Q: “Usually, recommendations are to not use anabolic steroids until after many years of natural training, and not until at least age 21. But for everything there are exceptions. When might a person reasonably start steroid use earlier?”
A: When a lifter gains many years of natural experience before starting anabolic steroid use, then he very likely has really learned how to train. This is no small thing. As with many athletic activities, a person can read any number of books or magazine articles or watch any number of videos, but the knowledge gained is entirely different from having put in hundreds of hours of training. You have to have that time in the trenches and have learned from experience what works for you and what does not, and have learned how to adapt your training to meet varying obstacles you encounter.
The novice trainer who uses anabolic steroids from early on never learns this, because everything works.
This isn’t to say that a person cannot learn to train properly if starting anabolic steroid use early, only that the situation tends strongly to work against it.
Additionally, the person who’s put in the hard work and consistently made gains for many years without anabolic steroids knows that he can do so. He has no psychological dependency, and is completely accustomed to working hard in the gym without pharmaceutical assistance. After beginning anabolic steroid use, in almost all cases such a lifter will train hard and well in his “off” weeks.
The novice who started steroid use too soon often will feel that training without anabolic steroids is largely a waste of time. Typically the backsliding will be quite bad, if he has “off” weeks at all. Often, he will not have the discipline to have “off” weeks.
Again, this doesn’t have to be so. If a person has the right psychology, that can be overcome.
There have been instances of my seeing great results with lifters starting as young as 18. These young men were very dedicated, intelligent, followed instruction extremely well, had great training guidance, and often had great athletic potential.
In a recent example, such a young man who had all the other gifts but nowhere near the needed muscle did a single 8-week cycle at 18, following instructions exactly. The next year he started every game of the season and was a key player on a top-three nationally ranked college team. He’d also earned a full ride at this academically-excellent school.
None of the negatives applied to his case. He had good reason to start when he did instead of waiting a few more years. There will be many cases like his, but far more cases that are not and where there would be a tremendous amount to be said for putting in several years of natural training first.
So each case is different. But most of the time, I agree with the general recommendations on when it could be time to start considering anabolic steroid use. Usually, not till years of hard work have already yielded most of one’s natural potential.