Arnold Schwarzenegger's steroid cycle from the golden era of bodybuilding is a topic that is often heavily debated.
There's a lot of speculation around what kind of drug use the golden era bodybuilders deployed to get the physiques that are so sought after nowadays.
While Arnold himself never detailed exactly what he took, we have a handful of credible sources of information that all seem to overlap in their descriptions of his steroid use.
Despite this information being very accessible, it often goes overlooked because it is buried in the nooks and crannies of the internet.
There is such an overwhelming amount of content on the internet now that this information has become increasingly more difficult to find over the years.
While Arnold likely experimented a bit here and there, this article will detail what he built his physique on, and the staple anabolics he very likely used throughout his Mr. Olympia reign.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Briefly Touches On His First Steroid Cycle
In Arnold Schwarzenegger's autobiography “Total Recall – My Unbelievably True Life Story” he gives some insight into what his first steroid cycle consisted of, and when he started it.
The first thing of note is that he discovered steroid use before the 1967 Mr. Universe competition while researching about the training methods of the East Germans and the Soviets.
There were rumors that they were using performance enhancing drugs to get superior results from their weightlifters, shot-putters, and swimmers and he soon found out that steroids were the drugs that they were using.
Arnold goes on to touch on how he went to a doctor to ask for a prescription of anabolic steroids.
He simply asked:
Can you let me try it?
The doctor agreed, and he was then prescribed an injection every two weeks and pills to take in between.
Keep in mind, this was Arnold's first steroid cycle ever.
His dosages may have titrated up in subsequent cycles, and he probably experimented with different anabolics at some point at least once or twice.
The more muscle you gain, the higher your requirements will become for increasingly high amounts of calories, training volume, and drug use to support additional hypertrophy above and beyond what you have already achieved.
While Arnold didn't state exactly what he was prescribed, we get some useful insight into the administration practice of each compound (oral and injectable) and what type of drugs would probably fall into these two categories at that time when considering all of the other information from other interviews we have compiled over the years.
At this point, we know he was using one injectable compound and one oral compound.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's Interview About Dianabol Use
In another interview Arnold more or less implies that he used 3 Dianabol per day.
It is well-known in the community that Arnold was big on using Dianabol back in the day.
Obviously he's not actually straight up saying “this was what my cycle was”, but we can put two and two together based on his prescription for pills and an injection from a doctor, Arnold talking about Dianabol himself, and the widespread information that's passed through the grapevine reinforcing his Dianabol use.
It all culminates to paint a pretty convincing picture that Dianabol was the oral steroid in question that Arnold used.
What the injectable compound was is mainly what is debated about.
After doing some digging, I uncovered some pretty convincing information suggesting that the injectable compound was Primobolan.
Steve Davis Outlines Golden Era Steroid Cycles
In 2012, Ric Drasin interviewed Steve Davis to discuss steroid cycles from the golden era.
Both men trained at Gold's Gym with Arnold in the 70's and had personal insight into what golden era stacks consisted of, as they literally took the same stacks themselves.
After prompting the topic of what golden era bodybuilders were using, Steve goes on to touch on what most guys were using:
Steve: You know, in my era, it was 3 Dianabol a day and a shot a week.
Ric: That's exactly right.
Steve: And we heard that certain Austrians were taking 4 Dianabol a day and a shot a week.
I'm sure both Steve and Ric actually had this conversation with Arnold at some point to confirm this, as they trained with him and bodybuilders were supposedly pretty open about their use back then.
The standard protocol going around then was 3 Dianabol a day, and 1 shot of Primobolan per week.
While some of the protocols definitely differed from person to person (e.g. Robby Robinson and Danny Padilla using Deca-only cycles), for the most part it seems like the majority of guys that trained with Arnold in Gold's Gym in the 70's were doing the same thing.
Now, the question is are they underplaying their use to not undervalue their training intensity and diet adherence?
It is very common for “open” individuals to talk about their steroid use, but basically just cut what their dosages are in half when speaking about what they took.
Ric Drasin Details Golden Era Steroid Cycles
In 2018 Ric Drasin circles back to the topic of golden era steroid cycles and outlines more specifics about what steroids the top bodybuilders from Gold's Gym were using in the 70's.
Now I was there at that time, so I know exactly what everybody took.
Without using names of people because I don't want to implicate anybody, but starting with the top bodybuilders, and some that you know, it wasn't that much
use of steroids the way we think of today.
Basically, it was Dianabol, Primobolan, Testosterone, Deca, Winstrol, and Anavar.
Those are the main ones.
There wasn't anything outside of that.
Growth Hormone wasn't really known about then, so nobody really used it.
I mean, maybe it was in some circles, but we sure didn't hear about it.
The injectables were the ones I mentioned.
The Winstrol, the Dianabol, and the Anavar were strictly tablets, there was no injectable at all of that sort.
Dianabol was made by CIBA (C-I-B-A).
It was a little blue pill.
Came in 100 a bottle.
If you bought it at the pharmacy, it was a prescription, it was $8 a bottle.
Deca was $1.50 a vial, that's it.
Let's say, 10 CCs of an enanthate was 10 bucks.
Anavar, around the same price and down the line, nothing was really expensive.
Now, you have to realize back in '69 and the 70's, steroids were not illegal.
They were never looked upon as being illegal.
There was a doctor's prescription.
You could get it pretty easily if you needed it, and then you had it.
There were those doctors that were affiliated with Gold's Gym back in those days that would just hand it to you.
One was a pediatrician who was well-known.
The other one was a medical doctor, who was well-known.
If you needed something, you got it.
Now, from the top of the line bodybuilders, the ones that were competing in the Olympia back then, from Gold's, their main routine was taking Primobolan, Winstrol, and Deca.
Forgot to mention Deca.
And not in any great usage.
It was like a “CC” of each, maybe once to twice a week.
That was it.
People seem to think that some of these guys were taking like “10 CCs” a day, every day.
I never saw it happen.
No way in hell that ever happened.
Dianabol, no more than three to four pills a day, at most.
Anavar was weak, so six to eight pills a day.
Winstrol was four pills a day.
Now, I started on Dianabol back in the, maybe, late 60's.
I had heard about Bill Pearl taking it.
I got it from a pharmacy, CIBA, and I started doing two pills a day.
By 10 days in, I had grown so much, it was ridiculous.
This is when everything was real.
I really grew from that Dbol and they quit making it way back.
Maybe, the mid 80's.
CIBA just went out of business and that was it.
It became illegal.
They said on the bottles themselves that these drugs would not enhance athletic performance.
They had to label that on there.
And, then they took it off of there.
Primobolan coming from Germany, or Austria I might say, was probably one of the best things I ever tried.
It was given to me by “one of our big bodybuilders” at the time.
I had great results off that.
I got so huge in two weeks, I could hardly fit into my Volkswagen.
And I'm not kidding.
That's how big I got just off that and the Dbol.
I never took great amounts.
1 shot a week, 3 Dbol a day, maybe 2 Dbol a day.
So, when you asked what these guys took, and how much did they take, and “did they take a lot?”
No, it wasn't a lot at all.
And I always felt that “less was more.”
You didn't need a whole lot to get big.
If you took too much, it didn't really work that well.
It wasn't any better than taking less.
It was available pretty easy.
Like I said, it wasn't illegal.
Everybody had it.
And that's how it was.
But most of the results in training came from heavy-lifting old school style, and a lot of protein.
One of the “big bodybuilders” gave Ric Primobolan for the first time, and he was following the classic dosing protocol we've seen mentioned time and time again now.
A few Dbol per day, and a shot of Primo per week.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dosage Titration Protocol
A credible guru in the industry details what is purported to be Arnold's dosage titration protocol at the 37:18 mark in the following video:
Arnold took Dianabol and Primobolan, essentially nothing else.
An escalating dose, kind of culminating in about 100 milligrams of Dianabol a day and about 1000 milligrams Primobolan a week, a.k.a. about two total grams of drug and that was it.
No aromatase inhibitor, no Tamoxifen, no Insulin or Growth Hormone, just two grams of high-quality anabolic.
By the way, you didn't hear mentioned any Testosterone.
Testosterone really didn't come onto the scene 'til the late 70's, early 80s'.
I have no idea how factual that purported titration schedule was, but it still reinforces the likelihood that Arnold's steroids of choice were Dbol and Primobolan.
Frank Zane's Semi-Cryptic Poem About Golden Era Steroid Cycles
The nail in the coffin in my opinion is Frank Zane's poem.
In Frank Zane's “Mind, Body, Spirit” training diary, one Reddit user actually found a poem that essentially breaks down in code what the top bodybuilders took in the golden era.
Diana Bowl and Louie.
Prima bowl on
TV, both of whom
worked as a team.
Known for miles around
as the best bowlers in town,
Primo drove 100 miles a week
combining 15 milly Gramola bars daily from Diana
not worried about getting fat, you cannot
not on that in those days.
But that was then, this is now
a growing cast of actors shove, share center stage
all playing the same part at the same time
I awoke amazed, wondering how
this ridiculous play isn't dying by now.
Obviously, anyone can see plain as day he's trying to allude to certain things in code here to outline what drugs guys were taking back then, as well as what appears to be his perspective on modern day bodybuilding as a whole compared to the golden era.
The first thing, “Diana Bowl.”
Obviously, that's Dianabol.
“Prima bowl on.”
“Primo drove 100 miles a week.”
100 milligrams per week of Primobolan, which reinforces the one shot a week of Primobolan that Arnold supposedly got.
“Combining 15 milly Gramola bars daily from Diana”
15 milligrams per day of Dianabol (Dbol) combined with the weekly shot of Primo.
After the part where he talks about 100 milligrams of Primo per week and the 15 milligrams of Dianabol per day he says:
“But that was then, this is now.
A growing cast of actors shove, share center stage.
All playing the same part at the same time.
I awoke amazed, wondering how this ridiculous play isn't dying by now.”
I assume this part refers to his perspective of modern day bodybuilding compared to the golden era and how this generation abuses high dosages of multiple drugs, and how much of a travesty he believes bodybuilding has become.
I believe it more or less stands for everything wrong with modern-day bodybuilding.
The excessive mass chasing, the insane dosages of drugs, and him being amazed the “play isn't dying by now” perhaps alluding to the fact that bodybuilding has continued to remain popular despite an increasing amount of young bodybuilders dropping dead from drug abuse.
There's a lot to take in from that poem.
Dianabol (Dbol) And Primobolan Dosages
Ric Drasin and Frank Zane both trained with Arnold and seem to be credible sources of information.
Frank Zane is a Mr. Olympia winner himself and would know better than anyone what others from Gold's Gym were using.
The cumulative evidence strongly suggests that Arnold was at minimum using a shot of Primobolan per week and 3-4 Dianabol per day.
It is entirely possible that those dosages titrated up over the years, but in general we at least know that those were likely the compounds he used to build his physique.
CIBA Dianabol was prescribed in 2.5 and 5 milligram oral tablets.
All forms of Bayer Primobolan Depot were packaged in one milliliter glass ampules and contained 100 milligrams of Metenolone Enanthate.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Steroid Cycle
Based on the information provided, we can assume that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s steroid cycle consisted of 15-20 milligrams of Dianabol per day and 100 milligrams of Primobolan per week.
Those are very conservative dosages by today's standards, and this was reinforced by every one in the golden era who has spoke out about the steroid use in that tight knit circle of bodybuilders Arnold hung out with.
Obviously they could be wrong or lying, but I think their stories line up too well with each other for it to not be at least somewhat true.
Hopefully that lays some myths to rest and sheds light on what the golden era bodybuilders were actually doing to achieve the physiques that everyone strives for nowadays.
Nowadays, guys abuse excessive amounts of drugs in hopes of achieving golden era physiques, when the golden era guys were actually using a fraction of what teenage kids are cycling on nowadays.
Granted, there may be a huge disparity in product quality between the pharmaceutical grade products available in the golden era compared to the UGL stuff most guys are using now.
However, I do not believe that to be the case, with the exception of product purity and complete dosage accuracy.
Most top UGL's are pretty on point and aren't far off of pharmaceutical quality, so to me that point usually just comes across as an excuse that guys use to justify using massive dosages, or for their lackluster results.
The golden era steroid dosages were far more reasonable than most would otherwise believe had they not seen this stuff, or heard it straight from the horse's mouth.
I don't think you will find a more credible resource than Arnold, Frank, Ric, and Steve themselves who have opened up about the standard dosages used in that era, with their statements all lining up with eachother.