Muscular Development: “The Most Aggressive Cycle I Ever Did” by PJ Braun

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“Train hard, eat right, and use the drugs conservatively to enhance your lifestyle. Always learn from your mistakes and please learn from mine.”

PJ Braun

The Following Article was originally published in Muscular Development Magazine in May 2023. It is the eighth in a series of articles written while PJ Braun was in prison. You can find previous and future articles in this series here. At the end of this article, you will find an addendum not included in the original publication where PJ reflects on the content of this article.

I get asked so many questions about cycles for myself and others. It’s important to take into consideration how different things are done for competitive bodybuilding versus just living healthy and being on HRT, so the answers I give will vary from person to person. Let me tell you a quick history about the most aggressive cycle I’ve ever done. 

I trained drug free for the first 10 years of my life. I used to love experimenting with the stuff I would see in magazine ads. Cell-Tech ads featuring my favorite bodybuilders had me convinced that the secret to success when I was in high school was whatever they were selling. I still remember how shitty I would feel when that 75 grams of dextrose would crash my blood sugar shortly after drinking it, leaving me sweating profusely and on the verge of passing out. The first show I ever did was drug free at 189 pounds but, after seeing everyone else, I was ready to get on my first cycle.

I began my first cycle when I was 22 years old– Nandrolone 300mg a week and Dianabol 50mg a day. I got very strong, but very bloated. After eight weeks I was so disgusted with my water retention that I quit cold turkey and took a big break! Instead of just listening to my friends I needed to do some serious research. My next show I simply used oral Winstrol and Halotestin during the last month, coming in at 198 pounds, ripped. After this newfound taste of success I was ready to move up to real injectables and to stop wasting time without testosterone. 

I began working with a coach named John O’Reagan who was aggressive in all aspects. Lots of clean food, lots of heavy training with serious volume and plenty of steroids to go with it. I grew like a weed and placed fourth at Junior USAs, then won the NPC New England at 220 pounds and 213 pounds the week later. After that I met Dave Palumbo and we built a great relationship. He started a company called Species and, along with Dave, I got to be the main face. Dave was actually pretty conservative with me, and I got good, consistent results.

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After a couple of years I decided that I wanted to expand my coaching business and really start experimenting with my body. You name it, I probably tried it. I loved trenbolone acetate, but who doesn’t? I also loved Dianabol and Anadrol because the strength and pumps when added in to test cycles were just awesome. I once did a cycle of 250mg Test Cypionate and 100mg Tren Acetate every other day along with 50mg Anadrol daily in the off-season.  By the end of that six weeks I went from burning out with 225 on the flat bench for 35 reps to 50 reps. At the same time I also worked up from 405 for five up to 405 for eight. I loved it! 

Fast-forward to the 2011 Nationals and I was bummed because I really thought I should have been in the mix. So did most of the guys I competed with. Afterward I had to really look at what I was doing because even though I won the Eastern USA heavyweights prior to that, I only made it to second call at Nationals and was heartbroken. I decided that I was going to make one final run at a pro card, going all out by my standards, and if I wasn’t in the top five, I was going to retire and start a supplement company (hint, Blackstone Labs™). 

Here is the cycle I did:

Additionally, I was also using 5 IU of Chinese GH daily that I now know was definitely fake. I really wish I had access to real GH when I was competing. Once I retired and saw the effects firsthand, It would have been awesome with the real stuff. I also want to add that I was using 10 units of NovoLog (fast-acting insulin) post-workout on chest, back and leg day. I also progressed up to 50 mcg of Cytomel daily starting eight weeks out and I used 200mg of DNP two weeks on and four weeks off starting 20 weeks out and let me tell you, DNP is the most intense fat-burning product I have ever used. 

At 200mg a day, the side effects were not bad; I was hot and sweatier than normal, but the fat seemed to literally melt off. During the process I was site-injecting painless pumps into my rear delts aggressively on the advice of a legendary pro bodybuilder who showed me how to do it and I loved what that did. 

So, let’s break this down for a second. At three weeks out I was on Test Cypionate, Masteron, Tren; all injections so I felt like a pin cushion! On top of all that I was also on oral Winstrol, Oxandrolone, Halotestin, Proviron, Cytomel, Arimidex and DNP! 

I woke up three weeks out and got on the scale at 236 and then hit a pose in the mirror and said, “Holy shit, I am going to win the USA.” I sent photos to Dave Palumbo and Aaron Singerman, just standing relaxed, with the quote: “2012 USA CHAMP!” I was so excited– I had never looked so freaky! 

Three days later I was doing what was to be my last intense leg workout out at World Gym San Diego, but I overdid it. I trained for over three hours and then got into a pissing contest with a couple of guys after my workout was over. We ended up doing many sets of heavy squats, including a set with 500 pounds. I had no business doing this: they were practically picking me up after every rep. Looking back, my ego truly got the best of me. I went home feeling terrible and the next day my stomach started swelling and shooting with pain, but I wasn’t going to go to the hospital until I collapsed. 

Long story short, I ended up in the emergency room for a day and a half until they brought in a group of doctors who told me that they had good news and bad news. The good news was that of all the bad things I could have had happen, none of it was life threatening. The bad news was that I had a ruptured Hemangioma. Basically, I exploded a blood vessel to my liver. While extremely rare, it was probably caused by pushing too hard with a Valsalva maneuver during heavy squats. I was devastated. 

I asked if I would die if I tried to compete and they said no, but it was a bad idea, and I would be in horrible pain for at least a couple of weeks. I decided to just come off everything and do the show, as I was used to pain. This was something I felt I needed to do. I knew I wasn’t going to be my best ever or even my best, but I could still be very good.

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The pain was awful; my liver wasn’t producing bile the right way so I couldn’t eat much, but I never quit. Every day after that I just ate four meals of 5 ounces of tilapia and some asparagus. I walked for an hour three times a day and lightly practiced posing. In between I wrapped my stomach in castor oil and plastic wrap and applied heating pads. 

I placed the worst of my career. After talking to some guys about what I went through, some of them told me they were taking more aggressive cycles than I was for quite a while and I just said, “Enough is enough for me.” I realized that most of the best bodybuilders don’t even have to go crazy with juice: they just have freaky genetics. Don’t get me wrong, many of them take plenty on top of it, but they are still genetically superior. 

I had to look in the mirror and think about what I really wanted in life and that was to help others be their best with Blackstone Labs™. I don’t regret anything I did in bodybuilding, but some friendly advice: Train hard, eat right, and use the drugs conservatively to enhance your lifestyle. Always learn from your mistakes and please learn from mine because, although that was a freak accident, the steroids had to play at least some part.

Until next time, I love you all. 

Peace out, bye.

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Editor’s Note (June 2024): Prior to posting this article, PJ Braun was requested for comment and asked to reflect on the content of this article. This was his response. It has been edited for clarity.

Although that cycle was crazy by my standards it really wasn’t crazy compared to a lot of what my friends and fellow competitors were doing. Who knows what would have happened had I kept on pushing it. I should have backed out of that show. I may not be sitting here writing this if I went on. I was prepared to do whatever was necessary at one point. That was a long time ago.

Being off the testosterone in prison was really damn hard. I felt absolutely exhausted and sore all the time, not too mention I accumulated a lot of fat. As soon as I got home and got tested my Total test was 164 and my free Test was 3. These are VERY LOW numbers. I got back on TRT immediately just doing 1 shot of 200mg cypionate weekly and after the 3rd shot I started to feel much better. I have since changed some things around but I started getting the itch recently to push it again andI said to my self “Should I blast a big cycle?”

I think because I was out of the gym for so long that the excitement of it all has me feeling like a kid again, but I’m 43 and want to live as long as possible. I want to live to be 100, so instead of pushing extra gear, I am pushing my physical therapy, haha. I am with my buddy Dr. Nick Ruggiero three times per week doing shockwave therapy, infrared light, and adjustments. I see my massage therapist Ricardo on Tuesdays for deep tissue and on Wednesdays the last month I have been seeing my buddy Eric for his new patent on a recovery frequency with the Neubie. On top of that I have my own TENS unit and massage gun. I foam roll every day and I drink lots of water and get adequate rest. The results are coming because I am training hard and smart. I learned a lot about patience in prison.

I was an instant gratification kind of guy my whole life. So now I am focussing on each day and making it great: Staying present in the moment. I am also keeping a daily journal.  I will always share everything I do. I see a lot more people talking about steroids and cycles on instagram now, but half of them are liars and most of the rest are idiots giving out bad advice. It’s kinda scary.

Stick with me, at least you will get the truth!