When steroids emerged on the bodybuilding scene in the early 1960s, myths started to perpetuate that one no longer had to train heavy to maximize muscular development. This contradicted the trial and error from the pre-steroid era, and the methods of muscular supermen like Reg Park and science.
Despite the trends, there was one holdout from the old era that believed you had to look and perform the part: this was the legendary Chuck Sipes. Chuck had some very unconventional training philosophies but his muscularity was ahead of time, and his strength was world class in powerlifting — then and now.
Growing up, Chuck dreamed of glory on the gridiron. His dreams were shattered in high school when coaches expressed Chuck was too small to make the football team.
Einstein said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Coincidentally, a teenage Chuck Sipes had Chuck Coker as a neighbor. Coker is most well-known for developing Universal Fitness Equipment and, unbeknownst to many, was the brain child behind Peripheral Heart Action Training.
The acquisition of knowledge from Coker, repeated trial and error and unparalleled work ethic enabled Sipes to eventually bench press 570 pounds raw; the world record at the time was 617 by a man 100 pounds heavier.
In the dawn of Sipes’ bodybuilding career, he worked 12-hour shifts as a lumber jack, then after work headed straight to the gym to slaughter some pig iron. Later in life, Sipes went to work with the California Youth Authority (CYA) mentoring troubled youth and giving them a new purpose with physical culture and strength training.
Overtraining or Under Working?
In a modern era where a preponderance of neophyte trainees is paranoid about overtraining, Sipes was a total throwback using tons of sets, tons of reps, and often with a ton of weight. Sipes’ rest breaks between sets were generally just 10–30 seconds.
Was everything Sipes did 100 percent validated by science? Nope! But desire and consistency trump theoretical speculation in the lab every day of the week and thrice on Sunday.
Speaking of science, the mechanisms that elicit muscle hypertrophy—mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage—were exploited in the regimen of Sipes.
Chuck Sipes’ Specialized Arm Routine
“The settler, the village blacksmith, the lumberjack, the carpenter and builder…all needed powerful arms to ply their trade well, and in time those with the greatest, most powerful arms grew to be respected for their contributions,” said Chuck Sipes.
Chuck Sipes’ arm development was ahead of his time.
Sipes did this workout three times per week, I recommend starting at 1–2 times a week. Keep rest periods under 45 seconds and always try and put more weight on the bar.
Cheat Curl:Do not heave barbell, just cheat enough to get past the sticking point, perform a three-second negative. Rest two minutes between sets.
Concentration Curl: Alternate sets in a supinated palms grip and a neutral hammer grip. Rest 90 seconds between sets.
EZ-Bar Preacher Curl: Stay very strict, rest 90 seconds between sets.
Wrist Curls/Extensions:Two sets of palms up wrist curls, two sets palms down extensions for four total sets. Rest 60 seconds between sets.
Nose Crushers: Like a skull crusher but aiming point is the nose, using either and EZ-Bar or straight bar. Rest 90 seconds between sets.
Triceps Pressdowns: Perform in a slow, methodical style, rest 60 seconds between sets.
Chin-up Superset With Bar Dip: Perform these exercises in immediate succession; add weight to both exercises if applicable. Rest two minutes between supersets.
Go as heavy as possible on all these exercises without sacrificing form. Start heavy and decrease weight each set as needed in a reverse pyramid style.
“Build strength first and shape will follow.” It was true when Bob Hoffman said it in the 1940s and it’s still true now. Chuck Sipes built a base with heavy pig iron and trained with a holistic powerbuilding approach. Because of this, Sipes set a new standard of muscularity and density and was one of the first bodybuilders to have a “grainy” look.