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Iron Game Legends: Robby Robinson Talks Training

By September 17, 2013January 14th, 2014Guest Blogs, Interviews

Today’s article is a guest post from Brad Kelly (see bio below). It’s an interview with former bodybuilder Robbie Robinson. I’m a big student of the Iron Game, and I think it’s important to learn from past legends in addition to keeping current in strength and hypertrophy research. I hope you enjoy the interview!

Recently I had the privilege to speak with one of the most accomplished and admired bodybuilders of all time “Mr Lifestyle” Robby Robinson. Not only did he compete at the absolute highest level of bodybuilding from 1975 up until 2000 where he won over 20 titles including Mr. America, Mr. Universe, and   Mr. Olympia, but also he is still active in the game today inspiring and helping trainees worldwide. Robby is a true hero the sport needs, and world class representation of what bodybuilding is about. Here is what Robby had to say on the most important factors of training (Along with proper nutrition).


The Interview


What is your favorite time of day to train?

Early morning, between 4 and 5 am. It gets your heart rate up and really prepares you for the day.

Have you always liked early training? And did you ever get into twice per day training?

Yes, I have always enjoyed early training it just really gets you going for the rest of your day. I train one time per day, because my whole theory is 90% of bodybuilding is nutrition timing. The right nutrition with the right nutrients at the right time, making sure you take in a lot of water.  Doing the same thing religiously 24/7 365 days per year, bodybuilding is all about repetition.


What is your favorite training split?

3 days on, 1 off, sometimes 4 on 1 off depending on recovery.  But for years, I had no direction; I did the full body workout 10 sets of 10 every body part.  I just loved to train so that is what I would do, every afternoon and come home around 6 to get in my meals.  I worked at the Tallahassee Democrat. I would get up at 3 or 4 O clock in the morning and get to work at 5AM, work from 5 to around 3 in the afternoon and go home or straight to the gym. I worked the whole body every single day.   But I loved it, I didn’t think in terms I was doing anything wrong or overtraining . That was my whole thing, I just loved to train and wanted to excel and be the best. I would travel throughout the south competing and winning competitions all throughout the area

During split training how long do you recommend spending per body part?

I think 45 minutes to an hour per body part is best.

What are your favorite mass building exercises?  

I am a barbell and dumbbell person, not to much into machines but I use them occasionally.  Training heavy as you possibly can at  one week , then maybe next week do more reps and sets  to really get the pump and burn.  You get the same thing on the heavy days to a degree, but it is more maximized with that lightweight.  Now when I say light week, I am saying still moderately heavy. Still enough weight that the muscles are going to be exhausted and become built up.

Robby Robinson

So just a slightly higher rep range?

Yes, but not so high that you get to a point you just do not want to do it mentally and physically. Just high enough I can get a great pump and still achieve my goal.

That is how Chuck Sipes used to train to a degree, mixing in heavy and light training.   

Yep, I do not think you should train heavy all the time. However, I have worked out with people who do heavy heavy heavy heavy, but somewhere in there, something breaks down. Or you just get to tired and the muscle does not respond as well, so I always rotate light and heavy for variety. Variety is key, not so much variety you get away from your goals, but enough the body can enjoy. One time I might do barbell curls then then the next time I might do   Scott Curls 4 or 5 sets with Zottman Curls or Reverse Curls, or then again I may just do Barbell Curls 7 sets of 7.

But when training arms I do always train the tricep first, because it is the biggest muscle on the arm, with say close grip press, lying tricep presses (extensions),rope extensions with arms on the  bench  and then next time around close grip press with maybe standing dumbbell or rope presses. I keep the basics, but always try to alternate them with various angles and such.

How many sets do you recommend per body part?

For big muscle groups I can say 15-20 because they need to be taxed, however a lot of people try to do too many exercises. I try to stick with 2-3 exercises for each body part, but if I am getting close to competition, I may increase it by one. However, that one exercise is something that will really try to create a change in my physique such as something I have not done before and with high reps.  That is what bodybuilding is, repetition. Bodybuilding is a lot of finding the exercise that targets the muscles so it responds best, when that happens you get a lot of response and your progress goes to the moon.  But I see a lot of people doing exercises and I look at them thinking “What are you doing”, it is like wasting your time.  Body position plays a huge role in bodybuilding such as having an upper back arch in the right movements, or not having your arms out to the side during barbell curls and keeping them close to the body.  That is my whole concept about bodybuilding, body position, a lot of variety, light weeks – heavy weeks, alternating repetition ranges. Sometimes I may just pick one exercises and do 7 sets of 7, or do shoulder presses with only 30 seconds of rest or heavy with a minute to a minute 45 seconds of rest., this way the body does not get  used to any one method.

Another thing is positive self-talk, I definitely think you need to talk positive to yourself during your training to get one or two more reps and push harder.  There are just a lot of things I just do not see bodybuilders doing anymore, I am not sure exactly where it comes from, but it is definitely not typical bodybuilding. They are just not using the typical things that actually build muscle.

I have been training with Mike O Hearn the past few weeks and the routines are definitely long and intense.  Around 4-5 exercises per body part, sometimes more and the body will definitely respond to that up to a certain point before it will not.  Then you have to find another way to stimulate it through things like resting a bit longer between sets.

Chest -2-3 exercises

Back 3-4 exercises

Tricep- 2-3 exercises

Biceps- 2-3 exercises

Shoulders- 2-3 exercises

Ab training – To me ab training is hanging leg raises 5 sets of 10-15 every other day. I am not really into the whole ab thing because it really comes down to nutrition and how you eat. Sticking with crunches and abdominal raises along with eating properly will most definitely tighten and develop the abdominal area.  Another thing is staying properly hydrated. There again, I am just really trying to find the exercise that targets the muscle well for me.

Robby Robinson 2

What are some of the most unique exercise methods you have seen work?

How Mike Menzter used Heavy Duty training. I have just always thought that was very interesting to this day. The negative part of the movement should definitely be focused on, letting the weight be lowered back into position over a certain time period.  I began implementing that into my training even more so and seeing the results. Really focusing on it the last few sets, of course I am emphasizing it throughout the workout, but especially those last few sets.  I think that plays a huge role in building some huge and dense muscle tissue.

Mike had a unique vision, and he and I were thrust at each other in those days because we both had balanced and symmetrical physiques, and both were valid for that top spot. Therefore, it was always a battle between him and me. . However, he did do a little bit more then was published at the time, because you know he had to. He would have to a couple extra more reps or drop sets preparing for those competitions.

But yea that negative has and always will be very important in building a muscular physique. It is like doing a squat, you cannot just flop it into it, you have to move into it to get that positive and the negative effect. I think that is with any movement such as chins, Barbell Rows, Curls, Bench Press; any movement you perform.

Do you have any general tips for taking a persons physique to the next level? I know you are a big fan of posing to bring out muscular detail and growth.

You are what you think, you have to really think about bodybuilding, you have to think about having a big arm or chest or more muscular physique. You have to think about all these things.  But you have to also practice all the parts , you have to eat , you have to rest, you have to keep a positive mind,  work on your posing, you  just have to practice all the parts.  As I said bodybuilding is just repetition, you have to just keep going over these things. But visualization is my number one thing because the more you visualize something consistency throughout training it comes to be.  You cannot just do the exercise like most folks, you have to create the image by visualizing the exercise, and how you want the physique to look.

I think that is something that has been lost by many people today.

Yea, you have to feel what you are doing. It is the same thing as a relationship, if you want to love someone or something; you have to feel the movement. I am in touch with the muscle fibers, I am in touch with the exercise, I am in touch with the barbell. When I train  my  Back I want every muscle on my back to be visible, so when a Judge says “Give me your best double bicep shot” I want muscle to just jump out of nowhere.  I am always thinking and visualizing, I want to freak them suckers out, that is exactly what I have always been saying in the gym. It is inside of you, you just have to reach down there and grab it.   You cannot just say, “Oh I am just going to go ahead and train my chest, I don’t feel like it but I will go ahead”, you have to visualize and make it a reality or you might as well not go in the gym.

You have to have to have this attitude of tenacity. Tenacity is something you have to stir up inside of yourself. That is what we had back in the old days with Arnold, Ed Corney, Franco Columbu,  Kenny Waller,  Serge Nubret….  I mean I can keep naming all day.

If you ever did a set of leg exercises with Arnold, he would just stand there for a minute and wonder if you were going to fall down or get your reps. The same thing with myself, If my goal is 20 reps I am going to get my 20 reps.  You just have to have it made up in your mind, this is what I want to achieve, this is what I want to do, and you do it.

Robby Robinson 3

That is like Tom Platz , he was always really hardcore about legs .

Yes, I am glad you mentioned him. The thing with Tom Platz was he was just an absolute beast, it was like take no prisoners with him, take them all out right there, and that is how Tom was.  I used to love to train around Tom.

Yea that would be amazing, he said the squat rack was like a temple where he would go to live or die.

Oh yea, he would put on a show, not even intending to it is just what he does.  People would just stand around looking at him; people would just forget they were training and watch Tom or me.

I know you have always said posing brings out the muscle detail, any more on that subject?

Posing makes everything easier and gives you comfort, it is almost like meditation for the body.  If you work on those poses when you have to hit them when a judge calls you out  you should already be proud  because you already put in that work.  Posing is really a final polish you put on that physique, back in those days we would pose after every session.  You see that is why we had that extra, because we worked on it, we did not just go in the gym, train, and leave.   Especially before competition, that was done for 90 consecutive days every day after you workout, there was no backing off or “Oh I am not feeling it today “. We did it every single day….Ed Corney started  out by doing his part, then Arnold ,  then  Ken Waller ect, we would all be right there,   By competition we didn’t even thing about holding water,  we were just so tight and dense we would get that pump up and eat a couple tablespoons of raisins and that was it.

So the mental drills were something you would just do all day every day correct?

Oh yea, they were something you would do every single day, there was no lay off whether you are off-season or on season. The focus was there, it was as if you were going to school every single day.  There was just a meditative part to it, when you are done and go home you would sit there.

What is your stance on the right amount of cardio?  Especially for someone already relatively lean just trying to gain mass.

I have never really gotten into cardio, the most cardio we would do is going to the steps in Santa Monica by walking, sprinting, or jogging them.  Nowadays people want to do aerobics because they want to eat more, cheat on their meals, and think well if I walk for 45 minutes that will get rid of it.  There is nothing wrong with aerobics, you definitely need it, just not to the extent I see people doing it.  People do it for 45 minutes and sometimes hours, which to me doesn’t make sense. I mean if you are lean and muscular   it should be easy for the body to stay in this condition.  Keeping the body in a certain level of body fat, even in the off-season at least 10 to 12 %. This makes it easier for the body to adjust to get into competition shape again. Some people they get so fat they get a big belly, no disrespect to them but to me that just makes it much harder each year.


So you were never into bulking or cutting and the such.

Nah, I have always been lean and muscular, my best competition bodyweight was 215 pounds.   So for me to get into that body into the kind of astonishing competition shape is about 8 weeks.

Robby Discussing Other Legends of Bodybuilding


Leroy Colbert- I did not have a chance to work with him, but admired him for years.   He had an extremely small waist, 20-inch arms, incredible upper body; you just cannot take anything away from Leroy. He is one of the legends that should always be remembered and admired, a great advertisement piece for Joe Weider.

Leroy Colbert

Leroy Colbert

Chuck Sipes – Another guy I never met but always admired, he had incredible strength and abdominals, just a great image for the sport of bodybuilding.   He was just a very special bodybuilder like Harold Poole, who both are great ambassadors to the sport of bodybuilding.

Chuck Sipes

Chuck Sipes

Serge Nubret – I met Serge in Paris because when we competed we had the WBBF, a very astonishing beautiful physique.  When he stood there, you would think holy smoke, ain’t nobody going to beat that.   He used a lot of sets, a lot of reps, focus on that and the pump. With the way he places himself in a certain position nobody could beat it.  An incredible abdominal area, nice, tight, and small; probably one of the greatest waistlines in the business,

Serge Nubret

Serge Nubret

Harold Poole – He was one of my favorites, someone I always admired with an incredible physique, head to toe, incredible. A very muscular physique, when I first saw his most muscular pose I thought holy smoke. A great lat spread, great side chest, a great most muscular, I never got to meet him but always wanted to.

Harold Poole

Harold Poole

Ken Waller – When I came into Gold’s in 1975, Ken was the persona that put me to the challenge. Because you see back in those days you could not just walk into Gold’s and train, you had to be one of those elite guys. If you wanted to get into it as a bodybuilder, you had to go through either Arnold or Kenny Waller. Kenny was the one person who challenged me; the first squatting challenge against him is what inspired me to take my physique to another level.  To be challenged by him and never really done squats, being a leg press person, we did not even have a squat rack in Florida. We had to use the Universal machine to load up the weight and take the bar off it for anything similar. Kenny went up to around 500 pounds and I never squatted that heavy in my life.  He did 7 reps and I did 5 or 6, which got me in the crew at Gold’s Gym. Big Red was an animal, there was nothing like him, one of his chest workouts was to come into the gym, grab 150lb dumbbells and do 5 sets of 10 presses with no warm up. His leg workout was squatting 135,225,315,405, 500, 545, and leave.  All the guys there at that time were natural athletes.

Ken Waller

Ken Waller with his famous 150s


To learn more about the legendary man behind the training, you can pick up a signed copy of Robbys Book “The Black Prince” at his website or buy a copy through Amazon.  Robby is also available for consultation/ training in person, through email, and on the phone. 


Consultation Pricing:


Brad Kelly is a sought after National Academy of Sports Medicine(NASM) Personal Trainer, Correctional Exercise Specialist(CES), and Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) located in Panama City, Florida. Driven to help not just trainees in his local community but worldwide , he now regularly writes articles on various subjects such as training routines, corrective exercise, and nutrition. Brad has also directly helped over 125 National Academy of Sports Medicine Trainers pass their own exams, and performs online training to help people reach their fitness goals, whether it is gaining muscle, weight loss, or just leading a healthy lifestyle. Truly understanding the value of a healthy lifestyle, Brad is now fully recovered from a chronic sickness that lasted 7 years and left him weighing 105 pounds. The easiest way to find/ contact Brad is through his website


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