Classic Physique is becoming the most popular division in bodybuilding. Check out this classic workout routine and start building your classic look today.
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Build Muscle
  • Workout Type
  • Training Level
  • Program Duration12 weeks
  • Days Per Week
  • Time Per Workout60-90 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Machines, Other
  • Target Gender Male
  • Recommended Supps
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

Whether you’re an up and coming competitor in bodybuilding or a longtime fan, it’s been almost unanimously agreed that classic physique competitions and training have been a big hit.

The training and preparation for shoots or contests combined with the posing and presentation of the old-school champions has been appealing to many who follow fitness.

If you’re wanting to either make the most out of your next offseason or just want to train and develop your own classic look, then we have the plan for you.

This 12 week program will help you build muscle while also helping you develop or maintain those lines and symmetry that makes that look so popular.

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What to Know About This Classic Workout

No workout should take you longer than 90 minutes and if you can keep your rest periods down, you can even do a couple of them in around an hour. 60-90 seconds of rest between sets should be enough. If you need 90, take them but try to cut that down by 5 seconds each week.

As for the split, everyone has their own schedules so it can be tough to make a one split fits all approach. Set your weekly training up as it fits you with these guidelines.

  • No more than three training days in a row without taking one off.
  • One of those days must be after leg day.

As for cardio, since this is the offseason you’re wanting to grow but you want to keep body fat gain to a minimum and cardio is good for heart health and your respiratory system. Perform 20-25 minutes of cardio three to four times a week. The style and intensity is up to you, your goals, and how you’re recovering.

Classic Physique Workout 1: Chest

Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Barbell Press 4 12, 10, 8, 6
Low Incline Dumbbell Fly 3 12, 10, 8
Seated Machine Chest Press 3 12, 10, 8
Pec Deck 3 15, 12, 10

The chest gets a lot of attention onstage because it is right above the abdominals. So when you are facing the judges or doing a photo shoot, you want the pecs to be big, full, and have that shelf like look. That’s why this workout starts with two incline movements.

The first one is your meat and potatoes movement, the incline barbell press. You’ll go heavy here so have a partner or spotter helping but remember the goal is to flex the chest and build that necessary mass. No maxing out with anything below six reps here.

Next will be an incline fly which should be at a lower angle than the press. This will make the upper pecs work harder while keeping delt recruitment at bay.

After that you have two machine movements. The goal is quality over quantity. Machines are great for isolation and safely performing reps. There’s never been a sanctioned pec-deck max out contest so weight is only a means to an end.

Classic Physique Workout 2: Back

Exercise Sets Reps
Wide Grip Pull Ups 4 12, 10, 8, 6
Machine One Arm Row 3 12, 10, 8
Dumbbell Pullover 3 12, 10, 8
T-Bar Row 3 15, 12, 10
Low Back Extension 3 15, 15, 15 

When you turn around or if someone sees you from behind, you want that person to notice your width. If you have your shirt off you also want to showcase thickness. This workout starts with an emphasis on the width with pullups. Use an assistant or bands and decrease the help as the sets proceed until you use your bodyweight. If a pulldown is necessary, go ahead and do that.

One arm rows are next but you use a machine version so you can focus on holding the top of the rep and the stretch at the bottom safely. Pullovers are always a go to for lat development and the same can be said for the T-bar for thickness. The low back extension is so you can develop that Christmas tree in the lower back so the masterpiece is complete.

Classic Physique Workout 3: Hamstrings and Quadriceps

Exercise Sets Reps
Romanian Deadlift 4 15, 12, 10, 10
Standing Leg Curl 3 15, 12, 10
Lying Leg Curl 3 15, 15, 15
Hack Squat 4 15, 12, 10, 10
Single Leg Press 3 15, 12, 10
Leg Extension 3 15, 15, 15

Ahh, leg day. You knew it was coming. The legs are the pillars or the foundation and if they aren’t well developed, then the entire physique is off. You’ll notice that the attention on this workout is only on the hamstrings and quads. If you do calves first, you don’t have your maximum energy for the hamstrings. If you do them last, you’ll be exhausted and may want to rush through them. So the work below the knee comes later.

When you start with the first movement, focus on the glutes at the top as well as the hamstrings. This will help you not only be stronger but make the most out of the exercise. You know how to do leg curls, right? Get them done and move on to quads.

Go heavy on those hack squats and leg presses. You should be pushing hard so you’re at the point of failure by the time you’re done. As for the extensions, slow and consistent movement from start to finish is what is important here. Go slow on the way up, flex those quads, slow on the way down. Repeat.

Classic Physique Workout 4: Shoulders and Abs

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Lateral Raise 4 15, 12, 10, 8
Face Pull 3 12, 10, 8
Rear Lateral Raise 3 12, 10, 8
Seated Smith Machine Press 3 15, 12, 10
Hanging Leg Raise 3 15, 15, 15
Decline Weighted Crunch 3 15, 15, 15
Twisting Rope Crunch 3 15, 15, 15

Remember when we covered width on back day. That width starts with the shoulders. So the side delts should be first. Lateral raises are always a winner to start a shoulder session but make sure you do them seated. Standing leads to you generating momentum and recruitment from other areas. We want the hard work of the free weights but the side delts need to do that work.

Rear delts are often an afterthought but for a classic physique look, they matter a lot. So there are two rear delt movements here. Do these slow and calculated like you did the leg extensions. You can’t see your rear delts working so you must feel them to know you did a good rep.

There is an overhead pressing movement but it’s at the end and on a Smith machine so you can use less weight and focus more on the front delts which ultimately makes them safer and less damaging to the shoulder joint.

Next up, we’ve got the abs. Leg raises help with that lower part of your core. The decline crunches should be done while holding a weight. They are muscles too and this could help them pop which is what you want when you hit that abs and thigh pose. Twisting rope crunches will emphasize the obliques as long as you take your time doing them.

Classic Physique Workout 5: Arms and Calves

Exercise Sets Reps
Preacher Curl 3 12, 10, 8
Concentration Curl 3 12, 10, 8
Rope Cable Curl 3 15, 15, 15
Rope Pressdown 3 12, 10, 8 
Lying Tricep Extension 3 12, 10, 8
Single Arm Overhead Extension 3 15, 15, 15
Seated Calf Raise 4 20, 15, 12, 10
Calf Press 4 20, 20, 20, 20

You still need and want big arms but it isn’t only about the tape measurement. Shape and symmetry are just as important. Your biceps peak is genetic but you can still maximize the potential you have which is why these exercises are included. Focus on the squeeze and contraction at the top and feel the stretch at the bottom.

The triceps workout below allows you to hit all three heads of the muscles effectively. Pressdowns prepare the elbows and help with the horseshoe look. Lying tricep extensions are that classic mass builder. Finally, the single arm extension helps with that long head. Since this is offseason, go with a dumbbell but don’t take it super heavy.

Here is where we will take care of the calves as well. Yes, they’re after arms but it shouldn’t take that much energy to train them since they are smaller areas so you should be able to work the calves effectively.

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Luke duke
Posted on: Tue, 06/21/2022 - 01:49

For wide pull ups am I adding weight or just doing 12,10,8,6 regular wide grip pull ups because the rep range is confusing me lol.

Thank you

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 06/25/2022 - 09:54

The goal is to add weight, but I found personally that doing slower negatives as the reps decrease helps more. So, it would look like this.

12 reps - 1 second negative
10 reps - 2 sec. negative
8 reps - 3 sec. negative
6 reps - 4 sec. negative

Posted on: Fri, 05/06/2022 - 03:35

Roger, this is an amazing workout program which I will begin soon. I was just wondering, would it be OK if I swap the hack squat with a barbell back squat? and if yes should I follow the same rep count?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 05/20/2022 - 21:40

Hi, Anthony. That is fine. I do barbells because I train at home. Go for it!

Mark L Jacobson
Posted on: Mon, 05/02/2022 - 09:44

When are you supposed to do the cardio? As part of the workout, before the workout, or later in the day?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 05/20/2022 - 21:39

Hi, Mark. Do cardio after the workout or later in the day.

Posted on: Fri, 10/22/2021 - 02:44

Thank you very much for the program, i plan on following this for a while however i wanted to ask you what exercise i could switch out with leg extensions since i am too tall for the machine, thank you.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 10/23/2021 - 19:20

Hi, Emil. You can use a dumbbell between your feet for leg extensions or choose another quad exercise you can do in the M&S Exercises section.

Posted on: Mon, 11/30/2020 - 01:46

May I know what day for each workouts?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/30/2020 - 10:49

Hey HaziqLee - here's a sample week:
Monday: Chest
Tuesday: Back
Wednesday: Hamstrings and Quadriceps
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Shoulders and Abs
Saturday: Arms and Calves
Sunday: Rest

Posted on: Wed, 09/09/2020 - 13:30

Looks great, but no regular flat bench press?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 09/13/2020 - 20:48

Gary - none for this plan! Just incline.

Posted on: Fri, 07/31/2020 - 15:29

What would go great with this is a good day to day meal plan that goes with this workout. This way we know what to eat and snack on as well as the supplements you are recommending. Unless you have on you can recommend. Thank you in advance.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2020 - 14:41

Hey George

I recommend clean eating as a good basis for getting your diet in check. Be sure to keep your calories up if you don't want to lose weight.

Posted on: Sun, 09/13/2020 - 19:04

Hey Yoshi,

Thanks for the reply. I do want to lose weight but start seeing definition from all my hard work. I've been working out 4 month straight but my problem is I never learned how to eat right so now I can't see the results I want because my diet is out of wack! I did go from 255 down to 225 and I'm 5'10 target weight goal is 215 210 so almost there. I do feel stronger just want to start seeing definition like I said earlier. You still recommend the clean eating diet?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 09/25/2020 - 16:14

Hey George - 100%. Focusing on clean eating will help you clean up your diet a lot and you'll start to see changes in your body.

Posted on: Sun, 09/27/2020 - 18:47

Will take your advice and let you know my results in 12 weeks. Thank you!

Posted on: Sat, 07/18/2020 - 03:29

Can i make these a push pull legs workout and follow it twice a week?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/20/2020 - 13:59

Hey Debarjya

You can! If you're looking for a good off season PPL here's a great one we've already got written up.

Amar Miletić
Posted on: Tue, 06/02/2020 - 23:07

Hello! This is my second week doing this workout and I love it so far. On shoulder day, I noticed you only put one movement to hit the anterior delts. Could I add 3 sets of dumbbell front raises to shoulder day?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/20/2020 - 13:14

Hey Amar

Your anterior delts are brought into play with several compound movements, which leads to them being typically over trained in a lot of people. However, if you feel that you could use some more work on them then it's definitely okay to add some front raises.

Posted on: Thu, 02/27/2020 - 16:04

Would like to see some workout routines for those over 65 . Thanks

Posted on: Thu, 02/27/2020 - 13:33

This is awesome Roger! Thanks for the info on these types of splits! This is how I like to train and its nice to see how to structure a workout like this.

Posted on: Wed, 02/19/2020 - 06:40

Do u have anymore classic physique programmes