Friday, November 6, 2009

Pre-Roid Golden Age Split Routine for Classic Physique Building!

(Photo Above: Joe Weider with CPB Champs Armand Tanny, Alan Stephan, Clancy Ross, and Floyd Page at the 1949 Mr. North America Contest)

In our last post, we discussed the introduction of split routines in the latter half (the 1950s) of the pre-roid Golden Age of Classic Physique Building (the 1940s and 50s). In his 1954 muscle building course (The Muscle Building Courses of the Champions), Joe Weider advocated a split routine for intermediate trainers - after they had completed a minimum of 3 months training with his full body 3 day/week routine. This is a classic upper body/lower body split that works each region twice a week for a total of 4 workouts per week.

The routine is presented here for historical purposes (so no exercise descriptions will be given). You will also note that this routine uses supersets, cheating, and peak contraction methods!

Monday - Upper Body

1. Wrestler's Bridge - 2 sets/10 reps
2. The Cheat Curl - superset with following for 2 supersets/9 reps
3. Lying Triceps Curl
4. Peak Contraction Knee Dumbbell Curl - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
5. Seated Dumbbell Triceps Curl
6. Wide Grip Bench Press - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
7. Dumbbell Side and Forward Lateral Raise, Combination
8. Bent Arm Laterals - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
9. Upright Rowing
10. Bent Over Rowing - 2 sets/9 reps
11. Deadlift - 2 sets/9 reps

Tuesday - Lower Body

1. Side Bend - superset with following for 2 sets/10 reps
2. Sit Up
3. Side Bend - superset with following for 2 sets/10 reps
4. Leg Raise
5. Bent Legged Sit Up - 2 sets/10 reps
6. Flat Footed Squat - superset with following for 2 sets/10 reps
7. Toe Raise
8. Iron Boot Thigh Extension - superset with following for 2 sets/10 reps
9. Thigh Curl
10. Straddle Exercise - 2 sets/10 reps
11. Goose Step - 2 sets until tired

Wednesday - Rest

Thursday - Upper Body

1. Headstrap Exercises
2. Seated Dumbbell Curl, Allternate Style - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
3. Triceps Rear Raise with Dumbbell
4. Zottman Curl - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
5. Standing Triceps Curl
6. Bench Press with a Wide Grip - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
7. Back and Foward Barbell Press (use 10 reps instead of 9)
8. Bent Arm Pullover - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
9. Shrug
10. Rowing Motion to the Waist - 2 sets/9 reps
11. Good Morning Exercise - 2 sets/9 reps

Friday - Lower Body

1. Side Bend - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
2. Twist Sit Up - (use 7 reps to each side instead of 9)
3. Bench Side Raise - superset with following for 2 sets/9 reps
4. Leg Raise
5. Half Sit Up, Body Twist - 2 sets/7 reps to each side
6. Parallel Squat - 2 sets/9 reps
7. Legs Split Toe Raise - 2 sets/15 reps
8. Shoulder Squat - 2 sets/9 reps
9. Combination Toe Raise - 1 set (toes straight), 1 set (toes out), 1 set (toes in)
10. Iron Boot Side Thigh Raise - 2 sets/15 reps
11. Palms Up Forearm Curl - 2 sets/15 reps
12. Palms Down Forearm Curl - 2 sets/15 reps

Saturday & Sunday - Rest

Well....that's it! Again, Joe Weider advocated this kind of routine in the early 1950s for intermediate trainers. But not everyone was on board for split training. There were still plenty of people who followed the full body 2 or 3 day a week training routines. In any case, split routines like this should be included in your "toolbox" and may be useful from time to time.

There is a lot to discuss and learn from Joe's routine here - so feel free to comment!


P.S. For a free, 1 year subscription to Classic Physique Builder (CPBzine) - a pdf "zine" (do-it-yourself magazine) that is patterned after the muscle mags of the pre-roid Golden Age of Bodybuilding (of the 1940s and 50s), just email your name, the name of your city (not your actual address), state/province, and country to That's it! Any info you send us is strictly confidential. We don't share info with anyone. So you won't get on any unwanted lists or receive any unwanted, automated email - even from us!


Johnny G said...

Instinctive training I truly feel is what most bodybuilders did back then and do today - John Grimek told me he trained daily - yes I know they kept some logs on their training, but I bet my last dollar they trained instinctive most of the time - when they felt ready for another workout they hit the gym .. That is why some of your readers can not fine info on training philosphies back then... Ya there was Reeves and his 3 times per week training program, but there still has been some who said he trained more frequently then 3 times a week... I guess for those who are out there looking for the perfect routine all we all can say is keep plugging away as they did... Nothing is etched in stone when it come to training,,, Different strokes for different folks... I say INSTINCTIVE TRAINING IS THE WAY TO GO!!!!! Hey Anthony or any one of you guys out there reading this blog, ask any old timer if they had a set routine or did they wing it most of the time or better posing the question as instinctive training or by feel... I'll be curious to hear their answers.. Later all

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Johnny,

Yes...many advanced trainers, back in the pre-roid Golden Age (of the 1940s and 50s), did use their "instincts" to guide their training. This was someting that Joe Weider learned when he observed the champs training back then and this led him to coin the term "Instinctive Training Principle."

However, this term was misunderstood by many at the time and since then (and even by Vince Gironda who was dead set against this principle) - who misinterpreted this principle to mean "training according to however you feel like on a given day."

What Joe meant was that advanced trainers/champs, after several years of training - and seeing/feeling/learning how their bodies respond to various combinations of exercises/sets/reps/poundages/intensity/etc - developed a refined understanding or "instinct" of how to train in a way that they know their body responds to.

So this principle and approach was not for beginners or intermediates who lack the experience to have this "instinct." This is probably why Gironda opposed the principle (because it could be easily miunderstood by beginners & intermediates).

Great comment! We may do a post on the Instinctive Training Principle in the future.

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Everyone,

This post was a little long, but there were some important points that I wanted to draw everyone's attention to that can be seen in Joe Weider's Split Routine here.

The first point is that he incorporates the Muscle Confusion Principle. Note how the exercises for each workout (whether for upper or lower body) are different, rather than using the same exercises each time. This keeps the muscles from quickly adapting to the exercises and should extend the period of gains.

The second point is that he introduces the intermediate trainer here to "supersets." Supersets increase intensity by reducing the amount of rest time between sets. When working opposing muscles, they also bring more blood flow into the area more quickly which can result in a greater/quicker pump. It was felt that this also resulted in extra growth stimulation.

The third point is that the volume here is still relatively low (compared with what is common today). For example, look at Monday and Wednesday's workouts and you will see a total of 4 sets for biceps and 4 sets for triceps - that's it!

The fourth poiont is that each muscle group is trained twice a week (rather than once a week - which is common today, or 3 times a week - as was recmmended for the classic full-body workout at the time). So the low volume was combined with higher intensity and twice-a-week stimulation.

This split routine for intermediate trainers appeared in Joe's Muscle Building Course in the early 1950's and remained unchanged in his course through the 1970s at least. So you can get results with this type of training (keep in mind that Joe still had beginners on full body workouts 3 days-a-week for a minimum of 3 months before going to this split routine). But remember that results depend on proper training, proper nutrition, proper rest, and persistence! It is not just the routine!

Have you had success with split routines? Or do you respond better to full-body workouts? Or both? Feel free to share your experience!

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Johnny G said...

I totally agree with you about instinctive training should only be for the advanced trainer - I was in communication with Dave Draper and he felt this was the way to go for those who have been wrestling around with the weights for a few years - Logging ones workouts in the beginning so important to see the levels of progress - I still feel you or we need a game plan before going into a gym, but be able and willing to make changes during a workout - It might be as simple as doing barbell exercises or dumbbell exercises because some one is using a bench or a piece of equipment and you might not be able to get on - improvising is also instinctive training as well - a sore shoulder/back/leg so you might have to tweek your workout because of an injury- I think Vince was more concerned that the natural laziness of mankind might prevail over a workout if there wasn't somewhat of a game plan going in to the gym and that part I totally agree!!!!!!!

frank said...

i read some of the blogs - i like this johnny g - he gets into it here and there, but he seems to know what he is talking about - he gets me thinking - i like when him and anthony have exchanges, kind of lively i would say - still i like the site

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Frank!

Welcome to CPB! I'm glad you like the exchanges - they are all meant with the best of intentions. It is our CPB Readers who really add richness and character to CPB Blog!

So feel free to comment on any of our posts or comments and to share your experiences or even ask questions!

We all have our different personalities, but everyone does their best to be helpful!

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Candon M said...

I've done both the 5 day split and the 4 day. The 5 day didn't seem to give me great workouts all the days, e.g. arm day didn't feel like I had really worked out. The 4 day split worked well, and I made some gains. For me the 4 day spit meant I could really beef up the lower body workout as my regular 3 day workout had nearly an hour of upper body, and essentially calf raises and squats for lower body. I also liked the extra calorie burn when trying to loose fat.

Johnny G said...

it would be nice to get some more feedback from the loyal readers - also I know we hate talking about this, but it sure does look like Armand Tanny was doing something extra in this picture above - he looks huge and I say a little unnatural huge as well- just my take on it

Bruno said...

yes johnny G I also noticed it, he's much bigger than the others.

I'm trying the 4 day split (with slightly some different excercises). Normally I do the Full body workout 3 times a week. I'll see what a 4 day split will do. Hopefully i'll gain a little bit muscle. Anyway I like the upperbody work out, it takes me 1 hour or a little bit more to complete the work out. For the lower body work out it takes me about 40 minutes.

jim said...

I like a 3 day a week split like this , monday, Chest and Back, wednesday, legs, and friday shoulders and arms. 10-12 sets larger muscles and 6-8 smaller. 2 compound and 1 isolation exercise for each muscle. Cardio every day 20-30 mins. I've tried a lot of different splits and I've tried total body, but I keep coming back to this. The key is the right mix of intensity , volume and cardio , along with diet of course.

Casey Butt said...

Just a vague historical note... some of the York affiliated lifters were using split routines in the late 1940s. In fact, I can't recall the exact bodybuilder, but at least one elite-level 1940's Mr. America contestant was using a 5-day split hitting each body part once a week. ...They were around a lot longer than most people think.

K'n Gourou said...

hi CPB, I've found an interesting website on the net by CPB Champion Bill Pearl, it has a lot of training programms

Anonymous said...

Bill Pearl was many things, but a lifetime drug free athlete is probably not numbered among them.

Casey Butt said...

Actually, Pearl has himself "confessed" to starting steroids (Nilevar) first in 1958. He's made conflicting statements about his use after that, but he hasn't denied it.

Johnny G said...

I like Bill Pearl, I meet him about 10 years ago and he was one of the kindest people I ever ran into, but I agree with with the last blogger in which most of the bodybuilders from the mid 50's on were dabbling in steroids - I know Anthony disagrees with me where he feels that steroids was not a rampant in the era, just that I spoke with so many old timers who told me a different story and were not embarrass to share their past - remember one thing all and that is the old timers who did use the juice did not have the same info as we do today - that is why I really do not like to put them all down - it is those who did use and later claim they never did are the hypocrites I can't stand - you are only truly NOBLE when you are aware of a wrong then walk away from it - those Golden Era Physical Culturist were never given an option to take drugs or not too, so are they still noble when not given option A or B, I say people are people and if we are given an advantage over another we might take it if we feel it wasn't wrong to begin with --- my point is Bill Pearl and others who used drugs are still fine people, but if he is saying he never used them like others claim then I feel they are wrong - better to be up and up with the past then it to come back and bite ya on the butt

Casey Butt said...

I wouldn't agree that most bodybuilders were using or even aware of steroids in the mid-50s. The history of steroids in sports is at least fairly well-known and the late-1950s/early 1960s were more likely the time when the cat got out of the bag. Nilevar was FDA approved in 1956 and Dianabol in 1958, before that synthetics didn't exist and it wasn't until late 1954 that western sports physicians learned of the Soviet use of testosterone and began their own experimentations (which, by all accounts, were disappointing and that itself lead to the development of Dianabol by Ziegler and CIBA). The elites, such as Bill Pearl, seem to have caught on only by the very late 1950s at the earliest, and lower level competitors by the early 1960s. The York lifters (U.S. Oly team) were "enlightened" only by Ziegler and Grimek starting "experimentation" on lifters in 1959. Reg Park has said he didn't hear of steroids until the 1960 Olympics. Chet Yorton and others have pointed to the early 1960s as well. March, Riecke, Grimek, Scott, Pearl, Ziegler, etc have all directly or indirectly confirmed the approximate dates.

Johnny G said...

Hi Casey, If you read any of my bloggs here I was not mentioning Dianabol and more of these other common steroids, but was bringing up testosterone - The point was that a Dr. Paul de Kruif wrote a book called (The Male Hormone) in 1945 - this book was given a full page review in Newsweek back then(1945) when they never did that before, also Reader's Digest wrote inserts for a entire year dealing with this book back in 1945 - a site that I found ( brought many things to light for me - I'm not trying to burst any of your bubbles when it comes to the Golden Era of Bodybuilding - I'm just pointing out that the info about Testosterone was out there and to say that Parks or the Reeves' of that era was not aware would be insulting to any of our intellegence - But also I'm not ready to say that they used any either, but just that they were aware that they exsisted - It seems sometimes that this site trys to spin for the Golden Era and the case being this subject on testosterone - If and I say if some of the oldtimers did use it that would not be the kiss of death for me on how I felt about them - but I'm not going to be naive and act like if it was available that being (test) that they might have taken it - We are talking about a sub-culture that broke away from the mainstreet of the rest of the world - they tried protein drinks, tried supplements when others average person didn't back then - so there ya have it - check on the web for Paul de Kruif and the book The Male Hormone printed 1945 - I wrote this once before and this never got added to this website and I hope this time it does!!!!!!!

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Johnny, Casey and Everyone!

Johnny raises an interesting point about Dr. Paul de Kruif's book "The Male Hormone" which did appear in 1945. I've seen many references to this book in discussions about steroids, so I actually tracked down a copy of it and read it myself.

The book's author was a "science journalist/writer" with an academic background in chemistry (a PhD if I remember correctly). So he was used to delving in the little known (by the general public) realms of the scientific and academic worlds of research for material to write about.

The book itself is not what many modern steroid discussions make it out to be. It is not proof that steroids (or test) were commonplace at that time. If anything, it shows just the opposite.

The book is essentially an empassioned "plea" by de Kruif to the medical doctors at the time (the mid to late 40s) to prescribe testosterone as a "hormone replacement/supplement therapy" to older men (over 50 years of age) who have lost their sexual virility and faced the other ravages of aging! He is making this plea precisely because the medical doctors at the time did not believe that it was effective and it was not a commonplace therapy at all.

The book is not aimed at young athletes. It has nothing to do with bodybuilding. Given the target audience and target subject (medical doctors and men who have lost their sexual virility), it is unlikely to have made much of an impact on young bodybuilders.

We have to remember, as well, that the people of the 1940s had a very different mind set than we do today. Since the 1960s (drug generation), the general public has turned to pills/drugs as the magic answer to nearly everything. But before the 1960s, this was not so. So while, in the modern mainstream bodybuilding mags, we get reports on the latest pharmaceutical research in order to think how it might apply to training, we should not assume that people in the 40s and 50s had this same mind set.

So I'm pretty confident that the documentation by modern historians of how test and steroids entered bodybuilding (e.g., as reported by John Fair and Randy Roach among others) is probably fairly accurate. - Just my take on it.

All the best - and thanks to everyone for the great comments!,

CPB (Anthony)

P.S. I've never censored any comments so far (except for my own because of typos). I am very happy with the high level of discussion from all our CPB Blog participants!