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Renegade Training is primarily known for its role in developing athletes and enhancing sports performance on the field of competition. My style of training is also known for its "old school" methodologies and a ruthless approach to attaining the objective at hand. While my work has been typically outside the realm of bodybuilding, the ol' coach has a thing or two to say about bodybuilding pursuits and how to apply a Renegade approach for astonishing results. Yes, here comes Renegade Bodybuilding!

As I look at bodybuilding I tend to think about its rich history, not today's competitors. Not to cast disparaging words about present-day bodybuilders but it's hard to compare today's bodybuilders against the legends of the past. Bodybuilding for me conjures up images from the great Muscle Beach days and the likes of Steve Reeves, Joe Gold, Charles Atlas, and John Grimek. I also think of legends like The Blond Bomber, Dave Draper, from the 1960's.

These greats were "total" bodybuilders, aspiring not only to attain the ultimate male physique but also possessing many extraordinary talents in gymnastics and acrobatics. Through the 1930's into the "golden era" in the 1960's, bodybuilding grew until it exploded into what it's become today - a culture. Yet since that time much of its original goals and judging standards have changed and quite obviously so has the overall physique of the competitive or aspiring bodybuilder.

When looking at bodybuilders of yesteryear, you see a well-defined mixture of size, symmetry, and proportion, all surrounded by a healthy lifestyle. Many of the great builders of the past where extraordinary all-around athletes and were pursuing a look reminiscent of the perfect male physique of ancient Greece. Few exercise enthusiasts these days are training for the stage, and most would prefer to live a healthier lifestyle than today's professional bodybuilders; therefore, I tend to think they have a lot more in common with the legends of the past than the competitive bodybuilders of today.

Of course, those who simply want to get "as big as a house" will consider a lot of these niceties as immaterial. And since one of my opening comments to my athletes is "victory is the only option," I have to agree. When you get down to it, results are where it's at. I receive many requests from lifters who'll never compete but who want to get big and ripped. We definitely attack that goal just like we do on the gridiron.

Unfortunately, like many of this generation, they've been indoctrinated into a soft training culture that desperately wants to convince them not to "overtrain" and will whine at the sheer mention of a hardcore Renegade session. Seems to me that most training protocols (but not all) look like a damn science experiment! Sure you need proper mechanics, tempo and exercise selection, but when the hell did the weightroom become such a tepid, estrogen-rich environment? What's needed is a ferocious attitude and an understanding of what made the legends of the past so great.

But enough of this rhetoric; let's get back to the real world. Sometime ago, one of my Renegade coaches, Joey Williams of The Fitness Academy of Pacifica, CA, undertook the training development of two young junior-level bodybuilders. After I designed a special bodybuilder's program, these men began their arduous journeys to their first competitions. The work, as you may have guessed, was hard, totally void of modern equipment, and brought back an old-time approach to bodybuilding. Each of these bodybuilders made tremendous strides as they were victorious in local through State competitions and are advancing radically in the early stages of their career to national and natural competitions.

The work is decidedly simplified with core and often multiple-joint movements utilized to further enhance long term mass development. For some reason, present day bodybuilders have shied away from movements like these but nothing can beat their ability to kick-start some serious growth. You'll notice the ever present GPP (General Physical Preparation) of Renegade Training, in both non-weighted and weighted fashion. This is done to further enhance work capacity and assist in muscular recovery from the tough training.

For a little added "fun" and to make this completely old school, our workouts start the same way those greats from Muscle Beach started their workouts - with some basic tumbling and hip-mobility drills. The workout is concluded with an aggressive stretching program.

First I'll describe some of the exercises below, then at the end of this article I'll lay out an entire program for you to follow.

Exercise Descriptions

Iron Cross - Stand in a low parallel squat position, feet shoulder width apart and holding dumbbells parallel to the ground with palms facing in. Move arms out away from you sides in a giant "T" as you stand upright.

Squat/Push Press Complex - One of the most basic yet exhausting complexes that I employ. From a starting squat position with the bar resting on your shoulders, squat down to "basement." As you begin, drive upward and push the weight up off the shoulders such that at the top of the squat the bar is locked-out overhead. With the bar locked out, lower the weight to your shoulders but do so in a seamless-fashion so you immediately drop into low squat position.


Front Squat - I prefer to use the Olympic front squat style with the bar held in what's termed "the rack." However, it's very common for bodybuilders to use the crossed-arms style with the bar resting on your delts. Use the most comfortable set-up for you.

With elbows held high, squat down to rock-bottom depth with the weight centered over your feet and knees. Foot spacing should be roughly shoulder-width apart; however, without satisfactory flexibility you'll need to use a wider spacing to accommodate a lower depth.

Hack Squat - Position yourself in front of a loaded barbell. With your feet about shoulder width apart, reach behind you and firmly grasp the barbell. With your back straight and shoulders pinched back, drive from the heels. Maintain an angle of ascent with the bar near the calves. As the weight nears your hamstrings, punch the hips forward. Return the weight to the floor by reversing the motion.

Bent Press - The bent press is one of the great classic lifts made famous by iron legend Eugene Sandow. It can be performed with either a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell. Each implement offers its own particular "feel" (read punishment).

To perform the bent press, you lift the weight with one hand over your head by slowly "corkscrewing" yourself underneath. It's extremely draining and the lifter needs to really concentrate when performing the movement. In the setup of the lift, position the feet roughly 18 inches apart with the foot on the side that you're holding the weight turned in slightly and the opposite foot turned approximately 90 degree to the side.

As the lift begins, the weight is held in such a fashion that it's directly under the hip and you basically turn into it and lower yourself under the bar. As you continue to corkscrew under the bar, your off-side knee bends forward and the opposite knee approaches the ground which assists in stabilizing the balance of the bar. With the arm completely extended, you simply drive off the hip and extend upward. Maintain eye contact with the weight throughout the lift.

See-Saw Press or Alternating Side Press - One of my favorites. Another seemingly simple exercise that jumps up and bites back at you. The exercise can be performed with virtually any form of resistance so equipment should never be a problem.

The movement starts with the weight held at chest/shoulder level and palms facing towards you (like an Arnold press). As you raise your one hand, twist it inwards while simultaneously bending from your hip to your opposite side. With the weight fully extended and you bent over, begin the movement to the other side. A powerful exercise of yesteryear that will thicken the torso-up. For those who enjoy the side press this will take it to the next level.

Barbell Front Raises - Standing upright with a barbell handing straight down. Hold it with a shoulder width grip and arms locked and riase the the weight up away from your thighs without unlocking your arms. Raise weight directly above your head and then back down.

One Arm Side Deadlift - Standing to the side of barbell resting on the ground, grasp weight directly in the center. Drop into a low deadlift position and drive off as with a standard deadlift but with particular emphasis of pushing off the obliques.

One Arm Barbell Snatch - Grasp the bar precisely in the middle (remember, balance is key!) Drop into a "neutral" position with the buttocks pushed back and the back tight at roughly a 30 to 45 degree angle. From this position the lift commences by driving the hips through powerfully and hoisting the bar upward.

As the hips come through, the weight continues upward and has a feeling of "unloading" with the momentum it generates. As the hand begins to rise above the head, begin to dip under the bar slightly, "punch" the hand through to straighten out the arm, and finally stand up. ( To read my whole article on this movement, click here.)

One Arm Barbell Curl - A simple barbell curl with a modest variation - perform one-handed. Grasp the bar precisely in the middle and curl in strict fashion. Keep the elbow in tight to your side and curl the bar straight up.

California Press - I use a slight variation that's very similar to the Paul Dix press. Laying flat on a bench with a barbell in a shoulder width grip, lower the weight until the elbows make firm contact with lat shelf. Once they hit this, begin to rotate the bar down to the throat and rotate elbows up and out. From a low position of the bar at the throat, reverse the movement in the same pattern.

Rope Pull - Using a cable machine with a rope attachment, set machine at its highest level. Grasp the rope in an overhand grip with one foot in front of other for better stability. Pull back the weight to eye level with the elbows above shoulder level.

Cuban Press - I perform this one with a slight variation. From a seated position, hold dumbbells in each hand with your shoulders rotated forward. Commence lift by rotating the shoulders back and pinching the rear delts. Lift weight up such that the shoulder to elbow joint is parallel to the ground and the elbow to wrist is perpendicular.

Standing Rocking Calf Raise - This is a great option to calf training without fancy machines. From a standing squat position with a barbell on your back, perform a standard calf raise, but as you return your feet flat to the ground raise the toes off, hence "rocking back." Now a word of caution to those over-zealous types: perform with caution and get the feel of the exercise as tempo should be slow with total control.

Bar Hang - An old-time favorite that's definitely ignored. Stand underneath a high pull-up bar, grab the bar so that your feet are off the ground and, well, hold on. That's about it!

Leg Raise Pike - Holding a high bar with your body outstretched completely, raise your legs up and touch your feet to the bar. Keep legs as straight as possible.

Leg Raise Tuck - Holding high bar and outstretched completely, raise bent legs up until knees touch chest.

Chinees - Lying flat on your back, feet pointed straight up, lift your right knee up to meet your chest, which should also be coming up at the same time. Allow torso and leg to return to the ground, then repeat with your left knee coming to meet your chest. Keep your arms straight and glued to your sides during execution of the movement.

Shuffle Splits - Basically a simple "boxer" type of movement where you keep your hand on your hips and shuffle the feet back and forth in quick fashion with movement being generated from the hips.

Burpees - Depending on where you're from, this is also referred to as a "squat thrust." From a standing position, jump as high as possible and land down on your haunches with your hands on the ground. Kick your feet back (for a moment you'll be in a push-up position) and jump back up again as fast and as high as possible.

Mountain Climbers - From a push-up position with butt slightly higher than normal, climb/jump quickly, bringing knees up to chest and back. Work in quick fashion.

Wheelbarrow walk - A staple of Renegade Training. With wheelbarrow loaded with weight, walk for prescribed time [ If for some strange reason the staff at 24 Hour Fitness doesn't provide a wheelbarrow to their members, you could substitute farmer's walks. Simply grab two of the heaviest dumbbells you can find and take a stroll.]

Janda sit-up - While there's some controversy to this exercise, I've found it to be a fun addition to training. Named after Czech exercise physiologist, Dr. Vladimir Janda, this is one of the most challenging sit-up variations as it completely isolates the rectus abdominals by eliminating the hip flexors.

The performance of this exercise is done by sitting in a normal sit-up position, feet flat on ground but vigorously tightening

hamstrings and glutes. This will cause the hip flexors to be inactivated in a process called reciprocal inhibition, which basically means that opposite muscles to the contracted ones will relax. The exercise can be done using a dedicated apparatus, having a workout partner exert pulling pressure on your calves (while you maintain your feet on the ground) or wrapping your legs over barbell and pulling back. As you begin the exercise, fill your lungs with air and in a slow (three to five second count) ascent, slowly exhale. Seems simple, but go ahead try it!

Glute Ham Raise - Now in this setup we're lucky because we have the benefit of a dedicated machine. For those without a machine, try facing backwards on a Roman chair. I've even had my athletes perform them using a pick-up truck as the apparatus! See pics below for another no-machine version of the lift:

If you do have a machine, position it with knees resting just at the padding with the feet flat on the toe-plate. Start the movement lying flat out on the machine with the legs straight. Begin pulling up, keeping the body straight and hips forward by using flexed hips, hamstrings, and glutes. Push against the toe-plate with the gastroc until upper knee joint to upper torso is perpendicular to the machine.

Reverse Curl - Simple forearm curls performed with barbell. Grasp the bar with a shoulder width grip, palms facing down. Raise the bar up by pulling with the forearms only, being careful not to rock back. Keep your elbows glued to your sides.

Tricep Extension - There are numerous options for this exercise and I'd suggest changing methods periodically to avoid adaptation. The simplest method is to lay flat on the bench with the shoulder to elbow joint held perpendicular throughout the movement with the weight held such that palms face one another. Lower the weights until the dumbbells reach shoulder level. This can also be performed with a barbell with the weight being lowered to shoulder region or higher to head level ("skull-crushers"). Another great option is to perform them on a decline bench to isolate the triceps even more.

Stretches - Upon the completion of all training sessions, I use the following pattern of stretches with 45-second static holds.

The Program


Iron Cross

Front Squats

% of 1 RM (rep max): 60% for the first 2 sets, 75% for last 3

Perform in one and one-half style: Descend all the way down, come halfway up, go back down, then come all the way up. That's one rep.

Hack Squat

% of 1 RM: 60% for the first 2 sets, 75% for last 3

One-Arm Barbell Curl

% of 1 RM: 75%

Incline Dumbbell Curls

% of 1 RM: 60% for the first set, 75% for last 3

General Physical Preparation: non-weighted (30 seconds each, 3 sets)

General Physical Preparation: weighted

Standing Rocking Calf Raise

% of 1 RM: 75%

Bar Hang

Leg Raise Pike

Leg Raise Tuck



Bench Press

% of 1 RM: 60% for the first two sets, 75% for last 3

Incline Flies

% of 1 RM: 75%

One Arm Barbell Snatch

% of 1 RM: 80%

See-Saw Press

% of 1 RM: 75%

Barbell Front Raises

% of 1 RM: 75%

Janda Situp


On this day, you'll only perform a light active rest with warm-up and cool-down routine. In other words, jump rope, ride a stationary bike, chase naked women around the couch, etc, for 15 to 30 minutes.


Squat/Push Press Complex


% of 1 RM: 60% for the first two sets, 75% for last 3

Bent Press

Alternate hands

One Arm Side Deadlift

Alternate hands

Glute Ham Raise

% of 1 RM: 75%


% of 1 RM: 75%

Reverse Curl

% of 1 RM: 75%

General Physical Preparation: non-weighted (30 seconds each). Do 5 "rounds."

General Physical Preparation: weighted

Standing Rocking Calf Raise

% of 1 RM: 75%

Bar Hang

Leg Raise Pike

Leg Raise Tuck


Incline Press

% of 1 RM: 60% for the first 2 sets, 75% for last 3


% of 1RM: 75%

Rope Pulls

% of 1RM: 75%

Cuban Press

% of 1RM: 75%

California Press

% of 1RM: 75%

Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

% of 1RM: 75%

Can also be performed laying on decline bench.

Janda Sit-up


So there you go, time-warp training with a little Renegade flair! Have some fun and go out and crush the competition!

About the Author

Good luck,