Get Big and Strong the Old-School Way

Get Big and Strong the Old-School Way: A Guide to Bodybuilding Workouts from the 1940s

The 1940s were a time when physical fitness was not only encouraged but required. While it’s true that many men had never done any kind of exercise before, they knew how important it would be if they wanted to look good in their clothes. They all wanted to get big and strong so they could do what men have been doing since the dawn of history.

Bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Dempsey, Joe Weider, Frank Zane and others were among those who followed this trend. Their success was due to their training methods which emphasized strength over size. These guys did everything possible to build muscle mass while maintaining a lean physique.

While most of us today are familiar with the term “bodybuilder”, there were actually several different types of them. Some trained just for aesthetics, some focused on building muscle mass and some even specialized in weight lifting. All of these groups had one thing in common – they all used the same basic workout routine every day to achieve their goals.

The Old School Bodybuilding Routine:

Most people who want to get fit or get bigger start out with the same workout routine. They usually focus on three types of exercises: the press, the curl and the squat. While this may sound like a good plan, it doesn’t give your body enough time to recover from these strenuous workouts. You can’t just go into the gym, do a bunch of sets and expect to make any progress at all.

As you get older, your body needs more rest in between workouts or it can’t regenerate damaged muscles.

The Old School Bodybuilding Routine is based on a system of super-sets where you push your muscles to the limit and don’t allow them to rest at all. This will cause lactic acid to build up in your muscles and really smash them from all sides. This program was originally designed for amateur bodybuilders who wanted to bulk up a bit, but not get too big.

The Old School Bodybuilding Routine Explained:

Get Big and Strong the Old-School Way - Picture

To begin this program, you’re going to need some dumbbells and a bench. You don’t need to go buy anything; just use the items you have available at home right now. If you can’t find anything that looks like dumbbells, then grab a couple of water bottles filled with sand or something and use those. The weight doesn’t matter too much since we’re only doing three sets overall.

There are two types of exercises in this routine: A and B. Each one is a superset, which means you’re going to do one set of A immediately followed by one set of B and then go right into the next set of A and so on. Rest for a minute or two between each super set.

A1. Bench Press super-set with Barbell Row

A2. Incline Press super-set with Deadlift

A3. Dumbbell Fly super-set with Crunches

Remember to stick with constant tension and take short breaks if needed. If you ever find that you’re tired and your form starts to suffer, then take a longer break. But keep the intensity up for each set and really try to push yourself hard for this routine. You’ll definitely feel it the next day!

What You’ll Need:

You don’t need to go buy anything special for this routine. You probably have everything you need at home now. Just grab a bench and some dumbbells or use what you have around the house already. Any type of dumbbell will work for this routine, but if you really want to step it up, grab a pair of adjustable dumbbells so that you can increase or decrease the weight if you need to.

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The Old School Bodybuilding Routine: Weeks 1-4

Week One: Perform the routine two times this week (total of 4 times).

Week Two: Three times this week (total of 6 times).

Week Three: Three times this week (total of 9 times).

Week Four: Begin the cycle over again, but increase the weight you’re using by five pounds on each exercise if possible.

* You can Really push yourself hard during this routine, but make sure that you don’t work out so much that you end up getting really sore. Stick with it and the results will come!

Editor’s Note: When performing this or any new workout program, always consult your physician before getting started.

Happy lifting!


Sources & references used in this article:

Wounded by school: Recapturing the joy in learning and standing up to old school culture by K Olson – 2009 –

With my Art I am the Fist in the Face of god: On Old-school Black Metal by G Mørk – Contemporary religious Satanism: A critical anthology, 2009 –

Adolescents’ attitudes towards organic food: a survey of 15‐to 16‐year old school children by DJ Stobbelaar, G Casimir, J Borghuis… – … Journal of Consumer …, 2007 – Wiley Online Library

Old-school/new-school speech regulation by JM Balkin – Harv. L. Rev., 2013 – HeinOnline