There’s something about old school bodybuilding that really gets me ticking. I have absolutely no interest in the genetic freaks we see today, that quite frankly resemble balloon animals. The reason being is these classic bodybuilding physiques we see from the 50’s and 60’s were not only impressive to look at, they were created with hard work, quality nutrition and rest. That’s it. There was no testosterone, growth hormone, insulin or any other fashionable steroid because quite simply they didn’t have them.
Many of these old school legends were big proponents of full-body routines to build quality mass. It wasn’t until steroids started showing up on the bodybuilding scene sometime during the 80’s did split routines become a big thing and full-body routines got forgotten about.
Full body routines could help you build mass for two main reasons. Firstly increased frequency. This means each muscle group will be worked 3-4 times per week. As opposed to once per week on a split routine. Remember the more you can stimulate a muscle to grow, the more you will grow. They also help free up more time for recovery and the growth process to actually happen.
They carry other benefits too. For example, they eliminate body part neglect. By this I mean if you happen to miss a workout, it doesn’t matter because those muscles will be trained again in the following workout. They can also help improve the cardiovascular system due to the sheer amount of work done in a session.
I’ve taken three classic bodybuilding legends’ full-body routines for you to try, and take inspiration from for your lean, symmetrical and muscular physique. Enjoy!
This guy needs no introduction. Despite being known for using a body part split routine, he was also a firm believer in full body workouts for building mass. Especially for beginner trainees. This is a sample routine he would have used which he called “The Golden Six”. It’s simple yet effective. Rest 60-90 seconds between each set. Aim to perform it three times a week.
The Golden Six Workout:
1. Barbell Squat 4×10
2. Wide-Grip Barbell Bench Press 3×10
3. Chin-Up 3xFAIL
4. Behind-the-Neck Overhead Press 4×10
5. Barbell Curl 3×10
6. Bent Knee Sit-Up 3xFAIL
Reg Park was an English bodybuilder, businessman and actor. He won the Mr. Universe competition numerous times throughout the 50’s and 60’s. This is Reg’s beginner routine based heavily on the 5×5 principle. That’s five sets of five reps, resting 60-90 seconds between each set. Wrist work could be a combination of forearm flexion/extension movements. And calves work could be a combination of standing and seated calf raises.
1. Back Squats 5×5
2. Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups 5×5
3. Dips or Bench Press 5×5
4. Barbell Curls 2×10
5. Wrist Work 2×10
6. Calves Work 2×15-20
1. Front Squats 5×5
2. Rows 5×5
3. Standing Press 5×5
4. Deadlifts 3×5
5. Wrist Work 2×10
6. Calves Work 2×15-20
Weekly Training Schedule: Week 1: A, B, A . Week 2: B, A, B . Week 3: A, B, A and so forth.
Steve Reeves (shown in image)
Quite possibly one of my favourite bodybuilders and physiques of all time! One of Reeves’ favourite routines was what he rightly titled the “Classic Physique”. It was first printed in an article he wrote for the 1951 May issue of Your Physique magazine. Rest 45-60 seconds between each set. Perform this session three times per week. It will probably take 60-90 minutes to fully complete. But remember that’s the point with a lot of these full body workouts. You spend longer in the gym, but you take longer to rest between each workout by only training three times per week.
The Classic Physique:
1. Incline Dumbell Press 3×8-12
2A. Front squat 3×15
2B. Dumbell Side Raises 3×15
3. Seated Barbell Curls 3×12 (focus on eccentric)
4. Alternating Dumbell Front Raise 2×15
5. Bent Over Barbell Rows 2×12
6. One Arm Dumbell Rows 2×12
7. Alternating Barbell Lunges 1xFAIL
8. Lying Dumbell Front Raises 2×15
9. Good Mornings 1×15
10. Dumbell French Press 3×12
11. Calf Press 1×30-40
12. Bench Press 2×12
For my own take on some of these classic bodybuilding principles infused into a contemporary workout programme, check out my ebook “The 12 Week Lean Muscle Project”.