Serge Nubret Pump Training: No Need to Lift Heavy to Gain Muscle

Article last updated: January 2018 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer

Download my free eBook “Bodyweight Training for the Skinny-Fat Guy” (10-page PDF).

IDips often see guys at the gym using way more weight than me. Some of them are bigger, but surprisingly, most of them are not.

Last time I trained at the gym, I finished my workout with 35lbs barbell curls. In the meanwhile, there was a guy next to me curling double of my weight.

That guy was significantly smaller than me.

This made me think about the first few years of my training where I believed that you can only grow by lifting heavy.

Back then, I would often be the guy at the gym who was deadlifting the most weight.

When I saw ripped guys train next to me with half of my weight, I thought “he probably has great genetics, since he can train with baby weights and look like that”.

Then, one day, I looked at my progress pictures from my first few years of training and I was VERY disappointed.

I had increased my deadlift with over 240lbs and my squat with almost 180lbs, but I didn’t look any better.

Therefore, it was time for a change in my training.

During my search for new ways  to train I stumbled upon this fella called Serge Nubret…

Serge Nubret’s 3 Training Principles

Serge NubretSerge Nubret was one of the top 3 bodybuilders in the world in 1972-1975. He had very wide shoulders and a narrow waist, weighing a shredded 200lbs at 6 feet of height.

In 2006, Serge shared all his bodybuilding advice on the forums. The topic got almost 12,000 responses, and it’s a very interesting read.

After reading through many of his comments, I found that he relied on 3 interesting training principles, which went completely against my beliefs at that time:

  1. Overtraining is overrated – your body can adapt to a lot more than you think. Serge trained for +2 hours a day, 6 days a week and did abs every morning for cardio.
  2. The amount of weight you lift doesn’t matter. What matters is how you lift the weight. Serge always used light weights and focused on contracting his muscles.
  3. Your muscles grow better from doing a lot of sets and reps with low rest between sets, because that enables you to keep a great pump throughout your whole training session. Serge would do 42-72 sets per training session with 30-60 seconds rest between sets.

In other words, he was an advocate of pump training done until your muscles are completely trashed, which was the exact opposite of what I was doing.

His arm routine consisted of 32 sets and 384 reps!

I have tried his arm routine several times, and I was forced to use 15 lbs dumbbells for biceps to complete it.

In the first few sets you think that his workout is a joke, but once you reach the end of the supersets, your arms will have such an intense burn, that you will want to quit.

The only question is: will you give up, or keep going?

Serge Nubret’s Old School Workout Routine

Serge Nubret’s popular Old School Workout Routine looked like this:

Monday + Thursday: Quads (20 sets), Chest (32 sets)

  • Squats – 8 sets of 12 reps
  • Leg Press – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Leg Extension – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Bench Press – 8 sets of 12 reps
  • Flat Bench DB Flyes – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Incline Bench Press – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Incline DB Flyes – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Incline DB Pullovers – 6 sets of 12 reps

Tuesday + Friday: Back (26 sets), Hamstrings (16 sets)

  • Chin Ups – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Behind the Neck Lat Pull Downs – 8 sets of 12 reps
  • Lat Pulldowns to the Front – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Barbell Bent-Over Rows – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Lying Leg Curls – 8 sets of 15 reps
  • Standing Leg Curls – 8 sets of 15 reps

Wednesday + Saturday: Shoulders (24 sets), Arms (2 x 8 supersets), Calves (16 sets)

  • Behind the Neck Barbell Press – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Alternate DB Front Raise – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Barbell Upright Row – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Cable Lateral Raise – 6 sets of 12 reps
  • Barbell Curls superset with Triceps Pushdowns – 8 sets of 12 reps
  • DB Curls superset with Triceps Dips – 8 sets of 12 reps
  • Standing Calf Raises – 8 sets of 12 reps
  • Seated Calf Raises – 8 sets of 12 reps

Sunday: Rest or abs training

In addition to his routine, he would do 1 hours of situps every morning for cardio, working his way up to +2000 sit ups a day.

“Your Arms Have Gotten Bigger”

I did a part of Serge’s Old School Workout for a month, and got great results.

I remember people finally commenting on the size of my arms!

That never happened during my first few years of training where I lifted heavy.

I got great results because I did part of it and not the full routine.

The full routine does not work for the average natural bodybuilder.

Serge had elite genetics and took illegal drugs to attain his physique.

Most of us have average genetics and do not take steroids/hormones/drugs, therefore we cannot do as much training as Serge and recover from it.

Does that mean that his training principles do not work? No, his principles still work:

  • You can train much more than most bodybuilding magazines would have you believe.
  • You can gain more muscle mass in the 8-12 rep range compared to lifting heavy weights.
  • Mind muscle connection is much more important than the weight on the bar.

However, you need to scale his workouts to fit your needs.

This generally means doing less sets, train certain muscle groups less frequently and replacing some of the exercises.

With my private coaching clients, I always follow this procedure:

  1. I have them master basic bodyweight exercises to build a solid strength foundation. (You need this before doing pump training).
  2. I scale their pump training program to fit their individual body-type, genetics, training history, lifestyle and goals.

My Results After Applying Serge’s Training Principles

Pump TrainingMy workouts in the past 17 or so months have all had the following characteristics:

  • 90% of my training consists of light-moderate weights and bodyweight exercises.
  • I keep my workouts brief by using lower rest times and doing more sets.
  • I leave my ego at home and use no momentum during exercises.

And here are the results so far:

  • I have gained size on my arms, chest, shoulders and upper back.
  • I was able to add “detail” to my muscles and get those muscle separation lines.
  • I can eat more since my workouts burn more calories.
  • My lower back and hips are completely pain free.

But most importantly, I enjoy my training, since I don’t have to carry a notebook around and record the weights I lift.

I just go to the gym, and make sure that I hit the desired muscle groups with about 8 sets and reach muscular failure.

I’m bigger and more defined all over, while having a smaller waist and hip measurement.

Are You Saying That Lifting Heavy is a Waste of Time?

Once you have built that strength base, I see no reason to continue lifting heavy, unless you want to compete in powerlifting.

Serge Nubret was 72 when he passed away, and at that age he was still fit and most importantly: injury free.

In contrast, go to any forum where heavy lifting is advocated, and take a close look at the amount of injuries that people have. When people get injuries from lifting heavy, it’s usually because they:

  • “Use bad form”
  • “Don’t eat enough”
  • “Need to improve mobility”

Those things are all true to some degree. By improving form, optimizing nutrition and improving mobility you can reduce the risk of injury by a lot, but the risk still remains high if you keep lifting heavy for years.

I rarely hear about someone getting injured from basic bodyweight exercises or light-moderate weights. But, how about chasing a PR on the bench press or deadlift? That’s a completely different story.

So, if you’re in it for the long haul, then I believe that bodyweight training and light-moderate weights are the way to go.

Should it happen that you found this article useful, be sure to follow my daily updates on my facebook page and instagram.

Be proud but stay hungry,

Oskar Faarkrog

Image Credit (Serge Nubret): Carlos Newsome

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  1. Hi Oskar, you mentioned above that once you’ve built that strength base, then heavy lifting is no longer necessary. My question is, what’s the strength base that I should aim for?

    I’ve been training for about 9 months doing Freeletics bodyweight exercises 4-5 days/wk. I’m just now starting to incorporate weight training and I’ve changed my routine to do 2 days bodyweight, and 3 days doing barbells. That’s why I’m asking about what strength base I should aim for.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      The initial strength base we aim for is 15 chin ups, 30 diamond push ups and 100 bodyweight squats.

      After that, I will need to see how much time/equipment you have available and what kind of training you respond best to. There’s no single answer here.

  2. Oskar,

    Love that I found your site recently. I started lifting more seriously about seven years ago (I was 26 at the time). I did starting strength and saw noob gains, but I plateaued after a very short time. If I ate a ton of food, I could get my weights to go up, but then I’d find myself disappointed when two days later I’d have to drop the weight by 10 pounds! Even worse, I injured my back on many occasions while trying to increase my squat. Every time that would happen I would reset to bar weight and focus heavily on form. Inevitably, I would injure myself again once I got close to my max weight. Workouts started being just another stress to add to my life. I would literally sweat and get tense just thinking about going to the gym. Eventually, I moved over to 5-3-1 and had some moderate success with that, but once again I plateaued and injured myself. The worst part is that through all of this, I had little aesthetic development.

    Recently, I decided to start a new program based on a cycle of four weeks. Week 1: sets of 15 reps, low weight; Week 2: sets of 12 reps, med weight; Week 3: sets of 8 reps, mod weight; Week 4, sets of 5 reps, high weight. I liked this more than my previous routines and I saw some development, but there still wasn’t enough overall volume to get the mythical “pump” that we all hear so much about.

    A couple of weeks ago I found your site while I was searching for ways to improve my lats. Bingo! I’ve done the lat workout just a handful of times now and I can feel the pump each time and see a visual difference in size when I’m done working out. I also see my veins more clearly. Then I moved on to incorporating Serge’s routine into my workout, and that’s where my question comes in.

    Currently, I do weight during my lunch break, and I either swim, bike or run at night. I’m able to fit in your full lat routine in a lunchtime workout, and I can fit in any ONE of Serge’s routines for a single muscle group. For example, today I did Serge’s chest routine. That leaves me training each body part just one a week, other than my lats which I train twice a week. My question is this: would I be better off cutting Serge’s routines in half and working each body part twice a week? Or is once a week OK with this level of volume? I can tell you one thing–I’m more sore than I’ve been in a long time, but it’s in a good way!

  3. I need to make a funny comment on this thread. Before I found this topic and when I would go to the Gym, I saw many well-developed guys lifting very little weight and I found it a bit funny, always thought -well, they must be warming up.

    I never saw any of them doing any extraneous heavy weight workout sessions and this started making no sense to me. Until I started reading about Serge N and landed on this “blog” and then it all started making sense.

    Pay attention to your body signals, eat well, rest and exercise if you want to live a long and healthy life. This is my goal! Good luck everyone.

    • Vince Gironda’s gym was very similar…while he did not advocate the pump, necessarily, he did advocate far lighter weights, dips and chins. First time I went in to his gym as a whee youth, as they would say, he lost his temper with me and told me to either use the right weights for what I was trying to do or take my money and leave.

  4. The late Serge was a juicer and lifted fairly heavy weights…his best bench press was around 450lbs, as I recall, and his squat was in the 500s if I’m not mistaken. There’s a picture of Nubret on Dave Draper’s site squatting over 400 in sweatpants and street shoes. There are rumors he moved to higher reps/volume training when he started having some injuries.

    Another so-called volume trainer was Johnny Fuller, but, again, he no-doubt used steroids and died of a massive heart attack.

    That being said, Mr. HIT Mike Mentzer, trained with volume prior to his conversion to Heavy Duty style training and he’d won multiple titles before then.

    • Regardless of what Serge did and when, lifting with volume works extremely well for me and it seems some others have been finding the same. I guess weight is subjective. If your 20rm max in the squat is over 500lbs as it was for Tom Platz it could be considered light weight for him.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks for sharing this P, I actually didn’t know that. I just studied the forum topic Serge Nubret made on before he passed away. I’m still doing high volume training now, 4 years after finding his advice and it’s still helping me add size to all my stubborn body-parts while staying 100% injury free so it’s working well for me. My clients also get better results with high volume training compared to heavy weights so I believe that as long as you scale down his training advice to fit the non-enhanced lifter, it works very very well.

      • Not dismissing the training recommended here, simply pointing out the myth around guys like Serge, Johnny Fuller, etc., regard their use of heavy and light weights.

        When I’d started working out, a gentleman in his 40s at the gym focused on chins and dips. Around five or six sets, 12 – 15 reps, bodyweight squats and some light/moderate weights for a few sets of curls and shoulder work. Looked fantastic and he kept telling me this is all you need; there were a few other people following the same approach in the gym. Wish I’d listened as I probably would have avoided the injuries and wasted $$$$ buying programs and magazines advocating programs that were ghost written with impossible claims.

  5. Big fan of high rep sets (25-30) combined with lower. Able to activate all 3 muscle fibres and as you have mentioned, the pump at the end is a great visual and motivating tool. If the aesthetic look is what you are after, it’s a must. Plenty of studies that suggest the same thing.

    • Totally agree it may not be specific to building strength or conventional to see in gyms but ofcourse there’s a lot more to pump training than just “visual improvements” The strength gains are there too even if it doesn’t target such as specifically. I never benched 225 for 10 reps in all the time i spent on low rep programs. I can now bench this despite having built up lifting no more than 120-150lbs on bench for high rep sets. Nothing impressive but proves the naysayers wrong that you need to lift heavy to build a strong bench.

  6. Can i do full body workout using light weights and bodyweight workout. Should i do it 6 times a week? When i do this workout, I use superset and dropset. I combine chest and back, bicep and tricep,leg and abs and dropset shoulder

  7. Brilliant article. Your article literally started my journey to successfully transform my physique. I probably wouldn’t have taken this road with stumbling on this article so thank you!
    Serge Nubret’s training style has transformed my thinking not only in what is required to build an impressive physique but also what I can achieve with what I thought were trash can genetics. Never did I think that at 31 years of age I could gain muscle as fast as I did in my early 20’s. Reason being I trained wrong for many years in the past.

    As recommended I have utilized an abbreviated routine of Serge’s pump program as I’m a natural trainee. Keeping rest periods to 25-30 seconds max between sets I usually complete a workout in under an hour and that involves about 32-35 sets per muscle group. Often being too pumped causes me to fail to get my reps as opposed to muscle fatigue. A great problem to have actually. Pumps are just unreal training like this. I’m certain these extreme pumps make a significant contribution to muscle hypertrophy. After training for a few months and adapting to the volume and short rest intervals I’ve taken it up a level and incorporated super sets to cut down training time and further enhance the pump. I still train one muscle group each day 6 days a week.

    Chest day example

    dumbbell bench 8×12 superset with barbell bench 8×12
    dumbbell incline bench 8×12 superset with incline barbell bench 8×12
    Rest intervals between supersets are still kept to just 25-30 seconds so basically it’s a hurried attempt pulling weights off in your rest interval as this is basically one long drop set workout. Total training time to complete all 32 sets doesn’t exceed 30 minutes this way.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      That’s great to hear Bob. Regarding the supersets: I have tried this on some exercises but the equipment in my condo gym is limited so there are only so many exercises I can do anyways.

      One thing you can try is to do complexes so you do for example one exercise for back, then one for upper chest, then one for biceps and finish with triceps. Repeat 4 circuits, then change up the exercises and start a new circuit immediately

  8. Michael says:


    I don’t see the modified routine in this article anymore. I was wondering if you edited it out for any particular reason.

    – Michael

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Michael,

      At the time I put out the training program, I only had experience transforming my own body and had no coaching experience, therefore I didn’t know about the huge importance of customising a training program, even when dealing with guys of the same body-type.

      I edited out the training program because for optimal results, it has to be customised to an individuals’ goals and needs. A cookie cutter plan just won’t cut it.

      Going forward, the blog will only be used to share general lessons I learn coaching my clients that apply to almost every skinny-fat guy.

      However, I’m planning on using my coaching data to develop a software within the next 2 years that automatically adjusts people’s training programs and diet plans based on their weekly progression check ins and biofeedback

  9. Fantastic read. I used to do some hardcore heavy weight lifting years ago, At first, it was great, but a couple years went by and… got a severe lower back injure that lasted for years. It sucked.
    Still I tried to keep the weights up and up and up.
    After some time I decided to completely leave and forget the heavy weight lifting. My back was hurting, and well, I was not seeing any improvements.
    Got back to karate, which I have practiced for over 15 years but I kinda put my martial arts training on hold just to focus on getting a bulkier body at the gym.
    Martial arts require maximum flexibilty, speed and most of all a lean body. I dont see any big muscular guy on the dojo, guess there is a correlation on this.

    So, lifting light, lots of reps, doing body strenght training, and martial arts are what are keeping me healthy right now. If I add a good diet, who knows how far can I go?

    Thanks a lot for all your articles, Ive been reading you for over a year and it has been a total eye opener.

  10. Former skinny-fat here, now an average looking guy with a bit of muscle but far from the biggest guy in the gym.

    I should stress here, as I was also once very skinny-fat, that Oskar is fundamentally correct to state that such training is going to be more effective once you’re strong and lean and can impress in terms of bodyweight exercises. Easily completing 12-15 pull-ups regularly, and 20+ diamond push-ups in a row is something you could do most days of the week and so on. If you’re lucky, you may also get some early stage newbie gains from that. Perhaps not enough to show through clothes without a concurrent fat loss, but it’s a small possibility if you’ve been sedentary.

    The problem with heavy training for guys with less than optimal genetics, hormonal balance and recovery ability is that they’re usually set up as 3x per week programs, or maybe even more. A lot of guys fitting the skinny-fat stereotype would probably do far better from just 2 barbell strength sessions per week when lifting heavy, including overhead pressing as a focus to build around, rather than endless squatting. Progression with such high frequency on squatting and deadlifting makes you too hungry to narrow your waist from an overweight base if genetics and hormones are going against you.

    When the weights get heavy on a 3x per week program, the skinny-fat guy needs to eat a lot to progress and he doesn’t lose his fat. Training heavy on a Monday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, etc is pretty much the only way someone fitting such a recovery level is going to build a good base of strength with heavy barbell training.

    This is what I did once I figured it out (after much wheel spinning and actually getting weaker and fatter), but if I had my time again I’d probably have gone with a straight push-up progression and chin-up progression, with abs, bridging and lower body work designed to iron out/eliminate any pelvic tilt and toughen the resting tone of the abs to keep them tight.

    This probably opens up another talking point about the training regimen of the skinny-fat guy looking to chisel out a physique: posture!

    Pelvic tilt is something that can make a belly stick out even at 10% bodyfat, but fortunately there is good free info online showing exercises and progressions to toughen the abdominal wall and correct pelvic tilt (as a lot of skinny-fat guys seem to be shy and less sporty naturally, sit down a lot, etc). Note that Oskar talks a lot about strategically building key areas of muscle, and this strategy may also apply to ironing out postural kinks in some guys.

    I actually think this site has a lot to offer to skinny-fat guys about to give up. As I say, I wouldn’t have done a 3x or 4x per week barbell strength program had I come across a site like this in the beginning. They’re murder on the CNS and send your appetite through the roof which is only any good if you’re really, really lean and athletic already. And even then, such programs have a shortish shelf life.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Great comment James. I like your insights about posture.

      I spend 20 minutes daily stretching my hips, hamstrings, neck, ankles, calves, chest and lats.

      Doing this has a massive effect on my mobility and posture.

      I feel my torso gets more straight after the hip openers and I can squat ass to grass rather than a half squat.

      I’ve gradually been expanding my stretching regimen for about 2 years now and I have all my clients do stretches too.

      Besides the stretches I’ve also added a quick ab workout which helped make my abs more defined despite being at the same body fat level.

      • Hey Oskar,

        I thought you must have been doing something as you’re not recognisably skinny-fat in any way. More like a long-time athletic guy who pumps iron and runs hills.

        So it’s a big testament to the volume methods you’ve built up to, alongside tightening and rebalancing areas of your body as required.

        I also find that I just feel happier and handle stress better after a period of doing posture and mobility stuff as it’s never exhaustive and can be done every day, even if not hitting the gym or the bodyweight. I think there’s something in all that ancient wisdom! :)

  11. Mirko Romovski says:

    Dude. Thank you for this.

    I was just at the gym today, running Greyskull LP, wondering why the guy next to me was 5x as jacked as me, yet deadlifting 200lbs (half my max), and wondering why after 3 years of “training”, I still look like SHIT.

    Much like yourself, I always thought that jacked dudes that lifted light weights had great genetics, while I was on my 3rd set of squats with 300lbs, still looking like I barely even lift.

    Rather than take my scheduled rest day tomorrow, I’m going to go in and annihilate certain body parts with light weight and endless sets. Overtraining be damned.

    Thanks again bro.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Do it man. If you eat enough carbs and calories you will see quick results because you have a great base already.

  12. Marco C. says:

    Hello Oskar!

    Amazing article as always, I’m a fan of yours. Do you believe it’s possible to apply this principle of “pump training” with bodyweight only exercises?

    Keep up the good work!

  13. You mentioned you’d incorporated bodyweight exercises into the routine. I’d be curious to see what you did for bodyweight for pump training in the place of free weight exercises. Did you just replace some curls with chins or what there a more broad selection of bodyweight movements? Did you keep it to 12-15 reps across the board?

  14. Nice Article Dude. Pump training works for sure. I normally use Vince Gironda’s 8×8 routine. I’m planning to shift to Serge nubret,s routine so that I can lift little more heavier weights, to get little more bigger in size:). 4 sets of twelve sounds good.

  15. Personal experience, the biggest gains on my arms I ever experienced was when doing Serge’s Light Weight pump training….I still go heavy from time to time …. But the point is…..his Method Works!!

  16. Hello I would like to know how he progressed did he use the same weight each set or he increased it

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      He focused on making the weight harder by targeting the right muscles and doing the movements in a controlled manner. Once he could do 12-15 perfect reps he would add a bit of weight.

  17. Hey Oskar. Great to see someone who gets that heavy weights don’t always equal size. I see lots of guys who do all that 5×5 and while it is good for strength, it’s not really that great for pure muscle mass.
    I read Serge Nubrets comments on various forums he was engaged in before he died and took note that higher reps with short rest periods is a great way to build muscle mass. Arnold would incorporate this method into his workouts at times.

    Another great bodybuilder who training day in this way and still does is Danny Padilla. He did 5 sets of 12 reps per exercise. His chest routine was this: bench press, incline press, flys and pullovers all for 5 sets of 12. I did his workouts and they only lasted about an hour due to not being as high volume as serge’s. I did chest/back one day, shoulders arms the next followed by legs and abs.

    What is so good about this way of training is less stress to the joints, growth hormone is released in the body which is good for building muscle and losing fat, yes you can eat more as well.

    Vince Gironda even advocated this way of training as well. It worked for him and he was drug free.

  18. Hi again oskar,Can I do any routine of How to create the illusion of wide shoulders and your pump routine in the same table example workout 1 of chin ups and after your routine of pump training.or deadlift workout and after your pump training.Im bulking now.

  19. Great post, Oskar. I’m a huge fan of ‘pump’ training. I concentrate on muscle contraction so intensely that I often break a harder sweat doing curls then when I’m doing heavy deadlifts.

    Definitely something to add to your training routine. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Hey Oskar! Thank you for this website :)

    I am in my second month of my transformation (this is all very new to me). I’m cutting by eating clean, keeping caloric deficit moderate, balanced macros, etc… I’m at the early stage of getting strong enough to do 1 chin up or 1 pull up.

    I’m 182cm and weigh 65kg.

    Negatives feel very muscle rippy to me, and scary… Like I’m going to hurt myself. Doing a pull up seems so far away to me!

    I feel like my arms are unusually weak, and wonder if it’s my age (35).

    So for now I’ve stopped with the negatives and I’m doing the lat pull down machine and trying to work up to 1x body weight (which is basically a pull up). I’m not too far off now, at 55kg single rep max, but progress is slow. Muscles are not developing, I’m pretty sure it’s all just neuro adaptation (which is fine and normal, I think).

    This brings me to my question:

    Given that I’m older, do you think it’s wise/possible to work up to pull-up strength while on the initial caloric deficit stage of the transformation?

    • Disregard all the above, after 6 weeks I just did my first fully dead-hang pull up :)

      My lower body was squirming a bit, but I did it!

      You have been, and continue to be a big inspiration; thank you!!!!

      • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

        GREAT! :) Congrats Leon. Keep up the good work, I believe you can do this.

        • I’m up to 7 chin-ups / 5 pull-ups with good form now :)

          More than anything I’m posting this for the dude reading this that’s wondering if it’s possible to transform even if you spent the first few decades of your life avoiding sports :)

          Go for it <3

  21. Amine zeggaf says:

    will this program help while cutting ? or its just for muscle mass not fat loss

  22. Hey Oskar another awesome article.

    As someone who already has the solid strength foundation, and can do 15 chin ups and 50 diamonds, would this routine help me with getting lean? I’ve been doing the body weight routine for years now and its helped me bit but would it be time to add this into my workout?

  23. One thing I need to add to this… If you have love handles like me there are only two things that you can do to get rid off them or modify your body so they are not that apparent. The first one, To Get Rid Off, you have to bring your BMI to almost nothing which is very hard to do unless you are very dedicated and have a very strict diet. The second option “modify your body so they are not that apparent” is the easiest one. Like Oskar mentions you need to make your back and arms bigger that way your upper body looks bigger giving you a more triangle look and the love handles are not as obvious any more :) This routine works great… the only part I have difficulty with is the leg curls, too many reps for me but I already have nice legs so I just do 8 reps. Good luck everyone!

  24. Potamkin says:

    Whats worked for Serge would not work for 90% us hardgainers. He had one of the best genetics of all times as Arnie and Flex did . He could of had one exercise a week and still would look better than most of us pumpin 6 times a week. So guys lift heavy but with good form and good luck.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Serge followed basic bodybuilding principles. Keep reps to around 8-12 so TUT is 40-60 seconds and rest between sets to 1 min or less. These are textbook bodybuilding principles, so why wouldn’t they work? I’m a hardgainer myself and made way more gains using these principles than I did lifting heavy 3 days a week.

  25. Oskar,

    do you think that serge build this body because of too many reps with leigh weight?
    Steroid free? I have read he was using negma parabolin which was a top supplement these days.


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Serge took steroids, but the principles of his workouts work.

      Hypertrophy is maximized at 10 reps with 1 minute rest between sets. Serge used 8-12 reps and 30-60 seconds rest between sets.

      I’ve used his principles since 2013 and gained a lot of size on my upper body while my strength has stayed the same.

  26. Nicolas Cuevas says:

    Very interesting. I’ve been doing SS for about 5 months and my main compound lifts have gone up a bit but not as much as the 5 phases of the Ideal Skinny-Fat Transformation article suggests at step 2. Is it really necessary to build a 2 x BW deadlift, 1.5 x BW squat and 1 x BW bench press before starting this bodybuilding routine?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      No, but the stronger you are, the more you will benefit from a hypertrophy routine since you can do high reps with heavier weights.

  27. Serge Nubret’s workout reminds me a lot of Cybergenics that came out in the USA in the 90’s. This workout is great for many reasons like not having to warm up, not needing a spotter so it’s perfect for guys working out at home. Serge probably did take roids but still he didn’t change much even in his 70’s. Arnold on the other hand did lose a lot of weight. Thanks for posting this !

  28. nubret looks like he was composed in photoshop. no human can be muscular and ripped at the same time naturally! you know that!!! roids + good genetics = his body!

    any routine would make him grow!!

    if a natural goes hi volume with supersets + dropsets + hyper-mega-sets etc. he will look fuller, more muscular thanks to pump, but that’s alll, only sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. you know that too! stop working out for a week or two and start seeing “water muscle” disappear!

    naturals cant go so high volume like him, 6 days/week

    and hi volume is not injury free! who said that?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:


      You’re right, no natural will ever look like he does.

      And yes, any routine would make him grow.

      However, I have used his training principles for the past few years and I’ve made better gains than I ever did following a low volume approach.

      I’ve had a 2 week break from training now and I haven’t lost any noticeable size. (Maybe half an inch here or there just like I would otherwise).

      You do know that +70% of muscle consists of water?

      I’m 100% injury free and I trained hard +5 years. I don’t even have any joint aches or anything and I have very skinny bones and get injured easily. How many ectomorphs who lift heavy for 5 years can say they’ve never had any injuries with no joint aches? The key to stay injury free with this approach is to use light-moderate weights – I often do 10 pound dumbbells. It’s very difficult to get injured with 10 pound dumbbells.

  29. Hey man,

    Sick routine. It’s working really well.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Great to hear Enzo, what are your gains so far?

      • I’ve noticed my shoulders and arms getting way bigger. Also is it fine to do diamond pushups and pullups every second day? I usually wake up in the morning and do 3 sets of diamond pushups and 3 sets of pullups but don’t go to complete failure, only near failure.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Perfect! Would be curious to see your progress pictures at some point (I won’t share without your permission).

          Yes, you can do that, no problem.

  30. Hello, my PRs now x5 are BP 54kg, Squats 40kg, DL 60kg. Started lifting like 14months ago, but with 1 month break, sick for 15days, and at the start I was in a very bad shape, my max chin ups were 2x in that time…

    I was doing a torso – leg routine, 4 days week, mixing some 4×8 and 5×5, day A torso BP 4×8 and day B torso BP 5×5.

    Now I was thinking about do something like madcow 5×5 for 2 months, maybe 1 reset and one more month (so I can progress in strenght), and after do 1 month in high rep-sets and see what happens. You think is a good idea?


  31. hi oskar Can you say me a example of dropsets in each group muscular for the finish of your routine of pump training?for example db flyes 4 sets of 12 reps and after dropsets with this exercise?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Daniel,

      I always drop the weight 2 times for all muscle groups. Here’s an example:

      70 pounds x 12 reps
      50 pounds x 12 reps
      30 pounds x 12 reps

      Makes sense?

      • Ok oskar,yes make sense,I will do dropsets after each exercise 4 setsx12 reps of db flyes and after 3 dropsets,barbell incline 4 setsx12 reps after 3 dropsets………..hey oskar in the last exercise biceps supersetted with triceps pushdowns and after 3 dropsets of db curls and 3 dropsets of triceps pushdowns.thanks bro

  32. Hi. I still want to do a deadlift and squat. Can I just add these into the above routine? For example, add deadlift to workout A and squat to B.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Workout B says you can do squats instead of leg presses. I would recommend you to skip the deadlifts on this routine since it will tire your whole body and make the other exercises less effective, but if you really want to do them, then do them on workout B just after the squats and keep the work to a minimum.

  33. This is great if you are juicing, but I don’t’ think its advisable if you are natural.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Yonker, I partly agree. His FULL routine cannot be performed by most natty lifters. After 5 years of training I still can’t do it.

      But, his principles do work. I know because I’ve used them for about 2 years now, and I know other readers use them with success. As long as you scale down his workouts as I did in this article, you can achieve great results.

      Have you ever tried doing this? I was skeptical too, but trying it changed my whole approach to fitness for the better.

  34. @theheck you gotta show yourself some respect. You dont know what youre talking about, a lot of guys including myself has transformed to their best physique.

  35. I am confused…the guy who wrote this article is really small, as though he has never worked out before, or has only just started doing some cardio. His size should be easily attainable within only a few months even for those with poor genetics – I kept looking around the site for the after photos, only to realize those were the after photos. Clearly whatever routine this guy is using is not working very well – I’d advise people to check out and read through the forums there, as you can find some people who are actually knowledgeable on the subject. Serge Nubret used to post there himself and we spoke frequently before he passed away. I would guess this comment will be removed by the creator of the website, but to Oskar, please try out some other techniques, use proper nutrition, build yourself more muscle before attempting to teach others your own highly inefficient methods. Best of luck to you.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I won’t remove your comment, but I’ll take my time to respond to it.

      First, “small” is a relative word. If you compare me to competitive bodybuilders, I’m small. If you compare me to other guys who work out, I’m definitely bigger than average. Where I come from, being around 200lbs. at close to 10% body-fat is impressive size. I get called “big” by most of my friends who lift/do calisthenics so you clearly have a distorted image of what big is. Perhaps you should read about muscle dysmorphia and make sure you don’t have it:

      For your record, my “crappy” routine enabled me to gain over 4 inches on my chest during the past 2 months while staying below 12% body-fat and gaining just 2 lbs.

      I’m aware that Serge posted there. I read his topic and implemented many of his ideas with success.

      • Nice reply Oskar ! With so much negativity from “Theheck”, i would bet a lot that this guy don’t train at all / is frustrated by his gains / is on roids

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      And here’s my thread on which you just referred to:

      144 comments – all positive. Perhaps you just have a different definition of big than most people out there?

  36. Oskar question:
    Workout A = Monday
    Workout B = Tuesday
    Workout A = Wednesday
    Workout B = Thursday
    Workout A = Friday
    Workout B = Saturday?

    Do I understand correct?



  37. Great article! I’ve been wanting to do this kind of workout but was lost on how to scale it down. I’ll be giving your program a go starting Monday. Quick question: what’s your opinion on the abs training? Serge treated abdominal training like cardio, training them with sit-ups for an hour every day reaching over 2,000 reps! Obviously that’s not ideal, but do you think that daily ab training is good?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Kris, thank you and good luck with it!

      I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say. I’m still experimenting with my own ab training, therefore this is an area you don’t see me giving much advice about. (All I write is based on experience).

  38. Thanks for this article; my lifts had gotten pretty stagnant over the last year or so of doing heavy lifts, and after just a month of using this set\rep scheme I’m seeing gains. It’s also a lot less grueling than my previous routine, and my CNS and joints are appreciating me giving them a break for once.

    My question is this: what sort of progression scheme do you recommend when going high volume like this? My plan was to add a rep or two every workout, then maybe up the weight by 2-5 lbs depending on the lift once I hit 15 reps. Also, does deloading factor into a routine like this?

  39. i hate to break it up for you.
    Serge was on roids, which suits for some reason pump training.
    as a natural trainee, you do need heavy compound lifting to get stronger,
    support hyperthrophy.
    natural trainee need to be strong, and also to use the whole spectrum of
    rep ranges i believe

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I know Serge was on roids. Most bodybuilders are.

      But, his methods are still effective as long as you scale them down like I did in this article. His principles are great for a guy who already has some basic strength.

    • Drug free bodybuilders don’t necessarily need to be strong. Some people don’t respond to heavy weights. I find that doing pump workouts like 5 sets of 8 or 5 sets of 12 did me more good than training heavy. You’ve read too much propaganda on the forums on how drug free bodybuilders are supposed to train.

      • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

        This is correct. I often see guys who lift the same weight as me yet we look completely different.

  40. Abdelrhman Khaled says:

    So you men that I should play the basic workout by carrying heavy weights untill I build up the strength base and muscles then I should strat the serge work out

    Thank you oscar

  41. Abdelrhman Khaled says:

    Please oscar
    Serge work out will help me in bulking while I am skinny or not ?

  42. Hey Oskar. After following your bodyweight routine I can do about 13 chin ups and 20 perfect form diamond push ups in the first set. (I have been doing 5 supersets with 3 min rest)
    I have been stuck in my chin ups for a while so I guess it’s time to do something. After reading this article I thought this could be useful for me so I create my own modification routine acording to my goals:

    A: Back and Arms
    • Chin ups superset with diamond push ups (5 supersets)/(2 min rest)
    • Lat pulldowns 4×12 (1 minutes rest)
    • Hammer curls superset with triceps push down (4 to 6 supersets)/(1 minute rest)
    • Cable row 4×12 (1 minute rest)

    B: Chest, shoulders
    • Chin ups superset with diamond push ups (5 supersets)/(2 min rest)
    • Dumbbell flys 5×12 (45 sec rest)
    • Incline dumbbell press 6×12 (45 sec rest)
    • Lateral raises 4×12 ( 45 sec to 1 minute)
    • reverse flys and face pulls 4×12 (45 sec to 1 minute rest)

    I don’t know if I have to change something or this routine is good for me. I also incorporate some chin ups and diamond push ups at the beginning of every session. What do you think?

    Also I want to know if doing chin ups without locking out is as effective as doing full chin ups for lat activation. Sorry for all this question but I have a lot of questions. Thanks

  43. Hello oskar,I began to do calisthenics in september of 2013,since may of 2014 I m training in the gym strenght training,when you think I could do pump training?Im bulking now .thanks oskar

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Danny, I would do it after getting really good at calisthenics. Can you do 15 slow pull ups with no swing?

      • No oskar,I can do 12 slow pull ups with no swing,can you tell me the number of reps I should can do in each exercises of calisthenics for I can do this routine?Im doing body of spartan,my new goal is do 15 reps of chin up and pull up,I can do 25 diamond push ups.I first warm up after do forearms and my routine.I will send you my routine to your email.I want do routine with calisthenics and lift weights.thankss oskar,some advice for me?

      • Pull ups or chin ups?I can do 15 chin ups today and I can do only 12 pull ups at the time

  44. Nubret is a well known steroid one can get as big as naturally because even although he has small bone structure and small frame he look as big as arnold.his wrist size is only 6.5 inch.mine is also same

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You’re right about that, but his principles still work as long as you scale his routine down to match your recovery levels.

  45. Hello Oskar!
    Im a skinny fat guy who is 20 years old. Currenty im about 82 kg (22 % bf) and 174 cm. I have been training for 4 years soon with basically no results to my body. When I bulk hard I see some strength gains but I see that my body getting to much fat.

    I’m thinking about cutting down to a lower bodyfat percetange due to what I have been reading on this website.
    Would you suggest this Beginner Pump Routine for a skinny fat guy like me or should I stick to the bodyweight movements like suggested if Im gonna do a cut.

    By the way great post


  46. If I can do about 12 chin ups and 22 diamond push-ups I can start with this routine? Or I have to get even high numbers in those exercises?

    Amazing post! Thanks you!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks Joan,

      I would wait until you can do 15-20 chins, because that’s usually the point where it get’s very hard to add reps. After that, you should be all set for hypertrophy training.

  47. hallo oskar
    can you inform us about your lat pulldown technique
    by the way ı am really surprised that you put back with same day and after legs since we want to work on back the most

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I put back on the same day as legs because they’re two completely unrelated body parts which enables you to go all out on back. In my experience, doing back together with chest or shoulders is way too much work for the shoulders in one day, since most back movements use the shoulder to some degree. This is just my experience though. Feel free to try it for yourself and see how it works.

      About the lat pulldown, I use an overhand grip and pull it down in a controlled fashion, and never lock out.

  48. hmmm I am trying to find more of this high volume training.

    I am having nagging injuries due to doing. strength training and I still look dogshit.

    my maxes @ 72kg @5ft8 are

    bench 70kg*10
    SQUAT 80KG
    dead 100kg

    injuries——> low back. shoulders, neck

  49. Hej Oskar!

    Jag är 66 år gammal i ganska bra shape. Efter långt uppehåll tog jag upp träningen igen. Jag försökte mig på Mike Mentzer heavy Duty Training som resulterade att alla mina gamla skador kom tillbaka.
    Nu ska jag testa din Serge Nubret uppläggning. Tycker du att ska jag börja med Serge Nubret nybörjar Pump Routine enlig uppläggningen här på din sida? Det vore kanske för mycket att direkt hoppa på Serges full program. Vad är din åsikt?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Stefan,

      Sorry, my Norwegian is not that great, but as I understand you are asking if you should do Serge Nubret’s full routine or my modified version? In that case, definitely do the modified version. You can always add more stuff later if you feel you need that, but I doubt you will.

      By the way, great job on keeping up with the training at 66!


  50. Oskar, good blog – keep it up.. I found your site through B&D.
    There’s no doubt that this routine works, although for natural lifters I’d highly recommend focusing on lower rep heavy compounds at the start of their session and then moving into some higher rep isolation (accessory) exercises.

    Just my 2 cents.


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you SJ,

      The reason to why I rarely lift heavy anymore is the injury potential, but I can’t argue that there aren’t benefits to doing that. For example, as stated on Victor’s blog, if you start your session with heavy weights, you activate your strength, and thereby the following exercises will seem easier.

      By the way, great physique!

  51. SF Warrior says:

    Thank you Oskar for keep coming some great stuff!

    I have a question about mixing this type of training with some tougher exercises. For example I would like to keep pull ups in my routine but there is no way I could do them for 4X12. What is your advise to have some pull ups in this routine?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      That’s a good question. Actually I removed pull ups to keep the exercises to 12 reps, but I have to admit, that I often do the pull ups instead of the lat pull downs. In case you do them, don’t think about hitting a certain amount of reps. Just do as many as you can while focusing on your lats and using no swing/momentum. If that means doing sets of 5-8, then so be it.

  52. michael says:

    ı am currently doing a similar routine to yours but ı do back-chest-arms first day and leg-shoulders second day 4 times a week since leg training drains me so lifts are going up the fastest ever.normally ı do A-B-OFF-A-B-OFF-OFF but ı go by feel like you about off days.
    ı have a question for you.ı dont get hungry so much on workout days and ı have to use sugary foods to keep the calories up or ı get bloated.on rest days ı get really hungry but everyone suggest my calorie intake must be lower on rest days.whats your opinion about this?
    btw,keep it up bro,your articles are getting even better :D

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I don’t like the whole concept of cycling calories as if your body was a machine.

      Here’s my take: if you train hard 4 days a week, your body is always in a recovery mode, so you need to supply it nutrients on off days as well! As a skinny-fat guy it’s already hard to gain muscle, so you gotta make the most out of your bulks and keep them short to stay lean. When you cut, you can take it easier with the training – that should help keep hunger down.

  53. Hey i just want to ask is this really effective for mass ?

  54. I can vouch to this.I curled heavy in the beginning and although i got stronger and my biceps did grow but not as much as when i went light.I went light with the easy bar did 12 reps for each set and 30sec rest by set 5 my bicep felt inflamed and sore.I totally gonna start doing this more.This probably wont build strength tho :/

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      It won’t help much in terms of lifting heavier weights, but you will gain muscle if you do I right and eat a caloric surplus at the same time.

  55. Great transformation and great site! Keep at it bro!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks Sonny, I can only say the same about your site. You have some really good content, and I look forward to read more of your bodybuilding posts.

  56. Awesome post Oskar!!!

    I really enjoy lifting like this, but my ego always gets in the way :) Actually, like you said, the only drawback of Serge’s training method is that it requires a lot of different exercises.

    I’m off to workout now and today’s workout is going to be dedicated to you, since I’ll be lifting light weights for a ton of reps :)


  57. Here’s a great bicep workout my friend and I used to do…I’m sure we didn’t invent it, but it was the best thing I ever did for pumping up my biceps.

    Bicep Ladder of Death

    Stand facing each other. Start with a straight bar with about 40 lbs, 50 if you’re in good shape.

    Do 1 curl, hand it off. He does 1 curl, hands it back. Do 2 curls, hand it off. He does 2, hands it back.

    Do this up until 12, then immediately go to 12 again, and go back down. The only rest you get is the time it takes your buddy to finish his set.

    You will be dying on the trip down. Also, you’re friend is there to spot you should you start to lose power at the end. Your arms will pumped as hell after this routine.

  58. Good article Oskar.

    I think this is an awesome approach for a number of reasons;

    – You stay injury-free
    – It teaches you to leave your ego at the door completely. Who cares how much you can lift anyway.
    – I kinda like the idea of ripped people lifting tiny weights and not giving a fuck.

    See ya later man

  59. Brilliant. Kai Greene does this too.

  60. Seamus says:

    @Oskar “I can eat more since my workouts burn more calories”.

    Did you find this (Serge Nubret modified) routine increased your appetite over Lifting Heavy?

    Did you do any other cardio supplementation? e.g. Hill sprints?


    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      It’s hard to tell since it’s a very long time since I lifted heavy on a regular basis, but I always had a huge appetite after working out. I eat a lot after my pump workouts, but my body uses all that energy.

      I did cardio for 2 weeks when I wanted to lose that last bit of fat before going on spring break, but cardio is not a staple in my training.

  61. Seamus says:

    Edit; My last post should read “LOWER BACK PAIN is the kernel of the problem with the current dogma of “Train Heavy or go Home” that is so in vogue at the moment.

  62. Seamus says:

    @Oskar “My lower back and hips are completely pain free”.

    This is the kernel of the problem with the current dogma of “Train heavy or go Home” that is so in vogue at the moment. And as you get Older staying injury free is paramount.

    Thanks for this modified Serge Nubret routine.
    Oskar, you are an Oasis of sanity in a sea of madness!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks for the kind words Seamus. I don’t chase quick muscle gains anymore. I’m all about staying injury free and progressing slowly now. I want to train my whole life, so there’s no rush.

  63. @Andre, I’ve found this video pretty useful at increasing my reps in both chin ups and pull ups. It’s about training to engage the stabiliser muscles in the back more completely, this gives you a better base of strength and hence more reps!
    Hope this helps!

  64. Patrick says:

    Oskar, just out of interest, what did you get your bench press to on the first year or two of training?

    I started from a skinny fat base, I’m seeing results in my back hugely, my shoulders too and legs but other parts are lagging.

    I was told that if I could hit these numbers, I would look very muscular because strength = size

    BP – 120kg
    Squat – 160kg
    DL – 180kg

    What has been your experience of this? I am training only to look good, though i enjoy training heavy too.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      About 100 kg. You will definitely have some size if you reach those numbers, however I believe that you would gain even more size by doing higher rep training. At least that’s my experience.

  65. I think the guy would have built muscle with any routine as he had super genetics.
    The problem is that this would not work for the average trainer, way too much and who would want to train 2 hours a day! They key is to train intelligent with the correct nutrition. The illusion of complexity, keep it simple.


    Yan UK

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I agree, and that’s why I modified his training routine to make it simpler and easier to recover from.

    • I don’t think genetics genetics genetics is a good thing to say. These guys stop taking the elixirs and they resemble average guys in a few years! Where are genetics then? Just google Bodybuilding detransformations and you will find it out for yourself. Muscle bellies sure do play a role but not that much as is suggested.

  66. Too bad this guy was on roids. His training program really does work though.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Exactly. He did take roids, but his training principles can still be applied with succes.

  67. Thanks for this website. I was losing motivation to continue my cut. Im currently 5’9 167. I need to get down to 145 to have that lean look. I have been comparing my progress to others and it’s wrong. It gets frustrating man I have been lifting for 2.5 years and im basically going through what u went through. I was going to bulk this week, but I decided to come to this site and it changed my mind. I need to accept the fact that there is no other way out of this and cutting is the only option.

    Anyways, im deciding to do 3 full body workouts during the week now, and 2 days dedicated to chinups/pushups. I can do about 10 chins, how could I get that to 15-20? Im gonna work on my diamond pushups at home too. Is 10 sets of chinups and pushups too much too do before a fullbody workout? Im gonna train hard as I can while leaning down. Thanks Oskar. I bookmarked this site and will be coming here daily for motivation

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Check out my eBook, there’s a lot written there about chin ups. That information should help you add reps to your chins.

      10 sets is way too many to warm up for full body workouts. Just do a few easy sets on your lifting days.

  68. Fernando says:

    Hi Oskar,
    Another excellent article! thanks
    Unfortunately I still don’t have the strength to start with this pump routine.
    I’m currently doing the basic bodyweight routine you recommended, (with some deadlifts and military presses, ones a week). Then, three or four times a week, I finish my sessions, with some pump exercises, like biceps curls, db shoulder presses, lateral raises, dips, etc. In these exercises i do 3×12 with 60s rest between sets.
    I’d like to know your opinion on this. Is this type of routine ok? Or should i make my strength base first (without pump exercises) and then start doing some bodybuilding exercises??
    thanks again Oskar and best regards!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      As long as you can recover and progress on your main exercises, it’s perfectly fine to add some pump work at the end.

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