Thursday, June 9, 2022

Ernest Cottrell Training Letter - 1975

After transcribing this Ernest Cottrell article onto the blog . . . 

I remembered outstanding illustrator Steve Wedan posted this letter some time ago over at the Drapers' site. Hope you don't me mind putting it here, Steve, and I hope readers find it interesting; I know I did! 

You may know some of Steve's work from several Hardgainer magazine covers he created, along with illustrations in various muscle mags. 


Hi, Steve--

Thanks for all the information you sent me! This really helps me to do the job correctly. To begin with, let's deal with your diet. My records show that you don't have my Bodybuilder's Cookbook, so I'm sending you one. Read it thoroughly and carefully since your diet is very inadequate for bodybuilding purposes.

I want you to get at least 200 grams of protein daily, and only about 150 grams of carbohydrates daily (even cut this down if you start to get too smooth), and a total of 4,000 calories from all the foods you eat daily. My Bodybuilder's Cookbook" makes this easy. I also show you how to eat 5 or 6 smaller meals per day in the book, and this will serve as a good guide for your eating habits. After you start eating the way you should, send me another one-week eating record so I can analyze it. Be as accurate as possible when you mention portions so I can send you appropriate instructions. 

You were very complete about all the other information I requested, so let's get to your workout. Here's your workout schedule, and it'll be a 6-day per week program that will equally distribute the exercises for certain bodyparts so you won't totally exhaust yourself by exercising too many bodyparts for too much, and by doing too many exercises. Right now, you need a much simpler routine of exercises that will get those deep muscle fibers, and still allow you to leave the gym with enough energy that you still want to work out.


1) Barbell High Pull: 
4 x 6 reps, followed by 4 x 8. Start with the barbell on the floor and grasp it as if your were going to do a regular deadlift with legs bent and back flat. Hands should be about 12" apart, and both palms facing you; then proceed to do rapid deadlift immediately followed by an upright rowing motion 'till the bar is about at middle of chest, elbows high and out to the sides. Hold bar here a moment, then lower until weight just barely touches floor and repeat in a smooth, continuous manner. Rest 5 minutes, then: 

2) Underhand Lat Pulldowns: 
5 x 8 reps. Grasp lat bar with hands 6" apart, palms facing you; then as you pull bar down arch your back and pull bar to middle of chest. Rest 5 minutes; then: 

3) Weighted Dip: 
4 x 6, then 4 x 8. Rest 5 minutes; then: 

4) Flyes: 
4 x 10. Rest 5 minutes; then: 

5) Dips (bodyweight only): 
6 sets to failure. 5 minutes rest between sets. 


1) Barbell Cheat Curl superset with Triceps Pressdown: 
4 x 5 followed by 4 x 8. 
Superset these two exercises, but rest 30 seconds between each exercise change. Rest 5 minutes, then: 

2) Lying BB Triceps Extension
superset with
Close Grip BB Curls: 
4 x 10. Superset these two exercises without the rest as for the previous two. The close grip curl is with hands 8" apart and the elbows against the stomach. Lean forward a little as you curl. Rest 5 minutes, then:

3) Dumbbell Concentration Curl: 
3 x 12. No rest, then: 

4) Hanging Wrist Roller: 
3 x 1 roll, followed by 3 x 2 rolls. This one is done by letting the arms and weighted cord hang down in front, not out to front as normally done, and you will have to stand on a bench or box. The first roll should always be to wind the cord around the dowel towards the body, then lower with the same wrist action and roll the cord up in the opposite direction. 1 roll is the weight up and down both ways. Don't be afraid to use heavy weight and make your forearms really work hard; and where I say "1 roll" this is obviously with heavier weight than "2 rolls." Rest 2 minutes, then: 

5) Hand Grippers: 
6 sets to failure, alternate hands. Rest 15-30 minutes, then:

6) One Leg Calf Raise: 
6 x 12. Hold a dumbbell in one hand, ball of foot on a 4" or higher block of wood, at the top of the movement try hard to raise even higher 3 times. In the low position, bounce 3 times to fully stretch the calves, and this is to be done every rep.


1) Barbell Hack Squat 
superset with
Stiff Arm Breathing Pullover: 
5 x 8 hacks; 5 x 12 pullovers. 
The hack squats should be done holding a barbell behind the beautocks, heels up on a 2" block, feet about 12" apart, toes slightly pointed outwards. Then as you try to keep your upper body as upright as possible, squat down until the plates just barely touch the floor, return to standing position and immediately repeat. The pullovers should be done with relatively light weight (about 20 to 25 pounds) and up on a bench. The deep breathing is more important. Rest 5 minutes, then: 

2) Jumping Squats
superset with breathing pullovers: 
4 x 10. Hold dumbbell in each hand at your sides, then squat down flatfooted and jump as high as possible. The lower the ceiling, the higher the jump, damnit! Rest 2 minutes, then:

3) Leg Extensions:
4 x 8. Do these slow, hold legs in the straight out, contracted position a full 2 seconds before lowering s  l  o  w  l  y. Rest 15-30 minutes (no typo here or above), then: 

4) Bent Legged Situps
superset with 
Overhead (Saxon) Sidebends: 
4 x 15. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 


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