You Don’t Know Bodybuilding

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Bodybuilding gets a bad rap in the world of functional fitness. 

It’s no mystery why. Do a simple search on YouTube and you’ll find mostly pansy-ass college kids proclaiming to be “fitness experts” showing off and squeezing their biceps at the local Globo gym. I shouldn’t have to tell you that this kind of shit doesn’t work but the amount of e mails I get by confused lifters tells me it’s time to speak some serious truth.

If you think bodybuilding is only about what you see on youtube and that’s all it has to offer then let me share with you the methods that came from a time long before kids were fucking up the internet.

I grew-up in old school gyms where the bodybuilders trained with heavy barbells, and were very strong. There were regular squats with four plates per-side or heavier. Lifters benched and rowed 300 pounds with ease, they pumped those giant 120 pound dumbbells for causal sets of 10. Those squats were never singles either, they were sets of 5, 10 and even 20 rep sets. 405 lb squats for 10 reps wasn’t something shocking in the gyms I trained at. It was the norm.



Look, when it comes to program design you are not limited to what everyone else thinks or prefers.

Too many athletes and coaches worry about what other Coaches and gym owners are doing. They don’t really have confidence in their own work or they fear that other Coaches will say, “Hey, that’s not CrossFit!” Instead of testing and getting under the bar to see what works best for them or their clients, they fold to expectation, they fail to develop a distinct voice and method. That’s a great way to miss out on reaching your potential, in training and life.

In this case, good old fashioned bodybuilding methods might be just what you need most. I’m not talking about the leg extensions and cable curls. I’m talking about the training that was the norm in over 2 decades ago. These exercises will help add much needed muscle and work capacity, boosting your strength and performance on the big lifts – squats, deadlieft, cleans, snatches, you name it.

You actually can easily utilize some old-school bodybuilding techniques while programming for Crossfit. You just need to get creative and experiment.

Let’s say you’re main lift of the day was the clean and press. After the priority strength work, go old-school and get your bodybuilding and cardio work all squeezed in at once. First, drop the mindless habit of doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions on everything. This is not bodybuilding. Instead, try giving yourself a five minute chunk of time to complete as many sets of 5 to 10 repetitions in two complimentary exercises.

I personally love using dumbbell presses and rows back to back, no rest at all. Your dumbbell presses can be overhead, on an incline or flat bench. Your rowing can be with dumbbells, a barbell or kettlebells. Sets of 10 on the dumbbell row coupled with 5-10 reps on dumbbell benching gets intense.

Video of 130 lb 1 Arm Dumbbell Rows for 20 + reps, these were coupled with thick bar benching for 5 rounds. Ouch!

Take a quick break after your 5 minutes of dumbbell presses and rows. Then for the next 10 minutes alternate between 15 reps of recline bodyweight ring rows and heavy kettlebell farmer walks. Carry as much weight as you can for a distance of 100-200 feet. You won’t be joking about bodybuilding methods anymore. There’s no better way to pack on muscle than with some old school bodybuilding training.

The heavy weights and moderate reps add up quickly and push your work capacity through the roof as well. These heavy bodybuilding couplets will make a huge difference in your fitness and strength.

Do yourself a favor right now. Go online and research a little bit. Take a look at the bodybuilders of the golden era, from the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s. These folks trained heavy and with simple, basic methods. They trained really heavy and often did supersets, or what we might call couplets today. That means they would just pair a push with a pull, or a lower body exercise with an upper body one.

This is something I do frequently with my athletes. Sometimes we utilize a time frame for maximum work, like in the five minute chunk example before. Other times we’ll do something like descending reps of 10-8-6-4-2 with a given load and minimal rest. This is incredibly effective for developing strength endurance, work capacity and mental toughness.

These high rep ranges help drill technique. Also, the non-stop motion under very heavy loads is an amazingly intense stimulus which drives fitness adaptation and heightened mental toughness. You just can’t skip it, not if you want to be your best.

This stuff is too effective to be considered “old school.”  

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I always tell coaches that they have to drop their egos and adopt a white belt mentality in the gym, in business, and in life. Every fucking day you have to rise and shine. You have to always be ready and willing to learn. The day you are too good to learn is the day you need to step away and do something else.

This short article is just one example of testing something different. Forget what you think you know about bodybuilding and let go of giving a shit about what other Coaches consider to be “the way”. Give these sample WODs a shot, then tweak and experiment to your taste or personal needs. Perhaps target your weaknesses during your muscle building couplets, that is always an effective method.   

#UndergroundStrengthGym #Manasquan #Edison

A photo posted by Zach Even – Esh (@zevenesh) on

These methods could be just what you need. Old school is the best school.

Live The Code,


For more

  • Make sure to visit Zach’s site over at The Underground Strength Gym. Also, make sure to check out his Underground Strength Coach Certification HERE if you’re looking to expand your skill set as a strength coach. His courses are legit.
  • Do you need to gain muscle and strength? Need help with your programming? Make sure to check out the MUSCLE GAIN CHALLENGE.

3 Responses to “You Don’t Know Bodybuilding”

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