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8-Week Old-School Mass Building Workout Routine

December 4, 2019

Old School Mass Building Workout Routine

We’re going to turn back the clock and take a deep look into an old-school mass building workout. This will be a program you can run for 8 weeks and make some serious gains.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Basic Principles of Old-School Muscle Building
  • Forgotten Old School Exercises
  • 8-Week Mass Building Program
  • Why Old School Workouts Work
  • Golden Era Bodybuilders

What is ‘Old School Muscle Building?’

incline dumbbell flyes for defining and shaping your chest

The term ‘old school’ refers to bodybuilders of the golden era (which I’ll share some of the top names at the end of this post). According to Bodybuilding.com’s article The Golden Era of Bodybuilding, this dates all the way back to the 1930s.

But many refer to the golden era of bodybuilders from the late 60s and 70s. This is when guys like Arnold, Frank Zane, Franco Columbo were big (as in big-time, but I guess physically big applies here as well!).

Here are some facts about old-school training:

  • Many trained each muscle twice a week
  • It was not uncommon to have 2 or more workouts each day
  • Pyramid training was common, gradually going up in weight each set (your workout routine below is based on this)
  • Many trained with higher volume (sets and reps) – there were some exceptions, such as Mike Mentzer’s shorter workouts
  • Greater focus on free-weights; barbells and dumbbells
  • Cardio machines were almost non-existent
  • Competition prep often resulted in training more frequently and increased volume with weights as opposed to doing cardio

You see, the old school guys didn’t have the state-of-the-gym gym equipment we have today. They did have some machines but the old school bodybuilders relied more on using free weights for mass gains.

The majority of that era trained longer with more volume, and many were also known to train more frequently. It wasn’t uncommon for these guys to do 2 or more gym sessions in one day.

Old School Bodybuilding Exercises

Before we get into the workout routine below, I want to address a few basic bodybuilding exercises you’ll be doing.

Chances are you’re familiar with most of these, but there are a couple forgotten exercises below that you may not see performed that often.  

  • Bench Press and Incline Bench Press
  • Arnold Presses
  • Squats and Front Squats
  • Barbell Rows
  • T-Bar Rows
  • Dumbbell Pullovers
  • Dumbbell Rows
  • Wide-Grip Chins
  • Skull Crushers (Lying EZ Bar Triceps Extensions)

Of course, there are many other exercises like curls, lateral raises, flyes, etc. But these are the key mass builders that I want to make sure you are or become familiar with before starting the program below.  

8-Week Bodybuilding Workout Routine

heavy dumbbell press

What I didn’t tell you before is this is a 6-day training split. This is going to allow you to train each body part once a week.

It was mentioned that some of these old school bodybuilders would train twice a week, splitting up muscle groups for each workout. I realize that’s not feasible for most of us, especially if you work full time, have a family, etc. So we’ll keep it at training once each day.

Here’s your new training split

  • Monday: Chest and Back
  • Tuesday: Shoulders and Arms
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Chest and Back
  • Friday: Shoulders and Arms
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Rest day

Just because you’re training each muscle twice a week doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do the same workouts. You’ll see below that you’ll do different exercises for each workout. This will allow you to hit different angles of the muscle.

Another quick note is that you’ll be doing pyramid sets, which means you’ll go up in weight each set. Rob King explains this more in his article Pyramid Training on schwarzenegger.com.

You’ll be starting each workout (for each body part) with a compound exercise. And you’ll work up to a pretty heavy weight on that exercise. After that, you’ll be pumping out more reps. This will work different muscle fibers and help you pack on more mass.

Monday – Chest and Back Workout 1

ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Dumbbell Flyes4 x 8
Dips3 x 10
Bent Over Rows4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Dumbbell Rows4 x 8
Wide Grip Chins3 x 10

Tuesday – Shoulders and Arms Workout 1

ExerciseSets x Reps
Dumbbell Press4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Upright Rows4 x 8
Lateral Raises3 x 10
Barbell Curls3 x 8
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions3 x 8
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 10
Single Cable Pressdowns3 x 10

Wednesday – Leg Workout 1

ExerciseSets x Reps
Squats4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Leg Press4 x 12
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts4 x 10
Leg Extensions4 x 12
Lying Leg Curls4 x 10
Standing Calve Raises5 x 15

Thursday – Chest and Back Workout 2

ExerciseSets x Reps
T-Bar Rows4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Seated Rows4 x 8
Reverse Grip Pull-ups3 x 10
Incline Bench Press4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Dumbbell Pullovers3 x 10

Friday – Shoulders and Arms Workout 2

ExerciseSets x Reps
Seated Overhead Press4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Arnold Press4 x 8
Bent-Over Raises3 x 10
Preacher Curls3 x 8
Skull Crushers3 x 8
Concentrated Dumbbell Curls3 x 10
Rope Pressdowns3 x 10

Saturday – Leg Workout 2

ExerciseSets x Reps
Hack Squats4 x 10, 8, 6, 6
Front Squats4 x 10
Single-Leg Press4 x 12
Romanian Deadlifts4 x 10
Single-Leg Extensions4 x 15
Seated Calve Raises5 x 15

Why Old School Workouts Work

There’s no doubt that if you do these workouts you will gain muscle mass. And you’ll also get shredded at the same time.

How is this possible? I’ll get into the semantics, but this program has you putting 100% of your efforts and focus on bodybuilding. Of course, you have to choose to make it a priority; not only the workouts but the diet as well.

Here are the reasons why old-school mass workouts will grant you results:

  • You’re training hard and heavy (starting out with compound exercises) – this will help you gain mass.
  • You’re training often (and with intensity) – this will get you ripped, shredded and conditioned.
  • You’re training each muscle twice a week, essentially allowing you to double your gains (or the time it takes you to gain).

You see, the old-school bodybuilders lived and breathed bodybuilding. They revolved their entire life around the gym. That’s what it takes to be on top. And that’s the type of workout routine I’m giving you in this post.

Golden Era Bodybuilders

It’s interesting to go back and study the golden era of bodybuilding. Many deem this as the Arnold era as was a ‘huge’ reason that bodybuilding started to become more popular. So of course, you’ll see his name below!

Here are 10 of the top golden era bodybuilders:

  1. Arnold Schwarzenegger
  2. Franco Columbo
  3. Mike Mentzer
  4. Sergio Oliva
  5. Serge Nubret
  6. Frank Zane
  7. Lou Ferrigno
  8. Ed Corney
  9. Larry Scott
  10. Tom Platz

There are many more great bodybuilders from this era that you can learn about. SimplyShredded.com has a post with 38 images of these bodybuilders and more.

Can You Combine Old-School with Modern Workouts?

The funny thing is many modern-day techniques and workout philosophies are built on those vintage bodybuilding principles. They’re just an extension with some little caveats here and there.

The truth is that real bodybuilding workouts have not changed that much over the decades. Those compound exercises are what have built great stage-worthy physiques back then and today.

*You can also get more bodybuilding workouts using in these posts:

Mass Building Workout Plan for Beginners
8 Bodybuilding Workouts for Mass Gains
6-Day Bodybuilding Bro-Split

The main difference of modern bodybuilding is there’s more (and in some cases better) equipment. But the movements and doing exercises that target specific muscles have not changed.

But that’s not promoted as much as new workout concepts like CrossFit. Those other programs may be are great for other goals, but not for bodybuilding. If you want to get jacked, but can’t ignore those basic bodybuilding exercises and principles that go with it.

Try this new workout routine! Start this week or better yet start today!

If this article helped you or inspired you, please share it!

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,


About the author

Jason Stallworth

Hi, I'm Jason Stallworth and I created The Muscle Program in 2010 for the purpose of helping you build muscle. I know first-hand how weight training and being in the gym has shaped my life in more way than one. And here is where I share that experience with you so that you can continue pushing yourself and becoming the best version of yourself each day!