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This is the good stuff. These are the things that they do that you probably don’t do. We’ve assembled the 40 most unique training tips from 40 pro bodybuilders, champs who span more than a half-century, from first Mr. Olympia Larry Scott to fast-rising current superstars like Justin Compton. Though rarely performed or discussed, these exercises, techniques, and set-rep schemes helped grow a tremendous amount of contest-winning muscle, and they can be incorporated into your program to generate similar gains. There’s no need to hack into any networks. We’ve got the secrets.

1 | FLYES WITH A TWIST

“The purpose of dumbbell flyes is to fully stretch and contract the pecs, so I try to maximize this by twisting the dumbbells through each rep. In the top position, the dumbbells are together, and my palms are facing each other. As I lower the dumbbells, I twist my wrists out, so in the bottom position my palms are facing forward. Then as I bring the dumbbells up, I twist my wrists in so when the dumbbells meet at the top, my palms are facing again. That twist keeps more tension on my pecs throughout each rep.” —Mustafa Mohammad

2 NECK (and JAW) TRAINING

“I train my neck once or twice per week. I do the neck machine, getting one set for 30 to 50 reps in each of the four directions [front, back, left, right]. I sometimes lie on a bench and hold a 45-pound plate on my face [with a towel under the plate] and bring my head up for 30 to 50 reps. I’ll also put a dumbbell in a towel, and I’ll hold the ends of the towel with my mouth while facing down and bring my head back for 30 to 50 reps. This also builds up my jaw muscles.” —Hidetada Yamagishi

3 NO MENTAL REST

“It’s not good enough merely to keep your mind on each set you do. Try to visualize each rep doing exactly what you want. I don’t take mental pauses between sets. My mind is deep into my training even though I might be resting my body. I am always preparing myself mentally for what’s coming next, so I cannot allow irrelevant thoughts. Long after my workout is over, my mind is still in contact with the training session.” –Frank Zane

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4 TORSO TIGHTENER

“Do a set or two for abs before your back or leg workouts. This gives your core a light pump and helps you keep your abs tense during exercises like rows and squats. I’ve found that this keeps me safer and also stronger.” —Troy Alves

 

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5 EXTREME STRETCHING

“I do extreme stretching at the end of each workout. The key is to stretch to the point where it’s very uncomfortable and then hold that for 60 to 90 seconds. It’s painful, but stretching out the fascia makes it easier for me to grow. It also increases my mobility and recuperation.” —David Henry

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6 ONE + TWO LEG PRESS

“A different exercise I do for quads is one-leg presses combined with two-leg presses. I do 12 reps with one leg and then the other leg, and then I immediately do two-leg presses for another 10 to 15 short, quick reps just to make sure I got all the blood in there.” —Jay Cutler

7 REVERSE DROPSETS

“I do up-the-rack dumbbell laterals. They’re done nonstop through four rapid pyramided sets of 25 reps, then 15, 12, and eight, using heavier dumbbells each time. After that, I take a 45-second rest and then repeat. I go through each of these four-set sequences four times for a total of 16 sets.” —Melvin Anthony

8 ONE-ARM FLOOR ROW

“I do these sitting on the floor with one leg under me. I grab a handle attached to a low cable, and I lean forward and pull from a full stretch to a full contraction. This one really gives you a long range of motion in each lat, and it did more than any exercise to grow my outer lats.” —Alexander Fedorov

 

9 SUMO SQUAT

“I often do my squats with a wide stance and my toes pointed out at 45-degree angles. This places more emphasis on my inner, upper thighs and my glutes. It’s an excellent exercise for women, but men will also find it hits your legs in a way other exercises don't." Cory Everson

10 CABLE KICKBACK

“I like to end my triceps routine with kickbacks. I use a cable for these, because, unlike a dumbbell, a cable keeps tension on the triceps from the start to the finish.”—Sergio Oliva

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11 BICEPS PULLDOWN

“My favorite biceps exercise is a unique one. It’s the closegrip underhand pulldown done with a straight bar and going very slow to keep tension on the biceps throughout the set. Focus on contracting your biceps, not your lats, and squeeze your bi’s hard at the bottom of each rep.” Maxx Charles

12 LYING "UPRIGHT " ROW

“I like doing my upright rows while lying to make them more strict. I grab a handle on a cable row station. Then I lie on my back on a cable row bench, but you could also do these with a low cable while lying on the floor. Starting with the bar at my waist, I pull it up to my chin, just like doing standing upright rows. Keep a controlled, fluid motion. It’s important that you do it slow to focus on your delts and traps.” —Markus Rühl

 

13 PUSHDOWN PRESS

“I’ve never really liked close-grip bench presses, but I mimic the movement in a way I like by doing some of my pushdowns leaning forward with my elbows flared out. It’s more of an upside-down press than a traditional pushdown.” —Evan Centopani

14 HIGH-REP POWERLIFTING

“My past as a powerlifter gave me a love for low-rep, free-weight sets. But I’ll sometimes do those same basic lifts, like the bench press, for high reps. I might do benches for four sets of 25 to 35 reps.” —Fred Smalls

15 SISSY SQUAT

“To blow out my quads at the end of my leg workout, I’ll superset 30 reps of leg extensions with 30 reps of sissy squats for three supersets. I use a sissy squat station, which lets you safely lean back and really get low on every rep. I’ll just hold a plate and pump those reps out fast, tensing my quads the whole time. It’s all about getting the blood in there.” —Branch Warren

16 TWO-WAY TRICEPS DIP

“I do 10 reps of machine dips facing forward with my back against the seat, and then I immediately turn around and do 10 reps facing backward toward the seat. Going front to back, I notice that I’m really stressing the insertion of the tri’s near the shoulders. For these, I like to get a fuller range of motion, too, to really stretch them out at the top.” —Phil Heath

 

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17 LEVER ROW

“This is a one-arm standing cable ‘row,’ but the key is, my arm barely bends. Instead, I bring my elbow back with a lever action and rotate my hips. All the while, I focus on contracting my lower lats. It’s a short movement, focused on the contraction. And it takes the biceps out of the action, so it’s all about contracting your lat.” —Brandon Curry

18 REVERSE SHOULDER ROUTINE

“I start my shoulder routine with two exercises for rear delts, then do two for middle delts, and finish with two for front delts. This is the reverse of what most people do, but most people also have more front delts than rear delts. Working from the back to the front gives me more complete and balanced shoulder development.” —Justin Compton

19 CONCENTRATION CURL PRE-EXHAUST

“Since one of my arms is stronger than the other, I like to do concentration curls at the beginning of my biceps routine to pre-fatigue the stronger biceps with a few extra reps. That way I can be assured that both arms get a good workout when I do two-arm curls instead of the stronger side taking over.” —Flex Wheeler

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20 DIP + PUSHUP

“To finish off chest, I superset dips with pushups, using just my body weight and going to failure on both. Three supersets make certain my pecs are thoroughly pumped.” —Shawn Rhoden

 

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21 HIGH-REP HYPERS

"To etch the striations into my lower back pre-contest, I make a point of doing 100 hyperextensions [back extensions] after every workout. Sometimes I do them all in one set, and at other times I do two sets of 50. It all depends on how I feel.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger

22 CRUNCH PULLDOWN

“The serratus muscles have several functions, but the one we can get at most easily with weights is pulling the arms from overhead to a position along the sides of the rib cage. I have a unique exercise for doing this. Attach a rope to an overhead cable. Grab an end of the rope with each hand, and kneel about two feet from where the rope would be hanging straight down. Then bend over as if doing a crunch while you bring the rope down as if doing a straight-arm pulldown, keeping your elbows locked or nearly locked. At the bottom, the rope ends should be near each side of your hips. Contract your abs and serratus hard.” —Franco Columbu

23 400-REP LEG FINISHER

“I finish off my quads with four sets of leg extensions, 100 reps per set. The pain is ridiculous, and it makes sure I’ve got everything I can out of the workout.” —Jason Huh

24 REVERSE HACK SQUAT

“Charles Glass has me doing reverse hack squats, which have made a big difference in my quad size and sweep. I face the machine and keep my feet aligned with the rest of my body. This is more like a front squat and really works my lower quads.” —Dexter Jackson

 

25 CALF HALVES

“For calves, I like to do 30-rep sets that begin with 10 half reps, going from full stretch to halfway up, followed by 20 full reps.” —Larry Scott

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26 EVERY EXERCISE SUPERSET

“One thing I like to do is superset the final set of one exercise with the first set of the next exercise. I might do that with every exercise for an entire workout. It ups the intensity and shortens workout time.” —Tricky Jackson

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27 FLOOR PRESSES

“The floor press is a bench press you do while lying on the floor. Obviously, your elbows can’t go down farther than your back during these, so they really focus on lockouts. They also take all your leg and back activation out of the lift. They’re actually a good triceps exercise, though most people do them with chest to work on their bench press strength.” —Johnnie Jackson

 

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28 TAKING IT SLOW

“Sometimes Charles [Glass] has me go really slow on things like hack squats. I’ll take 10 to 15 seconds to lower the weight and the same amount of time to raise it. I don’t need to go very heavy, because when you slow it down that much the weight feels much heavier. The key is to choose the right exercise. Machines work better than free weights. And it’s good to have at least one spotter, because you can go into failure quickly when you’re moving slow.” —Günter Schlierkamp

29 QUESTION MARK RAISE

“I do a unique exercise for my front and side delts. I start with the dumbbells at my thighs with my thumbs up. Then as I bring them up in front of me I also bring them out in arcs, keeping the dumbbells in a hammer position. Then when my elbows reach shoulder level, I bring the dumbbells together and twist my wrists, so my thumbs are actually pointing down slightly when the dumbbells meet. Picture each arm’s movement forming a question mark, with the left one reversed.” —Mike Matarazzo

30 JEFFERSON SQUAT

“The Jefferson squat is an old movement. You don’t see many people do it anymore, but I think it’s excellent because it works your lower body in a unique way. Take a wide stance, and hold the bar between your legs with one hand in front of your body and one hand behind it. Keep your glutes tensed while you squat down in the bucket [below parallel]. Use smaller plates on the bar, no more than 25s, so you can get down deep enough. The key is to force your knees out. This activates your glutes so you keep them under continuous contraction throughout the set. The better I became at Jeffersons, the more proficient I got at squatting. I learned how to activate my qlutes, hams, and quads better. Doing Jeffersons then the adduction machine one after the other has been crucial to my glute and hip-flexor development.” —Kai Greene

31 PEC-DECK LAT CONTRACTION

“I created a unique exercise for hitting my inner back. I sit on a pec-deck machine facing backward. Then keeping my arms parallel to the floor and my triceps against the arm pads, I force the arm pads backward as far as I can and crunch my scapula toward each other. This is a short movement, and it’s all about getting a maximum contraction in your upper, inner back.” —Toney Freeman

 

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32 INCLINE PULLDOWN

"This is a Charles Glass creation. You set an incline bench so it's facing away from a pulldown station. The top of the bench will be over the pulldown station’s seat. Then you grab the pulldown bar and lie on the bench. You’ll probably have to stand, because you want to be in a position where the bar comes down to your mid-chest. Charles usually pushes down on me to make sure I stay on the bench. Then pull the bar down, letting your elbows flare out. It’s a pulldown, but it’s also an upside-down row.” —Dennis James

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33 STEERING WHEEL RAISE

“Steering wheel raises are front raises with a 45-pound plate, but with a twist. They start with one hand on each side, but as I lift the weight I rotate my hands so at the high point one hand is on the top and the other is on the bottom. I alternate which way I rotate on each rep. This is a way of making this more difficult and putting more tension on the front delts.” —Flex Lewis

34 THE COVER-UP

“To promote symmetry I keep my body covered with a sweatsuit when I train. By staying covered, I’m inclined to train my body as an organic whole. The one time I’ll take my sweatshirt off and wear short sleeves or a tank top is when I’m training my biceps. My bi’s are lagging behind the rest of my body, and I want to place a special focus on them. Overall, you should place less emphasis on watching your muscles working and more on feeling them working.” —Chris Dickerson

35 ONE-ARM SHRUG

“I’ll do one-arm shrugs on a Smith machine. I do them standing sideways with my working side facing the machine. They allow you to really target each side and get a little longer range of motion.” —Grigori Atoyan

 

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36 1,000-REP ROUTINES

"I do 1,000 reps for every body part, and I do 200 to 300 reps per exercise. Usually, I do this in dropsets of 100 reps. For example, I’ll do an exercise for 30 reps, reduce the weight, get 35 more, reduce the weight, and get a final 35. Then I’ll rest for a couple minutes and do the next 100-rep dropset. I keep going until I’ve totaled 1,000 reps. Heavy weights don’t work for me. I tried that for 15 years. It was putting more pressure on my joints, and I wasn’t really feeling it. Don’t tell me I’m not working hard. I feel every stretch and contraction, 1,000 times. —Moe El Moussawi

37 SAFETY BAR SQUAT

“Using a safety bar allows me to go a little deeper and stay more upright when I squat. With a safety bar you don’t have to worry about balancing the bar, and it frees up your hands to grab the [power rack] supports if you start to fail. I alternate safety bar squats one leg workout with regular squats the next.” —Roelly Winklaar

38 PULLOVER-AND-PRESS

“The pullover-and-press is so old it’s new again. You almost never see anyone doing them anymore. They were popular in the ’40s. You lie on a flat bench, and you take a narrow grip on a bar that’s on the floor. Do a pullover, getting it to your chest, and then press it up like a close-grip bench press. And return it to the floor for your next rep. It’s working your back and chest, but mostly it’s for triceps. The pullover stretches your triceps, and the press contracts them.” —Rich Gaspari

39 NO-WEIGHT CALF RAISE

“With calves you want to minimize your rest. What I do is 10 full reps of standing calf raises followed immediately by 10 reps of body-weight raises off the floor, not stopping at all when the heels hit the floor. So I’m really keeping my calves contracted on those bodyweight raises. Come up on your big toes. I go back and forth like that for five supersets, weighted and body weight, for 100 total reps. You may need to reduce the weight as you go along, but the key is to keep working the calves without rest.” —Ben Pakulski

40 SIDE-TO-FRONT RAISE

“I start with dumbbell side laterals. Then I bring the dumbbells together in front of my chest. Then I raise them overhead. It’s a side lateral and an overhead front raise in one. Because I’m stronger in the side lateral than in the overhead front raise, when I can’t get the dumbbells overhead anymore, I’ll rep out side laterals.” —Eddie Abbew