and have a more complete physique, so to speak. Also, while gymnast are lean, they are rarely as lean as bodybuilders during a contest.

At The Highest Level True Naturals Are Hard To Find

Steroids and other PED can help anybody get an edge even if it’s technically not required. Sometimes drugs are used to speed up the recovery of an injury and or to prevent muscle mass during illness.

Who knows? The only thing that’s certain is that bodybuilders do not have copyrights on PED. For example, there are even musicians who take beta blockers in order to feel calm during a live performance. This could also be considered doping. A male porn star taking pills to maintain an erection for hours is also doping. That’s why it would be silly to say that all gymnasts are 100% lifetime naturals because they aren’t, at least those competing at the highest level. However, the sport is not 100% drug dependent unlike bodybuilding, powerlifting and weightlifting. One can get to be an elite athlete without abusing drugs. Unfortunately, genetics could also make or break the deal due to the reasons mentioned above.

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