Serge Nubret Training Routine: Pump Training For Quick Muscle Gains

a black and white picture of serge nubret

The late Serge Nubret, in my opinion, is the most aesthetically pleasing bodybuilder of all time.  He had a chest matched by no one and a set of abs that all other bodybuilders could only aspire to.  As you have already probably realised he is my favourite bodybuilder of all time, and I have written this article not only as a testament to the great man but to also show you the famous Serge Nubret training routine and outline exactly how he accomplished his aesthetic and muscular physique.

The 1970s were known as the golden era of bodybuilding.  In fact, this period of time will always be the golden era in my eyes and I wish the sport would return back to this, but that’s another story in its entirety.

Bodybuilding has changed a lot and the competitors of today now seek freakish amounts of muscle mass and eye-popping vascular conditioning.  Although this is definitely an achievement in itself, it’s just not as pleasing to look at in my opinion.  Back in Serge’s era, the physiques were more aesthetic, compact and the symmetry they managed to achieve was insane.

A Routine Not For The Faint Hearted

Bodybuilders like Serge Nubret trained very differently to how modern bodybuilders train today.  In fact, you will find very few modern competitors who repeat these kinds of sessions.  They were extremely gruelling and time extensive.  Serge would often train up to 5 hours a day usually split over two sessions.

People in fear of overtraining will most probably be shouting at the screen right at this very moment.  “HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR SOMEONE TO TRAIN THAT MUCH”.  Well, it doesn’t get any better.  The amount of volume and reps he used to get through was bordering on insanity.  He would do no less than 6 sets per movement and always aimed to do 12 reps a set over 4 to 5 exercises per session.

I had read somewhere that on leg day, he would sometime actually start with leg extensions and do up to 20 sets of 25 reps.  However, don’t quote me on this is just something I had seen.  I wouldn’t surprise me though as Serge was a complete machine and had the ability to keep going and going.

Did The Great Man Have Help?

Some people believed he must have been taking pharmaceutical enhancing drugs.  Well, Serge lived on a small island and claimed he had never even heard of them until after he was already at his best, and had a winning physique.

We will, of course, all have our own opinions on this.  Was he just genetically gifted, did he take pharmaceuticals or was it just the sheer work he put in.  Regardless of the answer and truth, you can not deny he had an amazing and aesthetically pleasing physique, one we would all love to emulate.

Serge Was Unique In Everything He Did?

Although many of the greats in that era trained using a high volume approach, none used the same approach as Serge Nubret.  His goal was to pump up the muscles and keep them pumped throughout the workout by using a high volume approach, extended time under tension along with extremely short rest periods.  These at some points would be 30 seconds only between sets.

He was not only unique in his training methods but also in the way he ate.

Serge said he never counted calories or macros or even followed any type of specific diet.  He would just eat when he needed to.  This would often include a lot of horse meat and some rice.   He also said even as a show was approaching he wouldn’t diet.  He would just train even harder and longer.  This is where he would drop his usual 1 minute rest period down to just 30 seconds.

Although this approach worked for him, it was all down to the type of food he ate and how hard he worked.  This naturally would have kept him in a calorie deficit, which meant he was never far off his competition weight and physique all year round.  I am guessing he didn’t have access to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts back then :-).

So are you wondering whether this type of program will work for you.  Especially if you are a natural lifter.  Although we may not be able to rob him of his genetics, you can still attempt his style of training and listen to your body.  It may be a case you try his methods until you stop seeing considerable improvements than go back to a lower volume approach.  I say lower volume but I don’t mean less intense or easier sessions.

I personally am able to do this style of training for long periods of time but we are all different of course and if you are not improving then it clearly isn’t working for you.

I always keep a log of my sessions and if you are going to try this, you would definitely benefit from doing the same.

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Serge Nubret Training Routine

serge nubret training routine

So I have covered the basics of his routine above, but let’s look at this in a little more detail now.

Anyone with a weightlifting ego won’t do well with this program.  You will be aiming to pick a weight on each exercise in which you could to a max of around 20 reps with.  This will allow you to complete each set with the short rest times and without going to failure, something Serge said he rarely ever did.

The reasons he never went to failure on any set, was it allowed him to put the volume in needed to grow new muscle and it also allowed him to train with a high frequency due to the reduced stress on the nervous system.

Serge Nubret always recommended a 6 day split to young and aspiring bodybuilders.  As you get stronger you can increase the total volume over the week.  Below is the training layout he recommended.

  1. Monday – Quads and Chest
  2. Tuesday – Back and Hamstrings
  3. Wednesday – Shoulders and arms
  4. Thursday – Chest and Quads
  5. Friday – Back and Hamstrings
  6. Saturday – Shoulders and Arms
  7. Sunday – A much-earned rest day.

Workout 1 – Quads and Chest

Quads

Squats – 8 sets of 12 reps

Leg Press – 8 sets of 12 reps

Leg Extension – 6 sets of 12 reps

Chest

Barbell Bench Press – 8 sets of 12 reps

Flat Dumbbell Flyes – 8 sets of 12 reps

Incline Bench Press – 8 sets of 12 reps

Incline Dumbbell flyes – 6 sets of 12 reps

Dumbbell Pulovers – 6 sets of 12 reps

Workout 2 – Back and Hamstrings

Back

Chin-Ups – 6 sets of 12 reps

Lat Pull Down Behind The Neck – 8 sets of 12 reps

Lat Pull Down To The Front – 6 sets of 12 reps

Barbell Bent Over Rows – 6 sets of 12 reps

Hamstrings

Lying Leg Curls – 8 sets of 12 reps

Standing Leg Curl – 8 sets of 12 reps

Workout 3 – Shoulders aand Arms

Shoulders

Behind The Neck Press – 8 sets of 12 reps

Dumbbell Front Raise (Alternate) – 6 sets of 12 reps

Upright Rows – 6 sets of 12 reps

Lateral Raise – 6 sets of 12 reps

Arms

Cable Bicep Curls – 8 sets of 12 reps

Tricep Pushdowns – 8 sets of 12 reps

Barbell Curls – 8 sets of 12 reps

Tricep Dips – 8 sets of 12 reps

  • With arms you will be supersetting each pairing.  For example perform a set of cable biceps curls, than go straight onto tricep pushdowns with no rest.  Following this you can than rest for 1 minute before repeating.

Workout 4 – Quads and Chest

Quads

Squats – 8 sets of 12 reps

Leg Press – 8 sets of 12 reps

Leg Extension – 6 sets of 12 reps

Chest

Barbell Bench Press – 8 sets of 12 reps

Flat Dumbbell Flyes – 8 sets of 12 reps

Incline Bench Press – 8 sets of 12 reps

Incline Dumbbell flyes – 6 sets of 12 reps

Dumbbell Pulovers – 6 sets of 12 reps

Workout 5 – Back and Hamstrings

Back

Chin-Ups – 6 sets of 12 reps

Lat Pull Down Behind The Neck – 8 sets of 12 reps

Lat Pull Down To The Front – 6 sets of 12 reps

Barbell Bent Over Rows – 6 sets of 12 reps

Hamstrings

Lying Leg Curls – 8 sets of 12 reps

Standing Leg Curl – 8 sets of 12 reps

Workout 6 – Shoulders aand Arms

Shoulders

Behind The Neck Press – 8 sets of 12 reps

Dumbbell Front Raise (Alternate) – 6 sets of 12 reps

Upright Rows – 6 sets of 12 reps

Lateral Raise – 6 sets of 12 reps

Arms

Cable Bicep Curls – 8 sets of 12 reps

Tricep Pushdowns – 8 sets of 12 reps

Barbell Curls – 8 sets of 12 reps

Tricep Dips – 8 sets of 12 reps

How To Keep Progressing With This Program

There are a few ways in which you can keep moving forwards with this program.  But first remember the idea is not to actually reach failure on any set.  So the simplist way would be to just add a small amount of extra weight to each set once it becomes comfortable.  The only issue with this is that sometimes adding extra weight to every set will rapidly work your muscles harder and you will most probably find yourself hitting failure very quickly.

I personally like to increase the weight of a couple of the middle sets first.  I will show you an example down below.

Exercise – Barbell Bench Press

Week 1 – All 8 sets of 12 reps completed at 70kg without failing.

Week 2 – Sets 1 and 2 at 70kg – sets 3,4 and 5 at 75kg – sets 6, 7 and 8 at 70kg

Week 3 – Set 1 at 70kg – sets 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 at 75kg – set 8 at 70kg

Week 4 – All 8 sets of 12 reps done at 75kg

Did Serge Train His Calves?

He most certainly did.  He kept it simple and did both a standing and seated raise after workouts 2, 3, 5 and 6.  Personally, my calves never improved just putting them at the end.  So I either tended to do them before the main session or give them an entire session to themselves.  But everyone is different and just see how your body responds.

He would keep to exactly the same style of sets and reps, but every now and then throw in some heavy work on them.

What Was Serge’s Ab Routine?

Serge’s ab routine seems to be a common practice among bodybuilders of the golden era.  Arnold Schwarzenegger in an interview also said he trained them in this exact way as well.

Upon awakening, Serge would perform as many sit-ups as physically possible.  This was rumoured to be in the region of 2000.  Crazy I know.  He did say, however, that when starting out, wake up and just do as many ab crunches as you can in one set and then stop after that.  The idea is each day is to add more and more reps as you get stronger.

Couldn’t be more simple right?

Many of you core enthusiasts will not have enjoyed reading that.  Ab crunches are not the most functional movement in the world but it is by far the best way of directly targeting those muscles.

My Final Words

Although it’s not how I train all the time,  I do throw this program in the mix for extended periods of time as well.  I react extremely well to it and never find myself at a point of CNS fatigue from doing it even though it involves a lot of volumes.  This may be down to the fact I stick to Serge’s rules like clockwork.

At the beginning when starting out on the program you may judge your weights wrong and reach failure before completing all the sets, but this is just the trial and error side of things when starting out.

I am not expecting everyone to drop their current routines in favour of this, but at least you now have a proven method done by the most aesthetic bodybuilder of all time if you feel like changing things up.  Even if you don’t I really wanted to write this article about a true legend in my eyes.

He passed away in 2011 but his training methods and knowledge will always be with me and helping me to improve my physique year after year.


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Serge Nubret pump training routine



24 thoughts on “Serge Nubret Training Routine: Pump Training For Quick Muscle Gains”

  1. This is a very extensive and very detailed routine. Wow he used to trained for 5 hours a day? That’s dedication my friend. No wonder he had those muscles. I like how you have all the workouts orgaznized in hours and repitions. Cool training! I will be sharing this with some of my friends who are very much into bodybuilding and everything that has to do to stay fit. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea

      Thank you for your comment.  I really appreciate you sharing my article with your friends as well.

      You are right the dedication bodybuilders had back than was of the highest level.  Bodybuilding is what they lived for.

      Reply
  2. WOW that work out schedule is insane.  I’m no spring chicken, but I know even in my youth I would not have been able to even attempt it.   That takes someone who is extremely committed and dedicated to his sport/art.  

    I too, wish they’d bring back body building—it is a lost art.

    Reply
    • Hi Laura

      The routine certainly takes a bit of getting used to.  It’s so important you aid your recovery with the correct nutrition when following a routine like this one.

      The golden era of bodybuilding was amazing.  It was physiques that we could all aim to achieve.  Professional bodybuilding has really lost its way now and they are just mass monsters with un achievable physiques.  In fact they are physiques I certainly wouldn’t want to have

      Reply
  3. I really enjoyed your article about Serge. He is one of the guys I looked up to along with Arnold, Lou and Franco during the seventies when I began lifting weights and eventually bodybuilding. I believe Serge would have won more titles, including Mr. Olympia over Arnold, had he not lost 12 pounds of muscle just prior to the contest. He was ripped off in that one.

    His routine is insane and I doubt too many bodybuilders now days could follow it.

    Him and Sergio Oliva could have competed more if they had not been shunned and shunned the IBF back in the day.

    I did not know Serge idolized Steve Reeves and honored him with a lifetime achievement award. Pretty cool.

    Thank you for this great article.

    Reply
    • Thank you for such an amazing comment.  I love speaking to people who have knowledge of the golden era.  

      You are so right,  Just missing out to Arnie was extremely harsh.  And you are also right being shunned time after time by the IBF was never going to be good for his career.  

      I loved bit lou.  I just don’t think people were ready back than for his physique.

      Reply
  4. Yeah he definitely had a great body! I love the simplicity of his routine, albeit his reps were insane lol I think it’s important sometimes to take a look at people in history and what they did to achieve the success that they did.  With all of the juicing etc., that’s going on these days, it’s hard to tell what is naturally achieved and what is enhanced.  

    But I really like your site and it looks like you have some really great stuff, and will be looking around here now for some tips on how to get pounds off and tone up as fast and as healthy as I can (I’m going to Hawaii in December and what a nice beach bod 😉  )

    Reply
    • Hi Nicki

      You are so right in what you say.  With all the instagram models in perfect shape, giving you the impression you can look like them is so demoralizing.  They never tell you the truth on how they achieved their perfect bodies and manage to maintain them all year around.  

      Don’t get me wrong they still have to work hard but when people claim to be natural and you know they are not, its so misleading.

       I always tell people to become the best version of yourself.  We are all different and have different genetics and that is what we should truly be aiming for.  

      Also Hawaii.  I’m not going lie, I am extremely jealous 🙂

      Reply
    • Hey there

      I really appreciate your kind words. It definitely helps that I really enjoy my training and the eating side of things. It’s important to enjoy what you do, otherwise, it can become a huge chore, which makes it impossible to stick to your plans.

      Thank you again for your kind words.

      Reply
  5. Although I am not a body builder, I am focussing on becoming much leaner and stronger.

    Your article is really relevant because I have found the principle of working different body zones through the week has helped avoid injury, which I was very prone to.

    Serge was a genius. I can quite believe he took no steroids or other enhancements. His physique is great.

    I had not really thought of it in terms of “fashion.” You are right though, there was a tendency for physiques to be more attractive and balanced in the 70s and 80s.

    As you can gather, I am not in the spring of youth but training for a better body is so important to how I feel.

    I think maybe Serge just had good genes. The rest of us just have to work at it.

    Reply
    • Hey there

      Yeah Serge definitely had the help of some great genetics.  Would be nice if we could have a bit of his DNA to help us out :-).  His work effort was insane though and that’s one thing I love about him.  Some people with gifted genetics can be quite lazy.  But its the athletes with genetics and who than work their buts off are the ones who get to the top.  

      Reply
  6. Whoa! This guy was a machine! Even just the notion that he achieved this naturally is very inspirational. It is difficult too tell because the haters usually have to put someone else down in order to make themselves feel better. I think based on the dedication he put into his body (with that herculean routine) the proof was in the pudding.

    I am pretty shocked that anyone wouldn’t experience CNS fatigue because the routine is so demanding, although I suppose the human body is geared towards adapting.

    Reply
    • Hey there

      Yeah he had really gifted genetics to start with so with his work ethic I may have been possible to achieve un assisted.  

      I tell you what after 5 weeks of following this I felt drained, but I carried on and another couple of weeks down the line I felt fine again and carried on improving.  I think you sometimes have to go through a bit of paid and tiredness before the body will fully adapt.  Although we all have different genetics and some will cope better than others.

      Reply
  7. That is absolutely amazing what Serge Nubret was able to do and I definitely agree with you that the 1970s was the golden era of bodybuilding. He has one heck of a routine and I’m very glad you shared the training layout that he did or recommended. I know my best friend is working out and getting back into muscle building and I will certainly share this with him to see if he’s seen this routine before from Serge. Heck, this might be something I want to get into as I want to improve my calves, but more importantly, my upper body. I’m curious though, did Serge have a specific diet he was on while following this routine?

    Reply
    • Hi Brian

      It was often reported, that Serge only used to eat twice a day and he didn’t follow any specifics.  He ate what felt right for him.  He did stick to very simple foods though.  

      He used to eat up to 4lbs of horse meat in one sitting, and would sometimes add in some rice when he felt he needed it.  

      In that era of bodybuilding the majority of them ate a high protein, moderate fat and low carb diet, than would splurge one day in the one.

      Reply
  8. Man this is insane, this intense drilling is not for the lazy minded guys starting with the time spent daily 5 hours plus, and the series of routines done, learned a lot though it is impossible for me to practice all the workouts at least i would try It one routine at a time.

    Keep up the motivation, and expecting more

    Reply
    • Hi Rahye

      You are bang on with your comment.  100% not for the lazy minded.  I often follow this program and don’t spend 5 hours training myself.  It can be done much quicker.  Also you could start with training everything onces a week only.

      Reply
  9. This was an amazing article about Serge Hunter and his work out routine.

    How many years did he actually work in professional bodybuilding

    Do you know if the rumor is true whether he use pharmaceutically enhanced drugs. Because his body build is amazing

    Thank you for the great article again and how we can incorporate some of these work out methods into ours.

    Reply
    • Hi Quinn

      His career stretched over the 60s, 70s and early 80s.  In terms of whether he took pharmaceuticals, no one will ever know, but you just have to hope he was honest about it as many bodybuilders back than were on them so he didn’t really have a reason to lie.  However, only he will no.  Regardless though his physique and achievements were insane. 

      Reply
  10. I really did not heard about this guy but he looks amazing. I can only imagine how much work is needed for such body. I am not in the bodybuilder world but I like to train and get some muscles. I would like to follow his training but will it work if I reduce a little reps?

    Reply
    • Hi Daniel

      Yeah the work Serge Nubret had to put in, to achieve his physique was immense.

      There is a lot of volume to his training, which if you are not used to will get hard very quickly until the body adapts.  Often I advise people not to drop the reps but to start with slightly lower amount of sets. 4 to 5 sets rather than 6 to 8.  Than build them up

      I hope this helps.

      Reply
  11. Hey David, Great informative article, you hit the nail on the head with many points. Usually articles about Serge Nubret’s training make me rage and I have to post corrections and inform the ‘overtraining’ crowd how training used to be for literally everyone back then.
    My experience of Nubret’s routine started almost 3 years ago, after wasting years on heavy weight low volume routines and also the nonsense of HIT/Dorian yates style training, I found this, and i was determined to gains size. I did – 30lbs to my frame in 6 months – I even got accused from friends and family about steroid abuse (never touched it). I agree it is hard, but it is worth it. I could ramble on about old school training all day with you lol Hope your training is going well. Many thanks!

    Reply
    • Hey

      Thanks for taking the time to read my article. I absolutely love this style of training. I have to admit I still mix in heavy low rep stuff every now and then. However, I do tend to consistently get injuries when I stay with the heavy stuff for too long now. Maybe that’s my age lol.

      Like you I get great results from using Serge’s high volume approach and I had no problem recovering from it. I think a lot of the people who moan about overtraining either use it as an excuse not to train hard or are lacking in diet and sleep. When doing this routine I love the fact I don’t have any problem with my joints.

      Training is going really well at the moment thanks. I am looking to compete in the next few months so currently dropping body fat nice and steady.

      I hope yours is as well

      Reply

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