Golden Era Bodybuilding – How Did Old School Bodybuilders Train?

How to train like an old school bodybuilder. How did old school bodybuilders stay lean all year round?
Famous old school bodybuilders
Some of the most popular bodybuilders from the golden era include Frank Zane, Franco Columbo, Dave Draper, Sergio Olivia, Robby Robinson and many more. They were very strict on their nutrition and training in order to look defined and athletic year round. In order to pull this off their workouts had to be kept intense and consistent.

What kind of training programs did they follow?
Old school bodybuilders used dumbbells, free weights, benches and a few cable machines to get a full body training program together. They would split up their workouts by muscle groups. This would allow them to workout all of their muscles in three separate days twice a week for a total of six workout days. For example, a very common split would be to train chest and back on Monday and Thursdays, legs and abdominals on Tuesday and Friday and shoulders and arms on Wednesday and Saturday.
Their workouts consisted of compound movements, the harder an exercise was the more gains they would get out of it. Their main exercises included squats, pull-ups, dips, cleans, push presses, snatches, and high pulls.

How were there workouts broken up? Old school bodybuilding workouts from golden era bodybuilders.
It was common for their workouts to consists of 5 sets per exercise and 4-5 exercises per muscle group. This way they could do 20 to 25 sets per muscle group in order to reach maximum hypertrophy.
Other bodybuilders such as Mentzer used less sets in order to get better muscle recovery. In total they would do only 10 to 12 sets per muscle group.
Since cardio machines were not readily available they used high intensity with their workouts. This allowed them to work on their endurance and cardio while lifting heavy and staying focused. Closer to competitions they would raise the intensity by lifting twice a day eight hours apart! Their cardio was done outdoors such as running on the beach in order to tone down and gain definition.

Challenges of working out back then
Machines used to isolate and tone muscles were a thing of the future for these bodybuilders. They didn’t have machines that could isolate specific muscle groups. So much of their workouts had to be completed through free weights that were readily available. There wasn’t any cardio equipment in most gyms either.
Most of the gyms were small and privately owned, geared towards serious lifters. People who worked out at these gyms were mostly powerlifters, and bodybuilders who did this as a career.
The gyms were small and packed, this led to more productive workouts since everyone was there with a purpose in mind.

Comparing the gyms that old school bodybuilders worked out in with the gyms we have today, we have way more technology and better equipment. Our gyms are bigger, cleaner and can accommodate more people with plenty of room for working out.
However, not everyone that goes to the gym today is truly there to have a productive workout. Many times we go to the gym to hangout and socialize while we workout.

If Old school bodybuilders could accomplish way more with less equipment we really have no excuse to put in the work at the gym. We need to think outside of the box when our favorite piece of equipment isn’t available at the gym or when we have to workout with minimum equipment at home.
Hopefully what can take away from this is that hard work always wins. We have to do what’s difficult in order to get the gains that we are looking for. Next time you go in for a workout, try to find a way to incorporate compound exercises. Replace the cable machine with heavy barbell workouts or try doing weighted dips instead of tricep kickbacks.

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