Serge Nubret is known for many things, but it was his physique and lifestyle approach that inspired a generation of Men and Women to exceed their natural potential and strive for greatness. Serge competed in an amazing 18 competitions whereby finishing in the Top 3 in all of them, and winning Mr. Universe and Mr. World. He also competed in the Mr. Olympia Competition in 1972, '73 and '75 placing 3rd + 3rd + 2nd - The last of which was runner up to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the reigning Mr. Olympia Champion (x7 time overall winner).
Serge displaying his version of the Crucifix Pose.
Serge is a fantastic individual to study and discuss as a prominent figure in Classic Bodybuilding because he was full of unbelievably unorthodox training and diet practices. These not only stunned fellow bodybuilders at the time but still shock and surprise people today. What makes the protocols Serge incorporated so interesting is that they were so unlike the practices of any other successful bodybuilder of that era. The elements that stand out the most were his extremely high volume workouts performed with relatively light weights and his very limited 'Intermittent Fasting' diet approach.
Serge Nubret performing a double front bicep pose on the Mr Olympia Stage, 1970's.
Most bodybuilders at the time were familiar with at least the amount of Volume Serge performed. It was fairly common to do very many sets and reps on multiple body parts and spend hours and hours in the gym each day accumulating lots of Volume on a range of exercises. What was dissimilar was the specifics by which Serge did this. Instead of taking the popular traditional route of progressively increasing the weight on exercises during the workout, Serge preferred to use medium-to-light weights to perform the sets for longer - maximising the Time Under Tension on his muscles. In short, where others would perform short sets of heavy weights for between 6-15 reps, Serge would perform much longer sets (up to 1 minute) while trying to fully exhaust his muscles and flush them with as much blood as possible - resting only 30 seconds between each set.
Serge performing the Incline Dumbbell Press exercise (neutral grip), 1970's.
Serge believed performing huge volume with very long sets forced more blood into the muscles then heavier shorter sets, thus increasing both oxygen and nutrient delivery to the muscle tissue promoting growth + repair. Serge would train each body part twice per week with sometimes over 40 sets each session across 2 body parts, training for approximately 4hrs, 6 days a week. On top of that he performed 2,000 sit ups a day for abs - doubling up as his version of Cardio training... The kind of Volume and Intensity involved in this training approach is rarely replicated today and certainly cannot be done by a Natural Lifter. Serge needed to consume different forms of anabolic steroids to remain progressive with this training style.
Serge posing mid-training session 1970's.
Serge's Diet was also unorthodox. While most bodybuilders during the classical era and today eat many meals periodically throughout the day, Serge for the most part was only eating 1 meal per day. Serge on average ate 4lbs of horse meat daily, with vegetables and a small amount of rice. Sometimes he would split it into two meals, one in the early afternoon and maybe having some more in the late evening. Completely weird and obscure from the perspective of current champions like Serge Oliva, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane or Franco Columbu who would eat 4-5 meals daily. Essentially one can argue that regardless of the frequency of meals Serge was still eating predominantly the same amount and the same kind of food the rest of them were eating, just in a different way.
Serge displaying a variation of the Side Chest pose, 1970's.
Today, the bodybuilding world is still in awe of the great late Serge Nubret, not just for his highly individual approach but for what resulted in it - his physique. His muscularity, development, posing and proportions are highly unlikely to be replicated - and so he stands alone in history as a marvel, inspiration and advocate for listening to your body, believing in yourself and your objective judgement of what works for you despite the opinion and actions of others. For me, when I acknowledge his whole story he is one of my all time favourite bodybuilders and icons, and I think more people should lead by his example when discovering what works best for them.
"Perfect form is the most important thing to have a perfect body, it's impossible to make a painting with a big brush."- Serge Nubret, 1936-2011.
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