Do painkillers help pro bodybuilders train harder in the gym? Victor Martinez shares his experience and reflects on athlete opiate use in the 90s.

Pro bodybuilders are no stranger to using substances to help optimize their body for the best physiques possible. That can range from natural supplements such as protein powder and creatine. It can also mean PEDs and anabolic steroids for improved strength and recovery. But what about painkillers, relievers, and opiates? Can these help stave off soreness and pain during a workout – allowing for more reps and sets? In the latest episode of the Generation Iron Podcast, Victor Martinez explains how painkillers were a popular substance used by pro bodybuilders in the 90s and why he ultimately didn’t want to utilize such a tactic.

Victor Martinez is a pro bodybuilder that is more than happy to speak transparently about his experience and the sport of bodybuilding as a whole. This combined with his history in the sport, having competed as an amateur in the 90s and a pro through the 2000s onward, gives Martinez great knowledge and hindsight to offer advice to fans and athletes today.

That’s why this week Victor Martinez touches upon two key topics. First he discusses gym etiquette and how much it has changed due to social media, phone cameras, and cancel culture. Then he discusses the world of painkillers and bodybuilding. Do pros use them to help push harder in the gym with less pain? Did any athletes abuse them? Let’s jump into it.

DISCLAIMER: Victor Martinez and the Generation Iron Fitness Network team are not doctors. This conversation is based on anecdotal experience and meant for entertainment purposes only. Please always refer to a doctor and only use medication as prescribed.

Do pro bodybuilders use painkillers to improve workouts?

In general, painkillers can refer to a wide variety of substances that reduce or relieve pain. Everyone is familiar with common over-the-counter drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen. Then there are very powerful prescription drugs such as opiates often used for extreme or serious pain.

Typically, painkillers are not needed for weight training or workouts. If anything, an individual may use an over-the-counter pain reliever to help subdue the feeling of muscle soreness after a workout.

But in this episode, Victor Martinez speaks of a different use for painkillers in bodybuilding. Instead of using it for recovery after a workout, he explains how bodybuilders have used painkillers before a workout. Why? So they can push harder in the gym due to less pain holding them back.

Martinez states that this was most popular in the 90s and early 2000s. Of course, this matches with the rise of the opioid crisis in the United States. While Martinez no longer competes, he believes that modern bodybuilders today use this tactic much less. In fact, even by Martinez’s prime years the trend was already disappearing.

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Victor Martinez shares his experience using painkillers before a workout

Victor Martinez admit that he tried using painkillers to reduce pain and push his workouts harder. However, he ultimately didn’t like using this tactic. This is in part due to the side effects that come with pain relievers. They can often make you drowsy. What good is the reduction of pain if you don’t have the energy to push your hardest during training?

Martinez also stated that the painkillers he was using (not disclosed – but stated to be a prescription oral pain reliever), also made the pump feel different while training. He didn’t like this sensation and decided to stop using painkillers before workouts.

Victor Martinez also warns that painkillers, especially heavy opiates, can be addicting. The opioid crisis in America destroyed many lives. Martinez knows this personally, as a good friend of his died due to opiate abuse. The risk is high – which is why Martinez does not suggest anyone use painkillers as a tactic to improve a training session.

Is social media and cancel culture destroying gym etiquette?

During this week’s podcast discussion, the topic of gym etiquette is also debated. Specifically the recent growing trend of women filming men and shaming them in the gym. These kind of videos often happen for a small variety of reasons. Some women are filming themselves train and become upset when a person walks in front of the camera.

Some women film men who are staring or harassing them during a workout. But this is also a double-edged sword. As Joey Swoll has often pointed out in his social media videos – some women shame men unjustly. Then cancel culture reacts to an out of context or misinformed video and an innocent person’s reputation gets harmed.

Victor Martinez believes that cell phones have made the gym experience worse. It promotes more self-centered mentality and is used to shame others who are just trying to better themselves. While he believes there are those who deserve to be called out, there are far too many times where the reverse is also true.

Wrap Up

You can watch Victor Martinez and the GI crew discuss painkillers in bodybuilding and gym etiquette in the modern world by watching the latest episode of the Generation Iron Podcast above. Don’t forget to check back every Tuesday for new episodes only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Jacob Ladon
Jacob Ladon is a staff writer and former amateur bodybuilder. He has been passionate about bodybuilding since he was 15 years old and discovered the joys of training in the gym. He reports and comments on all bodybuilding related matters.