So every 4 years when the Olympics comes on, the same thing happens…
You’re glued to your TV, in awe of the MALE olympic gymnasts muscles (covered in twinkie wrappers on your couch).
And you totally didn’t even realize that females also do gymnastics. What has come over you? Don’t worry you are not turning homo, you are just ‘mirin these guy’s unbelievable physiques.
And Gymnasts quite frankly have some of the greatest muscles on the planet with:
- Huge, arms/shoulders
- Ripped six pack abs
- Lats so big they could probably take off and fly (combined with some red bull).
- And even better, they top all these visual components off with incredible levels of (functional) strength. Gymnasts some of the strongest athletes pound for pound on the planet.
A typical gym-rat’s thought:
I’ve been training for years lifting as heavy as possible, yet these guys look 50x better than me. And they don’t even lift weights, they just swing around on some rings!
You are not alone, millions of us also have nowhere near the muscularity of these guys.
It’s a common misconception that gymnast’s don’t lift weights.
They do, just not the dumbbell kind – they lift their own body weight.
Body weight exercises such as pull ups, dips, lunges etc remain as staple exercises in many bodybuilding training splits. (For an awesome body weight workout routine go here).
So, do Gymnast’s Take Steroids?
Some gym rats take steroids, running powerful cycles but don’t look a patch in comparison to gymnasts. So it’s only natural to think that these guys might be juicing.
The Aim of Gymnastics
In order to find out whether gymnasts use steroids, it’s crucial to find out more about the sport and whether such drugs would improve their success – like it would a bodybuilder.
The perfect gymnast requires flawless technique on events such as the pommel horse, rings, vault and parallel bars.
Thus gymnastics is an extremely technical sport, like ping pong for example.
However, in order for gymnast’s to have flawless technique during these events they must possess incredible strength.
To perform movements like this…
To maximize strength levels, their ultimate goal is to gain as much strength as possible without adding any mass to their frame. This is because muscle is very dense, basically meaning it weighs a lot. So this extra muscle weight will only provide additional resistance, making exercises increasingly difficult to perform.
Thus, building muscle can only be seen as a disadvantage for a gymnast.
And with the extremely anabolic nature of steroids, significant muscle gain is inevitable.
You could also expect to retain about 20lbs of water from taking roids, which again would harm a gymnast’s performance.
Drug Controversy in Gymnastics
Gymnastics is a sport where there is very little controversy over drugs and people trying to gain an artificial edge.
It’s not like bodybuilding where many federations don’t test for steroids, or other sports where you regularly hear about people failing tests for several different substances.
One of the rare cases of a failed test in gymnastics happened in April, 2016 when Nikolai Kuksenkov tested positive for meldonium.
Meldonium is a substance that increases blood flow to working muscles and increases red blood cell count. The athlete will have enhanced stamina and cardiovascular performance as a result of taking this drug. Maria Sharapova was also found guilty of taking Meldonium in tennis recently, saying she used it because of “diabetes running in her family”.
So, even in this rare case of drug-use in the sport, it has no anabolic (muscle building) effects whatsoever.
FACT: Gymnasts don’t even want to gain muscle
Gymnasts simply get jacked as a by-product of all the training they do. They don’t actually want to build muscle, but they can’t help it.
If it makes us feel any better we can always poke fun at their legs…
…But then again he could probably squat more than all of us.
Dr O'Connor's the author of the book: America on Steroids - A Time to Heal, and has worked with many elite bodybuilders. He's also been featured in Muscle & Fitness, Muscular Development, whilst appearing in the bodybuilding film documentary Generation Iron 3.