Want to train like legendary strongman Eugen Sandow? And do that at home? Then follow this plan!
You Are Lazy
After putting a nice and neat version of Eugen’s book Strength and How to Obtain It online, free to download and share, I repeatedly got questions about his workout plans.
I wondered why. They are in the book, you just have to sort through a bit of the elaborated Victorian English.
Admit it, you were too lazy to do that, weren’t you?
Eugen Sandow’s Workout
But, insanely good-hearted that I am, I adapted everything in the below schedule, so you can use it straightaway in a form similar to my own workout plans. The exercises and their order all come from Eugen’s book, recommending the exact amounts of reps he thought useful.
The links either go to my own videos or to ExRx. Some of Eugen’s exercises you don’t see done anywhere and for those I’ll one by one do an extra video.
|Dumbbell Biceps Curls||50 reps per arm, increase by 5 per day||Eugen does these alternating: left, right, left, right etc.|
|Reverse Barbell Curls||25, increase by 2 per day|
|Eugen’s Side Dumbbell Curls||10 per arm, increase by 1 per day||You do this left, right, left, right etc. like the dumbbell curls above. This is tough on the shoulders. Check how yours get along with it!|
|Eugen’s Side Dumbbell Curls||10, increase by 1 every 3 days||The same exercise as before, but now you do the move with both arms at the same time.|
|Standing Chest Flyes||5, increase by 1 every two days||This looks similar to a standing cable flye, but the mechanics are very different!|
|Alternating Shoulder Presses||15 per arm, increase by 1 every 2 days||The way Eugen does the exercise is very similar to this ExRx example: hold dumbbells in both hands and alternate between the arms.|
|Alternating Front Raises||10, increase by 1 every 2 days||Many people today go very high with these, but Eugen did them to shoulder height. And he was right: that or a little beyond is enough.|
|Eugen’s Wrist Flexors||To failure||Hold your outstretched arms to your sides with a dumbbell in each hand. Turn the wrists, so the palm faces upwards and downwards.|
|Eugen’s Wrist Rotations||To failure||I tried my best to do demonstrate these as Mr. Sandow wanted. Keep in mind what I said about the joints!|
|Eugen’s Shoulder Lunge||10, increase by 1 every 2 days||This is a combination of the regular lunge and the alternating front raise. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and raise the left outstretched arm in front of you, while taking a step forward with the right foot. Repeat the other way around.|
|Push-Ups||3, increase by 1 every 3 days|
|Push-Ups With Added Resistance||2, increase by 1 every 3 days||Eugen does this with a workout machine consisting of very complicated rubber straps. For the sake of our sanity, we’ll do wide push-ups as I explained them as the final stage in the push-ups video.|
|Eugen’s Sit-Ups||3, increase every 2 days||It’s basically a push sit-up, but your arms start stretched out behind you and you do it on the floor. Note that sit-ups can cause problems!|
|Squats||10, increase every 2 days||Be careful with this one!|
|Side Bends||15, increase every 2 day||Eugen advises that these you can do with or without weights.|
Before you now go off and become your own 21st century Victorian strongman, read the clarifications below!
About The Reps And Weight
The weight you should start each exercise with is the one where you can do Eugen’s recommended minimum amounts of reps.
And when and by how much should you increase the weights? Eugen says that when you reach 120 reps in an exercise, you add 2 lbs (1 kg) and start over with the beginning number of reps.
Saying that Eugen Sandow believed in high rep ranges would be an understatement.
Eugen wants you do this every day, but in my opinion that’s overkill. Not only does it takes ages to go through this program, it also doesn’t give the muscles time to rest. And resting is when growth happens. In my opinion it suffices if you do it 2 – 3 times per week.
That also leaves room for something else important for your health: cardio. In Eugen Sandow’s time people didn’t know that it is as useful for your health as lifting weights. In the entire Strength and How to Obtain It the word “running” never appears and “walking” is mentioned once – when he picks someone up and smashes him through a table.
Even when heeding all this, do remember that Eugen wrote that plan almost 120 years ago. A lot of things he got right, but we also made advances in researching strength training. One good example is him not being aware how important cardio is. Another is the warning about sit-ups I gave you above – no one knew that in 1897.
Picture courtesy of the Library of Congress.