It was the spring of 1985. I was 37 years old and pretty much thought I’d met my potential in bodybuilding. I’d been working out pretty regularly since I was 14 and in that time I’d read everything there was to read about weight training and bodybuilding.
And I tried about every conceivable program
- Here’s a list of some of them:
- 1. 20-rep squat workout.
- 2. Five sets of five reps.
- 3. Ten sets of ten reps on Bench Press, Squat, Bentover Row and Deadlift.
- 4. John MacCallum’s Keys to Progress series (which was a synthesis of the 20-rep squat workout with the five sets of five program).
- 5. Arthur Jones’ full body — one set to failure for each bodypart.
- 6. Weider’s saturation Bomb and Blitz 70’s training (like Arnold and Zane trained).
- 7. Mentzer’s Heavy Duty with rest pause and negatives (an off-shoot of Arthur Jones).
- 8. Periodized powerlifting programs based on percentage increases each week.
- 9. Workouts from Muscle Builder and Mr. America using all the Weider principles.
- 10. All the workouts that had been published in the old Iron Man magazines to date. And even the Bulgarian 2-3 times-a-day training.
Request by Roger not to digitally alter the photo. 1985 Mr. USA – AAU, Overall Winner: contest data source: musclememory.com
Heavy weights, low to moderate reps, three to five sets. Now thats not to say its the only way I trained. Its just what I found had given me the best results. But now the results were diminishing. I thought it was just my age. But then, I hit upon something I hadnt tried. What if instead of working up in weight, Id use a decent weight and see if I could work up into some rep ranges that I had not even considered in the past?
Heres how I did it
I took a weight that I could get for about 20 reps (for example 205 lbs in the bench press). But then, I’d work up to 25-30 reps with that weight, then once I reached the upper range Id add about 10% and try to work up to 25-30 reps again. Same for the squat. Instead of ten reps with 315, Id try for 30 reps with 225 and follow that with set of 20-25 with 255. (See workout sidebar for more details).
The training strategy is based around a 3 on / 1 off system. The first three days are heavy days (but still keep the reps very high on some exercises), and the next three are lighter workouts with less rest between sets. Some of the rep ranges may look like typographical errors, but they are not. You can start at the lower end of the recommended rep ranges but work up to the upper end before you increase the poundage. Use a weight that is challenging for 10-15 reps and then just keep adding a rep or two per workout.
When I started this workout I thought that 255 for max reps on the squat was going to be ridiculously light, however, following my first set of 225 for 23 reps, I got 255 for 16 and built it from there workout by workout. When I reached 30 reps with 225 and then followed it with 25 reps at 255 I raised the work sets to 250 and 275, and so on.
This workout combined high volume (higher than I was used to) with decent poundages. You are going to need to rest about five minutes after each work set of squats and benches so this workout is not one you can do in 45 minutes. And, by the end of the workout youll have to go pretty light to finish all your prescribed sets. Whenever you can reach the high rep number in the range add about 10% more weight for that set the next time you do that particular workout.
There are a couple of other tricks throughout the workout that really made it effective. In addition to the high rep bench sets, I remember the initial 20-rep sets on presses, laterals, lat pulldowns, and curls provided a terrific stimulus. In the past if I did a 20/16/12/8 rep scheme the first set was pretty light. But now, I treated the 20-rep set like a heavy work set and used as much weight as I could to get 17-20 reps (and if I got 20, I added weight the following workout). But, man, did it take a lot out of me for the remaining sets. Often I couldnt add weight on the following sets even though the reps went down.
Another cool twist was day seven, when I did biceps before lats. I’d always believed in working the larger muscle group first, and that doing biceps first would cause my lats to suffer. What a surprise when the very next day my lats were sorer than they had been in years! Those straight arm pullovers on day seven (lying length-wise on, not across, the bench) were something I hadnt done in twenty years. I always thought they were a rib cage expansion exercise, but found they were an excellent lat developer — even when I used just a 5′25-pound bar for resistance.
I used this workout for the next 12 weeks and grew bigger and more muscular than I had ever been. That summer I won the Neptune Classic in Virginia Beach and followed with my biggest title, the 1985 overall AAU Masters USA (it was 35 and over back then).
I think this workout will work best for you if you’ve hit a sticking point in your training, you’re highly motivated, and you have some extra time to devote to your workouts. I’d really recommend that you use Creatine Select and Glutamine Select to get the greatest possible benefit from this workout. If you’ve used creatine and think that it doesn’t work for you, I beg you to try Beverly’s Creatine Select plus Phosphates. Do a little experiment. Try one cycle of the workout below without it and track your lifts. Then try another cycle of workouts using Creatine Select. I bet you’ll be shocked at your progress.
5 days to get your 3 workouts
1985 Training Essential Points
- 3 on / 1 off — but if it takes five days to get your three workouts in, that’s fine. Just follow the sequence of workouts and don’t worry too much about the days.
- Focus on progression from one workout to the next. Keep a training journal. If you get 205 for 17 reps on the bench press your first time through, try to get 18 or more the next time.
- Remember, that high reps with fairly heavy weights are going to make your next set much tougher, so rest as needed between sets.
- Recovery is going to be essential so get plenty of good nutrition and supplement with Creatine Select plus Phosphates, Glutamine Select plus BCAAs, and Mass Maker.
- Complete all sets listed for each day’s workout, even if you have to use ridiculously light weights to complete the sets. I remember using 40 pounds resistance on our Polaris Leg Extension at the end of day one to get 3 x 15 after all of those squats and hacks.
- It took me to a whole different level at age 37, think what it can do for you.
DAY ONE: CHEST/SHOULDERS/ABS
- Bench Press:
- 1. 135 x 15
- 2. 155 x 10
- 3. 205 x max reps (18 — 30 reps)
- 4. 275 x max reps (10 — 15 reps)
- 5. 295 x max reps (3 — 5 reps)
- 6. 225 x max reps (15 — 25 reps)
- 7. 185 x max reps (whatever you have left)
- *Try to increase by a rep or two each time you go through the cycle. When you reach the top rep number increase by 10% the next time through. Adjust your starting weights so your reps fall in the above ranges. My bench max was about 365 at the time I started this program.
- Incline Barbell Press:
- 1. 135 x 10
- 2. 185 x 6
- 3 — 5. 205 x 3 sets x max reps
- Incline Flyes: 3 sets x 15 — 18 reps
- Seated Front Press: 4 sets x 8 — 12 reps
- Behind Neck Press: 4 x 20 / 16 / 12 / 8 all as heavy as you can go
- Standing Laterals: 4 x 20 / 15 / 12 / 12
- ABS: 200 reps total
- DAY 2: LEGS:
- 1. 135 x 20
- 2. 185 x 15
- 3. 225 x max reps (15 — 30)
- 4. 255 x max reps (10 — 25)
- 5. 225 x max reps (15 — 25)
- Hack Squat: 3 x 12
- Leg Curl: 5 x 12 — 15
- Leg Extension: 3 x 15
- Hyperextension: 3 x 20 Bodyweight only
- Calves: Donkeys Supersetted with Standing Raises: 5 x 20 each
- DAY 3: BACK / ARMS
- Heavy Row: Warm-Up, then 5 x 6
- Front Pulldown: 5 x 25 / 20 / 15 / 10 / 10 (all heavy as you can)
- Cable Row: 3 x 12
- Dips: 4 x max reps — no weight
- Triceps Pushdowns: 4 x 12 — 15
- Curls: 6 x 20 / 16 / 12 / 8 / 8 / 15 max weights
- Alternate DB Curl: 4 x 12 — 15
- ABS: 200 reps total
- DAY 4: OFF
- *The next three workouts should be performed at a quicker pace than the first three.
- DAY 5: CHEST / SHOULDERS / ABS
- Incline DB Press: 4 x 12 — 15 (same weight each set, 90 seconds rest between sets)
- Bench Press: 4 x 20 / 16 / 12 / 8
- Flat Flyes: 4 x 8
- Laterals 6 x 12 Superset with Bent Laterals 6 x 12 (60 seconds rest between supersets)
- Upright Row: 3 x 20 / 15 / 10
- ABS: 200 reps total
- DAY 6: LEGS
- Squats — Raise Heels — Bar High Up or Front Squats: 5 x 12 (same weight each set, 90 seconds rest between sets — I used 185 lbs for my first workout)
- Leg Extensions — Slow Strict: 4 x 15
- Leg Curls: 4 x 15
- Medium Weight Deadlifts — Semi Straight Legs: 3 x 20 / 15 / 10
- Standing Calf Raise: 4 x 12 Superset with Seated Calf: 4 x 12
- DAY 7: ARMS / BACK / ABS
- ARMS (first)
- EZ Bar Curls: 5 x 12 — 15