(Photo above: Joe Weider, publisher of pre-roid Golden Age mags Your Physique, Muscle Power, Muscle Builder, and Mr. America)
Up until now, on CPB Blog, we have focused on covering the standard 3-day per week, full body workout schedule. This was certainly the mainstay for most, if not all, of the champs of the pre-roid, Golden Age (of the 1940s and 50s). In other words, this kind of training was how most of the CPB champs built the bulk of their classic physiques.
That being said, split training was also known and used. But, at first (through the 1940s and early 1950s), split training was used only by the champs (who had already built their physiques) a couple of weeks before a contest in order to put the finishing touches on their muscularity. They thought that this could be accomplished by slightly "overtraining" - which is what they thought split training would lead to. After the contest, they would then return to their 3-day per week, full body training. This practice was a general pattern. Some, like Reeves, stuck to their 3-day per week training right up to the contest and after! Some, like Leo Robert, liked to train 6 days a week most of the time. The bottom line is that split training was considered an advanced trainer's technique - it was not for beginners or intermediates.
In 1954 (at least as far as my research has uncovered so far), Joe Weider had a revised version of his course called "Muscle Building Courses of the Champions" that advocated a split routine for intermediate trainers. Beginners were given a 3-day per week, full body workout course that was to be followed for 3 months. After that, Joe put them on a 4 day split routine that trained the upper body twice a week (e.g., on Mon and Thu) and lower body twice a week (e.g., on Tue and Fri) - resting on Wed, Sat, and Sun. This split routine was to be followed for another 2 to 3 months (or until the gains stopped). After this, they were put on a Power & Bulk Course.
In terms of Golden Age training, Joe's advocacy might be the earliest attempt to introduce split training to intermediate trainers (rather than reserving it for advanced trainers). So, split training for intermediates is a pre-roid Golden Age training tool. Other authorities at the time did not agree with Joe's approach and stuck to the classic 3-day per week, full body schedule.
It should be noted that, in Joe's approach, split training was appropriate for intermediates, but not for beginners. This is still quite different from today where a beginner will be given a split routine right off the bat. We should also note that most of the Golden Age Champs (if not all of them - like Grimek, Reeves, Eiferman, Stephan, Ross, etc) - built their physiques with the classic 3-day per week, full body schedule. It is also clear that even after Weider advocated this type of split training for intermediates, many still followed the classic schedule. What is not clear is how many (if any) Golden Age champs built their classic physiques, as intermediates, with a split routine.
We know now, as did many in the pre-roid Golden Age, of the anabolic advantage of full body training (as opposed to split training). Still...split training is a Golden Age training technique that we should be familiar with and should include in our "tool box." Despite having less of an anabolic advantage, it does have other benefits (perhaps a good topic for discussion!).
We will explore further details of Golden Age split training in future posts!
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