Lessons Learned from Golden Era Bodybuilding BEASTS


Robby Robinson is what I call a Renegade Underground Bodybuilder.

His favorite upper body workouts were endless supersets of the bench press and pull ups / chins ups.

His favorite lower body workouts were endless supersets of front squats and RDLs (Romanian Deadlifts).

Heck, ANY athlete can benefit from those movements, you don't have to be a bodybuilder to be able to perform Density Training, ala Coach Reeve with the basics.

Robby Robinson loved the basics that any serious strength and muscle building fanatic should never stray away from, here's his list of favorite exercises:

- barbell power cleans / muscle cleans

- dips for high reps with bodyweight or lower reps with added weight

- barbell cheat curls

- sprints in the sand of Venice Beach, aka Muscle Beach

Not ironically, some of the thickest and most dense bodybuilders from the 70s and 80s performed sprints of all types:

- hill sprints

- sprints on the track

- sprints on sand

Guys like Casey Viator would run sprints AFTER he snuck away from his brutal workouts under the guide of Arthur Jones.

If Arthur Jones would have known he may have freaked out as he was so focused on HIT training, get it done, get out, rest and GROW.

I remember reading one of Arnold's books where he encouraged bodybuilders to be "in shape."

He spoke of finishing your workouts by sprinting and running hard on the beach, or, running between parking meters and jumping over curbs to improve agility and to help burn fat.

Some of my best workouts came when I stopped going to the regular gym and simply set up shop in my Dad’s freezing cold garage. I built my own atmosphere and there were no half serious or half hearted lifters in my to steal my thunder.

The simple garage gym set up forced me to get away from machines, cables and too much exercise while sitting or lying down.

It was just me, a 300 lb barbell, a pair of 50 and 100 lb dumbbells, a flat bench, dip bar and the sound of hard rock n’ roll music. I still cringe when I hear stories of people telling me their easy listening gym tunes can barely be heard over the noise of everyone talking about what they did last weekend.

Ground Based lifts became the corner stone of the majority of my lifting and man did I feel and see the difference in added strength, power and muscle gains.

I still recall my hunt for equipment..... I hunted down my original equipment through newspaper classifieds and the original days of E Bay where some REAL gems would be found on e bay for dirt cheap! Nowadays, people have old school equipment collecting dust in their basements or garages and those weights need a pair of loving hands gripping onto them. Those hands could be YOURS.

Hey, heavy weights need love, too!

One you get the free weight basics down, you should make yourself a sandbag, working on the basics once again of sandbag workouts:

- clean & press

- zercher squats

- back squats

- lunges

- carries

From there, collect a few stones. I can only imagine the BEAST you will become as you begin putting together workouts mixed with free weights, sandbags, stones and bodyweight training.

casey viator HIT

The combination of training like a Renegade Bodybuilder and the use of odd objects will be a deadly combination.

Don't feel the need to stick to full body workouts every single workout, I have found that regular full body workouts slow down gains in strength, power and adding muscle. Rest is key, especially if you REALLY train hard.

Instead, try splitting upper and lower body workouts and then have a high rep day for lower body or just upper body. The upper body tends to recover faster than the lower body so use your intuition, listen to what your body wants and needs and take it from there.

I wouldn’t want to run into you walking down a dark alley after a few short months of training like this.

Time to get after it and make it happen.

Drop a comment, let us know how you combine old school strength & odd object lifts. Looking forward to your comments!

Live The Code,


The Russian Lion Power Course


The Underground Strength & Sports Performance Manual


The Gladiator Project

20 Responses

  1. Good stuff as always Z!

    Chins and Pullups are my daily ritual.

    Recently I’ve started doing behind the neck pullups and they are AMAZING!

    Love the way you keep it 100% real bro!

  2. Christopher Reed says:

    Yo Coach Z!

    Killer blast from the past! Recently I have been watching the series Spartacus: Blood & Sand and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena & man that sh*t has me fired up boy! Watching the gladiators train for combat was f#ckin AWESOME!

    I noticed that the only implement they used in those sequences were wooden support beams…and that got me thinking – this summer I am picking one implement and training with that implement and that implement alone. Right now I am leaning towards 10 gal water bottles filled with different stuff like water, stones, sand and concrete – what’d ya think Z?

    Awesome post! Jacked up!

    C.A.R.P.E D.I.E.M


  3. Good reminder that my lonely sandbag sitting in the corner needs some love. So tomorrow it will get some hugging with some zercher squats.

  4. Al, hells yea dude, tear up that sandbag my man, throw it at the end for a circuit after some heavy lifting!

  5. Chris, yo bro, I have training ADD so would be tuff for me to do one implement all summer. But, I’ve spent 4 weeks on programs where I only use one or two implements and felt awesome!

  6. Love the Old school methods,Zach. Also, can’t wait for the snow to melt to get back outside and get some Farmer walks, tire flips, sled work in the mix with the regular power training.

  7. Awesome article Zach! You really know how to write to get us fired up from the underground. I just can’t wait to open my facility and to bring the underground in quebex! Too many freakin’ globo fyms around here, too many useless fancy equipement, time to get them back to the roots!

  8. Here is a bad ass combo that I love:

    Stone Loading w/ Reverse Thick Bar Curls!!
    this shit will also mutilate your forearms.


  9. These were the folks I looked to when I started training. For most of us the gyms were rugged no chrome no fancy machines just lots of plates and dumbbells.But most important was the great attitudes,the training was basic and functional and it wasn’t enough to be big you had to be able to use it. Never knew when you would be called on to play some football or rugby, may support the local highland games by going out on a weekend and do some hevey events

  10. Bag (150-200#) front squat (DEEP-ARSE to floor) and overhead press combo.
    2.5 inch thick bar deadlift heavy for one rep w/hold for 30-45 seconds combined with bentover plate row.(cup hands-aka No thumbs, and DO Not rest on your thighs-that’s cheating)
    15-20 rep squat (moderate-high #) with a 20-30 yard sprint. (Use bumper plates otherwise the local park department will be pissed! I know from experience) 3-5sets (drop the weight right as you complete the last rep and take off!)

    Good Stuff as usual Zach! Keep it up!

  11. @Dave I hear ya bro, I miss sled and prowler work, my entire parking lot of the gym freezes and last week looked like an ice skating rink!

    Yesterday temps hit 55 so not bad!

  12. Elliott, holy crap, you did those as supersets? That is some serious combo work!!!

  13. Dustin damn dude sounds AWESOME, where did you get a 2.5″ thick bar? I have a 2″ but you motivated me!

    or, did you make it?

  14. Hardware store! 2.5 inch steal + 1 1/2 inch pipe+ bolts/nuts/lock washers+old pair of velcro wrist wraps(under $20). Put the small pipe into the bigger one then drill holes through both and bolt(prevents the smaller pipe from sliding around. The old wrist wraps are used for collars(ya buddy!) They work awesome (especially if they have foam in them).
    Probably not kosher for gym use unless you have signed waivers, but at home/personal it works well.
    Another crazy thing to do is get a pipe cut to fit between the ends of a olympic bar! 2/2.5/3 inch pipe and try cleaning it! Be sure to not secure the bar inside the pipe. Let it slide around! Killer grip work because the bar wants to jump out of your hands. Also nice for reverse arm curls!

  15. Yo Brotha Z..

    Awesome Old School training! I love to say that 40 years ago this body was moving, not quite the beast these were but I was around!

    I had the opportunity to train in an old-school gym the other day… a place that smells like sweat and where the plates still make that sweet clanging sound! Loved it!

    All the f’n rubber coated crap kills the aura these days.

    I will always be a fan of the sweet science of IRON… and love the wood, the sand, the swings of all sorts but man, give me iron, iron, iron and I’m a happy boy (even after 40!)…


    1. Brother, those steel plates are THE best! You need to build a place in Colorado for yourself w/ the steel plates! ha ha

  16. Back when I was prepping for my bodybuilding show I always loved kicking my upper body day off with some heavy hang cleans then hitting up heavy benching supersetted with weighted pull ups. End with some weighted dips and HEAVY single DB bent rows for high reps!

    Then walk around JACKED UP and scaring people at the old globo gym I used to train at!

  17. Yo, This is an old post but I can’t help but to leave a comment.
    I have to say I like old school lifting and one thing about sprints or HIIT as it is called today increases Test turnover and yes can help you become more anabolic besides losing fat.
    And oh damn I remeber those early equipments that I used.
    Now the gym I go to is actually just a collection of old equipments by our neighbor and these are some hardcore old school plates for mostly compound moves and what can I say- I love the spirit there

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

"Zach Even - Esh is the Charles Atlas of Powerlifting / Weightlifting / Athletic Training. He is a walking inspiration. A kick in the ass for all of us."
- Steven Pressfield, World Renown Author
War of Art & Turning Pro

Get Zach’s Best Bodyweight & Strength Training Programs for FREE!

Become an Underground Strength Insider

I HATE spam as much as you