Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back to the Basics: Old-School Bodybuilding for Real World Results

     If you're looking for a program to pack on the muscle mass and the power, or if you're looking for a program to bust you out of the (dreaded) plateau you have encased yourself within, look no further.  Sometimes, you just have to go back to the basics.
     A lot of time when lifters go back to the basics they end up doing some crappy, gutless routine where they train their whole body with something along the lines of 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.  They got the full-body routine part right, but the rest of it pretty much blows.  Enter Old-School bodybuilding; the kind of full-body programs that used to be employed by the likes of Anthony Ditillo, Reg Park, and Marvin Eder.  We're talking the real friggin' deal.
     Okay, I'm not going to waste your time with any rambling.  Let's get right to what the "real deal" actually looks like.  Here are my "rules" for Old-School Bodybuilding:
     1. Use a full-body workout 3 days each week.  The most popular days are usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  But any three non-consecutive days will work.  Personally I enjoy a Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday program.  I like to have my Fridays and Saturdays off; I'm well rested on Sunday from not working, and it kind of gets me energized before I have to go back to work on Monday.
     2. Squat at each workout.
     3. Perform 5 to 7 exercises per workout.  In addition to the squats, perform 1 lower-body pulling exercise (such as deadlifts), 1 to 2 upper body pushing exercises (bench presses, dips, overhead presses, 1 to 2 upper body pulling exercises (chins, bent over rows, dumbbell rows), and 1 curling movement.
     4. For each exercise, perform 3 to 5 sets (not counting warm-ups) of 4 to 8 reps.

     That's it for the rules.  Simple?  Heck yea, it is.  But it's also highly effective.  Here's an example of what a week of workouts might look like:

Squats: 4 sets of 5 reps
Deadlifts: 4 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Bench Presses: 3 sets of 6 reps
Weighted Dips: 3 sets of 8 reps
Wide Grip Chins: 4 sets of 6 reps
Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Curls: 4 sets of 6 reps

Squats: 3 sets of 5 reps
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8 reps
Incline Barbell Bench Presses: 4 sets of 6 reps
Close-Grip Chins: 4 sets of 6 reps
Bent-Over Barbell Rows: 3 sets of 6 reps
Dumbbell Curls: 4 sets of 8 reps

Squats: 4 sets of 5 reps
Rack Pulls: 4 sets of 6 reps
Flat Bench Presses: 4 sets of 5 reps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses: 3 sets of 8 reps
Wide-Grip Chins: 4 sets of 6 reps
Reverse Barbell Curls: 4 sets of 6 reps

     I should say that this program is deceptively simple.  It doesn't look like much on paper, but trust me: it packs a punch once you start performing it.  By the last workout of the week, you should be a little fatigued, but that's fine.
     Train hard on it for 3 to 4 weeks, then take a "down" week where you do the same program, but you cut your poundages used in half.
     Make sure you eat plenty of food while on this program (or anything similar to it).  This routine isn't for getting "cut" - it's for gaining a lot of muscle mass in a short period of time.  Eat at least 4 good-sized meals each day, and drink plenty of milk.
     Don't believe this program will work?  Give it a try and you'll be so surprised with the results that you might never go back to more "conventional" training again.


  1. Just wondering why there is no overhead work in this program?

  2. Front delts get worked hard in the bench press and dips

  3. What's your opinion if I split it On a 4 day.. Upper body compound days and lower body compound days?

  4. Ironman,

    You can certainly DO that, but then it becomes an entirely different program. Part of what makes this such an effective program - simple, and easy, but also hard AND result-producing - is the fact that you are squatting at each workout, and performing full-body workouts. Both of those factors usually add up in FAST muscle and strength gains. You just don't get that with a 4-day, 2-way split of upper/lower body days.

    My advice is to stick with the program as it is for a minimum of 6 weeks, then feel free, at that time, to change to a 4-way split.

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