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Build A Classic

Chris Cormier shows you how to build a physique that will stand the test of time.

Classic rock, classic cars, classic books — and classic bodybuilding. A lot of things get labeled as classic, but what does it really mean?

Classic is timeless; it's revered; and it's always imitated. A classic physique is all about symmetry, balance and proportion. Every muscle flows into the next with seamless harmony. No part is too big or too small. Words like "freak" and "mass" are replaced with "perfection" and "aesthetics."

To look like a classic bodybuilder, you've got to train like one. So FLEX enlisted the help of IFBB pro Chris Cormier, who competed through the '90s and early 2000s with one of the league's premier classic physiques. This past summer, he guided NPC competitor Lenyn Nunez to a fourth-place finish at the USA, with what many considered to be the most aesthetic, detailed and pleasing physique of his class. Now Cormier is sharing those secrets with FLEX. It's all here; the split, the workouts and his insider tips. Are you ready to build a classic physique that is reminiscent of legends like Frank Zane, Sergio Oliva, and Flex Wheeler? Then read on.

-Sean Andros, Online Editor/Staff Writer for FLEX Magazine

Keys To A Classic Physique

Cormier's Classic Tips

1/
Be
Balanced

Size is important, but a classic physique isn't just big, it's balanced. Just slapping on muscle haphazardly with no attention to proportion and symmetry will only end up in a sloppy physique. If you have arms that are too big for your shoulders or a chest that is too big for your back and legs, those overpowering bodyparts will only make the surrounding ones look even weaker. Each muscle needs to be developed so that combined with everything else, it will enhance the whole physique.

Every week, devote one workout to bringing up a weakness. The key is to make it specific and focus on a small muscle or part of a larger muscle (or muscle group). Some examples are upper chest, rear delts, quad sweep, triceps and leg adductors. In addition, since a lot of guys have an imbalance between quads and hamstrings because they train hams after doing heavy squats and leg presses, train hams in a separate workout so you can put more energy into them. Hams aren't a big muscle group and they won't grow from heavy weight and sloppy form. They're an endurance muscle and higher reps are the way to create hams that hang from the side and show deep cuts from behind.

2/
Carve In
Detail

One thing I notice often in today's physiques is the lack of detail. They're bigger, but that crisp, finely developed look to each muscle is missing. Take quads for example; deeply etched cuts are the result of pain in the gym. This is the pain that comes from high reps and heavy weight. People usually think that doing high reps means that you're training light, but that's not actually true. On leg presses, I would regularly do sets of 20-30 reps, and sometimes I even pushed as high as 50 reps. That doesn't mean I used light weights; it means I forced my body to do more than I ever believed possible. That's how you etch in detail!

You also want to squeeze on every rep. Instead of just doing your reps up and down, take the time to pause at the top of the movement. If you're doing cable crossovers, squeeze each rep like you're hitting the final pose in the Mr. Olympia posedown. It's gonna burn like hell, but over time you will see the results — trust me.

3/
Keep A Small,
Chiseled Waist

If there is a single bodypart that is the hallmark of a classic physique, it is the midsection. The midsection is the centerpiece of the entire physique. Every pose from every angle starts with it. Can you imagine Sergio Oliva's hands-over-head victory pose or Lee Haney's lat spread with big waists? A small waist makes shoulders and backs look wider, chests fuller and gives legs that outer flare.

Distended midsections and wide waists were never seen in the classic days because abs were trained with the same dedication as any other bodypart. And I'm not talking a couple of sets of crunches thrown on at the end of the workout. Abs need to be trained with the same intensity you would use for legs, back or anything else.

Use a wide variety of exercises, but avoid any side bends or movements of that nature. You want a tight waist, not a wide one. And don't just race through the movement so you can get all your reps inand finish the set. Take your time and focus on the muscles being worked. Blow all the air out of your abdominal cavity and squeeze at the top of each rep, holding it for a couple of seconds to etch in every last fiber of detail.

4/
Add
Variety

With all the machines available in gyms today, there should be no trouble in adding variety to your workouts. I'm a big believer in basics like squats, benches, deadlifts, barbell rows and military presses to build the foundation, but you also need to use exercises that hit specific parts of the muscle or make them work in different ways than they're used to. Exercise variety will make sure that you hit all the parts of a muscle for complete development to give you that 3-D look.

Use a combination of free weights, machines and cables to give the muscles a different point of attack. Cables, especially, will help carve in greater detail due to the constant tension. Also, do single-arm movements to isolate the muscle and keep balance from side to side.

BLUEPRINT BY CORMIER

Known for his original style and nearly flawless physique, Chris "The Real Deal" Cormier racked up 11 wins over the course of his 14-year career in the IFBB Pro League, making him a certain candidate for future Hall of Fame honors. Now he's turning his 20-plus years of experience and unique perspective on bodybuilding towards a new endeavor: shaping the physiques of tomorrow.

"The focus is on training, presentation and posing and everything a competitor needs to hit the stage 100% on point," Cormier says, "Throughout my career, I looked to those who had been in the sport and achieved great success to help me do what was necessary to get the results I wanted. Now, I look at this as a way of not only using that expertise to help others, but as a way of passing that knowledge on to the next generation."

5/
Put In
The Time

It's human nature to want things now and we're all guilty of it at one time or another, but bodybuilders may be the worst when it comes to patience — I know I was when I first started out. I wanted to look like Robby Robinson by tomorrow! But luckily, I learned that this is a sport of inches, not yards. A great physique is built in the gym through endless sets and reps. There are no quick fixes or miracle gimmicks.

The only way to build dense, detailed muscle that pops to life in every pose is through reps in the gym. All those reps in the gym, every day and year after year, add up to give the muscle that finished look. You have to do the work to build the thick, striated muscle you want on stage and it starts and ends in the gym, so don't miss workouts and more importantly, make every rep of every set count by developing a powerful mind-to-muscle connection.

Classic Training

Guidelines

1. Split your workouts in two: morning and afternoon/evening. This ensures you have enough energy to properly train every bodypart and do every exercise. It was good enough for the greats of the '70s, '80s and even guys like myself in the '90s.
2. Train abs every other day. A tight midsection is required for a classic physique and you have to hit them regularly to get it.
3. Rest for one or two days at the end of every four-day cycle. Learn to listen to your body and adjust accordingly. Start a new cycle only when your mind and body are refreshed and ready.

Split

DAY 1 Quads (AM); hamstrings (PM)
DAY 2 Chest (AM); abs and calves (PM)
DAY 3 Back (AM); weak bodypart focus (PM)
DAY 4 Shoulders (AM); arms, abs and calves (PM)
DAY 5 Rest

Day 1: Quads/Hams

AM

PM



Day 2: Chest/Abs/Calves

AM

PM



Day 3: Back/Rear Delts

AM

PM



Day 4: Shoulders/Arms/Abs/Calves

AM

PM



FLEX


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Carmex

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Carmex

Good Article enjoyed reading!

Mar 19, 2012 6:59pm | report
evren1299

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evren1299

too much exercise for a natural builder

Mar 19, 2012 7:20pm | report
seanpatterson

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seanpatterson

Agreed

Mar 19, 2012 9:21pm | report
jwethall

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jwethall

12-16 sets for smaller muscles and 20 sets for larger muscles seem pretty standard. I've never needed drugs to recover from this kind of exercise. are you sure you're getting proper nutrition and supplements(vitamins, oils, ect)?

Mar 20, 2012 8:36am | report
Zachary533

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Zachary533

I do this workout, it's awesome- I usually have to do it 2 days on 1 day off though to get the best results.

Oct 26, 2012 10:38pm | report
lbonds

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lbonds

great being classic..

Mar 19, 2012 11:02pm | report
jwethall

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jwethall

Great article! I hope one day the classic physique returns to the stage.

Mar 20, 2012 8:43am | report
cforshey

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cforshey

Awesome article!

Mar 20, 2012 8:57am | report
AbroHAM

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AbroHAM

I've been watching Pumping Iron before almost every workout, and this article is getting me even more pumped. I really enjoyed reading. I think a classic body is bawss. Totally going to try it.

Mar 20, 2012 9:25am | report
SoccerFan25

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SoccerFan25

Great ideas but the workout for most non pros is undo-able. Who has the time to hit the gym twice a day and for as long as these workouts would take? Your looking at 1 1/2 hours minimum a day and probably more like 2 plus hours.

Article Rated:
Mar 20, 2012 10:49am | report
jwethall

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jwethall

I'm married, I work 8 hours a day, and then go to an internship for 4 hours at night. I work out at 5am and again in the evening after the internship. With proper discipline and dedication, anything is possible.

Mar 20, 2012 11:41am | report
SoccerFan25

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SoccerFan25

8 hours at work
4 for your internship
7 sleep (less and you're hurting workouts)
3 at the gym?
leaves 2 for your wife and kids minus commuting times between location

May work for you not for me. Sorry.

Mar 20, 2012 2:03pm | report
rogeliob89

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rogeliob89

Even though it is a very good article we gotta understand these kind of people are making a living out of their body so they need to be at the gym 24/7 I guess...

Mar 20, 2012 4:03pm | report
jwethall

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jwethall

That's only 4 days a week though. That leaves you 3 days to do whatever you need to. I don't have kids so I'm not privy to how that will effect my life. My wife also competes in the bikini division so she understands the lifestyle.

I'm not saying it works for everyone. All I'm saying is that I'm an average joe that doesn't get paid to be in the gym and I still manage to make a double split work for me. Bodybuilding is a sport, and just like any other sport it takes sacrifice and dedication. If other things are more important to you than having the body you want, thats fine, its perfectly normal. But you'll never get that classic physique without being willing to put in the time it requires.

Stay motivated, stay hungry, I'm out.

PEACE

Mar 20, 2012 4:14pm | report
supersetdemon

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supersetdemon

rep it and rip it

Mar 20, 2012 2:02pm | report
dreambig1993

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dreambig1993

This is a **** good article! For people who are serious about transforming there bodies or competing should give this a try.. If you have very little time in morning and a large amount of time at night just dont "split it".. But regardlesss there is always time to get a workout in!

Mar 20, 2012 2:04pm | report
tr0u8l3

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tr0u8l3

Awesome article, will use it to fine tune my physique. Thank you.

Mar 20, 2012 2:43pm | report
MilkyBarKid12

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MilkyBarKid12

Bit of a noob here, would this be ok for a bulk? Also could i both the morning and evenings workouts in one go?

Replies are appreciated!

Mar 21, 2012 1:35am | report
jwethall

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jwethall

This would be fine for bulking, as long as "bulking' principles are followed: lower rep range (8-10), heavier weight, and less volume. The exercises are fine but adjust the aforementioned to rep ranges of 8-10 and sets around 3-4. If you really want to bulk, you should look into Mike Mentzner/Dorian Yates Blood and Guts approach. check out this link:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/dorian-yates-blood-guts-6-week-trainer.htm

Mar 26, 2012 1:38pm | report
chiefgreybeard

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chiefgreybeard

everen 1299 is right on. This is way beyond the natural bodybuilder.

I liked the emphasis on a small tight waist and V shape. Balance is also important. These elements fair well for us "naturals" but the emphasis on getting huge is is still there. Steve Reeves had everything but huge and he looked better than any of the modern day chemically enhanced set in today's bodybuilding.

Article Rated:
Mar 24, 2012 8:55am | report
jdrlarrea

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jdrlarrea

can someone tell me what i should eat when im following this program, please.

Apr 25, 2012 4:57pm | report
mb94

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mb94

great article!

Jan 26, 2013 5:30am | report
tomeddolls1

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tomeddolls1

this is great :)

May 21, 2013 4:38am | report
mafemocu90

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mafemocu90

Nice article the best!

Aug 7, 2013 10:19am | report
ClassicBB1992

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ClassicBB1992

Gironda and Reeves would roll over in their graves if they saw this...

Aug 11, 2013 9:36pm | report
Showing 1 - 25 of 25 Comments

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