ASK A TRAINER: 'How Can You Tell if Someone is on Steroids?'

ASK A TRAINER: 'How Can You Tell if Someone is on Steroids?'

"I go to the gym with my buddy. He's been working out a little longer than I have and he's in great shape. It seems like whenever he sees someone in the gym that's bigger than he is, he automatically assumes the guy is on steroids. How can you tell if someone is on the juice?" - Pete M., Shorewood, WI

Ah, the Steroid Cop, the guy at the gym that labels anyone that's more muscular than they are as a juicer. The Steroid Guy is as ubiquitous in gyms around the globe as dumbbells. (Another gym staple is Disclaimer Guy. You know the guy that prefaces each set with something like, "Ordinarily, I'd be able to bench twice this much, but my forearms are still sore from deadlifting 750 pounds yesterday.")

There is no way to know for sure who is and who is not on steroids in your gym unless you personally inject them. Being human, we are all prone to speculate about the sordid details about the lives of strangers and, since that is our natural inclination, I've compiled a list of signs that someone MIGHT be on steroids.


  • Steroid Gut: You ever see those guys with huge arms, a huge chest, super broad back, and a 6-pack sitting on top of a distended stomach. Excessive use of human growth hormone can cause what is commonly referred to as 'roid gut. You know what's especially disconcerting about that? Not only is it not a good look for anybody but the belly is caused because growth hormone causes enlargement of your internal organs. I know your question was about steroids, specifically, but I think what your friend is getting at with his finger pointing is people who have achieved gains in the gym through artificial assistance and HGH certainly falls under that banner.
  • In women, a speaking voice that resembles a 12 year old boy whose voice is changing (like Peter Brady in the "Time to Change" episode of THE BRADY BUNCH) and, in men, the development of breast tissue. Excessive testosterone in the body causes it to react in strange ways. In women, the excess causes their voices to deepen. Since men already have tons of testosterone coursing through their bodies, the excess gets converted into estrogen. One of the possible side effects of this conversion is the development of female breast tissue. Interestingly, people often assume that 'roid rage is caused by testosterone, but its actually the result of too much estrogen. Essentially 'roid rage is like an extreme case of PMS.
  • Backne. Similar to what happens when the body is bombarded with hormones during puberty, steroid use can cause body acne.
  • The steroid glow. Steroid users' skin can take on a weird, reddish complexion, and it's not just the result of a spray tan.
  • Ask them. Ha ha! Just kidding. Even if you're able to get an answer without inciting 'roid rage, you aren't likely to get anyone to admit to using them. Steroid use is like watching professional wrestling in that there are considerably more people doing it than will ever admit to it publicly. (See photo.)

So there you have it, Pete. Remember, that during your workouts you and your friend should be focused on your bodies and what you are doing. This list should be used to guide your discussion during the car ride home.

Questions? Email or Tweet @BuckleyBodyGuru. For training and consultation rates and availability, email Elizabeth Smith at


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Michael Buckley Michael Buckley is an NASM certified personal trainer and fitness model. As an actor, Michael can be seen in a recurring role on the popular PBS children?s television show, ?Cyberchase FOR REAL.? Other acting experience includes roles in the feature films DELUSIONS OF GUENEVERE, HETEROSEXUALS, MONA, GYPSY 83 and national tours of GREASE and SOUTH PACIFIC. He is also a produced playwright and had two feature screenplays optioned.