serge nubret in black and white

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

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