The Samra Rest System of Training

By Dennis B. Weis “The Yukon Hercules”    

Back in the 90’s thousands of body builders across the country were extremely excited about a colorful character in Southern California, known as Dr. Pete Samra. Although the excitement at that time seemed to be at an all-time high, it was really nothing new to the man causing it. Ten years or so previous, Pete Samra was creating another stir and that was in the world of Drug Free Body Building competitions, where he won such prestigious titles as “Natural Mr. U.S.A.”, and the “Mid-America” championship honors.

Dr. Pete Samra of Redondo Beach, California was a most familiar name and force on the west coast bodybuilding scene due in part to his crusade against unnatural bodybuilding [anabolic steroid induced] and his daring and practical seminars on the R.E.S.T. System of Training. First, let’s take a glimpse at his astonishing background. Dr. Pete Samra was the President of Samra Nutrition in Torrance, California and held degrees in Naturopathy and Business; and most importantly, he specialized in sports nutrition. He wasobviously well known as a nutritionist to a natural bodybuilders, athletes and celebrities worldwide. He also lectured to large audiences and frequently appeared on T.V. and radio, where he spoke in detail about the R.E.S.T. System of Training.

 I was naturally quite curious about the R.E.S.T. theories of Dr. Pete Samra, and how it helped natural [anabolic steroid free] bodybuilders develop to their full potential. I made arrangements with Pete for a one-on-one in person interview to discuss the R.E.S.T. System of Training. Pete began his explanation of the R.E.S.T. system by saying that it includes full mental and spiritual development, emotional control and poise, intelligent eating habits, bodybuilding: various physical outdoor activities, and constructive positive thinking. It became immediately clear to me that this international champion bodybuilder had developed a holistic idea which urges the complete development of the person and not becoming a narrow minded faddist on some single phase of right living.


R = Relaxation, Rejuvenation, Rest, Positive Mental Attitude

Pete says it is very important for a bodybuilder to have balance in his or her life. So many bodybuilders have very little in life outside the posing rostrum and the gym. Whenever he would begin getting prepared for a contest or exhibition, the first thing he would do was to get a vision of how he was going to look on the day of the contest. It all starts with a thought. When he was preparing for the 1980 Natural Mr. U.S.A. he would develop a ‘positive mental attitude’. He saw himself winning the trophy on contest day. He also had some photos taken of himself and from this he would form a vision in his mind how he would look after five months of hard training. He would take some 2 X 3 blank cards and write on them “Pete Samra 1980 Natural Mr. U.S.A.”. One of these cards was placed on the headboard of his bed so it would be the first thing he would see in the morning and the last thing at night. Another card was placed on the dashboard of his car so he could meditate on it while he was driving. The third card was placed on his bathroom mirror so he would see it while he shaved and brushed his teeth. From this practice, he began to have a vision and then that vision became a reality. Pete went on to say that the most important thing a competing body builder needs to remember is to relax. Take time off away from the gum. Go to the beach, read books on other subjects other than bodybuilding and, as well, play other sports and develop some new hobbies. Pete really enjoys musicals and concerns and finds that going to the movies is an excellent form of relaxation. He says it is important to forget about your training after you leave the gym.

E = Eating

Proper nutrition is the major key in developing a great physique. Never say DIET because the first three letters spell DIE [Death]. It is important to have a proper eating plan and it should be basically the same all year around. Bulking up by eating junk food is a poor excuse for sloppy eating. Pete went on to say that a competitive bodybuilder cannot afford to have dairy products in his or her nutritional program. For example, milk comes from a cow. The cow secretes milk from the mammary gland, making it high in the female hormone estrogen, so it makes no matter if you are blasting your muscles with some tiger tough workouts you will have a thin, fatty layer under your skin which will blur any former cuts or definition. Also, some bodybuilders have a lactose intolerance to milk and this most certainly can cause problems. He eliminates white sugar, flour, salt, eggs and beef form his nutritional program. The SAMRA NUTRTITION PLAN is as follows:

MORNING: 1 Olympac *84* [time released vitamin/mineral pack], 2 Stanabol Capsules [Gama Oryzonal which is derived from a Japanese Rice Bran Oil], 2 Natural-Multi-Glandular caps [contains 5 glands necessary for growth], 2 Chromium Picolinate Capsules, 2 Garlic Capsules and 20 drops of Smilax.

BREAKFAST: Strawberry Banana Shake which consists of 10.5 oz. package of Mori-Nu Tofu, Silken/Soft, drained. One small peeled banana and 1 cup [10 oz.] frozen sweetened strawberries, slightly thawed including juice. In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients until smooth. Mori-Nu Tofu is the best on the market.

The Samra nutritional plan includes eating some type of bran for breakfast (bran muffin) such as a bowl of oat bran served with Mocha Mix Non Dairy.

MID MORNING: A piece of fresh fruit, 3 Amino Complete Capsules (a combination of 28 free form amino acids), 3 Desiccated Argentinean Defatted Beef Liver 23 grain Tablets, 20 drops of cuts (Echinacea) Herbal Fat Emulsifier.

LUNCH: Usually fish (not shell) or skinless chicken or both with a salad and maybe some brown rice. Use cider vinegar and a little safflower oil for the dressing. The safflower oil is needed for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins. Take more of the supplements that were taken in the morning, i.e. Stanabol, Naturol and Chromium Picolinate.

AFTERNOON SNACK: A piece of fresh fruit and 3 Amino Complete Capsules and 3 Argentinean Defatted Beef Liver 23 Grain Tablets.

One hour prior to his workout, Pete will take 3 Power Plus Tablets [contains Octacasonal, Bee Pollen, Bee Propalis] for an added pre-energy boost. Sometimes he will take in some Samrabol [which is a metabolic energy optimizer].

DINNER: Dinner varies between fish, turkey, chicken or Tofu, 2 portions of green vegetables, perhaps a green salad and includes a salad dressing which he made himself of Cider Vinegar, safflower oil and Italian herbs. Dinner is usually followed by a cup of herb tea. Take your supplements [the same ones taken at Mid-Morning[ just prior to eating dinner.

During the day, snack on carrots, celery sticks, jicama. These are life foods and give abundant energy.

S = Spiritual

Pete believes that a person cannot have a balance in their life with just a good, healthy body and a sound mind. Abide by the eternal truth that a peaceful, tranquil life must originate from within, and this can only be accomplished by building yourself up spiritually. Pete became a born again Christian in 1979.

T = Training

Program #1

Monday, Wednesday and Friday

On this particular exercise program, Pete trains all the muscle groups each and every workout. He is able to do this because he uses light to medium poundages [the poundages used are substantial enough to require maximum effort on each set completed. Careful attention is given to maintaining proper technique performance at all times], and he only does 4 sets per exercise. The repetition scheme used with exercises in this program and #2, as well, will vary from a high of 15 down to 10 reps. To clarify this a bit further, he will begin his program where the volume [estimated total reps properly completed] is high and the intensity [estimated average poundage used per set] is low by doing each and every set for 15 repetitions. He does this for 2-3 weeks, then he decreases the repetition scheme dramatically, to where he is only doing 10 per set. This is done for 2-3 weeks also. This practice shocks his body into greater adaptation [increases in size, power and strength, etc.]. After these two cycles are completed, he will increase the rep scheme back up to 15 again, while going with related but different exercises for all of the various muscle groups. These exercises will slightly change the muscular involvement through an altered stance, grip, bar placement or speed of movement. It is variation such as this which help Pete avoid the overtraining stage [stage #3 of the General Adaptation Syndrome]. The following workout should only take 50-70 minutes to complete and 90 minutes tops. This is the maximum amount of time he will train in any given workout to achieve what he terms POSITIVE MUSCLE GROWTH.

The exercises are performed in the order in which they are listed. You may be wondering why Pete does not follow the rationale behind the tried-and-true rules of working form the largest muscle groups to the smallest [or from the center of the body outward]. A quick glance at the first four exercises would seem to indicate that he is, in fact, doing this, but it is only being done as a priority measure to gain more muscular size in the thighs and calf muscles. He then jumps right into some tricep work after he has completed his leg training. Normally, after training the legs, back training might come next, and triceps work most always comes after chest and shoulder work. Pete feels that most standard exercise programs are inflexible where legs, chest, back exercises and the like always come first. This practice does, in fact, follow working from the center of the body outward, but the problem with this sequence is that those muscles which may be the least responsive to training are habitually worked later on in the exercise program cannot be attacked with the same intensity as those at the beginning of the program due to dramatic decreases of glycogen and testosterone in the blood. So, with this thought in mind, Pete will most always bomb the least responsible [success of determining this is through instinctive training] muscle groups early on in his program.

Exercise program #1 is as follows:

  1. Leg Extensions
  2. Hack Machine Squats
  3. Leg Curls on Sampson Line Machine
  4. Seated Calf Raise
  5. Standing Calf Raise
  6. Tricep Push Downs
  7. Lying Triceps Extensions
  8. Peck Deck Contractions
  9. Dumbbell Press Overhead
  10. Dumbbell Laterals [these are done with the Iron Tear Drops, which due to the low weight mass and off-set center of gravity, there are no lockouts or resting points at either end of the rep. This really promotes blazing muscularity in Pete’s delts. Barbell Press Behind the Neck
  11. Lat Machine Pulldowns
  12. Barbell Bent Over Rowing
  13. Barbell Curls
  14. Seated Dumbbell Curls [use Iron Tear Drops]
  15. Ab Work [50-100 reps per set are done here and in 15-20 minutes. Bench Lying Leg Raise, ¼ Crunches & Roman Chair Sit Ups]

Program #2

Monday and Thursday

Chest 3 exercises 12 sets

Shoulders 3 exercises 19 sets

Triceps 3 exercises 16 sets

Pete works all these muscle groups together on the same days as part of the famous push/pull system of training, which, in this case, is the push day. When bombing the chest, Pete will use exercises such as the Peck Dec, Incline Dumbbell Flyes and Presses. He seeks to have more upper pectoral exercise involvement than lower pectorals. Deltoid exercises consist of Dumbbell Laterals and Bent Over Laterals and the Standing Barbell Press. Only 20% of his total deltoid training time will be for the front (anterior) potion and 40% for the lateral (medial or side) aspect, and 40% for the posterior (rear) delt head. Tricep exercises consist of Lying E-Z Curl Barbell Extensions, Tricep Kick Backs. Pete works for a 50/50 balance of training time for the long and inner head, and only 30% for the outer (lateral) aspect of tricep work. The next exercise session is dedicated to so called pushing exercises with abs and calves included as neutral muscle groups.

Tuesday and Friday

Thighs 4 exercises 12 sets

Calves 3 exercises 9 sets

Back 4 exercises 12 sets

Biceps 3 exercises 9 sets

Abs 5 exercises 10 sets

The exercises listed for the thighs consist of the 3 listed in program #1 and additionally the Sissy Squat. Seventy percent of training time should be for the thigh biceps (hamstrings) and 30% for the quads or front thighs. Calf exercises are the same as in program #1 with the addition of Donkey Calf Raises. The training time is a 50/50 deal between the soleus (slow twitch) and the gastrocnemius (fast twitch) muscles. Back exercises encompass all the exercises in program #1 and a 33 1/3% ratio of training time between the upper, mid and lower back.

Bicep exercises include any two of the three listed in program #1 and additionally, 30-degree angle preacher bench curls. Training time for upper and lower aspects of the biceps is 50/50. Ab exercises are rotated every training day, making sure that 50% effort targets the lower abs while the remaining 50% of the training time and exercises should target the upper abdominals.

For cardiovascular/respiratory work, Pete will do an aerobic workout for approximately 12-15 minutes, 4 days a week after his regular workouts with the weights. He says this is the best way to improve your heart, loose fat, and get ripped. He has many exercise options from which to choose. He will, at times, use a Lifecycle, job, power walk, skip rope, roller skate, or 10 speed bicycle.

The above outlined push/pull program [#2] resets the muscles for at least 48 hours before they are trained again, and this is one of the secrets of the SAMRA R.E.S.T. System for promoting the ultimate in POSITIVE MUSCLE GROWTH. Pete realizes that there are some real stubborn hard gainers out there and he says that some slight modifications may be necessary for both programs #1 and #2. On program, you may have to reduce the number of sets you are doing per exercise from four to no more than 2-3. With regard to program #2, you may want to back your sets off to where you are only doing between 8-10 and in some very extreme cases, this may even go as low as 5-7 sets per muscle group. Training frequency can be a problem in both programs which can stop the acceleration of your size and strength curve. In program #1, train only on Monday and Friday and in program #2, utilize the every-other-day split system where there is one day of rest between each push and pull workout and always total rest on the weekends. Follow program #1 for 4-6 weeks, then #2.

Watching Pete Samra train, it is apparent that he does every exercise just a little bit different in order to “work for the feel of the muscle and discovering the muscular pathways”. He will do little things like a twist of the wrist, pulling back the shoulders, raising the weight either a bit forward or backward, holding the bar momentarily at the sticking point. These are all done to force the muscles to do more work. These are not exaggerated body movements in an attempt to gain a mechanical advantage, which by doing so will decrease the maximum tension in the muscle he is attacking. As well, Pete always makes sure that his repetitions are done slowly and deliberately [rather than quick and snappy] to avoid placing undue or unusual stress on the joints.

The supplements listed in the SAMRA NUTRITION PLAN mentioned earlier in the article are just a few of his famous formulas which have been available on the public market for the past 25 years. If you are a natural bodybuilder who is trying to put your body into an anabolic state [a state of growth or building] without the use of anabolic steroids, then the Samra Natural Bodybuilding Program will be of special interest to you.

The Samra R.E.S.T. System of Training had a dramatic impact on the bodybuilding world and still does so to this day. I think it is safe to say that he will be honored in the years ahead by the subtle compliment of imitation. You will find many systems discovering his R.E.S.T. principles and calling it their own. It is unlikely, however, that the world of bodybuilding will ever be rocked by as unusual a man as Dr. Pete Samra “Mr. Nutrition”!