Do Calisthenics Athletes Take Steroids? (Analyzed)

Most calisthenics athletes and regulars spend years building muscle mass through strength building, leading to their muscular physiques. However, this can often raise questions

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Most calisthenics athletes and regulars spend years building muscle mass through strength building, leading to their muscular physiques. However, this can often raise questions about how they got to be so muscular and whether they’ve used performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids to get to the top of their game.

But do calisthenics athletes really take steroids to enhance their physiques and performance, or is this just a myth started by those who are envious of their results?

The short answer is that while some will always want to take a shortcut and maximize their results using steroids, many calisthenics athletes are natural and choose not to use drugs to enhance performance.

In this article, we’ll give you the full low-down on why some athletes choose to take steroids, how to tell if they are using drugs to enhance performance, and how regular steroid use can affect a person’s health and well-being.


What are Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones that mimic the effects of testosterone in the body. They can be taken in various ways, including orally, via injection, or through patches applied to the skin.

People take anabolic steroids because they want to build muscle mass and accelerate fat loss, helping them get as low a body fat percentage as possible. They also take steroids to improve athletic performance and increase endurance. 

Anabolic steroids can have serious side effects, including liver damage, heart disease, and infertility. They can also cause mood swings and aggressive behavior, which is often a common sign that someone is using steroids.

The use of steroids is most commonly seen in sports such as bodybuilding, cycling, boxing, and triathlon, but doping can happen in any sport, including calisthenics.

Why Do Calisthenics Athletes Take Steriods?

Before we delve into this topic, we just want to point out that this information is hypothetical because many calisthenics athletes choose to stay natural and don’t take steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. 

However, if a calisthenics athlete did choose to go down this route, here are some reasons why they could believe steroids might benefit their performance:

  • They’re looking for a quick fix to bulk up quicker than they could through natural training.
  • They believe that steroids can take their strength and performance to the next level and achieve more than they could without the help of drugs.
  • Some athletes believe steroids will give them an edge over other competitors if they compete in calisthenics competitions.
  • Some athletes take steroids because their recovery time is faster, and they can train more to maximize results.
  • They might be looking to build their endurance further than they could without steroids so they can train harder for longer.
  • They believe steroids will improve their physical appearance by having as little body fat as possible.

Although this might make steroids sound like a miracle drug and a quick fix, many athletes believe that taking steroids isn’t worth the risk to their health or reputation.

In most cases, the negative effects a person might experience when they regularly use steroids outweigh any benefits (we’ll cover the health risks in greater detail later in this article).

©Youtube: Strength Side

Why Calisthenics Athletes Choose to Stay Natural

People often speculate about whether a calisthenics athlete has been taking steroids to reach the levels required to compete. However, many choose to stay natural without the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

Calisthenics isn’t all about bulking up, and most athletes who are at the top of their game have done so through years of practice, determination, and experimenting to achieve the best results.

Many of the moves used in calisthenics, especially freestyle (or street workouts), require skill, agility, and a lean physique. 

When calisthenics athletes compete, the moves they incorporate into a routine are generally performed on high bars and based on body weight exercises such as various kinds of pull-ups, spins, and jumps from one bar to another.

Although physical strength is obviously important for a calisthenics athlete, taking steroids can lead to bulkier muscles throughout the body, which can actually be more of a hindrance than a lean yet muscular physique that most calisthenics athletes have and need. 

As well as steroids being impractical for calisthenics, most athletes prefer to know that they’ve got to the top of their game through hard work and determination rather than relying on a quick fix. 

Calisthenics athletes competing in competitions who do so naturally will know they got to place through their own efforts, which is often more motivating than any drug.

How Calisthenics Athletes Get Results Without Steroids

The kinds of moves performed by calisthenic athletes have the most impact on their physical appearance.

At this kind of level, calisthenics athletes often focus on the street or freestyle element of calisthenics, so they spend most of their training time on high bars, parallel bars, and gymnastic rings.

This kind of exercise mainly focuses on upper body strength, so a calisthenics physique usually consists of muscular arms, shoulders, chest, and back with tight abs and very little body fat. 

Calisthenics athletes also tend to have leaner, less bulky legs because they don’t always make this their main priority when working out.

Here are the main things calisthenics athletes do to gain their physiques and reach peak performance:

  1. Body Weight Exercises. Calisthenics is an excellent way to build muscle strength using body weight as resistance. This kind of training can also be taken to the next level by increasing the intensity of a move, such as adding more height to a push-up or doing an L-sit pull-up rather than just sticking to the regular kind. 
  1. Weight Training. For some calisthenics athletes, bodyweight strength training alone isn’t efficient enough for them to fulfill their strength goals or achieve the kind of muscle mass they’re looking for. So, to increase their strength-building potential, they incorporate weight training into their workout sessions, and weights can also be used in various calisthenics moves. Many athletes also train using weight belts or vests to increase resistance during bodyweight exercises.
  1. Regular Training. Calisthenics athletes get to the top of their game through persistence, and it’s likely they have an intense workout routine that keeps muscles strong and allows them to make improvements week by week.
  1. Mobility Exercises. A big part of calisthenics is being as mobile and flexible as possible so athletes can perform the toughest of moves. Athletes regularly incorporate mobility exercises and dynamic stretches into their routines to keep muscles and joints as mobile as possible to maximize results. Yoga moves are also becoming increasingly popular in calisthenics because it helps to improve the range of movement an athlete can make and enhances performance.
  1. Endurance Training. One of the most important things for calisthenics athletes performing street-style routines is endurance because this allows them to maintain fluidity from one move to the next without fatigue. Endurance is something that builds up over time with the right kind of training and by increasing the number of reps in a session.
  1. Full-Body Workouts. The beauty of calisthenics is the range of exercises and moves that can be incorporated into a routine. Although leg day isn’t always that popular, those at athlete level will incorporate a wide range of moves into their training. This range of exercise helps with mobility and ensures they get the best possible body strength.

The Negative Effects of Using Steroids

Medical professionals legally prescribe various kinds of steroids to treat certain conditions. But athletes who abuse steroids for personal gains usually take them in much higher doses. This kind of recreational use can be dangerous and lead to various negative effects.

When someone regularly uses steroids as a performance-enhancing drug, this can lead to just some of the following problems:

  • A Change in Mood: mood swings, aggression, hostility, and paranoia
  • Hair Loss or Hair Gain: including thinning hair, baldness, or increased body hair
  • Skin Problems: acne and oilier skin than usual
  • Infertility
  • Stomach Pains
  • Serious Health Complications: such as heart, liver, or kidney problems

As well as the possible health-related side effects, steroids can lead to reputational damage if used in certain competitions.

How Can You Tell if a Calisthenics Athlete is Taking Steroids?

If someone is taking steroids, it’s not always that obvious and will depend on how they’re using them. 

Although huge bulky muscles can be a sign that someone is taking steroids, it’s often more subtle and can be confused with muscle gain that calisthenics athletes build naturally. 

Here are some of the ways you can spot if a person might be using steroids to enhance their performance: 

  • Men can gain more feminine traits (such as an increase in breast size), and women can gain more masculine traits (such as a deeper voice or more body hair).
  • Obvious reductions in body fat. This makes muscles appear larger (especially in the upper body), and veins might stand out more than normal.
  • Rapid muscle gains. Although calisthenics is excellent for increasing muscle (especially in the upper body), using steroids can make this happen much faster than it would usually.
  • Personality changes. As well as a potential increase in aggression, you may notice a general change in a person’s personality from how they usually behave. Steroids can make a person appear more paranoid or hyperactive, which can be fairly obvious in some people.
  • Acne. Steroids increase the amount of bodily oil a person produces, and this extra oil often leads to acne on the face or body.
©Men’s Journal

Are Steroids Allowed in Calisthenics Competitions?

Taking steroids to enhance performance in calisthenics competitions is generally frowned upon and considered a form of cheating.

This isn’t to say that people don’t use steroids, and rules will also vary depending on the level of the competition and where it’s being held.

The World Street Workout and Calisthenics Federation (WSWCF) regulations state that to perform in the world cup, participants can be asked to take a doping test. If found positive, they will be banned from official events for two years. 

For many athletes, this kind of ban could come as a serious blow to their professional calisthenics career and reputation.

The WSWCF bases its doping rules on the World Anti-Doping Agency regulations, which provides an extensive list of the kinds of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs that cannot be used in professional sports.

Smaller, more local events without such regulations will be less likely to perform doping checks to identify if a participant has taken steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs before competing.

Are Steroids Legal?

Because of the harmful effects anabolic steroids can have on the body if misused and the fact they can lead to unfair outcomes in sports, they are banned in several countries. 

These countries include US, UK, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina. However, some countries have no regulations around steroids, such as Colombia, Egypt, and Hongkong, which means people can use them without a prescription.

In countries where it has been made illegal to take or sell steroids for recreational use, medical professionals can still prescribe them to help with specific health problems.

If someone wanted to buy steroids for recreational use in a country where they’re banned, they’d be buying on the black market and would be breaking the law.

Penalties for buying or selling steroids in a place where they’re banned vary depending on local laws and the seriousness of the offense.


So having investigated the world of steroid use in calisthenics, here’s an overview of everything we’ve discovered:

  • As with any sport, some athletes within the calisthenics world will choose to use steroids to enhance their performance. However, many don’t because they’d rather stay natural to avoid potential health issues or damage to reputation.
  • If an athlete chooses to take steroids, they do this because they believe it will enhance performance, increase strength, and get faster results.
  • In many countries, steroids aren’t allowed in most major calisthenics competitions, and it’s illegal to sell or use steroids (unless prescribed by a medical professional).
  • Using steroids for personal gain can lead to various complications, which can outweigh any benefits.

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