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Arnold Schwarzenegger's training program



Books by Arnold





















chest
It's misleading, really, to mention Arnold's chest and back routines separately; he supersetted the two exclusively for most of his bodybuilding career. (We can, however, focus on the exercises for each bodypart separately, keeping in mind that he paired them up in his routines.)


He had a few simple reasons for employing supersets: One, it saved time and allowed him to train chest and back in just one hour combined; two, he felt he could handle more weight this way and develop greater muscle density (as is the logic behind training opposing muscle groups together); and, of course, he relished having both his chest and back--essentially, his entire upper body--pumped up at the same time. "When the chest and the upper back are pumped simultaneously, there is an indescribable feeling of growth stimulation and massiveness," he said.

But Arnold warned beginners about this style of training, recommending that they work into it slowly because of the demands it places on endurance and stamina. Even non-beginners can struggle. Arnold once told a story about how he introduced his chest/back workout to several experienced bodybuilders while visiting South Africa. According to The Oak, two of his training partners "passed out cold and a third became so ill that he lost his breakfast!"

Did we mention that he performed this workout three days a week?

OAK TIPS

* Despite relatively high rep ranges, Arnold went as heavy as he could when training chest to elicit maximal growth. He typically used the pyramid principle, increasing weight and decreasing reps on each set of a given exercise.

* He also regularly employed straight-arm pullovers in his training using either a dumbbell or barbell, despite their exclusion from this routine. Arnold felt that pullovers expanded the thorax and enlarged his ribcage, though this was never proven to be fact.

* In addition to supersets, he also frequently performed forced reps, iso-tension (holding poses between sets and after workouts) and peak contractions (squeezing the muscles at the top of each rep) in his training. He did whatever it took to increase intensity.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Bench Press 1 30-45
(warm-up)
Bench Press 5 20-6*
Incline Barbell Press 5 10-15
Flat-Bench 5 10-15
Dumbbell Flye
Weighted Dip 5 15

*Pyramid up the weight and lower your reps set to set.
* FLAT-BENCH DUMBBELL FLYE

Arnold did flyes much like anyone would, with one small yet noticeable difference: Instead of bringing the dumbbells together to touch at the top of each rep, he stopped when they were about 10 inches apart, then lowered them back down. He felt this offered constant tension on the pectorals, especially the outer pecs.

back

It wasn't just recently that bodybuilders of all levels coveted an immensely wide, thick and chiseled back, a la Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates. Arnold, along with Franco Columbu and others from their generation, also knew the importance of the back double-biceps and lat-spread poses for winning major competitions.

When Arnold trained back, he didn't just concentrate on lifting the weight to a desired position--that would've been way too concrete and typical. He would never be the best doing, and thinking, the way everyone else did. With lat pulldowns, he attempted to pull the sky down on top of him, not simply move the bar to his upper chest. When deadlifting, those weren't weight plates on the ends of the barbell, they were massive planets. The thinking was abstract, sure, but effective nonetheless.

Which brings us to Conan the Barbarian, naturally. "Had I been aware of Conan during my competition years, I probably would have imagined I was him during my workouts," Arnold said leading up to his role in the movie. He was intent on developing his back for the picture because he knew it would be easily visible from many camera angles. The last thing he wanted was less-than-stellar lats if he was to be a proper barbarian. "I'll want my back muscles to bristle with power," he said. "If my back is writhing and rippling during fight scenes, the public will know that I am a rugged fighter."

OAK TIPS

* Arnold believed that the best way to train back was to train all areas of it--outer, upper, lower and middle--and finish the workout with a power movement, like deadlifts or cleans, that works all the back muscles.

* After each back exercise, Arnold stretched his lats by pulling hard on a stationary object with either one or both arms fully extended. This, he figured, helped him achieve great overall lat development, and remain flexible and limber in the upper body.

* When he wanted to hit the lower lats, he always used a narrow grip for chin-ups, pulldowns and any type of row. The lower lats were important to Arnold when doing twisting back poses onstage, as they complemented his immense width nicely.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Wide-Grip Pull-Up 5 15-8*
T-Bar Row 5 10-15
Bent-Over Barbell 5 10-15
Row
Chin-Up 5 12
Barbell Deadlift 3 6-10

*Pyramid up the weight and lower your reps set to set.



* WIDE-GRIP PULL-UP

When Arnold said wide, he meant it; many vintage photos show his hands much wider than shoulder-width apart when doing pull-ups. (Hint: That makes it tougher.) He started from a complete hanging position and pulled himself as high as possible, usually touching the bar behind his head. His first eight or so reps were strict, then he'd cheat a bit to get the last few up.

biceps

Legendary Weider writer Dick Tyler once wrote of Arnold's first visit to a gym, inspired by photos of Reg Park in the German magazine Der Muskelbilder. The young Oak watched gym members lifting weights and did his best to commit to memory the exercises they did so that he and his friends could do them at home. Four in particular stood out, all arm exercises: the cheating barbell and Zottman curls for biceps, and pressdowns and the close-grip bench press for triceps. At the time, having big arms interested Arnold the most and would serve as his starting point in bodybuilding.

When Arnold arrived in America, he'd never even seen a preacher bench, an apparatus he would soon use religiously to build biceps that would surpass those of predecessors Larry Scott, Rick Wayne and Sergio Oliva, who Arnold once regarded as having "the biggest arms I've ever seen."

He found that bodybuilders in America trained more methodically, and had a firm understanding of anatomy and physiology. Despite having already won a Mr. Universe title and possessing two of the biggest arms in the world, he felt he could do better. "I wasn't reaching my fullest potential," he said. "The deep fibers of my muscles were untouched. It was as if I had built a large building on top of a foundation of sand." He recalled watching Larry train and was "particularly fascinated watching him bomb his biceps on a curling machine. His arms looked deep and thick from training."

OAK TIPS

* Arnold wasn't afraid to cheat on arm exercises, especially standing curls. He felt that going very heavy was the best way to gain size, and if a little body english was required to get the weight up, so be it.

* To achieve full development, Arnold always included at least one exercise in his routine, like a dumbbell curl, in which he rotated his palm up (supination) as he lifted the weight.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Barbell Cheat Curl 6-7 6-8
Incline or Seated 6-7 6-8
Dumbbell Curl
Preacher Curl 6-7 6-8
Concentration Curl 5 6-8
FOREARMS
Barbell Reverse Curl 5 8-10
Reverse Preacher 5 8-10
Curl
Barbell Wrist Curl 7 10
* CONCENTRATION CURL

The Oak didn't always sit down for this one, as most people do nowadays. He'd often just bend over at the waist, holding a 65-pound dumbbell in one hand and supporting himself with his elbow on his knee. He kept this one strict--no cheating.

triceps

Though the majority of credit for his 22-inch-plus arms was attributed to his eye-popping biceps, Arnold acknowledged early on that two-thirds of that girth resided on the other side of his humerus. After initially focusing more on his bi's, Arnold wised up and sought to build hulking triceps by employing multijoint movements like the close-grip bench press and weighted dip to go along with his old-standby pressdowns (on a lat pulldown machine) and french presses.



As with chest and back, Arnold often supersetted biceps and triceps, though usually just during precontest training. This further demonstrates his firm belief in the benefits of training opposing muscles together, an idea recognized before him by Joe Weider and still adopted by many bodybuilders today. His precontest routine typically consisted of five torturous supersets, repeated four times each, followed by five supersets for forearms. If he sought gains in size, he'd do this twice a week; for definition, three times weekly.

Although cautioning novice lifters against doing his routine ("This system ... is a severe form of advanced training that is not recommended for beginners"), ever the promoter, he advocated the routine to others in a feature article titled "How I Built My 22 1/2" Arms." "If you're an advanced trainer and want to shock your arms into growth, why not give my twice-a-week arm growth program a try?" he wrote. "It brought my arms up to their present massive size ... see what it can do for YOU!"

OAK TIPS

* Arnold believed that to increase arm size, you had to gain weight. He estimated that it takes about a 10-pound weight gain to add 1 inch to the arms. To do this, he would increase his calorie intake by 1,500-2,000 per day over his typical diet.

* His typical rep entailed lowering the weight slowly on the negative and exploding it up on the positive. This gave him a "double benefit on each rep" and promoted maximum growth.

* During most of his career, Arnold trained arms 2-3 days per week with very high volume. He was even known to devote 1-2 hours to his triceps alone. Of course, conventional training wisdom doesn't condone this.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Close-Grip Bench 5-6 6-8
Press
Cable Pressdown 5-6 6-8
Lying EZ-Bar French 5-6 6-8
Press
Dumbbell Kickback 5 6-8
* LYING FRENCH PRESS

Arnold preferred the cambered bar for this one. He'd space his hands about 8-10 inches apart and lower the bar from an arms-extended position (perpendicular to the floor) to behind his head with his elbows flexed past 90 degrees.

shoulders

Arnold used to discuss his shoulders as though they were the missing link to complete upper-body development. "A man who has developed wide, broader shoulders," he once said in a magazine article, "feels superior and has a greater sense of security and confidence about him." Not surprisingly, he scoffed at the large number of bodybuilders he knew whose training regimens were absent of any sort of shoulder routine. No wonder the one exercise named after him, the Arnold Press, is a delt movement.

Early in his bodybuilding career, The Oak's deltoids were the weakest aspect of his upper body. So Arnold concentrated on them tirelessly, training all three deltoid heads--anterior, posterior and middle--and after winning the 1967 Mr. Universe contest in London, he attributed his victory in large part to his improved shoulder development. Three years later at the 1970 Universe, he beat his idol Reg Park, along with Dave Draper, and again wrote that he was thankful he'd trained his shoulders so hard and that his width up top was what made the difference.


Joe Weider once asked Arnold what importance he thought bone structure served in overall shoulder development; in other words, are some people born with it and some not? The future governor of California acknowledged that certain individuals did possess a genetic advantage, at the time namely Steve Reeves and Frank Zane, but didn't concede failure to those who don't. He maintained that anyone could widen his shoulders by at least 2 inches via "direct and specialized training."

OAK TIPS

* Arnold kept barbell work to a minimum when training shoulders. He reasoned that all the bench and incline presses he did, which also hit the delts to some degree, would suffice.

* For a good while, he trained delts first in a workout that included arms, citing that his delts were naturally weak and needed to be worked when fresh.

* The trapezius muscles were never neglected in Arnold's training, despite not always being mentioned. He was apt to work his traps with his delts.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Barbell Clean and 1 20-30
Press (warm-up)
Arnold Press 5 6
drop set*
--compound set with--
Bent-Over Lateral 5 8-10
Raise
Lying Lateral 5 12
Raise**
Cable Lateral Raise 5 12
Alternating Dumbbell 3 12
Front Raise

*Arnold started with 95-pound dumbbells, then descended in 10-pound
increments without resting, finishing with 55s, doing six reps at each
weight.
**Lying sideways on an incline board
* CABLE LATERAL RAISE

Using a low pulley, Arnold raised one arm out to the side, knuckles up, to shoulder height and squeezed. The arm stayed slightly bent throughout to ease tension on the elbow joint. To bring the rear deltoid head into play, sometimes he'd grip the handle behind his body.

legs

In his early days, Arnold's leg-training protocol suffered from two critical pitfalls: Disuse and, as Joe Weider called it, primitivism. The former was pretty straightforward--the young Austrian didn't train legs at all his first year of bodybuilding. After finally clueing in to his lower body, he went overboard, even going so far as to train legs every day for a year, doing 10 sets of squats and 10 sets of leg curls each day. Not surprisingly, he wasn't satisfied with the results.

His primitive ways were most reflective in lifting "retreats" that he and his buddies would go on in the Austrian countryside, as described in another Tyler-written story. They'd load up several cars with weights and drive to a remote area in the trees where they could train. They'd squat from morning till afternoon, then rest and drink beer, then go right back to squatting again. That's how they did it--pick an exercise and do it until you can't do it anymore.

When Joe came into the picture, such antiquated training methods went by the wayside, as did the beer-drinking. He felt Arnold's legs had become bulky without enough definition. "[Your legs] suffer by comparison [to your upper body] and it is of the most urgent necessity that you completely alter your leg-training program," Joe told young Arnold. "I rather imagine, too, that others may have noticed this odd effect and are puzzled by it."



Arnold agreed, which produced the type of workout you see here, not to mention wonderfully proportioned legs.

OAK TIPS

* Arnold often split his quad workouts into two sessions, doing his first three thigh exercises in the morning and doing the last one or two in the evening. This assured that every exercise was performed at utmost intensity.

* Despite the intensity of his leg training, Arnold kept his rest periods between sets short, no more than one minute. This created a "flushing" effect, keeping maximum blood in the muscles for the entire session.

* Sometimes he would do leg curls in the middle of his quad workout (after front squats and before leg presses) to give the front of his thighs a short break. Then he'd do more sets of hamstrings at the end of the workout.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Barbell Squat 5 8
Front Squat 5 8-10
Leg Press 5 10
Leg Extension 5 10
Lying Leg Curl 8 10
* FRONT SQUAT

Arnold liked this movement for building up his lower quads just above the knee to accentuate the "teardrop," aka vastus medialis. He went heavy (no surprise) and took it down very low, thighs well past parallel to the floor. To avoid injury, he always made sure to keep his back straight throughout and warmed up thoroughly beforehand.

abs

Abs were never Arnold's best bodypart. He didn't naturally have a small waist, nor did he possess the deeply etched six-pack of Frank Zane or even Serge Nubret. But his midsection was never really a weakness, either. Perhaps that was because he was a master of deception. Look at shots of him posing and you'll notice that most of the time he would twist his upper body in some way to face the camera or the judges, regardless of the pose. This gave him the appearance of having a smaller waist, and it was an important strategy for him in competition.

He also defied any genetic shortcomings by adopting an extremely high-volume routine, which consisted of many exercises and lots of reps (see workout box). Smartly, he also acknowledged that eating clean played a major role in ridding fat in the area and helping his abs show through. That his vacuum wasn't Zane-like wasn't for a lack of effort or passion.

Arnold considered the midsection one of the most critical parts of the male physique, citing the sculpted abdominals of Greek gods as his inspiration. "In physique competitions, if your abdominal region has a slight layer of fatty tissue on it," he once said, "you might as well forget about taking home a trophy."

OAK TIPS

* Arnold felt that abdominal work should be done every day. (We typically don't recommend such volume, however.) He was even known to train abs twice a day on occasion, when he wanted to make a noticeable difference in a short time.

* He usually trained abs at the end of his workout, after calves, the other bodypart he felt needed more frequent training to spur development.

* Arnold's oblique training consisted primarily of controlled twisting motions while holding a bar across his shoulders. He was careful not to build up muscle in that area, for fear that it would make his waistline larger.



EXERCISE SETS REPS

Hanging Knee Raise 3 25-50
Roman Chair Sit-Up 4 25-30
Lying Leg Raise 3 25-30
Side-to-Side Twists 3 50
Back Extension 3 15
Seated Leg-Up 4 25-50
* LYING LEG RAISE

Lying on a flat bench with his arms overhead, hands grasping the bench for stability, Arnold started with his legs straight, parallel to the floor. He then contracted his abs to raise his legs until they were perpendicular. He lowered them slowly back down, keeping constant tension on his midsection.

calves

You're likely familiar with Arnold's self-consciousness about his calves; they used to be small, so he'd cut the bottoms off his sweatpants to expose them, which motivated him to bring them up, a goal at which he was ultimately successful. So you've heard. But did you know about his "relationship" with his calves? He used to literally communicate with them. Seriously. Here's what he had to say in a past issue of MUSCLE BUILDER:

"The calves are like no other muscle, and every day they seem to have a different mood," he said. "Sometimes I can do calf raises with shoes on and it feels better, then other times the shoes get in the way and I have to do this exercise with bare feet.... It's strange; kind of supernatural.

"A secret I learned is to test the calves' personality or attitude with two or three sets, then I know which way they want to go that particular day. The calves will let you know--just give them a chance to 'talk' to you." He went on to say it's "almost like they have a mind of their own--a brain that the other muscles don't have."

OAK TIPS

* Arnold couldn't use enough variety in his calf training. Anything that would shock the stubborn calves was fair game--high reps, low reps, super-short rest periods (15-30 seconds), supersets, you name it.

* For the most part, he took his calf exercises through a full range of motion--down for a full stretch and up until they nearly cramped. However, he also occasionally did full sets of partial reps, which allowed him to go much heavier, or finished off regular sets with a few partials.

EXERCISE SETS REPS

Donkey Calf Raise 5 15-30
Standing Calf Raise 5 15-30
Leg-Press Calf Raise 5 20-30
Standing One- 3 15-30
Legged Calf Raise
(with a dumbbell)
* STANDING ONE-LEGGED CALF RAISE

Holding a dumbbell in one hand, Arnold would stand on one leg on a wooden block, concentrating on each calf muscle separately. He made sure the block was high enough so his heel wouldn't touch the floor at the bottom of the movement, even though he stretched the calf fully on each rep

by Joe Wuebben




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