Old School Series: 1970s Bodybuilding Routine

Can you handle training like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sergio Oliva or Lou Ferrigno? These legends set a new standard for muscle mass and training frequency.

Workout Summary

Build Muscle
12 weeks
45-60 minutes
Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, EZ Bar, Machines
Male & Female
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Workout Description

The 1970s was a dynamic era in bodybuilding. Physiques grew in size but also in personality. Many notable legends etched their legacies upon the world of bodybuilding during this decade:

It was during this era that training began to aggressively evolve away from full body workouts. Many lifters, including Arnold and Sergio, took the fullbody workout and morphed it into a high volume protocol.

It was not uncommon for these Herculean beasts to train 6 days per week as follows:

  • Monday - Chest and Back
  • Tuesday - Shoulders and Arms
  • Wednesday - Legs
  • Thursday - Chest and Back
  • Friday - Shoulders and Arms
  • Saturday - Legs
  • Sunday - Rest

1970s Bodybuilding Routine

The following workout is based upon the structure listed above. Make no bones about it: this is a brutal, taxing training style. It certainly is not for everyone.

If you consider running a program like this I strongly recommend backing it with plenty of rest and food. If at any time you feel worn down, take a complete week away from the gym.

Understand that this is my variation of a 1970s workout. It's what I would do if I were training using this template.

Note on the Landmine Press. The landmine press is performed with one end of a barbell secured in a corner, perhaps under the middle of a heavy dumbbell. The lifter presses the other end overhead with one arm.

Chest and Back
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 3 8-10
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8-12
Cable Crossovers 5 10-15
Low Rack Pull 3 6-8
Wide Grip Pull Ups 5 15
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3 10-15
Barbell Ab Rollout 3 8-12
Hanging Knee Raise 3 12-15
Shoulders and Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Dumbbell Press 3 10-12
Upright Rows 3 10-15
Bent Over Reverse Fly 5 10-15
Cable Tricep Extensions 4 10-15
Skullcrushers 4 10-12
Barbell Curls 4 8-12
One Arm Cable Curls 4 10-15
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 5 6-12
Hack Squats 3 10-12
Leg Extensions 3 10-15
Good Mornings 3 8-10
Leg Curls 5 10-15
Seated Calf Raise 4 12-15
Standing Calf Raise 4 12-15
Chest and Back
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Bench Press 3 8-10
Chest Dips 3 10-15
Dumbbell Flyes 5 10-15
Barbell Row 3 8-10
Lat Pull Down 5 8-12
Seated Cable Row 3 10-15
Plank 3 60 seconds
Dumbbell Side Bend 3 10-12
Shoulders and Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press 3 8-10
Side Lateral Raise 5 10-15
Landmine Press 3 10-12
Seated French Press 4 8-10
One Arm Dumbbell Tricep Extension 4 10-12
Seated Dumbbell Curl 4 10-12
EZ Bar Preacher Curls 4 10-12
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press 5 20
Walking Barbell Lunge 3 10-12
Bulgarian Split Squat 3 10-12
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 3 8-10
Single Leg Curl 5 10-15
Floor Barbell Calf Raise 4 12-15
Leg Press Calf Press 4 12-15

83 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Tue, 03/16/2021 - 15:35

What’s a good substitute for a hack squat

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Posted Wed, 03/17/2021 - 10:27
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Posted Fri, 03/12/2021 - 03:35
Thế tài

Not superset? Or alternative set?
Just doing all chest exercise first and back later?

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Posted Sun, 04/05/2020 - 23:09
Aaron Williams

If I am currently in the process of cutting would you recommend I make any changes to this program or just stick with how it is designed whilst continuing my cutting diet?

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Posted Tue, 05/05/2020 - 16:18

Hey Aaron - cutting is more about diet that workout. So you hit the nail on the head, just stick with your cutting diet and do this (or any other hypertrophy style workout) as you normally would.

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Posted Fri, 10/11/2019 - 17:50

What kind of warmups do you recommend with this program?

Apologies if this has been asked already...

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Posted Sun, 09/08/2019 - 18:22

Very nice, thanks

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Posted Sun, 03/31/2019 - 19:01

how could i save this as a pdf?

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Posted Mon, 04/01/2019 - 09:17

Hi Isaac,

We'll have one made. Not sure how this one didn't get one.

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Posted Tue, 03/05/2019 - 13:20

Hi Josh,
How much time would you recomend to rest between the sets of this programme to have the best results??

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Posted Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:40

Hi Steve,

I'd suggest 60 seconds on all accessory isolation lifts and 90 seconds on bigger compound lifts.

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Posted Sun, 12/30/2018 - 14:46

Hi josh,
After I posted my last on here I took your advice and got back on track with this program, I am coming to the end of this program now but still haven’t reached my goal, I have changed the Monday workout to supersets but stuck religiously to the rest, I am planning to De load for a week do I continue with this program again for the full duration or do you recommend I change to something else? Thanks

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Posted Wed, 01/02/2019 - 12:17

Hi Lee,

You might respond better to heavier loads with lower rep ranges. Give one of these a shot:



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Posted Wed, 10/24/2018 - 17:24
Emre Karakaya

can you share more older workout please?

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Posted Thu, 10/25/2018 - 08:54

Hi Emre,

We'll see what we can do! Thanks for the feedback!

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Posted Tue, 10/16/2018 - 10:56

Hi Josh,
I have just completed the 10 week mass building program on which I gained 6kg, I still want to gain more mass so swapped to this program, I took a week off to deload and am now on my fourth week of this program, the first 2 weeks were great and I felt really good and was easily managing the extra work load, however last week and so far this week even though the weight I am lifting is still increasing on most exercises I am struggling to get any pump and feel really flat after my workouts, any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks Lee

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Posted Tue, 10/16/2018 - 12:41

Hi Lee,

A pump is always a good indicator that you're getting a good workout in.

And a lot of things could be going on here - what's you carb and fluid intake look like? Are you sleeping enough at night? Are you digesting your food well?

Could be you're growing use to your workouts, could be you're not eating enough - look at your lifestyle as a whole.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Tue, 10/16/2018 - 13:37

Hi Josh,
I have had a fairly long lay off due to injury and have only been back training seriously for about 4 months, and up until last week my progression has been steady and I’m happy with the gains I have made so far I have gone from 94 to 101.5 Kgs in this time, I haven’t really change my diet and thought the change of program would help, I am nearly 40 could this be a factor? I really like this program is there any way I can stick with this program but alter the way I train? Thanks

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Posted Tue, 10/02/2018 - 05:26

Could I do decline barbell press as opposed to the chest dips? Thanks

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Posted Tue, 10/02/2018 - 09:10

Hi Lee,

That should be fine.

Hope this helps!

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Posted Wed, 05/23/2018 - 06:52

Is it possible to get a 5 day version of this?

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Posted Thu, 04/05/2018 - 23:24

What is the rest time between sets? Just usual, like 1.5 min?

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Posted Sat, 04/16/2016 - 20:09

How many weeks is ideal to repeat this workout for? I'm 24 years old but I'm really using this for my 35 year old friend who wants to pack on 10-15 pounds of lean mass.

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Posted Fri, 10/02/2015 - 15:26

In this whole week i have to do Cardio or not ?
Nd how to warmup ? Do i also have two do cardio before and after the workout

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Posted Wed, 06/24/2015 - 19:52

Who on earth is "Lour Ferrigno"?

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Posted Thu, 06/25/2015 - 09:12

Ha good catch, fixed!

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Posted Thu, 11/12/2015 - 13:56

He played the Hulk in the tv series.

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Posted Mon, 09/26/2016 - 01:58
R. Steiner

Hello "TheManFromTaco"! You must be kidding, right??
Lou Ferrigno:
1972 NABBA Mr. Universe -2nd
1973 IFBB Mr. America -1st
1973 IFBB Mr. Universe -1st
1974 IFBB Mr. Universe -1st
1974 IFBB Mr. Olympia -2nd
1975 IFBB Mr. Olympia -3rd (it would help if you watched "PUMPING IRON")
1992 IFBB Mr. Olympia -12th
1993 IFBB Mr. Olympia -10th
1994 IFBB Masters Olympia -2nd
By the way, his first name is not "Lour" but Lou (short from Louis).

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Posted Wed, 01/31/2018 - 22:58

A Spanish bodybuilder from the 1940's

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Posted Fri, 03/20/2015 - 16:10


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Posted Sun, 01/18/2015 - 04:30

So Im doin this routine for two weeks now and I get my results. Its not for everybody but you deffently dont need any steroids for this routine!
But the danger of overtraing should be considerd! What I do is eat a lot of protin with my meal like 500g of meat per meal and take a nap. With good eating and sleeping you wont be overtraining.
Anyway listen to your body take a break when necessary.
In my first week I rested after the first three days to get my body used to it.
After 4 weeks with this routin I recomend to rest a week to fully recover.

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Posted Mon, 11/10/2014 - 21:07

hey steve was just wondering if I can do this routine I been body building now for 4 years and gonna get your answer on this

day 1 chest and back
day 2 bicep and triceps
day 3 legs and shoulders
day 4 off
repeat for 12 to 14 weeks I do 6-8 reps for compound exercises and 8 to 12 reps for isolation for building muscle and losing fat while maintaining muscle and gaining muscle or what would you recommend for lifting for muscle and fat loss not looking to lose weight just turning fat in to muscle and sometimes I will do 4-6 reps on compound for strength cause I build strength to lift more for muscle on my 6-8 rep range let me know thanks

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Posted Thu, 09/11/2014 - 16:33

When do i train traps? Forearms?

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Posted Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:29

This workout is great. I have a home gym so I had to adapt a little to fit with what I have. Also, I wanted to workout twice a day so I split it into AM & PM (chest am, back pm, etc.) so I may have added one or two exercises. The man said it was his template, I used it as mine while incorporating his 'Power/Muscle/Burn' system into the template and I'm pleased with my results. Thanks Steve, I'm writing up my 5th program right now thats still based on your routine here.

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Posted Mon, 07/28/2014 - 10:23

Would you throw in barbell shrugs on back day, since they are already being activated by the rack pulls?

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Posted Thu, 03/20/2014 - 13:36

I have been doing this for about 5 weeks now and have seen good gains in several of my lifts. Some people complain about not being able to recover in time without steroids but I am all natural and have not had a problem yet. Youth may help this a bit but I have been fine. Definitely worth a try.

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Posted Wed, 03/12/2014 - 14:31

this workout is the truth!!! i wasnt getting any progress with the typical workouts everyone says you should do. omg you should never train the bis and tris day after chest and back!! well for me i have seen major gains using this workout. grant it i dont use as much volume as it says to do. i dropped the volume to six sets each. all i know is you dont need steroids to do this workout cause im living proof you can get bigger with this type of workout. so if you are reading this and do not know if should do it cause of so called overtraining i suggest you give it a shot. i dont think you will be disappointed.

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Posted Fri, 05/22/2015 - 23:30

Hey, nice to hear that, but what do you mean by "omg you should never train arms after chest and back?" Is that what you said or what others told you? Thanks! Cuz i afraid arms day after chest and back will lead to overtraining of my arms and slow recovery, thanks!

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Posted Fri, 08/21/2015 - 02:33

Dont worry about it i do the original Arnold workout arms after chest back is fine but if you worry about it just switch around. Do a High volume chest/back than a low volume shoulders/arms and the opposite the next time. What you should worry about tho is shoulders.

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Posted Thu, 02/13/2014 - 02:52
Jason Greene

I have been on this routine for two weeks. I love it. There is no over training. It is tough, but anything worth having isn't easy. Great post Steve!

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Posted Sun, 07/08/2018 - 18:23
Mike Hunt

Glad to hear that, Jason Greene!

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Posted Wed, 12/11/2013 - 20:12
nick ditello

its funny cause i had no clue this is his workout routine and i have been doing it for 3 months now and i have seen better results than ever before on this routine!!!! i always heard never train biceps the day after back and tris day after chest but i tried it and i am getting way bigger doing it this way.

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Posted Mon, 11/18/2013 - 16:09

maybe a stupid question but what is a landmine press?

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Posted Sat, 11/16/2013 - 05:55

I have been using this routine for a few months now . modifyed a few exercises to fit my liking. But kept each muscle group the same per day. I cut back my food and used this to tone up. Just increased the reps. Really injoy this routine.

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Posted Mon, 10/28/2013 - 22:27

Hey Steve,

There doesn't seem to be any training for traps in this workout. Should I add them in or will these exercises work on traps too?

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Posted Tue, 10/15/2013 - 13:47

how long do you think this workout would take daily?

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Posted Fri, 10/11/2013 - 07:13

Why is it when people ask questions like can I do the 5 day PMB 5 days in a row ,they are advised not to but yet there are routines like this posted that have you working your ass off 6 days a week?

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Posted Wed, 10/09/2013 - 05:51

Hey Steve, when doing this routine should I be increasing the weight as I progress from set to set? Or should I just keep the weight the same so long as each set remains difficult to perform?

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Posted Sun, 10/06/2013 - 16:57

hi I was just wondering, what is listed above is an example of week 1. do you keep repeating it and for how many weeks?

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Posted Sun, 10/06/2013 - 12:10

do i need to increase weight every after set or stay as is?