The Old School 70′s Bodybuilding Routine

Insane Frank Zane

Frank Zane – The Ideal V Taper Body

The 1970′s produced the most impressive male physiques the world has ever seen. The bodybuilders of the 70′s made Zeus and Hercules look like pencil necks. In this article we will take a look at the 70′s bodybuilding workout routine – and how the 70′s bodybuilders achieved their near perfect physiques.

Current bodybuilders look like pregnant cows with zero bodyfat, in other words, they look absolutely ridiculous. The 70′s bodybuilders were the ideal physique of man – they had low bodyfat, but not so low they looked sick, they had small waists with abdominals clearly defined, big chests, wide lats, big shoulders, and big arms.

They had perfect V-tapers. A V-taper is when the male upper body has a “V” shape. Starting with wide shoulders, wide lats, and moving down in size to a tight waist – like a “V”. 

In this article we will review the de-facto bodybuilding routine of bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Franco Columbu, Lou Ferrigno, Boyer Coe, Bill Grant, Mike Mentzer, Serge Nubret and other bodybuilders from the golden era of bodybuilding.

The workout routine they used was a high-volume approach. In lay-mans terms ‘high volume’ means they did a whole lot of work to achieve their physiques. Both in the gym and in the “kitchen”.

Todays top bodybuilders follow a routine of working out one bodypart per week for one hour per workout session. For example they may work Chest on Monday, Back on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday, Legs on Thursday, Shoulders and Arms on Friday, and rest on Saturday and Sunday.

The 70′s era bodybuilders were in the gym 6 days per week doing lots of heavy work, resting very little, and spending a long time in the gym to achieve the look of perfection.

Their routine was not set in stone. A trainer must use his instinct to find what works for him. We will look at the bodypart splits (the days they worked each muscle groups) and the exercises they used. It is for the reader to determined his choice of exercises and rep scheme (the amount of reps you will do per set).

Bodybuilding in the 1970′s was about achieving perfection of the male body. 70′s bodybuilding was about building the most aesthetic, muscular and strong body attainable by man. Below we will look at how they accomplished this.

This is the de-facto bodypart split of the 1970′s era bodybuilders:

Monday: Chest and Back

Tuesday: Shoulders and Arms

Wednesday: Legs

Thursday: Chest and Back

Friday: Shoulders and Arms

Saturday: Legs

Sunday: Rest

Abdominals (Abs), Calves, Neck and Trapezius work was done 4-6 times per week or as needed.

The seventies bodybuilders would typically start their routine with abdominal or calf work (if needed).

After the abs and calves they would start with their hardest and heaviest exercise. The exercises they used were the most basic, multi-joint movement that build the most muscle. They would start with the hardest and heaviest and work towards the lightest exercises.

Exercise Selection

Monday and Thursday

Chest Exercises:

Arnold Schwarzenegger Performing Dumbbell Chest Flyes

Flat Barbell Bench Press / Incline Barbell Bench Press / Dips / Chest Flyes / Dumbbell Pullovers

Back Exercises:

Pullups / Chinups / Bent Rows / T-Bar Rows / Deadlifts

Tuesday and Friday

Shoulder Exercises:

Military Press / Behind the Neck Press / Dumbbell Overhead Press (Arnold/Scott Press) / Front Dumbbell Raises / Side Dumbbell Raises

Biceps Exercises:

Barbell Curls / Dumbbell Curls / Incline Dumbbell Curls / Concentration Curls

Triceps Exercises:

Standing French Press / Skullcrushers / Close Grip Bench Press / Cable Pulldowns / Cable Pushdowns

Wednesday and Saturday

Mike Mentzer had perfect aesthetics and admitted he built his body with High-Volume training.

Leg Exercises:

Squats / Hack Squats / Leg Press / Leg Extensions / Leg Curls

Daily or as Needed

Abdominal Exercises:

Situps / Rope Crunches

Calf Exercises:

Standing Calf Raises / Donkey Calf Raises / Seated Calf Raises

Forearm Exercises:

Seated Barbell Wrist Curls/ Reverse Barbell Wrist Curls / Behind the Back Barbell Wrist Curls / Hammer Curls / Reverse Barbell Curls

Neck exercises:

Wrestlers Bridges / Neck Curls / Neck Harness Curls

 

 Sample Routine

This is a sample workout routine that can be used to get started on the Old School 70′s Bodybuilding Routine:

Monday and Thursday:

CHEST:

Sergio Oliva – The Victory Pose

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 5 sets / 1-12 reps per set

Incline Bench Press – 5 Sets / 5-12 reps per set

Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes – 5 Sets / 8-12 reps per set

 

BACK:

Chinups – As many sets as it takes to complete 50 Chinups

Bent Rows – 5 Sets / 8-12 reps per set

T-Bar Rows – 5 Sets / 8-12 reps per set

Notes: The rep scheme should fall between 5-12 reps per set, depending on how heavy the weight is, with 8 reps being ideal. You will start with lightweight and move up in weight with each set.

Always start this day with Flat Barbell Bench Press. You will do 5 total sets. Each set you will go up in weight 10, 15, or 20 lbs depending on strength level. You will want to end this exercise as heavy as possible, even with only 1 or 2 reps. This will “activate” your strength and allow you to lift heavier in all your next exercises.

A favorite of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s was to combine Chest and Back exercises into a superset. That means doing two exercises in a row without stopping. For example: he would do a set of Flat Barbell Bench Press and then immediately do a set of Chinups without rest. Arnold would continue like that until all 5 sets were finished.

Supersetting Chest and Back is an excellent way to build muscle, sweat out toxins and burn bodyfat because it’s very hard work.

Example Chest/Back Superset Routine:

Flat Barbell Bench Press superset with Chinups – 5 sets / 5-12 reps per set of Bench Press, as many chinups as possible per set

Incline Barbell Bench Press superset with Barbell Bent Rows – 5 sets / 5-12 reps per set

Chest Dumbbell Flyes superset with T-Bar Rows – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

Tuesday and Friday:

SHOULDERS:

Arnold Schwarzenegger with a very sexy girl.

Behind the Neck Barbell Press – 5 sets / 5-12 reps per set

Arnold/Scott Press – 5 Sets / 8-12 reps per set

Lateral Dummbell Raises – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

BICEPS:

Barbell Curls – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

Incline Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

Concentration Curls – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

TRICEPS:

Close Grip Bench Press – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

Standing French Press – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

Cable or Rope Pushdowns/Pulldowns – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

 

TRAPEZIUS (AS NEEDED):

The Trapezius muscles (traps) are the muscle connecting the neck and the shoulders. Some trainers traps may need some additional work. For a man with narrow clavicles it is generally advisable to avoid trap work. For a man with wide clavicles trap work is usually necessary.

Trapezius exercises:

Barbell Shrugs / Dumbbell Shrugs / Farmers Walks

Notes: Always start this day with the Barbell Shoulders Presses. Those with shoulder problems can substitute the Behind the Neck Barbell Press with Standing Military Press (Barbell Presses to the front). The rep scheme should fall between 5-12 reps with 8 being the ideal. Start the Barbell Press with light weight and move up in weight with each set until you are hitting about 5 reps.  The Arnold/Scott Press and the Lateral DB Raises should be performed with 8-12 reps per set.

The Biceps and Triceps exercises should be performed with 8-12 reps per set. Heavier weight does not need to be used with each set.

To save time and get an insane pump the Biceps and Triceps exercises can be supersetted. To do that you will do one exercise of Biceps immediately followed by one Tricpes exercises until all sets and exercises are completed.

Example Biceps/Triceps Superset Routine:

Standing Barbell Curls superset with Close Grip Bench Press – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

Incline Dumbbell Curls superset with Standing French Press – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

Concentration Curls superset with Rope Pulldowns – 5 sets / 8-12 reps per set

Wednesday and Saturday:

LEGS:

Squats – 5 sets / 5-20 reps per set

Hack Squats – 5 sets / 8-20 reps per set

Lying Leg Curls – 5 sets / 8-20 reps per set

Leg Extensions – 5 sets / 8-20 reps per set

Notes: Always start Leg day with Squats because they are the hardest exercise. The squats will be performed in the same fashion as the Flat Bench Press. We will start with a lightweight and move up in weight with each set. The first set of Squats will be done with the empty bar for approx. 20 reps. Then you will add weight with each set depending on your strength levels, ending the 5th set with anywhere between 1-5 reps.

The Legs respond very well to higher rep schemes so we will keep the low end of the other leg exercises at 8 reps and the high end at 20 reps per set.

Abs and Calves as Needed:

Both Abs and Calves respond well to higher rep ranges. 20 reps per set is good for calves and even more than that is good for abs. You will need to experiment with the suggested exercises to find what works best for you. Both abs and calves can be worked up to 6 times per week. Arnold Schwarzenegger started every workout with calf work and wrist/forearm work and ended each workout with ab work.

Forearm Work as Needed:

Mike Katz of ‘Pumping Iron’ Shows off his Gigantic Neck

Forearm work can be done on Tuesdays and Fridays along with Biceps and Triceps work. Forearm work can also be done on any other days the trainer sees fit. Forearms can handle a lot of work and some trainers will need to do a lot of forearm work to get their forearms to grow. Forearms can be done in rep changes of 8-12 reps per set.

Neck Work as Needed:

Some trainers will need to do neck work and some won’t. The neck can grow from heavy breathing during exercises like Squats, Overhead Pressing and Deadlifts but some trainers will need to do additional work. Neck work should be done in the rep ranges of 8-20. Neck work can be done 2-3 times per work or more if needed. Neck work is essential if trainer does not have naturally big and/or muscular neck.

Notes about the Old School 70′s Workout Routine

Old school bodybuilders trained for strength as well as muscle size. They would often do an exercise as heavy as can be until they found their one rep max. Each week a trainer can pick one exercise and go as heavy as possible to find their one rep max. The perfect exercises to do a one rep max on are the Flat Barbell Bench Press, the Deadlift, and the Squat.

The Deadlift is not included in the sample workout above but can be added to any back day for ultimate strength and mass gains. The deadlift should not be performed for over 5 reps. It is a heavy weight exercise designed to build ultimate strength. Warmup with light weight and add progressively heavier weight to obtain your one rep max.

When following the 70′s workout routine be sure to not take too long of a rest period. One minute rest per set/superset is good. Resting very little and working very hard provides excellent fat-burning benefits.

Diet and Eating

Bodybuilders of the Golden Era ate BIG. In particular, they ate a lot of protein and saturated fat. Whole raw eggs were consumed by many as a staple protein/fat source. Steak, Beef, Chicken, and Tuna were staple protein sources as well. Carbohydrates were eaten during “bulking” (putting on weight) phases and were gradually reduced during “cutting” (losing weight) phases. Many of them made their own protein shakes consisting of raw eggs, milk powder and whatever else they could think to add.

Anabolic Steroids

Bodybuilders of the 1970′s used anabolic steroids to obtain their muscular size and low bodyfat percentage. The 70′s bodybuilders used steroids under the supervision and care of a trained physician. Steroids were perfectly legal in the 1970′s and were as easily obtained as any current prescription medication.

It would be a lie to say that a natural trainer could look like the 70′s era bodybuilders on food, training, and over the counter supplements alone. A natural trainer can make good progress on this routine, especially if within the first year or two of training, but will not obtain the same level of muscularity.

A particular favorite of 70′s era bodybuilders for putting on size was the combination of testosterone / deca durabolin / and dianabol.

REQUIRED READING

Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder by Arnold Schwarzenegger – One of BOLD & DETERMINED’s top 5 favorite books. It has a wealth of training information and is extremely motivating. After reading this book you WILL bust your ass in the gym. This book also talks about the power of visualization and mindset and details Arnolds rise to the top of the bodybuilding world. A must read.

The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding : The Bible of Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger – The most complete bodybuilding book in regards to exercise selection, muscle groups and functions, training methods and rep ranges, and diet information.

REQUIRED VIEWING

Pumping Iron - Pumping Iron is one of BOLD & DETERMINED’s top 5 films. Pumping Iron is a must watch for anyone interested in 1970′s era bodybuilding. Staring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Franco Columbu, and Serge Nubret as themselves, this docu-drama documents the rivalry between Big Lou Ferrigno and Alpha Dog Arnold Schwarzenegger leading up to the 1975 Mr. Olympia. With endlessly quotable lines, training advices, and hardcore training this movie is the ultimate for people interested in physique training. Bonus: A no-holds barred look at the ultimately Charismatic and Machiavellian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bonus #2: Watching this movie before heading to the gym is the ultimate pump-up, on the same level as Rocky.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the routine.

  2. tepedies says:

    this routine is so hard ,man .I tried made it , but my level is not enoug . I cannnot do it , sorry .I will try make do it when have more stamina and regeneration . Anyway this routine is more efective . Thanks for post this .

  3. Hi. I’m 17 yrs old, 5″11 and 165 lbs. Firstly, I want to thank you for this site. It changed my thinkin and my life. Really. Thanks, man. Currently i’m looking forward to build muscle, and get a little leaner. I’m following the Warrior Diet. Actually I can bench nearly my bodyweight and squat more than my bw. Do you think I could start this routine? And is this a good idea to perform some jump roping as cardio with fast intervals?

    • No. This is advanced training for advanced lifters. Arnold built his mass early on through frequent but low volume full body routines. Use any low volume workout that concentrates on compound movements and focus on getting stronger week by week (eg 5 pounds more this week or 1 more rep than last week). Get into advanced training when you are done with beginner gains (20 – 30 pounds of muscle, or 2 to 3 years).

    • Hello, imo you should start off with something like Starting Strength or All Pro’s simple routine and then change it to this later.

      My 2 cents.

  4. Thank you, guys. Actually, I’m not a raw beginner as I’ve been training for a half a year or a little more now, but it wasn’t so good, i’ve been changing routines too often. The Starting Strenght is good, however I think the volume is too low, perhaps. Actually, i want to include some other exercises such as Close Grip Bench, Incline Bench, Lateral Raises, Curls etc. Could someone send me some details about this All pro routine? Finally, I got one little program. I’m training in my garage alone, in this case i can’t safely do squats, shall I replace it with One Legged Squats?

  5. So Victor, Do you recommend this routine or your “Body like a spatan” that i just brought? Cause these two don’t seems to have nothing in common really? I’m looking to build the clean bodybuilder type of body, but the BLAS routine is more like a simple strenght training right?

  6. Hi vic, how much does your ‘Body of A Spartan’ differ from starting strenght or all pro?

  7. Brilliant. Now this is what a routine should look like. Three weeks on this, i feel bigger(i LOOK bigger!), stronger and more energetic already .
    Thanks for posting this!
    Natural ecto-mesos looking to shed fat+gain muscle should definitely try this.

  8. Yes Mike Mentzer build most of his physic with volume training, but it was far far less than everybody else. While he trained for the 1979 O, he trained 3-4 days af week up to 45minutes (read his book HIT) wining the heavy weight. compare that to Zane who trained 2-3 hours ad day 6 days a week ;) Also Yates said: “I could never have won Mr O 6 times without training HIT” /read his book.

  9. Victor, where would you put heavy deads on Chest + Back Day.
    Superset those mf’ers or stand alone?

    Whataya think, just one Chest + Back day or hit em on both days a week.

    Outstanding blog. I’ll stay tuned.
    Cheers mate.

    • Victor Pride says:

      Yeah, chest and back day. And I wouldn’t superset the deads, they deserve all the energy you’ve got.

  10. Is this program suitable for teens? I train for like year and an half and I have pretty good genetics

  11. Hey I’m 15 years old 6′ 2″ i’m about 165lbs and i can squat and bench more than i weigh, i have a small body frame though and i want to have a wide chest so i can look bigger, any suggestions? P.S. ive had a routine, saw no results after 1 month, and changed to this hoping i can get results quicker for the next wrestling season.

  12. Bro nice post! I do agree; 70s bodybuilders have the best bodies- And I particluarly love the black and white photos.
    But just a clarification- I know Mentzer’s training; yes TECHNICALLY he used higher volume but not in that sense- he used HEAVY weights and lower frequency- TECHNICALLY his training could be considered high volume because he was so big on DROP sets- basically when he reaches failure from a heavy LOW rep weight- he would shed some plates and continue another set- then another failure- shed some plates- failure again- until there are no plates left- All those can be considered one set- but high volume nonetheless- but let no one think that this guy loves to train with high reps for several sets– that is just not like Mike

  13. and BTW I agree on the neck stuff- at times and recently when I trained with a friend who is also a pro boxer and a coach (that is how he makes a living – by coaching) — we do some neck trainings like neck bridges for rep-which are my favorite. Just take a look at how Tyson did those they’re all around youtube

  14. Mega doses of primobolan were big in the 70′s

    High deca primo dbol
    Lower test

  15. Great advice. Even the ladies can use this program. I am almost 50 and have the body and face of an athletic 30 yo … my husband is quite happy.

    I was a competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder in the mid-80s and have never given it up. My time committment waxes and wanes over the seasons and I change up my routines to suit them but 35+ years of consistent exercise do wonders for a person and I am living proof.

    To your point, it has to be the right exercise and your routine nails it. Well done.

    ps I competed in the latter days of Frank Zane, Arnold, Rachel McLish, and Sergio. Those were the days – bodybuilding isn’t even remotely the same sport nor are the bodies anywhere near as pleasing as they were, Darn shame.

  16. Interesting post. However does anybody know how much were they juicing? Screw that, once I have learned how not to over-train and I switched high volume for high intensity, real gains happened. Plus I’d rather do something more constructive with the rest of the time I would have spent in the gym doing 30 sets per muscle group. just my 2 cents

  17. Just want to say a few things about the way they trained in the 70 s . First off they were loaded to the gills with steroids they just didnt “dabble ” in it . They were as bad then as now except there are more drug choices now . Second , If someone trained as you suggest you would quickly burn out lose strength or get injured probably all 3 . If you see most of the bodybuilders from back in the day they are train wrecks , anything from deblitating back injuries , replaced shoulders , knees and hips and not too mention heart trouble . Thats the reality

    • I’ve met many people in the culture pf bodybuilding, and I am acquainted with many ex-BBs of that era, and NONE of their assertions about old era steroid usage were the same – EVERYONE has a different account of what they did back then. Why should your claim be any different?

    • the difference these days are the mega doses of tren…tren didnt exist in the 70s

  18. I agree. I personally prefer the overall look and condition of the old school bodybuilders. They focused more on the symmetry of the physique as opposed to the current mass monsters.

    Thanks for sharing!

  19. Lol training advices. Idk if anyone got that but I did Vic lol

  20. Giovanni Velasquez says:

    Is this program for somebody who has been training for about 9 months????

  21. Would this be a suitable training for me ? I’m 10 months into my training of witch 9 i had a pretty great diet and last 2 months i addes some suplements( I’m a nurse and I know a thing or two about diets)I went from 68 to 83 kg at 13-14% bf 186 cm. I cannot bench my weight (only 70 for 1-3 reps)but I can squat 110 kg for 2-3 reps and DL 140 3 reps. I don’t care if It hurts or how hard it is just injurewise would this be appropriate to me ? I currently train 5 days a week
    Mon chest + bi
    Tue back + tri
    Wed legs
    Thu shoulders
    Fri arms
    Weekend off.
    Please I need a pro advise. Thx :)

  22. “For a man with narrow clavicles it is generally advisable to avoid trap work.”

    I have narrower clavicles that somewhat stick out. I don’t get why working them is not ideal.
    Could you clarify? Thanks

  23. I have been training for 34 yrs. for 20 yrs. i did each body part 2 times a week that’s how we all learned 20 sets a bodypart years later we found out you only got to do each bodypart 1 time a week 10 to 12 sets each bodypart workout 4 days a week i’m 50yrs. now and just as big as I was when I was 20 more rest makes muscle grow . STAY BIG & STRONG ROBB

  24. good that it said it was a steroid routine. If you want a natural routine, go for a full body, upper lower split, str hyper split

  25. Can you shed some light on the carbs consumed by the Golden Era bodybuilders…
    I have been training for many years and am a Strength Coach myself…Never really researched or explored 70s bodybuilding but am now interested…

    Thanks

    love the workout though…so different to he current workout they’re doing…and from my experience volume and frequency is vital for aesthetics..

  26. Victor Pride says:

    Yeah, check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO0SCHTin9Q

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