Back in the days I used to focus on the amount of weight I can lift.
I was going for strength. The only problem was that I was significantly smaller than I am now. And although with strength comes size – lifting heavy is not always the answer you are looking for when trying to build muscle mass.
With time I started noticing that I was stronger than people that are 1.5 heavier than me, if not more.
But I wanted size. The problem I had back then is that my focus was shifted. I was comparing myself. And being skinny was making it even worse, what a rookie mistake.
So I started paying attention to my goals more and to others less. A tunnel vision really helps in that case.
I am a big fan of old-school bodybuilders. I remember in one video I saw a bodybuilder doing lateral raises and he was using very light weights.
Of course I started wondering why is that? Is it good genetics that are allowing him to train with such light weights and still have results? Is it steroids?
Funnily enough at the time I was already doing something similar with one exercise and I was seeing some real results. But why was I doing it with just that one exercise? And they say love is blind …
With time I found myself doing the same thing. I was training with lighter and lighter weights and I was seeing more results than ever.
Incidentally I was starting to train in a similar fashion to Serge Nubret.
Mind Over Body
One of the interesting aspects of Nubret’s philosophy is that he never kept track of his macros or followed a complex diet. In some articles and interviews he shared that he’s been always eating what he thought his body needed.
In 2006 he shared on bodybuilding.com forum that he relied heavily on the subconscious part of the mind when it came to bodybuilding. The thread is incredibly huge with 399 pages and is definitely a must-read.
It is important to point out, though, that experience plays a big role here. With time it is very easy to understand what to eat and when to eat it. Something that can be very challenging, or even impossible, for anyone new.
Even when it came to competing his diet didn’t change much. What he used to do is just train harder. We are talking about training for 4+ hours, 6 days a week.
But that begs the question: Isn’t this going to lead to overtraining?
I talk about overtraining a lot. However, just because somebody trains 6 days a week doesn’t mean they will reach that state. Of course they need to know what they are doing. Everything matters and they need to be able to listen to their body’s signals. That’s why Serge talks about the subconscious part and its importance.
Everything matters here, the intensity, the volume, the frequency. The types of exercises too. What you eat and how much. How much you rest.
In a study from 2018 researches found out that training a muscle 5 days a week is actually giving better gains in terms of muscle mass, than training it 2 days a week. So here’s some food for thought.
Serge Nubret’s Training Philosophy
Serge Nubret’s physique inspires awe. His incredible symmetry, muscle development and aesthetics are not easy to forget.
His training principles are one of a kind. There is no doubt. And a lot of his results are because of that.
If you have watched Pumping Iron I am sure you know how Arnold talks about the pump and its importance in building muscle mass. And maybe it is no coincidence, after all.
Nubret’s main focus and aim in every workout is to get and keep the muscle as pumped as possible. As he said it, “No pump, no gain.”
- It is not important how much you lift, but how you lift it. Leaving the Ego behind is one of the first things we need to do and focus on the mind-to-muscle connection. You don’t need to lift heavy to gain muscle.
- High volume training is not necessarily bad. His routine was consisting of incredible amounts of volume – training 6 days a week and doing 2000 sit-ups every morning + leg raises, on top of that. Your body is able to adapt to more than you think it can.
- The main goal is to get the blood flowing into the muscles and keep the pump for as long as possible.
Serge Nubret’s Training Routine (Exercises, Sets, and Reps)
How did Serge Nubret train? Serge Nubret’s training was following a high-volume high-rep training program. He trained his muscle groups two times a week and had only one day of rest. Serge Nubret used to focus a lot on ab training doing it almost on a daily basis.
This is what his workout (intermediate) routine would look like:
Monday and Thursday – Quadriceps and Chest
- Squats – 8 sets of 12 reps
- Leg Press – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Leg Extension – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Barbell Bench Press – 8 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell Fly – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Incline Barbell Bench Press – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Fly – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell Pullover – 6 sets of 12 reps
Tuesday and Friday – Back and Hamstrings
- Chin-ups – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Rear Cable Pulldowns – 8 sets of 12 reps
- Front Cable Pulldowns – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Bent-over Barbell Rows – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Lying Leg Curls – 8 sets of 15 reps
- Standing Leg Curls – 8 sets of 15 reps
Wednesday and Saturday – Shoulders, Arms and Calves
- Behind the Neck Barbell Press – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Upright Barbell Rows – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Lateral Cable Raises – 6 sets of 12 reps
- Superset: Biceps Cable Curls and Triceps Pushdowns – 8 sets of 12 reps (each)
- Superset: Barbell Biceps Curls and Triceps Dips – 8 sets of 12 reps (each)
- Standing Calf Raises – 8 sets of 12 reps
- Seated Calf Raises – 8 sets of 12 reps
Sunday – Rest
He would normally use weight that he can lift for 20 reps. He has also shared that he would normally use the same weight for all the sets and if it is too light he would decrease the rest intervals.
The rest intervals are very short. No more than 30 to 60 seconds between the upper body exercises and between 60 to 120 seconds for lower body exercises.
Different exercises can be used depending on your individual preference. And the exercise arrangement can be modified and changed too.
Serge used to train his abs everyday after waking up. Doing 1 set of as much sit-ups as possible. According to him it took him 1 year to get to 2000 sit-ups. After that he would go and do 6 sets of leg raises, starting from 50 and adding 10 more reps each consecutive set.
Serge Nubret’s Downloadable Workout Sheet
While he was active on the bodybuilding.com forum Serge Nubret shared his workout sheet that helped him track his training progress.
However, since then the original links to the files are not working.
Hence why, after some of you guys have contacted me asking for the workout sheets I decided to dig them up from my archives dust them off and upload them here for you so you can use them.
These are the original files Serge Nubret shared with everyone, back in the days. They are in a PDF format and you can easily download and print them on a piece of paper for your personal use.
You can download them here:
- Workout A (Quadriceps – Chest)
- Workout B (Back – Hamstrings)
- Workout C (Shoulders – Triceps/Biceps – Calves)
Beginner’s High Volume Training
We need to remember that we are talking about a person with premium genetics here.
His routine will be to much for the average lifter. So how do we apply his training principles and routine?
There are definitely more than one way to go with this. I will try to pick the one that I feel like will be more suitable to the majority of lifters.
Day 1 : Chest and Biceps
- Incline Barbell Bench Press – 4 sets x 12 reps
- Barbell Bench Press – 4 sets x 12 reps
- Barbell Biceps Curls – 4 sets x 12 reps
- EZ-Bar Preacher Curls – 4 sets x 12 reps
Day 2: Legs and Shoulders
- Squats – 4 sets x 12 reps
- Leg Extension – 4 sets x 12 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raise – 6 sets x 16 reps
- Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise – 4 sets x 12 reps
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Back and Triceps
- Bent Over Barbell Rows – 4 sets x 12 reps
- Push-Ups – 4 sets x 12 reps
- Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extension – 4 sets x 12 reps
- Close Grip Barbell Bench Press – 4 sets x 12 reps
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: Repeat from Day 1.
This is a good beginners program that focuses on high volume.
The rest times should be between 60 to 120 seconds at most and depending on how tired you feel.
Pick weights that you can do 16 – 18 reps with. And follow the advice given by Serge Nubret.
This program should be followed for at least 1 or 2 months before switching to a more advanced variation. Depending on how you feel you might want to add some extra Rest Day or switch to lower volume for a week or two in order to avoid possible overtraining.
- Learn to listen to your muscles and body. This kind of training is great for improving the mind-to-muscle connection. Doing that is one of the most important aspects of your training that you can improve for faster results.
- Focus. Due to the high volume you will be using lighter weights. This will allow you to focus more and contract your muscles better.
- The weight is not important but how you use it. Try to adapt and learn how to manipulate your exercise execution in order to make the weight “heavier”.
What Showed Me High Volume Actually Works
My first real experience doing high volume was with my shoulders. I was doing the ol’ regular set and rep ranges trying to lift as heavy as possible. But I had nor results my shoulders were falling behind.
I decided to change my routine so I started doing 6-8 sets of at least 16 reps. Doing 2-3 exercises for my shoulders at that time.
That was it.
My shoulders started growing. They started developing that round look and even the muscle stations were visible.
The reason I’ve given a beginner’s program is that following Serge’s training might be too much for most of the people.
Is Lifting Heavy Worth It?
Serge Nubret was 72 when he passed away and even at this age he was fit and injury free. There’s even videos of him training at 70 years old.
Ask around you will see the majority of lifters have some injuries. Injuries happen mostly due to:
- Lifting with bad form
- Not resting enough
- Poor eating habits
- Poor mobility due to lack of stretching
Improving your form, making sure you rest enough, eating better and healthier food and improving your mobility will lead to better results and less injuries. But lifting heavy is another aspect that makes people injury prone. I’ve seen people with injuries in their teens because of that.
Seniors are oftentimes prescribed physical activity with light weights. Because it is safer. Heavy weights are taking their toll on our bodies regardless of age. Lifting with lighter weights will result in less overall fatigue. This will improve the recovery time and promotes less injuries.
If you want to continue training for as long as possible, using light to moderate weights is one of the best ways to go.