Elias Petsas: Mr. Universe 1972

Submitted by Mr.Berg on Sat, 01/11/2020 - 22:56
Elias Petsas workout

Elias was able to win the Mr. Universe title (amateur) in 1972. He beat bodybuilding icons like Lou Ferrigno and Paul Grant. Here's his workout!

His routine is exceptionally hard, and one of the most severe recorded. If you would like to emulate his training program, you would have to do half of what he personally does, and gradually increase the exercises and sets according to your ability, to simulate such hard training. He normally trains five times a week, which means that some body parts are trained twice one week and on another week three times, depending on the rotation of his schedule.

Elias employs compound or superset style, which is a selection of two direct exercises of any specific muscle, and doing them one after another without any rest.

One he has done one set in this fashion, he will then take a brief pause and once again continue with the compound set in question until the desired sets are done.

He will go through practically his whole routine in this way.

He concentrates mostly on his arms and calves. As his calves are his weakest point, he is presently working them by doing 20 sets of 20 reps every working period!

Elias feels that once your chest, back and shoulders are fully developed, it is important to specialise more on the arms, as this body part will make the difference of winning or losing in a major contest. 

He does not, of course, exclude any body part in particular, although there are certain sections like lower back, trapezius, forearms and neck, that he does not do specific work for.

He feels the normal routine takes care of that. Some fellows have natural potential in some muscle areas, and normal training seems to take care of them. 


1. Incline dumbbell and barbell 6x8 reps, 90lb 270lb. Superset
2. Benchpress 360lb 6x6 reps
3. Pullover 230lb Super set (circle dumbbells) 40lb. Each 6x8 reps
1. Barbell cheat curls 180lb 6x8 reps
2. Seated Z bar curl barbell 160lb with one arm dumbbell concentration 65lb Super Set 6x8
3. Preacher curl with floor pulley 270lb. Superset with Incline dumbbell curl 45lb each 6x8
4. Preacher curl with dumbbells 75lb varying grip, 6x8 reps
5. Lying forward on bench swingbar curl 100lb 9x10 reps (very grip - narrow - wide - medium) with hardly any rest creating pump
1. One arm dumbbell rowing 110lb dumbbell Super set with barbell bent forward rowing  220lb each 6x8 reps
2. Pull down behind neck with pulley 250lb Superset with chinning 70lb each 6x8 reps
elias petsas workout training


1. Half squat 420lb. 6x20reps, superset with Hack squat 270lb 6x15 reps
2. Roman chair squat 90lb dumbbells 6x20 reps
3.Leg extensions 6x20 reps
4. Leg press 6x20 reps
5. Leg curl 5x15 reps
1. Press behind neck  180lb Super set with seated one arm  dumbbell press - 90 lb 6x8 reps
2. Bent forward laterals  65lb Superset with seated bent forward laterals 6x8 reps
3. Pulley pulldown behind neck  200lb 6x20 reps
1. Seated barbell extension  160lb 6x8 reps
2. Lying Z bar extension 225lb 6x10 reps
3. Bent forward backward kick extension with dumbbell  65lb 6x8 reps. Supersetted with Z bar seated extension 180lb 6x20 reps
4. Pulley pushdown from behind back 200lb varying grip 6x20 reps
5. Ordinary pulley pushdown 180lb 6x15 Superset with tricep dips no weight 6 x 20 reps
6. Tricep dip feet elevated 200lb 8 sets 20 reps


Incline sit-ups, leg raises  Super set 5 times 30 reps each
CALVES: Two exercises are done from the following selection: 18 to 20 sets of 20 reps., varying the position of the feet - toes inwards, toes outwards, toes forward
1.Donkey calf raise  
2. Seated calf raise  
Ordinary calf raise  
Leg press calf raise  

As you will no doubt realize, this is one exceptional routine which involved Elias in four solid hours per session. He trains from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

He lives in the small town of Vryburg, which is located in the Northern Cape, South Africa, surrounded by a rich farming area, where there are no gymnasiums, and as a result, Elias has rigged up a little gym at his home with rather crude equipment.

It is hard to believe a world champion physique was built there. It goes to show you that a fancy gymnasium is not necessary to develop a body.

At one stage he did not have chinning bars, leg press or pulleys. He has since then rectified this and incorporated a few odd items.

He mostly trains on his own. When he occasionally gets a chance he drives by car to Johannesburg City in the Transvaal and has a workout in a decent gymnasium.

Jannie Graaff, a former Mr. Universe height Class winner, who runs a successful gymnasium in Johannesburg, was amazed when he saw Elias train from one piece of equipment to another with hardly any rest for three hours.

Elias was particularly trying out the equipment he did not have access to at home.

Elias is a Director of a successful chain of bakeries in Vryburg, and he has to be up and at work by 7 kept o'clock in the morning and he is kept busy until 4. p.m. In spite of this he is still able to find energy to do his marathon workouts.

With regard to his diet, this is also something to see.

The average bodybuilder will undoubtedly find the coast of his diet far too expensive.

Elias eats a tremendous amount of meat every day. He has steak at every meal, including breakfast. This titals about 6 pounds per day. He also eats about a dozen hard boiled eggs as he feels it safer and easier to digest. He has a liquidifier and juice extractor, and makes health drinks from fruit, honey, etc. He also drinks a lot of fresh orange juice, but does not drink milk at all.

The only starch he normally has is some whole wheat bread in the morning upon arising, which he makes personally in the bakery, with cheese. He also eats quite a bit of fruit between meals.

Elias Petsas is no ordinary bodybuilder; that is why he has been able to tin the MR. UNIVERSE title!


note: text and photos by achilles kallos