The George Eiferman Full Body Workout - Gymtalk

The George Eiferman Full Body Workout

If you’ve read any of my previous workout reviews, you’ll know that I’m an ardent advocate of full-body routines.

This training methodology was employed by almost every major bodybuilder up until the mid-1960s when steroids become as prevalent as mini-skirts, tie dye t-shirts and paedophile DJs.

From that point on, split routines became the training method of choice for the pros, as high volume worked very well with steroid use.

The Weider moneymaking machine caught onto this and, in a bid to drive up sales, marketed split training as the new “innovative” and “scientifically proven” approach to building muscle mass.

As a result, the full body workout fell out of fashion – and has been so ever since.

While I believe split routines do have their place (they’re a great way of adding variety), I firmly believe, from a drug free perspective, that they are inferior to the full body approach for building size and strength.

Fact is, every world-class physique before the steroid era was built on this training principle.

Reg Park, for example, followed the full-body approach his entire career, from 1949, when he won his first Mr Britain title, to 1973, when, at the age of 45, he placed second at the Mr Universe contest.

For a quarter century he dominated the sport on the back of full-body workouts such as his three step 5×5 routine, and, for the rest of his life, as a trainer and gym owner, he would continue to promote this approach to building size and strength.

Reg is just one example; there are myriad other world class bodybuilders, powerlifters and strongmen who swear by this training protocol.

For instance, the legendary Leroy Colbert has a lot to say on the superiority of full-body workouts over split routines for ‘natural’ lifters.

And, of course, there is the late George Eiferman, whose ‘go-to’ full body workout we are going to look at today in this article.

George Eiferman

Introducing George Eiferman

Although not a household name today, George Eiferman was one of the most prominent bodybuilders of the mid-twentieth century.

After serving in the US Navy in the Second World War, during which he discovered a love and natural aptitude for lifting weights, Eiferman turned his full attention to bodybuilding.

Titles soon followed, including Mr Philadelphia in 1947, Mr California and Mr America in 1948, and Mr Universe in 1962.

Eiferman had a memorable physique which combined size, definition and smouldering good looks.

George Eiferman

He had shoulders like coconuts, pecs like dustbin lids, and arms so vast he could wear car tires for bracelets.

Indeed, the cartoon character George of the Jungle (essentially a brain-damaged Tarzan) was based on George Eiferman – it was drawn by a cook Eiferman had served with during the war.

During his lifetime, Eiferman travelled the country as a fitness adviser and trainer, giving speeches on the benefits of weightlifting and working alongside the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Grimek and Steve Reeves as an ambassador for the sport.

George Eiferman was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2000 and died two years later in 2002.

Here he is, in all his muscular glory, appearing in the mildest porno you’ll see since Al Jazeera remade Debbie Does Dallas:

The workout

The following routine was George Eiferman’s favourite full body workout for building muscle and power.

On average, he would complete this workout three times per week, increasing the frequency in the lead up to a competition.

Basically, this is a ‘flushing’ format routine which includes 11 exercises that, for the most part, comprise three sets of 7-10 reps.

Exercise Sets Reps
Hack Squat 3 7-10
Bench Press 3 7-10
Dumbbell Flys 3 7-10
Lateral Raises 3 7-10
Alternate Dumbbell Press 3 7-10
Single Arm Row (Cheat) 3 7-10
Barbell Curl (Cheat) 3 7-10
Dumbbell Concentration Curl 3 7-10
Dumbbell Wrist Curl 3 7-10
Dumbbell Side Bends 3 7-10
Sit Ups 3 8-12



This full body workout should be performed three times per week, allowing lots of time for recovery and growth.


Take 2-3 minutes rest between sets.


For the ‘cheat’ exercises, use a ‘looser’ form with greater body movement to add momentum to the bar.

This will allow for increased weight which will in turn stimulate greater muscle growth.

Peak contraction principle

This workout utilises the peak contraction principle for movements such as the barbell curl.

Pause at the contraction of each movement and flex the targeted muscle, holding for one to two seconds.

This will enhance time under tension and make for a burn so intense you’ll feel like you’ve been blowtorched by Marquis De Sade.

Bench press

George would alternate his bench press grip each workout between regular, wide and narrow grips to target different areas of his chest.


Full body workouts, such as this George Eiferman routine, are, in my opinion, the most effective way for drug-free lifters, regardless of ability, to gain size and strength.

Don’t be fooled by anyone who tells you that these kind of routines are “less advanced” or “only for beginners”.

Such statements deserve about as much respect as Wayne Rooney’s views on the CERN particle accelerator.

Before the advent of steroids, guys like Reg Park, Steve Reeves and Tommy Kono used these routines at the peak of their careers to win titles and break records.

So forget trying to replicate those splits outlined by drug-dependent bodybuilders in Flex magazine and put in some back-to-basics hard work with this George Eiferman Full Body Workout.

Provided you’re eating, sleeping and resting well, you will gain muscle – there’s no two ways about it.

George Eiferman

Over to you

Do you fancy giving George Eiferman’s Full Body Workout a go?

What’s your opinion on the full body vs bodypart split debate?

I’d love to hear your thoughts – or any questions you may have – in the comments section below!

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  1. What are your thoughts on mixing this routine in with the 5×5 routine by Mehdi?

    1. Hi JD, thanks for dropping by.

      Personally I wouldn’t mix the two routines.

      Although you’d probably make some impressive gains from all the big compound lifts, I’m a strong advocate of finding and programme and sticking to it as best you can. Start it, finish it, and don’t hop about like a gnat with ADHD.

      A much better idea would be to try a 6 week cycle of Stronglifts followed by 6 weeks of the George Eiferman and see how you get on with each routine.

      Hope that helps – and let me know if you have any more questions!

      1. Hey Henry, thanks for the reply.

        I’ve taken your advice and have stuck with Stronglifts 5×5 for 7 weeks now.

        Today I’m going to be switching to this routine by George Eiferman.

        Saw some pretty damn big gains from the 5×5, I’m not gonna lie, but my body is starting to get used to the routine so now it’s time to give it a little shock, and shock I think it will get with this routine.

        I’ll keep you posted as I grind through this awesome routine and hopefully get some great results.

        1. Great – I’ll be interested to hear how you get on!

  2. Brilliant article on a no-nonsense man and his approach to bodybuilding!

    Reg Park built a physique worthy of Hercules himself – can’t stress enough how great the simple lifts work!

    Old school rules, fact.

    1. Thanks for the comment Danny.

      You’re spot on – the basic compound lifts combined with hard work just flat out work!

  3. Hi guys!

    Do you know if the 3 sets of 7-10 reps are all work sets or does it include any warm up sets or is the last set the work set?

    As you know, not all sets are created equal.

    I know that George has passed away but does anyone know if the 3 sets were done with the same weight or if he reduced the weight every set because of fatigue, or 2 warm up sets and one work set.

    It’s an interesting question because either choice would give a completely different workout.


    1. Hey Steve

      I would imagine with it being a full body program with 11 different exercises, there wouldn’t be any real need for warm up sets.

      I say that because of the sheer volume and most peoples’ CNS would fatigue pretty quickly.

      Each first set of 10 with full ROM would be good and then increase on the subsequent 2 sets.

      A 5 minute full body dynamic warm up before would do the trick too.

      Hope you give it a go. Old school is best.

    2. Hi Steve

      Danny is bang on – all work sets here.

      Good luck buddy!

  4. I wonder why George didn’t hit triceps?…

    1. Are you Master Chef judge Greg Wallace?

    2. Hi Greg

      From what I have read, George favoured the bench press for growing his triceps, saying something along the lines of “No course in triceps exercise is complete without the bench press”

      Just vary your bench press grip to target all three tricep heads.

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions!

  5. This is a good entry level routine for those who are not not interested in a lot of gym time.

    Btw, I knew George and we trained in the same Golds in Placentia Ca.

    He used to hand out little nick nacks and cards with his Mr. Unverse and Olympia pose on it.

    1. Hi Cyrus, thanks for dropping by.

      It’s certainly an excellent full-body routine for beginners and those unable to train regularly in the week, one of my favourites.

      And a great claim to fame – have you still got any of those cards/nick nacks?

  6. Thanks for email response.

    Can these 3 day routines be done with heavy tension resistance bands?

    And, can one practice Martial Arts on two alternate days for one hour and still gain muscle?

    1. Hi John

      Unless you do not have access to a proper gym, I would never recommend heavy tension resistance bands over free weights.

      If you want to build mass, stick to heavy dumbbells and barbells wherever possible.

      They can be great for convenience – while at work or on holiday for example – or for rehabilitation, but they can never compete with free weights IMO.

      Regarding your Martial Arts question, I am not sure what you mean?

      Practicing Marital Arts in addition to a full body weights programme is only going to compliment your strength, conditioning and fitness.

  7. Hi there,

    I am assuming that the people that did full body workouts only three days a week were still cut when they got on stage and won contests without having to be in gym 5 to 6 days a week?

    I know you were saying George modified it and increased the duration to 5 or 6, but do you believe you can get cut and good definition using a full body workout?

    I have been doing full body workouts – and just doing that – and have noticed great results.

    It seems I have better definition and I also watch my diet very closely and follow a strict diet.

    But I was wondering you don’t believe you would need to increase the duration at some point?

    I’ve done the typical 5 days a week routine split and honestly it felt like my body was coming to a stall and I got tired of split routines and being in gym all the time.

    I also do cardio on my off days about 5 days a week generally sometimes 6 but it is mainly 5 though.

    I do my cardio on my weights training days and some on my off days.

    1. My goal is to be cut all year round – or at least close to that.

      1. Hi Sean

        Thanks for your comment.

        Bear in mind that achieving that shredded “cut” look is more diet than anything else – so focus on refining this rather than training duration to shred those last few pounds of body fat.

        That old adage which says “abs are made in the kitchen” is 100% true.

        If your diet is in check, you’re hitting these strenuous full-body routines several times a week, and you’re doing some cardio, then yes, you will look lean and athletic on this programme.

        Hope that helps – and let me know if you have any more questions 🙂


  8. Can I do cardio (sprints) on two alternate days and still gain muscle?

    1. Hi John.

      Yes, in fact I would encourage anyone aiming for lean muscle mass to incorporate 2-3 high-intensity cardio sessions per week.

  9. How does this routine compare to body beast?

    Can I stay on it indefinitely?

    1. If you’re consistently making gains on any programme, stick with it, don’t listen to any nonsense which tells you to mix things up every few weeks.

      I’ve stuck with numerous routines for years – 5/3/1 comes to mind – as I just kept being able to add weight to the bar.

      Regarding your first question, I don’t know much about Body Beast, but from a quick look online, it seems to be a classic bodybuilding split routine, with workouts dedicated to one body part and everything in the 12 rep range for hypertrophy.

      As I mention in the introduction to this workout review, I’m strongly of the belief that these split routines are inferior to full-body routines such as this one, for the reasons I go into above.

      Give it a go – I’m sure you’ll agree!

  10. I train in kickboxing twice weekly and each session lasts an intense 60 minutes non stop.

    What full body routine would you suggest to build strength and muscle without over training me?

    I have 250lbs barbell/dumbbell and a chin/dip station.

    Suggestion appreciated.

    1. Hi Josh, any full-body workout (this – or any of the others we’ve reviewed) would be ideal, as they’ll only have you hitting the gym 3 times a week, leaving plenty of time for kickboxing and rest/recovery.

      The idea with full-body routines is to train hard and rest hard, eliminating any inefficient exercises and giving you more bang for your buck while giving you more time to recover (which is where your muscles actually repair and grow).

  11. There is def a lack of back work.

    I’d alter this to include a deadlift movement and pull down and long cable row.

    Get rid of the bicep isolation exercises, biceps and triceps get plenty of work doing the pull and pushes.

    I do incline press, hammer pull down, shoulder press, wide grip row, dips, deep squats, calf raise, leg curl.

    1. Personally, I would agree, as far as full-body routines go I much prefer the more strength focused programmes with more heavy duty exercises and less focus on isolation.

      But as far as hypertrophy goes, there’s no doubt that hitting this routine three times per week will yield results.

  12. What is a good full body workout that will allow recovery for 2 days of 1 hour karate practices?

    A good enough routine to build muscle and strength but that I can practice karate on Tues after a Mon weight session and not be so sore I can’t punch or kick.

    1. Any full-body workout would be ideal, take a look at some of the routines we’ve looked at on this site:

  13. Great article.

    Well I am also following the full body workouts on MWF.

    Btw Tue and Thu are cardio days for me.

    I used to do low intensity 30 mins jogging.

    Hope that I am not over training my body and I am on the right track…

    1. Sounds ideal, pretty similar to the schedule I follow at the moment.

  14. I am sixty-three years old and an ectomorph.

    I expect to develop a physique like that of George Eiferman if I began weightlifting at this stage of my life?

    1. While you’ll certainly see benefits from weightlifting, I think it’s rather optimistic to hope for the body of a young George Eiferman as a sexegenarian.

      Age will make a difference to the results you can expect from any exercise, especially with something as demanding as weightlifting.

  15. Great article.

    I shall be starting this routine from tomorrow but my question is this: I love deadlifting and this routine obviously doesn’t have any.

    Would it be effective to alternate hack squats with deadlifts every other workout and keep everything else the same or would that do more harm than good?

    1. Shouldn’t be an issue per se, just bear in the mind the idea with full body workouts is to perform an exercise three times per week, thus allowing you to progress quicker than if you were doing it once or twice a week.

  16. Great, informative site.

    In fact, you’ve convinced me that full body workouts are the best way.

    What is the maximum number of sets I could do per body part using 1 exercise each?

    I read 3, others 5 some go as high as 10.

    My home gym is bare bones.

    Chin/dip station, bench and dumbbells with about 275lbs total which is plenty.

    I was thinking of doing a workout consisting of weighted chins dips and squats ONLY.

    Suggestions appreciated.

    1. A simple method would be to start with three sets per exercise and add one set every month, increasing the weight every time you can complete 10 reps.

  17. What variation is the alternate press?

    Is it like a military press over the head or like a bench press?

    1. Fyi I started this today.

      I find these days I do better if I have a structured plan.

      I chose to do extended alternate bench press as my shoulders don’t like over the head exercises.

      I also threw in calf raises, pull ups, and 45 degree back lifts.

      I am sore.

      I’ll report back on progress in the first week of May.

      Thanks for the great articles.

      I like your raw humor while being serious.

  18. Hi there, I came across this same routine on T Nation, been doing it 3 times now and always come out of the gym pretty well tired.

    I am still fairly new to bodybuilding but I never feel like my triceps are getting a good workout?

    What exercises above include triceps?

    I am thinking perhaps I am doing something wrong, LOL.

    Is cheating single arm row exercise similar to the barbell biceps curl where you perhaps have some heavier weight but need to give your muscle a helping hand?

    I have a good feeling about this routine.

  19. It’s a good routine but in my opinion for most people a full body training 3 times a week is too much.

  20. Lol… Eiferman, Pearl, Kono, Grimik, Park, Reeves were all steroid users…

    I spent 50 years in bodybuilding so please don’t try to BS me…

    1. I’ve spent 51 years in bodybuilding.

    2. Are you related to Isaac Berger?

      He was one of my early weightlifting idols because he was a lightweight and so was I.

  21. George was spokesman for a barbell company called Spotsway back in the late fifties, early sixties, and after I outgrew my homemade Crisco cans filled with concrete I used the money that I earned mowing lawns to buy a 110 pound set complete with two dumbbells, which after 60 years I still have and use.

    His instruction booklet became my weightlifting bible.

    He came to our high school my sophomore year and gave an exhibition.

    He used a barbell loaded with a hundred pounds.

    I knew because it was just like my set.

    He did presses, curls, squats, everything with with that weight, but when he did a pullover on the bench, that was the greatest feat of strength I had ever witnessed.

    All the while, talking about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and what an important part weight lifting could play.

    He talked with some of us guys who were in the weightlifting club afterwards, then climbed into his Pontiac and headed for his next assembly.

    He was my first bodybuilding idol and I remember being so excited when he appeared as Danny Thomas’s nephew from Philadelphia on a couple of his shows.

    He literally changed my life.

    When I lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, weightlifting was my salvation.

    It helped me get my strength back and keeps me going as a healthy, fit man of 76.

    George, you were the greatest.

  22. Getting into full body routines has been difficult for me because it’s so taxing.

    I found that I’m able to consistently do full body if I replace squats with a less taxing exercise like lunges and do a little less volume for legs.

    So let’s say 3 sets for every upper body exercise and 2 sets for lunges.

    I was worried that it would be too imbalanced, but I see Eiferman’s routine has half the volume for legs compared to other exercises!

    The only other known weight lifter that I know who promotes less emphasis on legs is Kinobody.

    My goal is to just look athletic with no more than intermediate muscle level.

    I always thought too huge quads or too wide back doesn’t look that aesthetically pleasing.

    What are your thoughts of doing a little less legs for a balanced athletic look and why is Eiferman the only bodybuilder who puts less volume on legs?

  23. Actually split routines where touted by Weider as early as the 50s and then only a few people used them and only for contest prep.