I Built a Workout Routine Inspired by Bodybuilding Legends

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Inspired by bodybuilding legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lee Haney, Ronnie Coleman, as well as more recent greats like Big Ramy and Chris Bumstead, I’ve always aimed to incorporate techniques from the world’s best bodybuilders into my workouts. However, I’m faced with the reality that there’s a huge gap between them and me, from genetics to daily life. Trying to replicate their exact training routines isn’t feasible or desirable, considering the significant time commitment, dedication, and the risk of injury it entails.

With this in mind, I’ve devised a workout plan that applies techniques and exercises from the world’s top bodybuilders (past and present), while making necessary adjustments for mere mortals like myself. This plan is more than a routine; it’s a tribute to these bodybuilding icons, designed for those of us looking to gain muscle and stay fit amidst a busy work-life balance.

I’m four weeks into this plan, and the results are already very promising.

pro bodybuilder workouts

Exercises Chosen For My Bodybuilding Legend-Inspired Workout Routine

First, I’ll present a chart summarizing the exercises included in my routine and the bodybuilding legends who inspired them. I’ll then delve deeper into how I’ve integrated aspects of each bodybuilder’s approach into my routine.

Note: The following exercises are not the associated pro’s absolute favorite per se, but rather an exercise they have recommended as a ‘top mass builder’ and/or an exercise they’ve consistently incorporated into their routine (and that fits with the others on this list as a whole for the purpose of building a well-rounded routine). And while a lot of bodybuilding comes down to genetics, I have chosen certain pros based on muscle groups they were known for because it felt right for inspirational purposes.

I’ll delve deeper into the elements I’ve incorporated into my routine from the training styles of the professionals mentioned above. Following that, I’ll address some common questions that might arise after reviewing the table above, such as theabsence of deadlifts, calf exercises, and abdominal workouts.FYI – abs and calves will be included in the routine, but deads will not.

Inspiration From The Goats

My routine was inspired by past and present pro’s (most of whom have wonMr. Olympia) favorite exercises, training styles, preferences, and techniques. The following will help you to better understand the routine. It is in no particular order, but rather an attempt to organize things by muscle groups.

Tom Platz:

tom platz leg exercise

  • Exercise:High Rep Back Squats (Quads) – Tom Platz, aka The Quadfather or Quadzilla, is synonymous with high-rep squats, pushing beyond conventional limits for legendary leg development.
  • Split: Legs prioritized in the split, with multiple sessions a week.
  • Training Style: Known for high-rep squats, pushing beyond conventional limits for his leg development.

Hadi Choopan:

hadi choopan

  • Exercise:Heavy Hack Squats (Quads) – Hadi Choopan’s regimen includes heavy hack squats, reflecting his commitment to both size and aesthetics.
  • Split: Balanced approach with an emphasis on conditioning.
  • Training Style: Incorporates FST-7 training technique (created by elite coach Hany Rambod), focusing on stretching the muscle fascia for increased size and definition.

Nick Walker:

nick walker

  • Exercise: Seated Leg Curls and RDLs (Hamstrings/Lower Back) – Nick Walker highlights seated leg curls and RDLs for their effectiveness in developing the hamstrings, preferring RDLs for focused muscle engagement.
  • Split: Dedicated intensity on each muscle group, incorporating a mix of compound and isolation exercises.
  • Training Style: Values heavy compound movements for foundational strength, complemented by isolation work for detailed muscle development.

Ronnie Coleman:

ronnie coleman favorite exercise

  • Exercise: Flat Bench Press (Chest) – Ronnie Coleman regarded squats and the flat bench press as foundational for his size and strength, embodying his heavy lifting ethos.
  • Split: Twice a week for each muscle group, with a mix of heavy and high volume.
  • Training Style: Famous for his heavy lifting, often tackling weights most could only dream of.

Phil Heath:

phil heath

  • Exercise:Incline Dumbbell Press (Chest) – Phil Heath champions the incline dumbbell press for its upper chest development, emphasizing aesthetic appeal alongside functional benefits.
  • Split: Focused on one major muscle group per day for detailed work.
  • Training Style: Preferred a balanced mix of machines and free weights, using advanced techniques to target muscles from various angles.

Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Arnold Schwarzenegger favorite exercise

  • Exercise: Deep Stretch Dumbbell Fly(Chest) – Arnold has stated the best exercise wasn’t a classic bodybuilding move, or his famous “Arnold Press”, but the clean & press, anOlympic Lift, highlighting its comprehensive impact across the entire body. “If you do one thing, clean and press,” Schwarzenegger said in a Men’s Health interview. “It covers everything.” Nevertheless, I didn’t want to take the time to learn it before starting my routine and/or have to use light weight making it a semi-effective exercise. My plan was to hit the ground running. Therefore, I chose an exercise Arnold is well-known for, the dumbbell fly (moreover, a wide range of motion fly). Everyone knows Arnold’s chest was the best. Note: I will be learning the Clean and Pressin the meantime, dedicating a little time to practicing it before my workouts.
  • Split: High-frequency, hitting each muscle group two to three times a week.
  • Training Style: Known for high volume and intensity, incorporating supersets and “the pump” as central elements of his training philosophy.

Big Ramy:

big ramy exercise

  • Exercise:Iso Lateral Machine Row (Back)Big Ramyregularly incorporates machine-based exercises like iso lateral machine rows for targeted muscle engagement. You can see most of his back workouts include this, and now so do mine.
  • Split: Focus on one or two muscle groups per session.
  • Training Style: Preference for machines to achieve maximum muscle isolation and control, especially for his back and chest workouts.

Dorian Yates:

dorian yates workout inspiration

  • Exercise:Barbell Rowsaka Yates Row (Upper Back) – Dorian Yates credited barbell rows as crucial for crafting his formidable back, pivotal in his training regimen. His unique touch was being a little more upright, leading to the exercise name Yates Row.
  • Split: Four-day split, emphasizing high-intensity training (HIT).
  • Training Style: Proponent of controlled reps and heavy weights, focusing on the eccentric part of the lift for maximum muscle growth. He also liked to implement pyramid sets, starting with lighter weights and increasing the weight with each set.

Chris Bumstead:

chris bumstead workout inspiration

  • Exercise:Neutral Grip Pull Ups/Lat Pulldowns (Lats) – Chris Bumstead opts for neutral grip pull-ups to precisely target his lats and biceps, part of his strategy for a balanced physique.
  • Split: Designed to enhance classic physique symmetry and proportion.
  • Training Style: Prefers a mix of free weight, machines, and bodyweight exercises, focusing on precise form and technique for a balanced physique.

Lee Haney:

lee haney workout

  • Exercise:Behind The Back Barbell Shrugs (Traps)Lee Haney favored behind-the-back barbell shrugs for building trapezius muscles, advocating for the unique engagement this movement provides. For me, I’ll opt for the easier set up using a Smith Machine.
  • Split: Three-day-on, one-day-off split, for comprehensive coverage.
  • Training Style: Emphasized strict form and mind-muscle connection, focusing on precision to maximize muscle engagement.

Jay Cutler:

what's jay cutlers favorite exercise

  • Exercise: Overhead Shoulder Press BB or DB (Shoulders/Delts) – Jay Cutler values the overhead press for its full upper body engagement, emphasizing its role, particularly heavy sets, in building a powerful physique.
  • Split: Carefully organized to target each muscle group with volume and intensity.
  • Training Style: Appreciates both machines and free weights, focusing on achieving deep muscle contraction and full range.

Derek Lunsford:

derek lunsford

  • Exercise: Machine Lateral Raises (Shoulders/Delts) – Derek Lunsford’s shoulder workouts emphasize machine lateral raises with slow eccentrics, highlighting his focused approach.See more of Derek Lunsford’s push training.
  • Split: Each workout dedicated to specific muscle groups.
  • Training Style: Favors slow eccentrics and high volume, particularly for shoulder workouts, to enhance muscle size and definition.

Brandon Curry:

brandon curry

  • Exercise:Incline Biceps Curls & Triceps Rope Extensions(Arms) – Brandon Curry favors db incline curls (underhand and neutral) for biceps and cable rope triceps extensions (many variations but pressdowns especially) for triceps, part of his arm-building strategy.
  • Split: Intense sessions focusing on each muscle group once a week.
  • Training Style: Leans towards a combination of free weights and machines, using incline angles to target muscle groups effectively.

Why didn’t I include deadlifts?

The deadlift is widely regarded as an exceptional exercise for mass building, arguably the best due to its high risk and high reward nature. However, it’s also notorious for encouraging ego lifting, which is counterproductive for muscle growth.

Nick Walker articulates this point effectively:

“I think either can be effective, but I lean towards some form of RDL. I prefer it over traditional deadlifts because deadlifts often invite the ego to take over. When I deadlift, it’s all about lifting heavy, but with RDLs, there’s a greater focus on targeting the hamstrings and concentrating on the primary muscles.”

Additionally, many champions view deadlifts as potentially bulking the waist, thereby compromising the desired V-taper of the shoulders, lats, and waist.

With my goals leaning more towards muscle building without risking injury, I’ve decided to exclude traditional deadlifts from my routine.

What about calves?

While I don’t have any specific exercises listed above for calves, calf exercises will be included in the routine below. Rather than a specific exercise, I’ll be using concepts from the pros who are known for working hard to build their calves. Personally, my calves really need it.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger: Known for transforming his calves into one of his best body parts, Arnold often spoke about the importance of frequency and volume for calf growth. He reportedly trained his calves with high volume and frequency, even going as far as training them every day. Check out the Arnold Split Workout Routine.
  • Kai Greene: Kai has emphasized the mind-muscle connection and the importance of fully stretching and contracting the calf muscles during each rep. He’s known for saying that every rep should be performed with intention and focus.
  • Ronnie Coleman: The 8-time Mr. Olympia has shared that heavy training was key to his calf development. Coleman incorporated heavy seated and standing calf raises into his routine, focusing on a full range of motion and slow, controlled reps. Check out the Ronnie Coleman Workout Routine.
  • Dexter Jackson: Dexter, known for his symmetry and conditioning, often highlighted the importance of variation in calf training. Mixing up exercises, angles, and rep ranges was a strategy he used to ensure all parts of the calves were targeted.
  • Chris Bumstead: The Classic Physique Olympia champion has talked about not just training heavy but also ensuring a deep stretch and peak contraction with every calf exercise. He advocates for paying attention to the details of each movement for maximum growth. Check out the Chris Bumstead Workout Routine.

What about abs?

Which ab exercises and oblique exercises you do is up to you. I will make note of it in my routine, but I plan to switch it up on a regular basis. I’ll be doing so based on the following concepts:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger: Arnold often spoke about the importance of variety in ab training, incorporating movements that target every part of the abdominal muscles. He was known for high-volume workouts that included exercises like crunches, leg raises, and twisting movements to develop his iconic midsection.
  • Frank Zane: Known for one of the best physiques in terms of symmetry and proportion, Zane emphasized the importance of mind-muscle connection in ab workouts. He often included hanging leg raises and vacuum exercises to enhance core definition and control.
  • Lee Haney: As an 8-time Mr. Olympia, Haney focused on core strength and stability. He frequently mentioned the significance of incorporating compound movements that engage the core, such as squats and deadlifts, alongside isolation ab exercises.
  • Dorian Yates: Yates, with his ‘blood and guts’ training style, applied an intense approach to every muscle group, including abs. He recommended keeping ab workouts brief but intense, using weighted exercises like cable crunches to build thickness in the abs.
  • Jay Cutler: Cutler, a 4-time Mr. Olympia, highlighted the importance of consistency in ab training. He included a variety of exercises in his routine but stressed that diet and overall body fat levels play a crucial role in ab visibility.
  • Phil Heath: The 7-time Mr. Olympia winner, Heath has pointed out that while ab exercises are important, the visibility of abs is largely dependent on nutrition and maintaining a low body fat percentage. For exercises, he’s shown a preference for cable crunches and leg raises for their effectiveness in targeting the abs deeply.
  • Kai Greene: Greene, known for his artistic approach to bodybuilding, often talks about the importance of visualization and focusing on the contraction of the muscles during ab exercises. He incorporates a wide range of movements, including planks and side bends, to develop core strength and muscle detail.

Main Training Techniques & Principles

By incorporating these training techniques and principles appropriately, my workout plan combines the best practices from a variety of renowned bodybuilders, offering a comprehensive approach to building muscle, strength, and aesthetics.

  • FST-7 (Fascia Stretch Training 7): Implement FST-7 for certain muscle groups, such as biceps, triceps, or shoulders, on designated days. Perform 7 sets of an isolation exercise with high reps (around 15-20 reps) and short rest periods (30-45 seconds) to stretch the muscle fascia and promote muscle fullness. Note: This is an advanced technique, which I feel is suitable for me, given that I’ve been training for nearly a decade. However, this can easily be adjusted by lowering the number of sets (3-4) and increasing the rest time between sets (60-90 seconds).
  • Supersets and Drop Sets: Incorporate supersets and drop sets, as favored by Arnold Schwarzenegger, to increase training intensity and create a pump effect. I use these for exercises that are easy to superset or drop set.
  • Pyramid Sets: Incorporate pyramid sets, a technique appreciated by many of the world’s biggest bodybuilders like Jay Cutler and Nick Walker, to gradually increase weight while decreasing reps in each set, allowing for strength and muscle growth. Pyramid sets are saved for certain big lifts, like bench press.
  • High Volume and Controlled Reps: Adopt high-volume training with controlled reps, particularly for compound exercises like squats and bench press. This aligns with the preferences of many of the pros. Moreover, I’ll be able to put on mass without needing to go too heavy on free-weight exercises.
  • Mix of Free Weights and Machines: Like several of the pros, use a combination of free weight and machine exercises to target muscles from various angles and ensure muscle isolation.
  • Mind-Muscle Connection: Emphasize the mind-muscle connection, similar to Lee Haney’s approach. Focus on feeling the muscle working during each repetition to maximize engagement.
  • Balanced Split: Ensure a balanced distribution of muscle groups across the week, prioritizing compound movements for major muscle groups. I chose the standard “body part” split, which is the essence of bodybuilding. But unlike Arnold and some of these other pros who’d manage to hit muscle groups twice a week using a 5-6 day training schedule, I’ll hit each muscle group once a week using a 4-day body part split, emphasizing volume and recovery rather than frequency.Here are other popular bodybuilding splits.

The Workout Routine Inspired By Bodybuilding Legends

Split: 4 Day Body Part Split

Weekly Schedule:

  • Session 1
  • Session 2
  • Rest Day
  • Session 3
  • Session 4
  • Rest Day
  • Rest Day
  • Repeat

Session 1: Back and Biceps

  • Clean & Press (Optional Practice – 5 mins)
  • Neutral Grip Pull-Ups or Lat Pull Downs
    • Sets: 4 sets
    • Reps: To failure
    • Technique: Use a wide grip for the first 2 sets and a close grip for the last 2 sets.
  • Barbell Rows (Yates Rows)
    • Sets: 4 sets
    • Reps: 8-10 reps
    • Technique: Controlled Reps.
  • Iso Lateral Machine Row
    • Sets: 3 sets
    • Reps: 10-12 reps
    • Technique: Focus on squeezing the back muscles at the top of the movement.
  • Incline Curls
    • Sets: 5 sets
    • Reps: 10-12 reps
    • Technique: FST-7 (but only 5 sets)
  • Calf Exercise (Optional) – any variation

Session 2: Chest and Triceps

  • Flat Bench Press
    • Sets: 4 sets
    • Reps: 6-10 reps
    • Technique: Pyramid sets, starting with lighter weights and increasing the weight with each set.
  • Incline Dumbbell Press
    • Sets: 4 sets
    • Reps: 8-10 reps
    • Technique: Focus on a controlled eccentric (negative) phase and explosive concentric (positive) phase.
  • Dumbbell Flly
    • Sets: 4 sets
    • Reps: 10-12 reps
    • Technique: Slow and controlled reps.
  • Tricep Extensions with Rope
    • Sets: 3 sets + 1 drop set to failure
    • Reps: 10-12 reps
    • Technique: After 3rd set, immediately perform a drop set (take 50% weight off) for max reps.
  • Core Exercise Superset (Optional) – i.e. Stability Ball Crunches (10 reps) x Vacuum Exercise (20 second holds x 2-3 times)

Session 3: Legs & Calves

  • Back Squats (Slightly Wide Stance)
    • Sets: 4 sets
    • Reps: 10-15 reps
    • Technique: High Volume, Controlled Reps.
  • Heavy Hack Squats
    • Sets: 3 sets
    • Reps: 6-8 reps
    • Technique: Heavy and controlled
  • RDLs
    • Sets: 3 sets
    • Reps: 8-10 reps
    • Technique: Pyramid
  • Seated Leg Curls
    • Sets: 3 sets
    • Reps: 10-15 reps
    • Technique: High volume, controlled reps
  • Calf Raises (any variation)
    • Sets: 7 sets
    • Reps: 10-20 reps
    • Technique: FST-7

Session 4: Shoulders & Arms

  • Overhead Shoulder Press
    • Sets: 4 sets
    • Reps: 8-10 reps
    • Technique: Pyramid sets.
  • Machine Lateral Raises
    • Sets: 5 sets
    • Reps: 12-20 reps
    • Technique: Utilize FST-7 principles – 5 sets of high reps with short rest intervals.
  • Face Pulls
    • Sets: 3 sets
    • Reps: 12-15 reps
    • Technique: Mind muscle connection and good slow and controlled form.
  • Bicep Curl x Tricep Extension (any variations)
    • Sets: 3 sets each
    • Hold: 10-12 reps
    • Technique: Superset
  • Hanging Leg Raises
    • Sets: 3 sets each
    • Hold: 10-12 reps
    • Technique: Proper form. If too difficult, perform hanging knee raises or lying leg raises

This 4-day split routine incorporates a mix of rep ranges, training techniques, and exercise variations to stimulate muscle growth and ensure overall development.

If you like this routine, you can adjust it according to your fitness level, training goals (i.e. lagging muscles) and recovery capacity. Consistency, nutrition, and adequate rest are key to success in bodybuilding.

For a more structured, guided muscle-building program, consider ourSFS Hypertrophy Program, created by Garett Reid MSc CSCS CISSN.

hypertrophy program

Prepare to maximize your gains with our exclusive 12-week hypertrophy training program. Choose between a 4 or 5 day training split and gain 2-12 pounds of muscle over 90 days…

My Goals With This Program

As I continue on with this program, my primary goals are clear and multifaceted:

  1. Technique Exploration: I intend to experiment with various techniques and styles favored by bodybuilding legends to discover what works best for my body.
  2. Flexibility and Adaptation: Every 8 weeks, I’ll evaluate my routine, making adjustments based on what resonates with me and delivers the best results.
  3. Muscle & Strength Development: As you can imagine, I hope to build muscle, improve muscle definition, body composition, and overall proportions, and gain some strength.

By continuously assessing and adapting my approach, I’ll refine my workout routine to align with what suits me best, ultimately working towards my desired physique and fitness level, all while imagining myself as one of the greats with each set.

Supplement Stack

Supplements are exactly how they are name, supplemental. A clean, healthy diet can’t be replaced. My key focus in terms of my diet is eating good food, high in protein, at a caloric surplus of around 250-500 per day (here’s a sample 7 day meal plan for that). Nevertheless, I’m a supplement guy, as are most bodybuilders.

I won’t need mass-builder, given my caloric needs, but there are many pro bodybuilders who do. I’m not a hard gainer. For me, I’ll stick to the essentials.

Naturally, I wanted some inspiration here as well (links are from Amazon):

  • King Whey from Ronnie Coleman’s Signature Series: Ronnie Coleman would take 100 grams of whey protein at a time during his competitive days. Needless to say, he was an ultra elite pro bodybuilder. I’ll be sticking to 30-40 grams at a time (normal range for what I’m able absorb).
  • Creatine Monohydrate from Cutler Nutrition: “Creatine is one of the key foundation supplements that I include in my mass-building regimen” – Jay Cutler, who now has his own line of supplements called Cutler Nutrition.
  • CBUM Thavage Pre-Workout from Raw: Chris Bumstead joined Raw Nutrition’s ownership team back in 2021. He has openly expressed his appreciation for their products even before then. Now, he has a pre-workout line called ‘Thavage,’ a clever play on the word ‘savage,’ inspired by his distinctive lisp. He is said to have meticulously created the formula. It is more than just caffeine and energy. He wanted a good balance between energy, focus, endurance, and pump. I also like the flexible dosing, with 1 or 2 scoops being recommended. It’s pricey, though.

Unfortunately, I think I’ll have to skip prime Arnold’s recommendation, a bottle of Jack 😂.

Need a program with more structure and guidance?

Check out our SFS Hypertrophy Program, created by Garett Reid MSc CSCS CISSN

hypertrophy program

Prepare to maximize your gains with our exclusive 12-week hypertrophy training program. Choose between a 4 or 5 day training split and gain 2-12 pounds of muscle over 90 days…

#Built #Workout #Routine #Inspired #Bodybuilding #Legends

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