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Sergio Oliva Training Routine


Sergio Oliva Training Routine. Sergio Oliva stated that the following routine was his only true exercise program. His training routine involved some interesting combinations…high volume, 5×5 work, supersets, antagonistic training, a modest – but heavy – squat workout, 20 rep squat sets, and the philosophy of hitting each muscle group twice a week.

In the Augsut/September 1973 issue of MTI, Sergio Oliva had this to say:

Since 1970 these are the only exercises I have been doing. Any other exercises printed in any other magazine are false.

Monday. On Monday, Sergio Oliva blasted his chest with bench press, dips and flyes, and also worked his back with chinups.

Bench Press supersetted with Chinning Bar.

Set 1. Bench Press 200 x 8, 15 reps on chinning bar

Set 2. Bench Press 220 x 8, 15 reps on chinning bar

Set 3. Bench Press 260 x 8, 10 reps on chinning bar

Set 4. Bench Press 300 x 8, 10 reps on chinning bar

Set 5. Bench Press 320 x 8, 8 reps on chinning bar

Set 6. Bench Press 350 x 8, 8 reps on chinning bar

Set 7. Bench Press 380 x 8, 5 reps on chinning bar

DB Flyes supersetted with Dips.

5 sets of 15 reps with 80 pound dumbbells, supersetted with dipping. The set, rep and weight scheme for dipping was not provided by Sergio Oliva.

Tuesday. On Tuesdays, Sergio worked his shoulders, biceps and triceps. Most rep and set schemes followed a 5×5 pattern.

Press. 5 sets, 15 reps with 200 pounds

Extending Heavy Curls. 5 sets, 5 reps, 200 pounds

French Curls. 5 sets, 5 reps, 200 pounds

Scott (Curls) Bench. 5 sets, 10 reps, 150 pounds

Scott (Curls) Bench with Dumbbells. 5 sets, 5 reps, 60 pound dumbbell

Sitting Down Triceps. 5 sets, 5 reps with 60 pound dumbbell, supersetted with Tricep Press Downs

Wednesday. On Wednesday, Sergio worked abs first, then heavy squats and calves. You will notice that there is no direct hamstring work.

Situps. 10 sets, 50 reps

Leg Raises. 5 sets, 20 reps

Side Bends with Bar Behind Neck. 5 sets, 200 reps

Squats. 300 x 5, 400 x 5, 440 x 5, 470 x 5, 500 x 4

Standing Heel Raises. 10 sets, 8 reps, 300 pounds

sergiooliva2Thursday. Sergio’s second chest and back workout of the week. You’ll also notice a fair amount of shoulder work as well.

Bench Press. 200 x 5, 220 x 5, 260 x 5, 300 x 5, 320 x 5, 350 x 5, 380 x 5

Press Behind Neck. 5 sets, 5 reps, 250 pounds, supersetted with Rowing Machine, 200 pounds

Sitting Press with Dumbbells. 80 pound dumbbells. No set and rep scheme provided

Dipping Bar. 5 sets, 8 reps with no weight

Friday. Friday’s workout was another heavy arm day, but also features more back work. For the most part, Sergio used fewer sets for biceps on this day.

Press. 3 sets, 5 reps, 200 pounds

Extending Heavy Curls. 3 sets, 5 reps, 200 pounds

French Curls. 3 sets, 5 reps, 200 pounds

Scott Bench for Triceps. 3 sets, 5 reps, 200 pounds

Scott Bench for Triceps with Dumbbell. 3 sets, 5 reps, 50 pound dumbbell, supersetted with Tricep Press Downs.

Chinning Behind Neck. 5 sets, 5 reps

Chinning Bar with Closed Hands. 5 sets, 5 reps, supersetted with Tricep Machine Pull Downs

Saturday. Another ab and leg day. Sergio used lighter squats, and also incorporated front squats into his routine. Again, no direct hamstring work. Also notice that Sergio performed three 20-rep squat sets.

Situps. 5 sets, 10 reps

Leg Raises. 5 sets, 10 reps

Side Bends with Bar Behind Neck. 5 sets, 50 reps

Squats. 3 sets, 3 reps with 300 pounds. 2 sets, 3 reps with 400 pounds. 3 sets, 20 reps with 250 pounds.

Front Squats. 5 sets, 10 reps, 200 pounds

Sitting Heel Raises. 5 sets, 5 reps, 200 pounds

Mick Madden
Mick Madden is the primary content manager for Muscle and Brawn. Questions? Please visit the forum.
  • Brandon Jun 7,2015 at 10:50 am

    I don’t see why people say this is crazy volume. 24-35 sets per workout doesn’t sound all that outrageous to me. That’s about an hour and a half to two hours a day.

  • jorgen larsson May 28,2014 at 5:11 am

    Sergio oliva vill be the greatest bodybuilder of all time for ever . Only, maby his great son can come Close . give him time and we vill see , the next Myth One Moore time .

  • Joe Apr 10,2013 at 12:26 am

    Really? NO direct hamstring training??? That’s funny, because here’s a link to a video of Sergio doing legs, and he DOES direct hamstring training: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjsTyYC9Ayw

  • Bill Cummings Nov 26,2012 at 2:24 am

    I was a Chicago Policeman in the 1970’s and met Sergio. He had to have his uniforms specially made and no one on the street gave him a hard time. He was the nicest man you could meet. Very respectful of everyone. RIP Sergio.

  • Osdel Sep 27,2012 at 11:24 pm

    Sergio Oliva was the only bodybuilder to beat Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Mr Olympia competition. Keep in mind that he did that almost 30 or 40 years ago, there were different training routines and workouts.

  • Michael Fryer Feb 7,2012 at 9:31 pm

    I can only compare athletes in any sport against their contemporaries. While most would claim Sergio overtrained by a considerable amount, his successes against those of his time are immense. He should have won at least one more Mr. Olympia (1972). The use of steroids and HGH today is many times what it was then, so it’s impossible to know what he’d have looked like if he used the $70,000 per year of drugs most professional bodybuilders use today.

  • H. Moore Jun 25,2011 at 12:10 am

    Well, I can say that I personally watched Oliva train at the Duncan St. YMCA in 1972. I was in boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill and took the Am Trak to Chicago on a 72hr. leave just to see him. I can tell you that the workout that I saw was as stated in the article for Thursday and Friday. He had two workout partners that were brutes, and one was called Lionous. They could’t keep up. The poundages he used were amazing with good form. Grunt like a bull with each rep, and a very high pitch voice. I also watched him take and admit it was dianabol after his workout shower. I also bought a can of Blairs protein from him. Greatest overall bodybuilder of all time and seemed to be a truly nice person.

  • Vitaman T Nov 17,2010 at 7:36 am

    Sergio Oliva was my favorite bodybuilder

  • John Aug 18,2010 at 12:03 am

    Wow, the amount of sets and reps would kill the average man. There is no way an even naturally gifted man could sustain that work load and get bigger and stronger.
    Sergio did touch on a key element and that was to go heavy and then superset exercises to fatigue the muscle with higher reps. I just don’t see the need to have that many sets as it leads to over training. The only way to do that kind of workout and be able to grow is to use a lot of pharmaceuticals.
    I am willing to bet he would have been even bigger than he was had he done only two sets instead of the high volume approach he used which of course was typical of that time. Arther Jones, Mike Mentzer and Dorian Yates have proven that it is high intensity combined with short and infrequent training that accounts for the sizes we are seeing today.

    • Tyrone Apr 22,2011 at 1:24 pm

      No offense guy, but this workout (if it really is Sergio’s workout) won him 2 Mr. Olympia’s that I know of, and many other titles. He revolutionized what a bodybuilder is supposed to look like, and earned a place in history. Where are your Olympia titles?

      To the author, I have never heard of a ‘sitting down press’ or an ‘extended curl.’ I looked up thes words online with no success. What exactly are those?

    • Taylor Apr 27,2011 at 6:53 am

      Tyrone is right. Oliva won 3 Olympia’s and many other titles and was screwed out of several others. He was nicknamed “The Myth” for good reason. To criticize his training is crazy. BTW, Oliva did train with Jones for awhile before the 1971 Mr. Universe. Darden talks about it in his book (New) High Intensity Bodybuilding.

    • joesantus Mar 26,2015 at 11:45 pm

      Nah, very improbable that he’d been any bigger…just that, he MIGHT have spent less time in the gym achieving the size he got. But, that depends on the fiber-type predomination Sergio’s of Sergio’s genetics.

      .I’m 59 and have been a (lifelong-drug-free) bodybuilder since I began at age 16 in 1972, so I’ve watched the training theories and innovations for decades. Jones and Mentzer WERE important pre-1980, because they, along with others such as Bradley Steiner, rescued many of us born with average genetics from the misconception that everyone needed to train with the high-volume, high-frequency programs we read in the Weider magazines (which were the primary source of training informationfor very many of us in that pre-internet era).

      HOWEVER — Jones has later admitted that, when he originally formulated his HIT program, wrote his Nautilus Bulletins, and promoted Nautilus machines, he was uninformed about the significance of fiber-type predomination variations between individuals — meaning that, even among the genetic elites using steroids, some like Mentzer and Yates have genetics that respond better to low-volume, low-frequency training, while others like Sergio and Schwarzenegger seem to respond better to greater volumes and frequencies.

  • Kris R. Jun 5,2010 at 8:44 pm

    Sergio routine is one of the best.Thanks for the input on his routine,ive used this routine for six months and its great.

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