United States Sports Academy
America's Sports University®

The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Synthol: The New Vice of Bodybuilding

A new substance has found its way into the ranks of bodybuilding. It is not a growth hormone, nor an anabolic steroid, nor any other type of performance-enhancing drug. It is Synthol. The effects of Synthol have yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure - it is giving bodybuilders freakish, almost cartoon-like figures. Bodybuilders are looking less like current Mr. Olympia Champion Jay Cutler and former Mr. Olympia Champion Arnold Schwarzenegger, and more like Popeye and the Incredible Hulk. Where the previous standard for bicep size in bodybuilding may have been 18 to 22 inches in girth (flexed), now even novice bodybuilders are displaying biceps of immense proportions, measuring up to 27 inches and beyond - mostly through the use of Synthol. And it is not limited to arms; Synthol is being used to increase the size of calves, thighs, pecs, and wherever else bodybuilders may feel the need/pressure to enhance.

According to many bodybuilding websites, Synthol (also known as “Pump N’ Pose”) originated in the 1980’s from an Italian steroid called Esiclene, which was used as an inflammatory agent in bodybuilding to add temporary fullness to weak-looking body parts. In the 1990’s, a German researcher named Chris Clark built upon the idea of Esiclene and developed a substance called Synthol that could yield much longer-lasting effects on muscle size. Clark later changed the name of Synthol to “Pump N’ Pose” because the former name was already being registered and trademarked by a pharmaceutical company. Synthol is synthetic oil that is locally injected right into the muscle. It becomes encapsulated in the bundles of muscle fibers which adds extreme volume to the muscle -as much as one inch of girth per injection (if injected into the bicep).

The actual chemical make-up of Synthol is not certain, but it has been reported to consist of 85% medium-chain triglyceride oils (fatty acid), 7.5% lidocaine (pain killer), and 7.5% benzyl alcohol, of which 30% is quickly metabolized by the body and the remaining 70% remains encapsulated in the muscle fibers - breaking down very slowly over three to five years. Although it is touted as being safe, neither the short-term nor the long-term effects of Synthol have been adequately studied. It is believed that the accidental injection of Synthol into an artery and or vein could lead to heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or stroke due to the substance forming blood clots or even, in and of itself, becoming lodged in major organs such as the heart, lungs, and brain, causing localized structural damage to tissue. Additionally, the substance could cause tumor-like abscesses that could quickly become infected, requiring extensive surgery that could lead to disfigurement or scarring, or even amputation. There are other risks associated with self-injection, such as nerve damage and possible transmission of HIV and other life-threatening diseases. However, Synthol is a legal substance (because it is sold as posing oil). It currently sells for anywhere from $100 to $500 per bottle depending upon the brand name and supplier.

There is no professional literature or applied research on the use and effects of Synthol on the human body. However, the potential for wide-spread misuse does exist, due to the number of people who are now enjoying the sport of bodybuilding and or body sculpting. That potential also exists with the masses looking for a new cosmetic agent that will prolong youth and beauty by reducing wrinkles and diminishing aging lines. Further research is needed, especially given the fact that Synthol might prove to be beneficial in cosmetically treating patients who suffer from deep tissue/muscle scarring due to disease and/or traumatic injury.