The 1980’s comprised two bodybuilding eras. The beginning of this decade was a continuation of the lightweight era (1976–83), during which the only over-200-pound Mr. Olympia was a downsized version of Schwarzenegger. The rest of the decade was filled by six of Lee Haney’s eight years of mass-with-class dominance.
Training, too, was in a transition from the high-volume, high frequency Schwarzenegger era. Here’s how changes in training affected chest workouts:
- ■ MORE MECHANICAL: The greater availability of pec decks, Smith machines and chest pressing machines led to greater variety on chest days, although free weights still dominated the workouts of those with the best chests.
- ■ LOWERED FREQUENCY: As opposed to the thrice-weekly workouts of the mid ’70s, bodybuilders worked their chests and other body parts less, such as twice every eight days on the popular three-on, one-off split.
- ■ PUSH WORKOUTS: One of the most common splits was called push-pull, grouping pushing muscles on one day, pulling muscles on another and legs on a third. Chest was thus trained before shoulders and triceps.
5. ROY CALLENDER: This Barbados-born behemoth finished fourth in the 1981 Olympia, when many thought he should’ve won. Two of his strengths were his left and right pecs, dense from top to bottom and slashed with fanlike clefts. He utilized very high volume, sometimes doing more than 50 sets for chest.
4. GARY STRYDOM: This winner of four pro shows in the late ’80s sported pecs that were both 3-D in their depth and high-def in their striations. His chest workouts were representative of the era: moderate volume and equal doses of compound and isolation lifts.
3. RON LOVE: You have to love the chest density of Love. This winner of three pro shows is most noted for his hands-on-hips or hands-behind-the-back most-musculars, both of which splintered his superb pecs.
2. LEE HANEY: His record eight Olympia victories (1984–91) came in large part because of his pec size and quality, which were winning factors in every front and side pose. For example, pec thickness was crucial to his signature front lat spread. Haney credits pyramided barbell presses as paramount to his “chestiness.”
1. BERTIL FOX: Fox is currently serving a life sentence in a Caribbean prison for double murder. However, in the ’80s he was one of the most popular IFBB pros, despite not winning a pro show and topping out at fifth in the Olympia (1983). He had some lagging body parts (back, hamstrings), but what he had, he had in overwhelming abundance and this was especially true of his best feature: pecs. Their thickness was unparalleled then. Fox favored basic movements, high volume and a variety of reps, from as many as 15 to as few as 4.