Richard and I concluded our friendly discussion on that note and then he revealed his Leg Press routine.
He said he would do one set each of 30, 20, 15 and 10 maxi-pump reps, after which he did 10 hard work sets of 15 reps each.
On the 10 hard work sets in particular he would use a Five "up" and Five "down" strategy where he would "up" the poundage for each of the first five sets and then "down" on the remaining five.
He finished off his leg press program with two quick pump-out sets of 20 and 30 reps. The last two pump sets for this and other exercises were done with light weights and helped to relieve the congestion of the muscles and restore normal circulation. This hastened recuperation and muscle growth.
Richard revealed one of his SECRETS about leg training. He said "If you wish to shape your legs still further, you won't find a more effective or enjoyable method than riding a racing bicycle. Rent, borrow or buy one and race it in sprints of five to ten minutes, as if doing sets, and you will improve contour, shape and definition of your entire leg musculature, considerably." "Racing cyclists always have great legs."
My bodybuilding hero, Chuck Sipes, a great champion of yesteryear, had told me basically the same thing, about the value of biking short race distances as a means of creating extra muscle tonus, cuts and that fibrous thick, veiny look.
3. Lat machine pull-down - Richard performed this exercise using either a conventional straight and/or angled Lat- bar.
Richard began this exercise by first taking a wide enough hand spacing (palms forward) on the bar so that his forearms were never parallel during the movement. He took a "false grip" (thumbs wrapped over the bar rather than under) and always makes sure that the bar was positioned high in the palm of his hand (near the base of the meaty part of the thumb).
He would then take the path of most resistance by first pulling his shoulders down. Then he began the actual pulling motion with his elbows (his hands only act as hooks in an extension of himself to the bar), making sure that his arms rotated out to the sides (with the elbows pointing down and to the rear). Just these actions alone will stimulate more lat involvement and minimize biceps and forearms action.
As the bar touched the base of his neck he would try desperately to touch his elbows at an imaginary point behind his back. This action must be done without hunching over and, if done correctly, the shoulder blades will rotate inward. Richard imagined himself squeezing a tennis ball between them. This is the feeling he wanted to achieve for maximum contraction of his lats.
Slowly he extended his arms back to the starting position (he hardly ever extended his arms to a fully straight position) at which point he leaned forward somewhat so that he could get his shoulders into a semi dislocated state (by moving the shoulder joint up) and s-t-r-e-t-c-h the scapulae attachments outward for maximum back width.
For the sake of variety and due to the number of high-volume sets that he did, he would, at times, do lat pull-downs so that the bar touched the chest below the sternal (low) pectorals. On these he would arch his back and lean backward 30 degrees or so from vertical as the bar touches the chest. He would also at times take a narrow hand spacing of eight to twelve inches on the dorsi bar, using a supinated (palms up, curl) grip. This variation of the pull-down seemed to work well and involved the lats in a different way. It was a favorite of Sergio Oliva and other top bodybuilders of that era. The particular action of this lat pulldown to just below the low pectoral line requires that the arms pull all the way in to the sides of the body.
The aim of these or any other lat exercises was to first pull exclusively with pure lat action alone before involving the biceps by bending the arms. To up the percentage of his lat involvement,
Richard would always chalk his hands prior to gripping the bar, and use power wrist straps to help minimize biceps involvement.
■ Be sure your feet are locked behind you.
■ Elbows pointed down and to the rear.
■ Never extend arms to the fully straight position.
■ Concentrate on moving the shoulder joint up and down
■ If the shoulder joint stays in one place, most of the work shifts to the arms.
Richard bombed his lats with Lat machine pull-downs (using a straight dorsi-bar) by opening with one set each of 25, 20, 15, 12 and 10 maxi-pump reps. These were followed up with a 12-set blitz of 10 reps each. He then finished off with a pump-out set of 15 to 25 reps.
Pro Tip #1: Lat-bars which have horizontal grip handles also work well for developing sweeping lats.
21st Century Pro Tip #2: For a more complete scapulae attachment rotation use a Lat- bar that allows you to position the little fingers higher than the thumbs. The only bar that I know of that meets this criteria is the
Upside Down Lat Pull Down Bar which Larry Scott, the first IFBB Mr. Olympia, sells commercially on his web site iwww.biophase.com).
1. Barbell press behind neck - The way in which Richard described this exercise had me quite curious because I had never heard of it being performed in this manner.
He sat on the floor with his legs outstretched and his back braced securely against the foot of a stationary flat exercise bench. He readied himself by rotating and pulling his shoulders back as if standing at attention. This subtle move helps to eliminate the shoulder pain usually associated with this exercise.
He was now ready for his training partner to position the heavily loaded bar correctly in his hands. The correct hand placement is achieved when his forearms are perpendicular to the upper arms (biceps) when the bar is being pressed off the back of his traps. His elbows were kept directly under his hands (knuckles face ceiling), and pointing out to the sides and down.
From this position he took a couple of deep breaths. Holding the second breath, he began pressing the barbell to an arm-extended position. At two-thirds of the way to lockout he forcefully expels the air from his lungs.
At the extended or arms overhead position (sometimes he would hold the barbell here for a count of six) he will inhale a deep breath of air and hold it. He then lowered the bar back down to the base of the neck, exhaling air while doing so. Breathe in again. This is called "double oxygen" saturation. The bar touches; the base of the neck, in a feather-like fashion and the next rep begins. Occasionally he pressed the barbell only four to six inches above his head rather than going to complete lockout.
He began by performing one set each of 15, 10 and 8 repetitions and then, after a rest, he got into the serous muscle growth by attacking his delts with 10 brutally hard power sets of 6 full reps each, finishing up with a final blitz set of 25 lightweight reps.
2. Barbell shoulder shrug - On this particular exercise Richard, by the strength of his trapezius muscles alone moved mega poundage by raising his shoulders in a very direct up-and-down shrugging motion, trying like mad to touch his traps to his ears while at the same time extending his head backward as far as possible. He then squeezed and tenses his traps for all they were worth.
He was always very conscious not to rotate the shoulder joint, for this would take away from the very direct trapezius stimulation he is achieving with the straight up-and-down motion.
He always chalked his hands prior to each set just to make sure that his vicelike grip on the bar never gives out before the traps become fully pumped.
Sometimes using the magnesium carbonate chalk wasn't enough, and he'd use training straps for extra holding power.
There were training sessions where he grasped a heavy dumbbell In each hand and then positioned himself by sitting lengthwise on a flat bench with legs outstretched. Seated, holding the dumbbells with a neutral hand position (palms facing and parallel to each other) with the arms hanging straight down and in line with the shoulders, he was able to perform the purest shrugging action known. The arms were kept perfectly straight during the movement, and thus biceps action was kept to an absolute minimum. With the dumbbells hanging as they are, the resistance is now in the center of gravity instead of in front of it when using the barbell.
The seated shrug eliminates those little knee kicks (especially if the legs are outstretched on the bench) that normally occur during the standing barbell shrugs towards the end of a fatiguing set.
He performed one pre-fatigue set each of 20 and 15 reps then it was on to 8 sets of 10 to 12 muscle-searing reps, finishing off with a lightweight flush set of 15 to 20 reps.
Pro Tip #1: Sometimes Richard tilted his head towards his chest (which he said isolated his traps even more) while going for a maximum squeeze & contraction at the top of the shrug movement.
Pro Tip #2: A cambered bench press bar (with the cambered portion of the bar facing down) positioned under a flat exercise bench is another option for performing shrugs.
3. *Machine leg extension - To reap the benefits of this exercise the quadriceps muscle must be fully contracted throughout the entire range of motion. With this in mind Richard would sit with his back arched and do this exercise very slowly and smoothly to prevent throwing or jerking the weight (which can cause injury) up. At the extended position of this exercise, when the quadriceps were fully contracted he would pause for two seconds on every rep.
He would then begin lowering the weight, even more slowly than he raised it. Generally he tried to lower it 2 times slower than he raised it. Richard stated that not all exercises were suitable for the "pause" method of performance.
He said that Barbell back squats, Bench presses, and the Barbell press overhead, for example, all involve a lockout at which point the weight is being supported by the bones.
Therefore the only select exercises suitable are ones in which bone support lockout does not occur such as Leg extensions, Leg curls, Chest Machines (Hammer Strength etc.), Triceps pushdowns, Barbell high pulls, Dumbbell lateral raises, Barbell bent-over rowing, Pull-ups, Heel raises (seated and standing), and inverted or gravity boot sit-ups (these are especially effective).
Richard said one of his "little tricks" in the Leg extension was to keep the toes pointed in (towards the shins) all the way through the movement. The particular machine that Richard used didn't have a seat back so he would often lay back on the machine while doing the movement and thus recruit an even greater tension on his quadriceps.
Richard began the Leg extensions with a set of 25 reps, then 20 reps followed by 6 sets of 15 reps each, and then a pump set of 20 and one of 30 reps.
Pro Tip: Often times Richard would push on the seat with his hands, while raising his glutes off it 6 inches or so. His legs were facing downward at almost 45 degrees. He termed this as an incline leg extension.
4. *Machine leg curl - Lying prone on the machine, with his upper body and legs on the same plane, he would bend the legs and try to touch his heels to his glutes.
Sometimes he flexed his feet towards his shins through the positive and negative phases of the movement. Yet, at other times, he extended his feet in the opposite direction because he felt this effect in the soleus muscle of the calf strongly. To Richard, this created dual muscle stimulus in the hamstrings and the calves all in one exercise.
Being the instinctive bodybuilder that he was he would at times, rather than just lying prone on the machine, support his upper body on his elbows or completely with his arms locked so all the tension would be on the leg biceps.
On this exercise one set each of 30, 20 and 15 reps, then 6 sets of 10 to 12 reps were performed, followed by a final 20-to-30-rep set. Richard said that when this exercise is executed in a flowing full contraction-and-extension manner, it is to the hamstrings what the barbell curl is to the biceps.
Pro Tip: Richard adducted (turned) his feet inward to stress inner hams on some sets and on others abducts or rotated them outward to hit the outer hamstrings.
*A Professional (plate-loaded) Leg Extension/Leg Curl Machine was used for exercises #3 & #4 (above).
1. Neck extension and flexion - The exercises for this muscle group were of manual type resistance, performed with the help of a training partner. Anterior flexion (front of the neck), posterior extension (back of the neck) and lateral contraction (for the sides of the neck) were performed for a combined 10 sets of 20 reps each.
It is interesting to notice that bodybuilders such as Richard, back in the 1960's almost always included some type of exercise for the neck, unlike many of the bodybuilders of today.
2. Supine close-grip triceps press - This exercise is performed on a flat position exercise bench, while using an E-Z-curl bar. Lying on the bench Richard would take a close, thumbs-free, hands facing inward, grip on the narrowest bends of the cambered bar. With the arms fully extended over the chest then it was just a matter of lowering the bar to his forehead, nose or neck (depending on the elbow orientation) and then with a powerful contraction of his triceps, press the bar back to near lockout.
Some times his elbows are positioned back at approximately 45 degrees past horizontal. With elbow flexion the bar is lowered so that it makes contact with the surface of the flat bench behind the head. Again with a powerful contraction from his triceps the forearms are then extended to near lockout overhead (not over the chest), which was in line with the shoulders. Richard picked up this unique triceps extension variation (Lying Barbell Kickback) from Ed Yarick, a trainer of three Mr. America's years ago.
One set each of 20, 15 and 10, 6, 3 and 1 rep(s) were completed to warm-up the triceps thoroughly. This was followed up by 11 sets of 5 or 6 power reps and then he finished off with a 20-rep pump set.
The above described triceps extension is just one of four variations that Richard used throughout his bodybuilding career to force swift gains in size and strength. The other three variations included: The "Atomic" Triceps Program,
Supine "Rebound" Triceps Press, and the Standing "Curl-Grip" Triceps Press.
Here's a brief overview of each of the "3" variations:
The "Atomic" Triceps Program
This is a shock blast program consisted of combining two exercises within the same set. The exercise of choice was the Bent arm barbell pullover and triceps press (E-Z-curl bar),
He would do the Bent arm barbell pullover and triceps press in the following manner: An adjustable sit-up (abdominal) board was set at a 30-degree angle, with a barbell on the floor directly at the lower end of it. The barbell is loaded to 40% of his 10 rep maximum in the Supine close-grip triceps extension.
While lying in a declined position on the bench Richard would reach back and grasp the bar (ref: Supine close-grip triceps press) and with the arms bent. He would then pull the bar in a semi-circle to the upper pectoral region, and with a brief pause, contract the triceps and extend the forearms up to lockout in strict form, lower the bar to the chest by elbow flexion, and return it to the floor. This was the completion of the first rep with fourteen more to go in this first set.
For the second set, the bar was loaded to 60% of a 10 rep maximum and 8 reps were performed. Then there was a third set of 8 reps, a forth set of 6 reps, then a fifth set for a triple and finally a sixth set where a limit single rep is performed. Richard would rest 3-5 minutes between the first and fifth sets. Upon completion of the sixth set, a ten-minute rest was taken while he massaged the triceps and saved his energy for the heavy work to follow.
The bar was then loaded to 1 % times the weight that was used for single rep on the sixth set. Hypothetically if 100-pounds were performed for a single rep then the bar was loaded to 125-pounds. The bar is then pulled to the upper chest region, pressed to full extension over the chest. Now instead of lowering the bar all the way down to the chest as was previously done the bar is only lowered six to eight inches, then driven back to lock-out. This is repeated for eight reps.
The bar is next loaded with 25% more weight (using the hypothetical example above, the bar is now 150-pounds). Seven to ten sets of 6 reps in the measured movement (six to eight inches) Close-grip triceps extension is the order of the day (Richard would perform a total of 20-30 sets).
To finish off this routine a post-fatigue set of 25-30 consecutive reps are done to bring in an extra supply of blood to the triceps, for the recuperative processes of growth and repair, and to further accelerate recovery. Rest-pauses of 3-5
minutes was the norm and only one pullover was performed (first rep only) for each set of the measured movement Close-grip triceps extension.
Enormous poundage can be used in these short movements with the indirect effect being that a bodybuilder is able to use heavier poundage in the regular Close-grip triceps extension.
Supine "Shock/Rebound" Triceps Press
Load up an E-Z-curl bar with the largest diameter iron barbell plates possible. Place two or three one inch thick high-density sponge rubber pads under the barbell plates.
Now lie down on the floor (on a mat) not a bench, on your back with the bar positioned behind your head at semi arms length. Reach back and take a close-grip on the bar. Next pull the bar in a semi-circle over onto the chest and do a bench press motion to the lockout position.
Start the supine "shock/rebound triceps press by lowering (only the forearms move and they should not waiver or fish tale) the bar just back of the head, fairly fast, so that the barbell plates bounce off the rubber pads. Using the triceps begin extending the forearms with this bounce, driving the bar to arms length. It is the bounce that starts the weight upward ever so slightly and relieves the elbows of some of the tension momentarily. Continue doing a pre-determined number of reps in the manner described for several sets.
Using a straight bar, take the same grip that you use for the Standing barbell curl. This will keep the strain off the elbows. At first this grip may feel awkward and you will feel like the bar is going to slip out of your hands, but after time, you will become accustom to it. You may want to use a "hook" grip where you wrap the two forefingers of each hand around the first joint of the thumb. This will seem uncomfortable on the thumbs at first, but you will become accustomed to this in a short time.
Richard would begin this exercise with both arms held above his head, elbows completely locked. From the overhead position the bar was only lowered until the forearms reached a parallel position. Without any pause what-so-ever Richard smoothly extended his forearms back to the fully locked elbow position, tightly squeezing and contracting his triceps muscles as hard as possible.
3. The Anton Curl - This exercise, popularized by "Big" Bill Anton, 13th man in the world to bench press 400, is best described as a Close-grip standing wall curl. Richard used this exercise because it tests the strength and power in his biceps like no other exercise. He would begin by grasping a loaded straight bar with a shoulder width hand spacing.
He then leaned back against a wall (a stationary post or door jamb is much better) so that his back was flat against it for support. His legs were straight with his feet slightly forward from his body (approximately 18") with the barbell held at arms' length, resting against the front of his thighs. He kept the elbows well behind the plane of his body with the insides of his biceps touching his rib cage.
From here he curled the barbell (which is brushing the front of the body all the way up) to just below the low pectoral line. This action worked both the inner and lateral heads of his biceps.
At other times he curled the barbell in to his neck. In doing so his elbows moved forward and up which means that some deltoid action is taking place -not enough, however, to detract from the maximum peak squeezing and tensing effect he is able to accomplish on the biceps in this position. He then contracted the biceps muscles for a full two counts on each and every rep.
He used the same sets and reps as in the triceps extension exercise. One set each of 20, 15 and 10, 6, 3 and 1 rep(s) were completed and this was followed up by 11 sets of 5 or 6 power reps and finishes off with a 20-rep pump set.
Pro Tip #1: During some workouts, at the conclusion of the final rep of a power set, Richard would step away from the door jamb and cheat curl the weight up in the positive phase and lower in the negative style for 15 or so seconds, for an additional 2 or 3 rep(s).
Pro Tip #2: Sometimes he would do what is called Regular Sets, Plus Fast Doubles: This was done on his last power rep set. Example: Close-grip standing wall curl-when he completed his last power set and repetition, he would set the barbell down. He rested about 3-10 seconds and did two more repetitions, rested and did two more additional reps, rested and completed a final two reps.
Here's a Standing Barbell Wall Curl chart that Richard used from time to time as a reference to access his biceps strength.
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