Steroid hormones work by stimulation of receptor molecules in muscle cells, which activate specific genes to produce proteins (see Figure 1). They also affect the activation rate of enzyme systems involved in protein metabolism, thus enhancing protein synthesis and inhibiting protein degradation (called an anti-catabolic effect).
Heavy resistance training seems to be necessary for anabolic steroids to exert any beneficial effect on physical performance. Most research studies that have demonstrated improved performance with anabolic steroids used experienced weight lifters who were capable of training with heavier weights and producing relatively greater muscle tension during exercise than novice subjects. The effectiveness of anabolic steroids is dependent upon unbound receptor sites in muscle. Intense strength training may increase the number of unbound receptor sites. This would increase the effectiveness of anabolic steroids.