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While many gym goers are always looking for that new twist on a workout or to learn the results from the latest scientific study, sometimes they’d be better off looking backward. There have been many great lifters, athletes, and bodybuilders who did amazing things with an old school workout. If you’re looking for a new program to try, here are three old school workout routines you could learn from and possibly implement.
While German Volume Training may have made doing 10 sets of 10 reps popular in the ’80s, Vince Gironda’s old school workout had trainees using similar programs as early as the ’60s-’70s. Known as “trainer to the stars”, Vince was an eclectic bodybuilding coach who employed many oddball exercises and tactics that would later become fairly commonplace. In fact, 2-3 decades before “low carb” even became a thing, Gironda had lifters eating nothing but steak and eggs for fat loss.
Gironda’s 6×6 and 8×8 are exactly what they sound like they are – 6 sets of 6 reps and 8 sets of 8 reps. 8X8 was used more often, and only for short periods because it was such a tough workout. If you had a lagging body part, Gironda would pick one of his favorite exercises and have you do it for 8 sets of 8 reps with minimal rest between. Generally, you’d start with around 45 seconds of rest, but the goal was to condense it down to as little as 20 seconds between each of the 8 sets.
Most of the time, this would be the only body part you’d train in this fashion. For everything else, you’d do a more “typical” program – usually something like sets of 10, 8, 6, then 15 reps, which was another favorite of Gironda’s. If you were advanced enough to utilize 8×8 for your entire body, cardio was often unnecessary because you’d be resting so little. In fact, some of Gironda’s bodybuilders were known to do minimal cardio leading up to a contest because of 8×8’s demanding nature.
Though known more in the powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and athlete training communities than the bodybuilding industry, few can dispute Bill Starr’s contributions to the lifting world as a whole. Credited with helping best utilize and develop 5×5 training, Starr’s Heavy, Light Medium old school workout may have been his best.
The program was one in which you’d train 3x/week, cycling intensities in a (as you’d think) heavy, light, and medium nature. This allowed you to continue training hard while not over-taxing the CNS or risking injury. Learn more about CNS fatigue here.
His original Heavy, Light, Medium program is below. By definition, it’s not a bodybuilding program, but it would still do wonders for any new trainee looking to put on basic strength and muscle mass.
Monday – Heavy:
*NOTE – Set #5 should be your “target” weight. Sets #1-4 should be done with 35%, 70%, 80%, and 90% of this target weight, respectively.
Wednesday – Light:
*NOTE – Use Monday’s set #3 weight on all sets of all exercises.
Friday – Medium:
*NOTE – Target weight for all exercises is what you used for set #4 on Monday. Ramp up to this target weight using Monday’s percentage progressions.
Vince Taylor was a popular bodybuilder in the 1990s. Having what many considered one of the most aesthetic physiques of the decade, Taylor would eventually win the Masters Mr. Olympia. His own self-titled “double set” old school workout was one of his favorite methods to use.
Instead of just doing a set of an exercise then resting, Taylor always did two sets with a short breather in between. The way he’d explain it, a double set would look like:
This would comprise one “set”. At this point, he and his training partner would then take their normal rest break. So if an exercise were scheduled to be done for 4 sets, the above would be repeated 4 times. This would actually be the equivalent of 8 sets to most trainees, but Taylor only considered it 4.
He developed this old school workout after suffering a serious biceps tear. He knew he had to focus on muscle quality and volume rather than heavy weight to continue getting bigger, and this allowed him to do that.
While it’s always great to stay up-to-date on the latest exercise science, never discount an old school workout. When you feel like you’re in need of something new, try one of the above. They might not be new, but they’re all still seriously effective.