Train like a Sandow!


Why train like a strongman from the 1900s?

Well if that strongman is Eugen Sandow, the father of modern day bodybuilding, the answer should be obvious. Sandow came at a time when steroids hadn’t infiltrated gyms and exercisers were forced to rely on food and training alone. Coupled with this Sandow was inspired by the aesthetics of old Greco-Roman statues, a look that most gym goers today are striving for. So why not train like a strongman from the 1900s?

Detailed below is Sandow’s exercise regime which he claimed kept the body in equal and awesome proportions. Combine it with the man’s advice on diet and you’re on to a winner.

The Exercise Routine of Eugen Sandow


Using dumbbells, Sandow typically recommended 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. This wasn’t a case of ‘grip and rip’ but rather slow and controlled reps with the focus on hitting the targeted muscle. Keeping that in mind, Sandow generally recommended about 5-10lbs dumbbells for beginners.

The Sandow Routine 

The Bicep Curl


Reverse Bicep Curl


Horizontal (or Lateral) Bicep Curl


Single-arm Shoulder Press


Lateral Shoulder Raise


Front Shoulder Raise


Lunge Punch Exercise


Chest Expansion (Butterfly)


Holding Exercise


The Push-up


The Full Sit-up


Swing from Ground


Forearm Exercise


Standing Chest Press


Coupled with the routine above, Sandow insisted his students should engage in the following

  • Nasal Breathing: Especially when exercising
  • Bent Knees: Sandow believed keeping the knees slightly bent aided circulation
  • Alternate Sides: Work one side and then the other right away
  • Train outdoors: When possible!
  • Focus: Sandow always saw the mind as the most powerful muscle

So there you have it, Eugen Sandow’s workout routine. Try it out and let us know what you think. How does it compare with more modern regimens?

Also for anyone interested in learning more about Sandow, you can find his autobiography here (for free too!)


28 thoughts on “Train like a Sandow!

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  1. These photos are awesome!
    Sandown had a great physique, his abs were amazing- however, I’ve always thought that his pecs looked very under developed in comparison. I guess we’re too used to bodybuilders of today with their massive bench press chests.
    It’s interesting that Sandow recommended such light weights, I highly doubt he built his body by practicing what he preached. More like it was a ruse to sell his equipment and guides.
    Great site btw.

    1. Hi there. Glad you enjoyed the article, thanks so much for dropping by! You’ve hit the nail on the head by mentioning the modern ‘bench press’ bodybuilders. Sandow and many during his time seemed uninterested in pec developments, with George Hackenschmidt being one exception.

      Similar to you, I doubt Sandow built his own body with this system. David Chapman’s excellent bio on Sandow talks of Sandow using heavy weights under Professor Attila. Nevertheless, many followed Sandow’s system with seemingly good results!

  2. I use Sandow’s light dumb-bell system. It uses very high reps of certain exercises and progressive increases in reps on the rest of the exercises shown. There are no ‘sets’. It works very well, especially for older people who can’t always manage heavier weights. One day, I may be able to work with a 25 lb. dumb-bell; but at the age of 60, I think this unlikely.
    74 kilograms, 172 centimetres, no body-fat to speak of.
    Go figure.
    Keep trying.

    1. Hi Steve, thanks so much for passing by, great to have you. Fascinating, I’ve only ever experiment with Sandow’s system for brief periods. How long have you been using it for?

    2. At 73 I agree with you. “My mind nominated intense exercise; however, my joints advised and confirmed light exercise.”

  3. look like condionning training in boxing/mma i use the same systeme and i add light mace swing for 50 reps or more

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