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Sergio Oliva - Training Style In The Gym

Strength Oldschool

Author Unknown

Massive Sergio Oliva

I have been into bodybuilding forever…Well, it seems like forever. I have been lucky to get a job in a industry I love and was very lucky at an early age to have a father who told me pursue my hobbies and make money off them. So when I was younger I had an obsession of wanting to see THE MYTH, Sergio Oliva before he retired. I got my chance to see him when Chicago hosted a large amatuer show that I read about in my gym. I was 17 years old and now had to get a way up to Chicago from where I lived which was 5 hours away. Sergio would be handing out trophies at the event…Time to sucker dad into taking a drive.

We made it to the show that weekend and I brought my lifting partner with me. My dad was not to enthused but, he went. I could have cared less for the competition and only wanted too see Sergio. I had to take a monster piss half way through the short class (hey, it was the early 80’s and AAU was a dominate force in bodybuilding. They went by height classes). As I was walking through the hall to the restrooms there was Sergio. I stopped and stared. You know, the stalker type stare that scares most people. He turned around after about a minute and saw me…He smiled and nodded…I shite a brick…And scampered off to the restroom. I made it back to my seat and immediately started my tirade of how I saw Sergio. My dad was not impressed but, my buddy was pissed he missed it. Later on Sergio came out and handed out trophys. He was wearing his trademark huge gold necklece and rings. He was wearing white dress pants and a silk red dress shirt. The sleeves were also cut into a ‘V’ at the ends so that he could get his arms through them. He looked like a pimp…A pimp on gear.

Sergio Oliva

As the show ended Sergio and his wife were making it out of the hall and toward the door…I was stalking them from about 25 feet away. My father says, “well, go talk to him” I said “yeah right…I aint doing anything like that ”well, you have to know my dad. He was all of 5′2 and 115 pounds. He was from Ireland. Was shot at by british troops, moved to the states to avoid being killed, then signs up to fight in WW2. He was not exactly playing with a full deck sometimes and had very little if any fear. He used to say “there was a fine line between courage and stupidity and I crossed it many times” well, with that my father yells “hey Sergio, my son wants to talk to you!” Now I fully expected to see sergio keep walking but, he turned and looked at my father who then says “yeah, he gets his shorts in a bind everytime he sees your picture” Sergio then says “well, where is he” in his thick cuban accent. I of course was hiding behind the available pillar like a schoolgirl. My dad yells for me to come out and “stop being a sally”…His words not mine. I walked over to him and luckily my father did most of the talking. Sergio gave me his autograph and told my father that he was more than welcome to come train at his gym and watch him prepare for a Guest posing spot he had. He gave my dad the address and this time the next day he would be there.

Sergio Oliva Side Chest Pose

The next day I ran into the gym with my buddy and immediately had to take a piss. I headed straight for the bathroom and as I round the corner to the restroom, there was Sergio. He was standing with his shirt off in front of a locker. I shite brick #2. He immediately saw me and said hi and some other things that I do not recall because I had lapsed into a dream sequence. He put on a t shirt with no sleeves and baggy sweats. I took a piss and to this day I do not know if I ever made it to the urinal. As I walked out sergio was warming up. He was doing chest and back…He started by doing bench press supersetted with dips. He would do the benches in a very short range of motion. No more than 5-6 inches off his chest done in a very fast, rapid movement. He did 135 first and must have done 20-30 reps. He would wait about two minutes then head to the dip bars and do the dips in a similar fashion. He would sink all the way down and only come halfway up. He did about 20 in this fashion. That seemed to be a theme. Benches for 15 to 20 reps..rest..then dips the same way. He went up to 365 on the benches and still made 12 to 15 rapid reps..then rest ..then dips. This went on for about 8 sets. He rested for a few minutes and talked to his workout partner.

He then went to the chin bar and started repping out on the chin bar. He did chins similar to the dips.

Sergio Oliva Chins

He would go most of the way up but, not all the way down. There was still bend to his arms at the bottom. He did atleast 20 – 25 reps. He rested then did dumbell pullovers with no more than 80 pounds. He did these in a similar fashion. He let the dumbell go back for a full stretch then only brought it over his forehead then back down. Again, he did higher reps. He did this countless times. At least 6 to 8 sets.

Next he did inclines on the smith machine. Again, very short movement and he combined the inclines with t bar rows. I can not tell ya the weight since I do not know the smiths weight or remember the plates on the t bar but, reps again were high and the arms never straightened all the way on the t bars. 4 sets a piece. He stopped and changed shirts in the gym since his were soaked. He said to his partner that he wanted to do more dips. He went back over and pumped out at least 5 more sets of dips. He followed these up with behind the neck pulldowns. Each had 20 – 25 reps on most of the exercises. By the way, he never went to failure and looked as though he could have done at least two to three reps more on each exercise.

Sergio Oliva Back

When he was done I finally was able to get the courage to talk to him and asked why he was so big going so light…I know, but it was all I could think of at the time. He stated that any heavier and he was working tendons. He said that you must make the muscle tired and higher reps were the answer. I asked if he was doing this because he was getting ready for a posing debut. He said no. His training never changes only his diet. I asked about the short reps since all I read back then was full range was best. He said that he could handle more weight for more reps that way and that made “me big”. Needless to say I came away from that session more confused. I think he saw my confusion and said “do not read so much, okay. Do what makes you happy.” With that he shook my dads hand and left the gym.

Sergio Oliva Dumbbell Alternating Shoulder Presses

It kind of makes you wonder…He never knew what he was doing was “wrong”. It just felt right to him. He became the myth and arguably the best bodybuilder of his day. So was he wrong in his methods? I remember telling balik form ironman magazine about this. He laughed and said he witnessed sergio doing the same thing many years ago. He said Sergio never went very heavy but, made up for it in volume. Sergio felt that the pump was more important then weight…He used just enough to get the job done. In an era of no insulin, gh and many other tools he was supreme. Arnold himself in a interview in muscle digest admitted that Sergio was the better bodybuilder. He just did not know how to diet well…He loved hotdogs…Ate many a day…Bastard!

Sergio Oliva Loved to Eat


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Keep training hard,

Strength Oldschool


P.S.

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