We call them the greatest bodybuilders of all time. Ronnie Coleman, Lee Haney, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dorian Yates – dominant, iconic and legendary! Although each champion had rivals who wanted to knock them off their perches, they were undeniably the best of their respective eras. Fans look up to them and study how they trained. They want to achieve their best, just like their idols did. Let’s break down their training for a moment.
Schwarzenegger trained throughout the 70’s by training twice a day and six days a week. Each muscle group got trained twice.
Coleman followed a similar plan and he also went as heavy as he possibly could. His videos of 800 pound squats and 200 pound dumbbell bench presses are still watched religiously by fans as motivation.
Haney’s mantra for his bodybuilding career was “stimulate, don’t annihilate”. Although he trained hard, he didn’t go super heavy like Ronnie did.
Yates’s training was very different than most during his era. He was an advocate for the single work set of all-out effort to failure and sometimes beyond that with drop sets, rest pause training, etc. He would do lighter warm up sets to prepare for his single heavy set. His philosophy was known as “Blood and Guts” or High Intensity Training.
Although these four men have won the most Mr. Olympia titles, they each did it their own way. It’s hard to say which way is best. Now let’s look at training today since there have been more studies done, machines have improved, and there are more people dedicated to finding the best way to build muscle and burn fat.
One of the most popular systems is FST-7 (created by bodybuilding guru Hany Rambod) which includes seven sets of one exercise with very short rest periods at different points of the workout. There is also Y3T which calls for the lifter to alternate three different styles of training over the course of three weeks. High Intensity Training is still popular and there are more protocols than we can count.
So which is the best? If you’re trying to find out what style ranks above the rest it can be a never ending quest that will leave you frustrated. You’ll end up frustrated because you’re looking for the wrong answer. You shouldn’t be looking for which training program is the best of all. You should be looking for which training program is the best…for you.
Think about it. There was a reason Dorian used the training style that he chose. He found it worked better for him than training like the champions that came before him. If he would have stuck to their plan only because it was their plan then he may have never achieved the success he wanted. That same point can be made for champions today and why many of them haven’t done what Dorian has done. They don’t follow Arnold’s plan either because now it is widely believed that double split training increases the risk of injury and makes it tougher to recover. Eventually they all determined what worked best for them and found what they call success. Each of these champions had different genetic makeups and came from different backgrounds so it makes sense that they would need to apply common principles to achieve results.
So how does this affect you? Although it is smart to learn as much as you can about how champions have been successful, you should take that knowledge and use it as a way to determine which way works best for you. If you follow Arnold’s plan but don’t achieve results, it isn’t because of anything you did wrong and it isn’t that Arnold’s plan is a failed one, it’s just that you need to try something new. Eventually you will find what works for you and, once you do, you’ll be on the fast track to your own extraordinary results. And when that happens, you will have something in common with the legends of bodybuilding. You will have achieved your best, your own way.
Roger’s work has been featured globally in eight different languages. Respected not only for his vast knowledge in areas of fitness and strength training, but also for his inspiring work as a child advocate and childhood domestic violence awareness speaker. Formerly a Bodybuilding.com “Writer of the Year”, Roger also works with major brands from around the fitness industry.