Conan, The Hulk, The Myth and Old School Bodybuilding: Barbell Built


“Old school bodybuilders trained for strength as well as muscle size. They would often do an exercise as heavy as can be until they found their one rep max. Each week a trainer can pick one exercise and go as heavy as possible to find their one rep max. The perfect exercises to do a one rep max on are the Flat Barbell Bench Press, the Deadlift, and the Squat.”

— The Old School 70’s Bodybuilding Routine by Victor Pride*


Many men and boys who hit the gym with bodybuilding on their mind have an image of one or all of the bodybuilding legends of the 1970s as their ideal. That era will for all time be known as the golden era of bodybuilding, and for good reason.

It gave us Conan, Terminator, Commando: Arnold Schwarzeneggar.

The Incredible Hulk: Lou Ferrigno

The Myth: Sergio Olivia and other physique legends like Frank Zane, Franco Columbo, and Mike Mentzer.

Why did this era produce more world famous builders than any other? Simple, more strength-centric training. Bodybuilders in the 70s and earlier still kept performance in mind when in the gym, not just swelling their muscles or abs.

In the 70s, the plague of intensely marketed-but scientifically dubious exercise machines had not fully infected the gym scene. This meant that plenty of time was spent working on strength and myofibrillar hypertrophy with the best tool for the job: The Barbell.

The reason bodybuilders from the golden era seem to have such hardened and more chiseled physique was their superior myofibrillar hypertrophy development. Myofribrills are primarily made from the contractile proteins; Actin and Myosin. So, an increase in this type of hypertrophy is literally an increase the “hard” part of the muscle i,e. the contractile protein. This coupled with increased neuromuscular tonus from heavy low-rep strength work on squats, deadlifts, and presses is what gave these old-school builders that chiseled, demigod look.

The training programs of most golden era builders is based around the foundation of the squats, press, and deadlifts, with barbell rows and pull ups as the most common assistance moves. Dumbbell work is just used to as a finishing touch. The verdict is clear; if you want the classic style physique, use a classic style program.

*For quoted text, please visit: Bold & Determined

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One thought on “Conan, The Hulk, The Myth and Old School Bodybuilding: Barbell Built

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