Serge Nubret's progressive-set plan for superior arm size 3 years ago

Serge Nubret's progressive-set plan for superior arm size

Looking to build bigger arms? Learn from Serge Nubret and his progressive-set programme

Together, the 1970s and 80s were the golden age of bodybuilding - but it wasn't all about Arnold.


The late Frenchman Serge Nubret finished second only to Schwarzenegger in the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition, a contest followed closely in the Pumping Iron documentary.

Nubret was renowned for sporting 21-inch arms, built with his own personalised arm-training programme. It's tough but a proven method for adding size and strength.

We're talking about a man who beat Lou Ferrigno to second place. He out-Hulked the Hulk.

Progressive overload is one of the key drivers of muscle growth, referring to how your body continuously adapts to more demanding training sessions.

There is no better example of this than Nubret's pro-set plan. This method increases the amount of sets you perform on an exercise in each workout.


It is made difficult by having to complete each exercise in the same time limit each session. You can't just take an extra couple of minutes to relax because you're doing more sets.

An example of the progression on Nubret's plan is:

  • 3 sets of 10 reps, 5 minute time limit [start of the plan]
  • 4 sets of 10 reps, 5 minute time limit [end of the plan]

Naturally, you should find the only way you manage to finish all sets and reps in the time limit is by reducing your rest periods in each workout.

As a result, your muscle cells will grow not only from the increased number of sets and reps, but from the intensity with which you're training. This style of gym workout enhances your strength and muscle mass, plus your ability to recover quickly.


You can apply the pro-set plan to all major muscle groups, but maybe it's worth focussing on arms to explain the idea. Nubret had bis and tris like tree trunks.

For those leading particularly busy lifestyles, completing all sets under a time limit is also beneficial.

Nubret's plan is very demanding, so aim to get it done at the beginning of your session. Use one exercise per muscle group.


It may seem steep to jump from 3 sets of 10 one week to 4 sets of 10 the next. If that's too tricky at the start, and you're wondering how to get to this stage, you can progress gradually:

  • Week 1
    3 sets of 10 reps
  • Week 2
    1 set of 15 reps / 1 set of 12 reps / 1 set of 8 reps
  • Week 3
    3 sets of 10 reps / 1 set of 8 reps
  • Week 4
    4 sets of 10 reps

This is just an example - you may progress in a quicker or longer period of time. What matters is getting to that level - not how long it takes.

For more on building bigger arms, check out these three simple tips