The purpose of the present study was to investigate regional changes in body composition and anthropometric variables induced by nandrolone decanoate in bodybuilders. In a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled design 16 subjects received weekly intramuscular injections containing 200 mg nandrolone decanoate (ND) or placebo. Composition of total body and body parts were assessed using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), skinfolds and circumferences. Measurements were performed at baseline, after 8 weeks ND administration period and 6 weeks after drug withdrawal. DEXA revealed that total body mass (from 76.16 +/- 2.70 to 78.73 +/- 4.07 kg, p<0.5) and bone-free lean mass (from 59.54 +/- 2.36 to 63.06 +/- 2.99 kg, p < 0.025) increased significantly during ND administration whereas bone mineral mass remained unchanged. Six weeks after drug cessation bone-free lean mass was still increased compared to baseline levels. During ND administration significant increments of bone-free lean mass of the trunk (+ 2.03 kg) and legs (+ 1.08 kg) could be observed. Percentage fat of the legs decreased during the drug intervention period (-1.9%) and remained lowered six weeks after drug withdrawal. No alteration in any variable of the arms was observed. Skinfolds did not change during the entire study period in both groups. After 8 weeks ND administration circumference of the neck was increased (+0.9 cm) significantly although all circumferences underwent non-significant gains. In conclusion, the intramuscular administration of nandrolone decanoate (200 mg per week) during eight weeks induced an increase of body weight and bone-free lean body mass in bodybuilders that was mainly situated in the trunk and legs as determined by DEXA. The changes in the trunk were reflected in the circumferences but not the alterations in the legs. Skinfolds were not able to detect changes of fat mass of body parts. DEXA revealed that total fat mass and total percentage fat remained unaffected by drug administration while percentage fat of the legs decreased and remained lowered after drug cessation. These data indicate that changes of the composition of body parts induced by ND are elucidated less accurately by circumferences or skinfolds rather than by DEXA.