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March 12, 2022 11 min read

Not many people know this, but Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life as a bodybuilder began long before his time on screen did. He has since then gone on to win the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest not once or twice but seven different times and become a renowned name in the bodybuilding world.

Of course, Arnold didn't achieve all this in one night.

His time as a bodybuilder- and even still recently- saw him working with killer workout routines, a big appetite for the right muscle foods, and almost always pitching a tent in the gym.

In this article, we have provided an exclusive inside look on how to work out and hopefully get ripped, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold Schwarzenegger statue in Columbus

Training Like Dear Arnie

Although some of us got to know Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime from household movies like Pumping Iron and The terminator, acting wasn't his first love.

Long before he was discovered in film, Arnold was already a force- a rock-hard one, we must mention- to be reckoned with in the fitness and bodybuilding world. Although this legend is at the golden age of 74 now, his glory days are far from over.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Austria to a mother who wanted him to go to a trade school and a father who wanted him to be a policeman.

Instead, at the tender age of 14, Arnold took a turn nobody expected and expressed his wish to become a professional bodybuilder. 

Arnie had grown and fostered an affinity towards a local gym where he could always be found, sometimes even breaking in, to work on the weights nonstop.

Over the years, this dream became a reality as Arnold soon looked like a hunk carved out of granite. This hard work and consistency paid off as Arnold competed in and won the Mr. Universe bodybuilding show at 20.

Over the years, Arnold Schwarzenegger compiled an awe-inspiring list of achievements in the bodybuilding world that ranged from going on a Mr. Olympia winning streak and winning the Munich 508 German pounds stone lifting competition to having a bodybuilding event named The Arnold’s Sports Festival after him.

 In his time, Arnold broke several impressive personal records that includes:

  • Clean and press - 264 lb
  • Snatch - 243 lb
  • Clean and jerk - 298 lb
  • Squat - 545 lb
  • Bench press - 520 lb
  • Deadlift - 683 lb

All this he achieved with dedication and consistency to his very own training secrets.

Although Arnold Schwarzenegger has left the bodybuilding life behind, he remains faithful to and consistent with his workout plan.

It has been decades since he won his first bodybuilding contest, yet, his workout plan remains as compelling as ever.

As an athletic young man who won the Mr. Universe contest, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a bodyweight of 235 lbs, a Height of 6’1 inches, an upper arm of 20.5 inches, a chest span of 54.50 inches, waist of 31 inches, thighs that measured at 26.25 inches, and calves that measured 17.75 inches. The man was an unconquered hunk of metal. 

Schwarzenegger remains sculpted and bearing ungodly strength to this day.

If you want to get as shredded as this indomitable man was and still is, you might want to tighten your seatbelt, you are in for a fitness regimen of almost unbearable intensity.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Workout Plan

Dear Arnie undeniably did not obtain his Terminator physique by lounging around and sitting on his hands. He has gotten more involved in the fitness world than any other athlete might get bragging rights for, and he did this with a lot of commitment.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is so committed to this cause that he makes two trips to the gym every day, six times a week.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is no weekend warrior. As a man who spent his early years breaking into the local gym to work out when it was not open, he possesses an astounding amount of discipline that the average gym-goer lacks. After all, he is the undisputed king of bodybuilding.

Living like Arnold isn't easy...Arnold’s typical training week is split into two groups: 

  • Group A: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the chest, back, legs, calves, and forearms.
  • Group B: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for the biceps, triceps, shoulders, calves, forearms, and abs.

He tailored this schedule to dedicate time at the gym to all major muscle groups. This helps him to avoid overtraining or undertraining a particular muscle group. This all-encompassing training method has served him for years and is anything but obsolete or old school.

Group A: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

On days 1,3, and 5, Arnold splits his workout between his morning and afternoons.

He focuses on the chest and back in the morning and the legs, calves, and forearms in the afternoon. While Arnold tries to exercise all muscle groups separately, his chest and back routines often superset each other.

This allowed him to save time and build searing muscle pumps that helped him grow and maintain the upper buffed look he had got most of his life.

Developing massive chest muscle density demanded a workout routine with such an intensity that Arnold often warned newbies to steer clear off. The books he wrote detail his hours of toiling in the gym, and although it was a lifestyle not for the faint of heart, Arnold Schwarzenegger came to love it. 

Although weight training with pyramid systems is better than training with a single weight, Schwarzenegger has long since cracked the code.

Arnold trained by lifting more weight than most athletes in varying sets with increasing intensity. Using the pyramid lifting principle that helped him to work his way up to higher weights and decreasing reps, Arnold was able to optimize full muscle contractions for eliciting maximum muscle response.

He ensures that he milks each movement for peak muscle contractions and occasionally ranks up to his intensity.

How Arnold Works Each Muscle Group 

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chest workout combined the best lifting and pressing exercises. He had a routine he went by and only occasionally included other exercise variations that he usually wouldn't into his routine.

Arnold’s Chest Routine 

For his chest, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout plan consisted of:

  • Bench press: 5 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Cable crossovers: 6 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Flat bench flyes: 5 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Dumbbell pullovers: 5 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Incline bench press: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Dips: 5 sets, each one to failure

Sometimes, especially during his profession as a competitive bodybuilder, Arnold paired his chest workouts with his back workouts. This helps him create a super superset with such scorching intensity that his muscles receive a complete pump.

Arnold’s Back Routine

For his back, Arnold focuses on building essential muscle groups that not only help with the strength but also the width of his back, such as the latissimus dorsi muscles.

Arnold not only focused on executing these exercises but also on doing them with excellent precision to the range of motions. He went past performing these pressing exercises as though they were simple shores to be done. 

Arnold ensures that he doesn't treat his back as one big muscle. He trains all parts of his back -the lower, mid, upper, and outer parts- specifically before finishing his routine with general exercises like the deadlifts.

Arnold might be dedicated to a specific routine, but he is no prude. While he had rules that guided his routines, he made it a habit to always practice with various hand positions and grip types. He recommends a narrow grip in pulling exercises to target the lower lats. This not only contributes to back strength but also the massive size span of his back.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s back workout includes:

  • Wide-grip chin-ups: 6 sets of failure
  • Pulley rows: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • T-bar rows: 5 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Straight-leg deadlifts: 6 sets of 15 reps
  • One-arm dumbbell rows: 5 sets of 6-10 reps

Arnold’s Leg Routine

Like many other athletes, Arnold found his leg muscles challenging to grow.

In fact, in his early profession as a bodybuilder, he didn't dedicate as much time training his legs as he did his upper body.

At least, not until 1971, the year he won his second consecutive Mr. Olympia title. In the long run, Arnold fixes his problem by performing heavy set exercises in high volume.

He combined high-intensity exercises like leg presses and weighted squats in a volume of at least 15 reps per set.

Like his back, Arnold trains his legs in great detail. He focuses on his quads first, working on them for extra physique definition.

He uses exercises like the hack squat to make this possible. 

Arnold keeps his quad workouts in two sessions featuring three routines in the morning and usually one or two in the evening. Afterward, he works on his hams, remembering to take short rest periods in-between for muscle recovery.

This keeps his muscles pumping throughout the workout session, helping him optimize full muscle contractions and tension. Arnold, no doubt, loves his leg extensions, leg presses, and leg curls as he does the rest of his exercises.

Arnold’s leg workout includes:

  • Leg presses: 6 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Leg curls: 6 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Barbell lunges: 5 sets of 15 reps
  • Leg extensions: 6 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Squats: 6 sets of 8-12 reps

Arnold’s Calf Routine

Arnold spent a few years of his early bodybuilding profession suffering from disuse his legs. While the rest of his body was quite honestly jaw-dropping in a beautiful year formidable way, his calves, in comparison, looked severely undertrained.

Although the calves have a reputation for being the most challenging muscles to develop, it didn't help that Arnold, like many other bodybuilders, neglected to train them.

For some time, Arnold’s calves were nonexistent and one of his most significant weaknesses. Arnold spent a whopping one year of six days a week working on his calves.

His not-so-secret secret was high-intensity workouts in high volumes that involved following the full range of motion without fail. Arnold’s calf routine was packed with whatever he felt like working with each day. High reps, short reps, it doesn’t matter. 

Arnold’s calf routine includes:

  • Standing calf raises: 10 sets of 10 reps
  • Seated calf raises: 8 sets of 15 reps
  • One-legged calf raises (with weights): 6 sets of 12 reps

Many people say Arnold perfected the art of visualization that helped him will his hands into the massive size. Regardless of if this odd science is genuine or not, he no doubt had one of the enormous forearms at the time.

For the best result and mind-muscle connection, couple your training with FOCUSED-AF  to improve your performance with a clearer mind and improved muscle response.

Arnold’s Forearm Routine

Arnold’s impressive forearm resulted from long and hard work in the gym. His forearm training consists of two basic movements: hand curls and hand extensions. He treats his forearm like he did his calves, subjecting them to high-intensity exercises in high reps. 

Arnold’s forearm routine includes:

  • Wrist curls: 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Reverse barbell curls: 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Wright roller machine: 4 sets to failure

Admittedly, this is a lot to take in. However, Arnold split his volume into two sessions each day; morning and afternoon. No rule details in what order these exercises are to be performed. You can choose to split your exercises down the middle or split them by their target points.

Group B: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

On days 2,4, and 6, Arnold works on his biceps, triceps, shoulders, calves, and abs. He works the first three muscle groups in the morning and the last two in the afternoon.

Arnold’s Shoulder Routine

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s massive shoulder span contributes to his phenomenal v-taper physique. His shoulders contribute to his proportion and the intimidating impression of strength and powers he radiates.

It, therefore, came as no surprise when Arnie provided a lifting technique known as the Arnie press that was named after him. 

Arnold gained his monstrous boulder-like shoulders by spending as much as three days a week targeting his shoulder muscles, specifically the deltoids.He, however, often trains his shoulders together with his arms. 

Everyone wants Arnold’s renowned massive shoulder span, but not everyone is ready to dedicate as much time and energy to their shoulders that Arnold did and still does.

He approaches shoulder workouts with high-intensity, high-volume exercises, just like any other body part.  

Arnold targets each part of his deltoid muscle, choosing a variety of exercises that work on the anterior, lateral, and posterior delts. He chooses heavy presses and other alternative exercises that work his shoulders from different angles. 

Arnold’s shoulder session includes:

  • Seated barbell presses: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Lateral raises: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Rear-delt lateral raises: 5 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Cable lateral raises: 5 sets of 10-12 reps

Arnold’s Arm Routine

Arnold, unlike many bodybuilders, doesn't work on his arms as one primary mover. Instead, he splits his sessions between two major muscle groups in the arms; the biceps and triceps. 

At his peak, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a bicep size of 22 inches. This was thanks to a mixture of high-intensity training techniques that helps to shock the muscles into great. While these were his favorites, he also practiced high volumes of basic free weight exercises. 

Arnold has also shared that a secret to his massive guns was the supination of the forearm while performing dumbbell curls.

This helps him to work the most superficial outer bicep head to its peak, placing a lot of tension on his muscles. Regardless of the technique used, Arnold always made it a point to target all the muscle fibers in his arms using the heaviest weights he could lay his hands on.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bicep routine includes:

  • Barbell curls: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Seated dumbbell curls: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Dumbbell concentration curls: 6 sets of 6-10 reps

Although Arnold had impressive biceps, he was not lazy Larry when building his triceps. His triceps contribute to his powerful physique and, like the rest of his body, required high-intensity training. 

Arnold adopted excuses that helped him to antagonize the biceps to target the triceps. He isolates the three tricep heads, namely the long, medial, and lateral heads, with various exercises designed to target them exclusively.

 Arnold’s tricep workout routine includes:

  • Close-grip bench presses: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Pushdowns: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Barbell French presses: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • One-arm dumbbell triceps extensions: 6 sets of 6-10 reps

Arnold’s Ab Routine

Toned six-pack abs are often commonly sought after by many bodybuilders in the gym. Surprisingly, Arnold found it challenging to build his abs throughout his early years as a bodybuilder. It took him a great deal of time and exercise to even get by on a 4-pack ab.

This lack of a well-defined six-pack ab was not a result of his lack of sufficient exercise. Contrary to popular opinion, he worked hard on his midsection.

However, his genetics played a big part in his inability to graduate to a more defined ab.

Regardless of this minor setback, Arnold worked hard to sustain a physique fit for Adonis.

He worked on his abs every day, even as much as exercising it every day. Arnold used twisting motions to target his obliques and avoided weight crunches. 

His typical ab workout isn't anything special...just nonstop high-quality abdominal exercises and crunch variations. Arnold also repeats the shoulder and calf exercises during these sessions.

For shoulders:

  • Seated barbell presses: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Lateral raises: 6 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Rear-delt lateral raises: 5 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Cable lateral raises: 5 sets of 10-12 reps

For calves:

  • Standing calf raises: 10 sets of 10 reps
  • Seated calf raises: 8 sets of 15 reps
  • One-legged calf raises (with weights): 6 sets of 12 reps

Arnold's exercise regimen is a rigorous yet detailed boot camp for massive muscle growth. He supplements his consistent performance of these exercises with large nutritious meals. 

Arnold, who is now somewhat of a vegan, often helped himself to means rich in proteins, healthy fat, macro, and micronutrients. He had one rule: for every pound of your body weight, consume one gram of protein”. His diet contained eggs, bacon, avocado, oats, vegetables, nuts, and rice.

Arnold also paired his exercise and quality diet with supplements.

He was also known to dabble in steroids when it was legal. Arnold loved his muscle fullness and pump, and he openly encourages the use of various supplements to help you along your muscle gain journey. 

ADABOLIC  is a pre-intra-post workout supplement is formulated to expedite muscle recovery, provide you with intense bone-crushing muscle pumps, increase your muscle fullness, and improve your performance if you intend to work out like Schwarzenegger, couple your efforts with the best supplements you can find.

Photocall of the movie 'The last stand' with the Actors Arnold Schwarzenegger

Getting Ripped The Arnold Way

Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the best bodybuilders, and for years, he has upheld this legacy. He achieved this with an insane work ethic that he invested his life in. After all, like he said, “If you don’t find the time, if you don’t do the work, you don’t get the results.”

Going the Arnold way is no walk in the park. However, it is worth it in the end. If you are up to a challenge, check out Jason Momoa’s Aquaman workout & diet plan.