A Week With The Black Panther

Serge Nubret's physique is one of my all-time favorites. If I were to take drugs and put on a ton of lean tissue, I would want to look like a cross between this dude and Arnold.

But I wouldn't look like them. I don't have their genetics, so I wouldn't have their thickly squared chests, Arnold's incredible arms and calves, or Serge's tiny waist. 

I can train like them though.

My training split has been fairly Arnold-like over the past 18 months or so, with minor variations and diversions. This week, however, my training partner was out of town so I decided to mix things up with a different protocol.

There are a few different articles outlining Nubret's training, and his chest day called for five exercises for six sets of twelve reps. Thirty sets of twelve reps just for chest! While this is daunting on its own, Serge apparently rested for a maximum of 60 seconds. 

Following is what I did Monday-Thursday of last week. 


Inc. Bench @ 135 x 6 x 12

Flat DB Press @ 40 x 6 x 12

Inc. Fly @ 25 x 6 x 12

Dips @ body weight x 6 x 12

DB Pullover @ 35 x 6 x 12

Tiny weights but incredible pumps. Then soreness for days.


Lying Leg Curl @ 5 plates x 6 x 12

Split Squat @ 25 x 6 x 12

Sissy Squat @ body weight x 3 x 12

Rev. Lunge @ 25 x 3 x 12

Step Up @ body weight x 3 x 12

Hammer Leg Ext. @ 25 (side) x 3 x 12

By the third leg exercise I could not fathom six sets of anything. I broke it up by doing different exercises for three sets each. Hobbled home.


Seated DB Press @ 40 x 6 x 12

Upright Row @ 55 x 6 x 12

Lateral Raise @ 20 x 6 x 12

Face Pull @ 60 x 6 x 12

Rev. Curl @ 50 x 6 x 12

One Arm Ext. @ 20 x 6 x 12

Inc. Hammer Curl @ 20 x 6 x 12

Pressdown @ 80 x 6 x 12

Forty-eight sets for shoulders and arms. Still felt like doing more.


Chest Supp. Row @ 70 x 6 x 12

Iso Low Hammer Row @ 45 (side) x 6 x 12

Hoist Pulldown @ 45 (side) x 6 x 12

Seated Row @ 80 x 6 x 12

Behind Neck Pulldown @ 100 x 6 x 12

Straight Arm Pulldown @ 80 x 6 x 12

Didn't need to do the final exercise, but again, I was feeling great by the end of the session.

What I Learned

  1. If I stuck to the rest parameters, I could finish training in 45-60 minutes.
  2. I was not able to use much over 50% of my normal weights for any exercise.
  3. I experienced tremendous pumps, fatigue, and soreness.
  4. I felt amazing at the end of training sessions.
  5. I was hungrier than in recent memory throughout the day.
  6. I wanted to eat more protein than usual.
  7. Every session was a brutal challenge in a completely different way than lifting heavy.
  8. I sweated like I was in a sauna at every session. 
  9. It could be a placebo effect, but I swear my muscles looked "fuller" all week.
  10. The lighter loading parameters were easier on my joints despite the volume.

Now, Serge trained the whole body twice a week (like Arnold), so I basically did half of what he did and it still wrecked me. Granted, I also worked around 80 hours last week, didn't sleep as much as I'd like, and ate like a female vegan runway model.  

However, I'm pretty sure I couldn't recover from twice-a-week training at this volume without chemical assistance. My plan is to continue to train this way for the time being, adding in a day or two of surfing, possibly a calves-only session on Saturday, and my regular Sunday hill sprints.

If you need to build some confidence, feel better, or change the way you look, I highly suggest you give Serge's template a try. Modify it to fit your needs, but keep the volume and rest parameters the same. You may not break any of your strength records but you will surely learn something new about yourself, and begin to build the fortitude to accomplish whatever you choose.

An extraordinary look from the early 70's.