Uniform Muscle Growth – A sign of Steroid Use?

by Brad Pilon

So you may be thinking “What is ‘uniform muscle growth?” – and to answer your question I would say – Uniform muscle growth is the EXACT opposite of the type of muscle growth you normally see in someone who is weight training.

Contraction dependent muscle growth (also called work induced muscle growth) is “Non-Uniform Muscle growth”. Using new measurement techniques we are finding regional differences in muscle activation along a muscle during exercise – and where this activation occurs seems to be dependent on the exercise of choice.

Meaning weight training can affect different parts of the same muscle in different ways – as an example if you do bicep curls you don’t stimulate growth equally along your entire bicep..some parts get ‘hit’ more than others.

From what I have found the difference seems to be along the ‘length’ of the muscle – so sometimes the effect is more ‘proximal’ and sometimes it’s more in the middle.

As an example – if you were to train Biceps 3 times a week, for 12 weeks and I were to graph the Cross Sectional Area of you Biceps before and after those 12 weeks, the graph would look like this –


The largest changes happen in the middle of the muscle.  As a more illustrated example we can use the picture below – most of the growth would occur at “B”

This regional difference seems to be dependent on the muscle and the exercise – sometimes the majority of the growth is right in the middle, sometimes it’s closer to the shoulder.

So what does this all have to do with steroids?

Well, we now have some pretty concrete evidence that contraction induced muscle growth causes non-uniform muscle growth – parts of the muscle (typically the middle) grow MORE than others when stimulated by contractions (Weight training).

So here’s my theory – With steroid use, especially at high doses, you are essentially BATHING the muscle in anabolic signals for days and weeks and months.

The WHOLE muscle gets the anabolic signal.

Thus, you may get a different muscle growth pattern when using steroids.

Back to our bicep example – a steroid user may see a more uniform growth in his Bicep. So not only would the middle of the muscle increase in size (B), so would that parts closer to the shoulder AND the parts closer to the elbow (A & C).

My bet is that steroid use creates a different ‘look’ than people who are just weight training. It may also explain why steroid users can simply get ‘bigger’ than the non-users – it could just be that they are getting more growth in areas of the muscle that simply will not grow much without steroid use – while this doesn’t sound like much if you are only thinking ‘biceps’ but consider the same scenario using every muscle in the body..that’s some serious untapped growth potential.

This is all hypothetical of course, and it’s confounded by the fact that the vast majority of steroid users also weight train (so they still get the growth at ‘B’) … But the fact remains that steroid use seems to create a ‘fuller’ looking muscle and now we may know why.



Alex November 30, 2011 at 11:52 am

Because muscle grwth derives from recovering of muscle cells that have been damaged, how is it difficuld to understand that only the part that has been mostly damaged is the one that is going to grow the most ?
Steroids may keep you mostly anabolic and for longer, explaining the bigger, faster growth, the muscles simply grow more then when not taking them, but in my mind it wont create the effect you refer, even chemically assisted bodybuilders have to hit muscles from diffrent angles or they will not get a balanced physique.

Manos November 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Nice post! Thanks. Have you ever experimented with steroids?

Brad Pilon November 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm

No – so I am speaking from a purely theoretical stand point and from what I see in people I know who are on.

RICH November 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm


James November 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Alex, a couple points I would like to make. Firstly, there is another type of muscle growth which Brad has talked about in his book, How Much Protein, and possibly on some of his posts as well. It’s Juvenile Muscle Growth and it occurs up until you stop growing(in the late teens to early twenties). This does not happen due to damaged muscle cells, at least not the kind I think you are talking about(working out). So with my very limited and non technical knowledge of physiology, maybe injecting testosterone will you put your body back into that state of Juvenile Muscle Growth. There have been studies showing that people taking testosterone can still grow without working out, similar to juvenile growth, just some raw thoughts on that.

Secondly, Brad mentioned that steroid users workout(obviously), so this confounds the evidence he is presenting. So if steroids alone cause “Balanced muscle growth” and working out causes “Imbalanced muscle growth”, then the end result will be imbalanced muscle growth, so yes, steroid users will still have to balance out the work induced muscle growth.

Will November 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Funny. I’ve been saying that for years. Most natural lifters I know have obvious imbalances. The steroid users I’ve met tend to be very balanced. Why? Well, it stands to reason…. that increased anabolic hormones would grow muscle evenly whereas lifting alone would cause certain imbalances as a result of less than perfect technique and our bodies’ natural tendency to favour one side.

Coach Calorie November 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm

The hormones in a steroid user are the same as a non user-only higher (depending on what they’re taking of course). Human physiology still applies to both groups. Are steroids the cause, or are they just correlated to balanced physiques? Could it be that non steroid users tend to have a higher ratio of beginners – resulting in uneducated training? I find people that use anabolics to be pretty well educated on training and aren’t afraid to squat and deadlift or bring up any weak points. Of course there is always going to be the immature steroid user who abuses the drug.

In either case, those are some interesting thoughts, but I think more research is needed.

Bryan Krahn November 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Interesting hypothesis, but there’s a far easier way.

Simply look at the physique, specifically at areas with the highest amount of androgen receptors (traps, triceps).

Disproportionate traps is often a dead give away.

Brad Pilon November 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Actually Coach that’s incorrect – often times we are dealing with testosterone derivatives, altered forms of test and test bound to carriers to massively increase it’s half life. So it’s not the same physiology. While you and I have test levels that fluctuate daily and weekly, someone on a long acting testosterone does not – this renders a different physiology – especially when it’s not even testosterone but a similar yet foreign chemical like Deca or something similar.

Coach Calorie December 1, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Hey Brad, I agree with you on the derivatives, which is why I said “depending on what they’re taking,” however, just because a longer acting ester is being injected, it doesn’t mean our bodies react any different to testosterone. Testosterone is testosterone, whether it’s short acting or long acting. The only difference is the carrier that prevents it from being released too quickly.

While I’m very open minded to your theory that there is a difference, I can’t see why your body would treat exogenous testosterone any different than natural testosterone, especially when they are identical molecules.

I have read studies showing how some derivatives might cause muscular satellite cells to divide and grow. In this case, I do believe that anabolics might change our physiological structure. As for using the same natural hormones our bodies produce – I’m not so sure. Either way, thanks for the post – very thought provoking.

Brad Pilon December 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Ah good point – missed the ‘depending on what they’re taking’ – my bad for speed reading.

It’s different not because of the testosterone but because it no longer follows normal diurnal fluctuations – instead it’s a constant bathing at well well above physiologic levels. So I would say its a different physiology – just like untreated diabetes is a different physiology then people with normal variations in insulin levels.

Really as you probably agree – we’re probably just splitting hairs on the semantics


Evilcyber December 1, 2011 at 9:39 pm

The only way to validate what you said would be by measuring the three areas of the biceps in a steroid-using group and a control group without steroids, and then check if the relations in size, not the sizes themselves, between them differ after x amount of time.

About the “finding regional differences in muscle activation along a muscle during exercise”: will you publish this in a study? It to me very much sounds like “how to train your inner chest” and so far I remain doubtful that exercise x is able to put more contraction on a specific part of what is one and the same muscle.

seth December 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Pictures of steroid and non steroid users to “show” the proof would be cool

Brad Pilon December 1, 2011 at 11:50 pm

It’s already published and yes, it totally sounds like training inner chest or bicep peak…which would acutally be possibly true IF there was evidence that we had anyway to be selective with the process.

Brad Pilon December 1, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Actually non-users who then use would be the best pics I think

Evilcyber December 3, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Brad, can you give me a link? I’d be very interested in reading it.

Iron December 6, 2011 at 8:57 am

Disproportionate traps are not always a dead giveaway… I have big traps, they always responded well, even when Im not training them directly. Years of deadlifting I guess. There are some guys I know, who use a lot, that despite endless shrugging have no traps to speak of.

Jonathan | WorldOfDiets December 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Hi Brad,

Would it matter how much steroids were used or which kind? Does it also matter when they’re taken in relation to a person’s weight training sessions?

Brad Pilon December 20, 2011 at 11:54 am

oh man, wish I knew the answers to those questions – there’s just not that much info on steroids out there that are reliable


Skeptic January 26, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Way to drop the ball on this one “B”

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: