Classic Workouts

Workout routines & stories from the Gold's Gym-era bodybuilding heroes

It was at the 1968 Mr. Universe contest in Miami, Florida, a show won by Frank Zane, and deservedly so, that Joe came face-to-face with the perfect candidate. Yet for all of Zane’s prodigious gifts, Weider turned his focus to the 21-year-old runnerup who he met in the flesh for the first time. Standing nearly 6'2" and weighing in at a ponderous 250 pounds, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a sight to behold. With a good deal of baby fat and pasty white skin, the young Austrian was far from the bronzed and polished figure that Zane cut. Moreover, Schwarzenegger couldn’t speak more than a word or two of English. Still, Joe Weider has always had, if nothing else, an eye for potential, and he saw it in spades in this kid.

Despite the language, cultural and age barriers, there was an immediate kinship. From Schwarzenegger’s broad smile and carefree demeanor to the way he gazed longingly at the winner’s trophy backstage before the start of the competition, he displayed all the drive and passion for bodybuilding of Weider himself. Plus, although the Schwarzenegger physique was just a large, raw work in progress, the trainer of champions saw his latent potential.

Already the holder of the largest muscular arms and chest in the world, Schwarzenegger could, Weider knew, win the most coveted title in the sport of bodybuilding — the Mr. Olympia — within a couple of years, and become a champion for the ages. Immediately following the Universe contest, Weider summoned Schwarzenegger to come live in the United States and work for him, as

a “spokesathlete.” Being that just such an opportunity was the stuff his dreams were made of, Schwarzenegger accepted the offer. After a few months in California, Arnold asked Joe if he could also bring his former training partner from Munich over.  He assured Weider that Francesco Columbu wasn’t too shabby a bodybuilder, either. And so it was, that by the turn of the ’70s, Southern California — more specifically Gold’s Gym Venice — had become home of the world’s most famous and successful bodybuilders, all training, eating a growing together.

Within the next five years, guys like Ken Waller, Ed Corney, Mike Katz, Robby Robinson, Danny Padilla, Roger Callard, Denny Gable, Kent Kuehn and Lou Ferrigno, all future legends, would join the fray. With all the collective firepower assembled in that sub-5,000 square feet, it was only a matter of time before sparks flew; sparks that would set bodybuilding afire, both inside and out. As the public began to take notice of the cultural phenomenon growing out of Venice, so did bodybuilding itself experience a growth spurt, in the way its athletes plied their trade.

As Joe Weider worked to help drive bodybuilding into the public’s consciousness, the sport’s top competitors continued reinventing the way they built their physiques. It was a time of exploration in bodybuilding and between the late ’60s and early ’70s the Gold’s crew, lead as always by Schwarzenegger, tinkered with the age-old formula the rest of the bodybuilding community had accepted as the de facto system.

Until then, the typical bodybuilder would usually adhere to a training protocol that involved four to six workouts per week, one per day, with three to five straight sets of 10 repetitions, three to five exercises per bodypart. Straightforward and an easy metric to remember. Schwarzenegger, however, liked anything but easy, because easy meant status quo — if you do what you always do, then you’ll get what you got. And he always wanted more. So, he began tinkering with things — supersetting chest with back here, working out twice a day there — until he (and, by default, his Gold’s Gym peers) were following a routine that resembled the one practiced by the previous generation only insofar as it required the repetitive lifting of black metal.

The most noticeable diversion from the old-school style of training came in the form of the double split routine, something especially championed by Schwarzenegger. This involved not only dividing the body into groups to be trained on alternating days, but also split between morning and evening routines. In other words, six days of training per week divvied up into 12 workouts.

Other Weider Training Principles were also brought to the forefront during the Golden Age of the early-mid 1970s in Venice, such as performing supersets (of bodyparts as well as exercises within a bodypart routine) and drop sets, and getting a peak contraction. Such concepts weren’t foreign to bodybuilding pre-1970, but they weren’t nearly as commonly practiced then as they have been since. Thanks in large part to Schwarzenegger’s übercompetitive nature and the rapidly escalating quality of pro bodybuilders during the late ’60s and early ’70s, bodybuilders of the 2000s have a broad palette of techniques from which to paint their physiques. The routines of then are just as valid, and effective, today.

Here we’ve compiled some of the signature routines of the best bodybuilders to come out of this perfect storm. If you have the strength to weather them as the legends once did, then you too may one day build a physique for all times.



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