Old School Bodybuilder: Samir Bannout Workout

Samir Bannout classic bodybuilderAs Mr. Olympia 1983 and winner of the 1985 and 1986 WABBA World Championship, Samir Bannout can boast about setting a standard in the world of bodybuilding.

Bannout was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and soon made a name for himself on the pro circuit as the “Lion of Lebanon”. Bannout is most famous for his well-developed lower back and introducing his signature “Lebanon cedar”, better known as the “Christmas tree”.

Despite showing incredible mass and definition, Bannout weighed only 195 (88 kg) pounds when competing, standing at a height of 67 inches (170cm).

Bannout is considered by most as the last of the champions from the golden era of bodybuilding, where the emphasis was on shape and balance rather the mass, much like another Mr. Olympia champion, Frank Zane.

In 2002, Bannout was inducted into the International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Hall of Fame.

Learn From the Lion

Bannout’s training routine and philosophy was different from the methods of his peers and other bodybuilders of the time. He felt bodybuilding was an art form and that you should listen to your body and adjust your workout accordingly to get the best results.

Bannout relied on his intuition and was a strong believer in shedding away unnecessary practices if they didn’t work for him. His workout was influenced by the late bodybuilding legend, George Turner.

The “forced rep” is not your friend

Bannout hated the notion of counted reps in each set. He worked until muscle failure and then stopped and went to the next thing. According to Bannout, the idea was to focus on performance and form instead of having a fixed number in mind, which he saw as unnecessary.

It’s all about intensity

As any bodybuilder will tell you, muscle growth is stimulated when the body is subjected to high intensity training. Bannout was no exception to this training principle, but he also had a unique and liberal approach. He admitted that he never paid much attention to the amount of weight he used. When asked he said, “Poundage? As heavy as [his body] will allow me to do the movement in a way that places stress on the muscles involved.”

Don’t mitigate, regulate

Another habit Bannout adopted that deviated from the norm of the time was he didn’t let lagging body parts compromise his routine. If a certain body part wasn’t developing, bodybuilders would devote extra time and work to focus on these lagging parts, with less work on their “easy” gaining parts.

Bannout, however, split his routine to keep to high intensity on his whole body, developing workouts that broke out his weak points. Bannout would do his normal workout in the morning at regular intensity and then dedicate his afternoon workout to focusing on his weak points.

Hurry up and rest

Bannout’s routine was shorter than the routine of most bodybuilders of his time. When he worked, he worked hard on 2-3 body areas each day, but, he also gave his muscles ample time to heal.

His workout consisted of training for 3 days (splitting his workout into the morning and afternoon) and resting on the fourth. Bannout’s 3 days on, 1 day off plan was designed so he would be fully recovered for the next session.

Samir Bannout’s Workout Routine

*Increase weight and lower reps with each set

Day 1: Shoulders, Biceps, and Triceps


  • Front raises with barbell or dumbbells: 4 sets x 15-8 reps*
  • Lateral raises with dumbbells: 4 sets x 15-8 reps*
  • Bent over laterals on cables: 4 sets x 14-8 reps*
  • Behind the neck press: 4 sets x 15-8 reps*
  • Upright rowing with a barbell: 4 sets x 15-8 reps*


  • Alternate dumbbell curls: 4 sets x 12-8 reps*
  • Preacher curls with barbell: 4 sets x 12-8 reps*
  • Concentration curls with dumbbell: 4 sets x 12-8 reps*


  • Press-downs: 4 sets x 12-8 reps*
  • One-arm triceps extensions with dumbbell: 4 sets x 12- 8 reps*
  • Parallel bar dips or reverse dips (Bannout attached weights to his body) 4 sets x 12-8 reps*

Day 2: Legs, Calves, and Abdominals


  • Machine leg extensions: 8 sets x 10 reps, 4 sets of 5 reps
  • Leg curls: 5 sets x 10 reps
  • Light straight leg dead lifts (focusing on hamstring sttretch): 4 sets x 10 reps
  • Lunges or hack squats: 4 sets x 12 reps
  • Squats: 6 sets x 8-10 reps


  • Warm-up with calf stretches on a block with no weights
  • Standing heel raises with heavy weight: 8 sets x 15 reps
  • Seated heels raises with heavy weight: 8 sets x 15 reps
  • End workout with calf stretches


  • Sit-ups: 4 sets x 25 reps with weight
  • Leg raises on a chinning bar: 4 sets x 25 reps
  • Intercostal crunches with pulley machine: 4 sets x 30 reps

Day 3: Chest and Back


*Increase weight and lower reps with each set

  • Bench press: (warm-up with 1 set x 20-25 reps) 6 sets x 10-8 reps*
  • Incline press:(increase weight each consecutive set) 6 sets x 12-8 reps*
  • Flys (inclines or flats): 4 sets x 15-8 reps*
  • Dumbbell pullover across bench: 4 sets x 15-8 reps*
  • Parallel bar dip with weights: 4 sets x 15-8 reps*


  • Weighted chin-ups: 6 sets x 12-8 reps*
  • Bent over barbell row: 5 sets x 12-8 reps*
  • Tee-bar rows: 5 sets x 12-8 reps*
  • Cable rows: 4 sets x 12-8 reps*

Day 4: Rest

Special Note: Bannout took 35 sec rests between sets in his workout.

Now 61, Samir Bannout currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife Randa and three children. He was inducted to the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2002.


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