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

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

62 Comments+ Post Comment

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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"?

MikeWines's picture
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?

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Posted Fri, 10/04/2013 - 18:04

Hi Steve,
When should i do Cardio and how long should i do it?
can i do more Abs workout or is this enough?

i love reading your articles, you really inspire me.
Thank you :)

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Posted Wed, 10/02/2013 - 17:53

mr. steve shaw sur...is what they're saying true? is this really a "stewoid based routine"?...you wouldn't post a stewoid based routine...would you mistur. steve??

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Posted Wed, 10/02/2013 - 15:46

Hey Steve

Could you make a similar article about Steve Reeves fullbody workouts ?

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Posted Wed, 10/02/2013 - 00:34

Could you break this workout in to a three day split? For example, Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday would be week A and Thursday, Friday and Saturday would be week B. The workout would alternate between week A and week B.


Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 10/02/2013 - 14:08


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Posted Tue, 10/01/2013 - 18:39

Thanks for posting this routine.
These are the types of routines I learned when I was a teenager. I'm 52 now and still doing a 6 day routine very similar to this one without steroids, just lots of food and rest and a week rest after 8 weeks.

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 10/02/2013 - 14:03

Good story Mike. Anything can be accomplished naturally if we listen to our bodies. Keep going strong!

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Posted Mon, 09/30/2013 - 22:19

Does anyone know the best creatine & pre-workout for size ??

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Posted Mon, 09/30/2013 - 01:15

Hello Steve,
This is really a great article. I have two questions
1. Can i follow morning/evening schedule for this like chest in the morning and back in the evening, will it impact the intensity of the program?
2. Absolutely no cardio is needed in this program?

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Posted Sun, 09/29/2013 - 21:19

Hi Steve

I'm interested in building massive mass !! Size & strength . Can you send a proper workout routine please. Because I've using different workouts but there's not that suits me.
Thanks Steve

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Posted Sun, 09/29/2013 - 20:08

my comments dont seem to post

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Posted Sun, 09/29/2013 - 17:25

This a steroid based routine for damn sure

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Posted Sun, 09/29/2013 - 14:11

"One training day is pressing, one is pushing. They utilize different muscle groups." I have to disagree w/ this. Pressing & pushing are the same. Benching works shoulders, shoulder press also works upper chest, Chest exercises works triceps & shoulders, Back exercises works biceps. This program basically has you working the same muscles 4 days per week. A person NOT using steroids would be overtrained real quick

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Posted Sun, 09/29/2013 - 13:14

artificial T helps with recovery. This kinda split wouldnt work for a 40+ lifter unless he was supplementing with artificial T. A 20 year old lifter should make great gains. I wish i got started in my 20s instead of mid 30s

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Posted Sun, 09/29/2013 - 11:51

good day steve, so how about the weight we lift, your chest workout seems too short for me because i usually complete the chest programs when i work to it. example barbell bench press, dumbell bench press, incline barbell bench, incline dunbell bench, decline bench press, cross over, flies and dips.. how was that bro?? is that ok, or not?

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Posted Sat, 04/19/2014 - 20:51

Jun, you are doing way too many exercises. I used to do the same when I was in high school. Quality over quantity. Just follow this workout to the "T" bro. Don't reinvent the wheel. ;)

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Posted Tue, 10/04/2016 - 09:39
R. Steiner

Hi "Bro".
Yes, he might be doing too many exercises.
But sometimes QUANTITY is better than, so called "quality" (of Dorian Yates maybe...).
Simply try to do more sets per an exercise, low reps (6-8 range), - but less exercises.
For example:
-Behind-the-Neck Barbell Presses 7x6-8
-Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raises 5x8-10
-Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raises 5x8-10
And that's it for Shoulders.
Short rests between sets (up to 60 secs.).

-Standing Triceps Straight-Bar Pressdowns 7x6-8
-Lying EZ-Barbell from head Triceps extensions (today's silly term: "skullcrushers") 5x6-8
-Standing Low-Pulley One-Arm Triceps extensions. (Similar to the dumbbell version but better for
the constant tension and peak contraction.) 4x8-10
Again, short rests between sets (up to 60secs.).
It's just an example.
By sending so much "information" to your muscles by just few exercises
but more sets per single exercise, and
heavy weights (allowing you to perform 6 strict form reps and 2-3 forced reps afterwards),
you're gonna stimulate your muscles just like Golden Age bodybuilders did.
Forget theories of today's so called pros about QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. Both are important!
They can train only 45min a day only 4 times a week doing only 6 sets per muscle group.
And they grow!!! Why??
You need to work hard and spend a lot of in a Gym. AND rest a lot. And of course EAT RIGHT.

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Posted Sat, 09/28/2013 - 03:25

1 min rest / control weight/ pause 1 sec during peak contraction

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Posted Fri, 09/27/2013 - 09:25

Hi Steve, i was under the impression shouldersvshould never be trained day after back so wont this be a problem? Also is this designed for natural lifters because i always thought 3/4 days max ?

Regardless , I love your work have lost count of how much of your writing i have read, it has helped me loads over my year or so of workin out would truly still be at step one if it wasn't for you. And your dedication to helping either never ceases to amaze me , pure inspiration keep it up!

Steven's picture
Posted Sun, 09/29/2013 - 11:25

Thanks Oli,

You can train shoulders after back. One training day is pressing, one is pushing. They utilize different muscle groups.

Regarding natural lifters, 3 to 4 days per week is a good starting point. It wouldn't hurt to try something like this for 8 weeks with plenty of food. I ran a 3 on, 1 off while I was 19. Much easier to do when you're young. I lasted about 12 weeks before I felt a little beat up and needed a rest week.