7 Reasons Why The Old School 70’s Bodybuilding Routines Are Over-hyped and Over-Romanticized

| December 15, 2018 by Truth Seeker |

via: pinterest.com

The 70s were the Golden Age of bodybuilding. To this day, everybody talks about those times as if the air was different back then. You constantly hear how the retro bodybuilders trained really hard unlike the modern losers who rely on drugs and nothing else. The routines were brutal; the diets were insane; the work ethic of the competitors rivaled that of coal miners.

The bodybuilders from that era enjoy hardcore worship. Black and white posters of men in thongs are covering the rooms of many teenage boys who are about to destroy the world by following one of those old school routines. You just wait and see. They are coming for you. You ready?

What so special about the 70s? A couple of things – quality drugs, emphasis on aesthetics rather than size, unsaturated market, dream buyers in abundance.


The skin of that era certainly possesses a peculiar patina, but the purity and effectiveness of the 70’s muscle construction plan is certainly a victim to hyperboles.

Today, I present you 7 reasons why the old school 70’s bodybuilding routines are over-hyped and over-romanticized pile of nonsense.

1. The Bodybuilders From the 70s Took All The Drugs Available

Many critically state that the modern bodybuilders are walking pharmacies. True, but those men are simply carrying on the traditions of their ancestors.

Do you really think that the bros from the 70s were innocent lambs? The bodybuilders from the Golden Era tried to maximize their growth by all available means. The anabolic drugs in town were part of the experiment. The doses weren’t low either.

Here’s a clarifying excerpt written by Nelson Montana, author of The Bodybuilding Truth:

“I have fairly recently trained down in Florida with top pro of the 70’s and early 80’s CASEY VIATOR. I asked him directly about steroid use in the 70’s and this is what he had to say…. and I quote…

‘Don’t let anyone fool you about our low doses. We were just as reckless with steroid use as they are today.’

I asked him when the big doses started….

‘The big doses started around 1974 and yes we were all right on top of it. Yes we ALL used GH back then and it was from real cadavers. The GH we all used was called CRESCORMIN and nobody was going to morgues to get it’.

I wanted an example and I told him about what I heard my mentor, and his friend and former training partner, Mike Mentzer used……only 400 of deca/week and 30 of d-bol/day.

CASEY LAUGHED and then said this….Mentzer used up to 2.5 grams of deca a week, God knows how much primobolin acetate, along with d-bol and growth, so as I said don’t be fooled about our low doses as we were just as reckless as theses guys are today.”

Yet the kids still believe that their idols built their bodies solely with persistence, visualization, water, rice, broccoli, chicken breast and the right exercises. The truth is rather simple – just like today, the bodybuilders from the 70s were super-competitive and did everything in their power to lift the trophy over their heads. The strategy included the drugs of the era.

Had the same men been born today, you can be certain that most would be injecting just as much as a modern pro.

2. They Didn’t Train Harder Than The Contemporary Muscle Constructors

Everybody talks about the colossal work ethic of the bodybuilders from the 70s. They lifted until unicorns and storm clouds appeared before their eyes. Except it wasn’t exactly like that.

All that mythical training is simply not sustainable. The routines varied in intensity and there were plenty of regulatory rest periods. Besides, there are many modern samurai who lift/lifted just as hard if not harder than the old school guys.

You believe that the bodybuilders of yesterday did everything better because it is natural to romanticize the past. I am guilty of this too. But when you look at the picture objectively, you will realize that it’s all an illusion.

You want to tell me that Arnold and his friends trained harder than Ronnie Coleman, Branch Warren, Kai Greene, Dorian Yates…etc? I doubt it.

3. High Volume Routines Burn Your CNS Fast

The insane volume adopted by the 70’s bodybuilders is too high for the average natural male. Technically, you can train like them (two times a day with plenty of exercises and sets), but only if you build up to that volume gradually and have little to do outside of the gym.

You have to understand that those men were professionals. This was all they did. Are you in the same position? If so, be my guest. Give the biggest share of your day to lifting. if not, good luck following a typical high-volume 70’s routine for more than a few weeks without going insane or injecting.

More importantly, that volume is certainly not needed to reach your genetic potential.

4. The Kids Confuse Feelings With Reality

Even if you have a strong intuition, feelings can still lie to you. You will learn this concept very fast if you are a man fighting on the modern dating scene.

After my post on game, a few readers contacted me and shared a story about a woman who initially showed great interest in them only to become colder than an iceberg later.

This is just an example of how feelings lie to you. They tell you one thing, but later, reality wakes you up and teaches you a harsh lesson that kills your innocence forever.

Many kids who fantasize about the 70s are suffering from the same syndrome – you think that something is better just because you feel that way for no apparent reasons.

Feelings lie. Actions don’t. You may feel that a woman is interested in you, but she has to show it with her code of conduct. If she doesn’t, no amount of feelings will change anything.

Many conclude that the 70s were the greatest ever without any evidence other than intuitive judgment. Then those same sentiments distort the evaluation of the blueprints from 70s – they must be better because the whole era feels so warm and interesting.

Yet when you look at the actual routines, you realize that they contain the same old movements: bench for the pecs, deadlift for the back, squat for the legs.

Special? I don’t think so.

5. The False Prophets Rely on Legends From The 70s To Propagate Unfounded Hope 

Over the last decade, many megaphones have heavily promoted their training principles and routines by extracting examples from the 70s out of context.

For example, the 5×5 zealots used Arnold and Reg Park to present 5×5 as a routine superior for naturals. They would tell you how roids were not nearly as popular as they are today, and most bodybuilders built their physiques thanks to 70’s voodoo.

This trick worked in the powerlifting circles too. As a noob, I was genuinely convinced that the powerlifters from the glory days were natural or very close to it because they lifted heavy weights and trained p-r-o-p-e-r-l-y unlike the bodybuilders powered by vanity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The promoters who rely on that tactic abuse the feelings triggered within the lifters upon seeing a vintage photo of a retro bodybuilder.

6. Following a Routine From the 70s Does Not Make You Superior

Many bros take great pride in their routine and training innuendo as if it’s the secret to immortality. The overall vibe in the gym is that nobody except you is doing the right thing. People are constantly giving mean looks and ripping each other apart silently. Everybody thinks that the other guy is an idiot because he isn’t doing the latest workout hit available online.

I experienced this phenomenon when I was blasting a form of Starting Strength in the beginning of my lifting career. I looked at everybody else with a sense of superiority. Maybe I was right about many of the guys in the gym, but in general, no routine makes you superior as they are all the same in their core – do something hard, recover and go at it again.

In the end, it does not matter whether you follow a bro’s routine or something outlined in a best-selling book. If you expect a lifetime achievement award because you have been doing Arnold’s split for 20 years, you will be waiting for a long time.

7. The 70’s Aesthetics Were Not The Result of a Special Routine

The emblematic look from the 70s had nothing to do with a special routine. Fellas, back then a bench press was still a bench press. A set was still a set. The protein was not different, and neither were the carbs and the fat.

The over-hyped “vintage” aesthetics were the result of three things:

A. Basic training

B. Drugs

C. Genetics

This is it. Nothing else.

Why did the 70’s bodybuilders have a special filter to them? 

Number 1: They weren’t pressed to play the size game like the guys of today. They didn’t abuse insulin and growth hormone. Neither did they eat as much as the modern iron gangstas. Consequently, they kept their natural lines and did not look pregnant on stage.

Number 2: Vintage photo lighting

At the time, photography was not digitalized and produced different “colors”.

There’ a reason why image editing software offers a retro filter – the photos had a different flavor back then. This property attaches a certain feeling of warmness to the 70’s pictures that is not present in many up-to-date productions. Modern photos offer higher quality but are “cheap” and lack the magic factor.

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8 comments

  1. Brian G.

    Once again brother another damn good article. I cant believe I use to be one of those brainwashed sheep many years ago. After doing years of research, studying, about the human body I’m glad I opened my eyes.

    Anabolic users plague social media, and these sheep followers always say “he’s natural because he doesn’t have that steroid look”…It’s amazing how most of them doesn’t even know what testosterone is, or the effects on the human body

      1. joe santus

        Yep, and the fact that effective drugs are available today is evidenced by how much bigger, even at today’s lower-than-in-the-1970s-era bodyfat percentages, the national and world class competitors are today than they were in that era.

  2. DonneTheConquerer

    In summary: The main reason those old school bodybuilders are so revered, even by guys who weren’t even born yet when they were training and competing, is because (1) those guys had physiques that were unique, aesthetic and at least somewhat looked attainable, (2) those guys lived the lifestyle that was as much about living the life and having fun, in addition to training, that many now hunger, vicariously dream about and romanticize, (3) those guys were virtually all approachable and shared their bodybuilding knowledge, which was new at the time and in it’s infancy, (4) back then it was more about lifting + camaraderie and good times in sunny SoCal than big cash pots and e-fame, and (5) todays scene is drugs, drugs, and more drugs, bodybuilding and otherwise.

    On that last note: Yes many of the hang ups today’s guys have those guys had, but not magnified to this degree. It’s widely accepted even by those not in the know that bb’s of today are walking lab experiments, that take drugs in vast excess, for anything and everything, from the time they get up to the time they go to bed. The guys of old took drugs, some took lots of them too, but not a drug for every bodily function imaginable, then recreational drugs on top of that to boot. It’s really quite scary if even 25% of what you hear is true in regards to this, but the many deaths in bodybuilding all but confirm it.

    So in that respect, it’s hard to relate and believe in someone to emulate when that somebody looks more like a lab experiment gone horribly wrong and a drug junkie, rather than someone living the ultimate level of physical development lifestyle, along with all of the praise and hedonistic pleasures that went with it.

  3. joe santus

    Ironically, many of us who were in our late teens and twenties during the 1970s didn’t use those mythical programs ourselves, even though what often was our sole source of training information in that era, the Weider magazines, constantly claimed they were the programs used by the champions.

    I, and, I suspect ,many others, did this: we eventually realized the champions were athletically gifted compared to our average potential…assumed that had been training many years while we were beginners…and understood they were using steroids (Arnold was still openly admitting that even in a 1974 article featured in the widely-read-at-the-time sports magazine, “Sports Illustrated”) while we weren’t.

    Consequently, I, and many others, radically scaled down our workout volume and/or frequency from those programs during that era.
    For example, in the late 1970s, in contrast to those mythical “each-bodypart-worked-three-days-per-week-for-fifteen-to-twenty-sets-per -bodypart-per-workout”, I was using a split routine which worked each bodypart twice per week, four to six sets per bodypart per workout.

  4. Joe Santus

    Another 1970’s world-class competitor, Boyer Coe , stated this to Dave Robson in a 2009 interview:

    “The guys of my era could not even stand on stage with the guys of today. Everyone my height weighs close to 300 pounds….They have better drugs too. They have HGH and insulin available to them and I am sure that accounts for a lot of the extra muscle mass.
    ….But again, who is to say that we would not have used the same thing if they (a wider range of drugs) had been available to us.”

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