Arnold Schwarzenegger Bodybuilding Workout Routines

olympic weights on a dark background

Introduction to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s story

These days, Arnold Schwarzenegger is better known for his acting career – well to the average Joe he is anyway. From The Terminator, Total Recall and Predator to True Lies, Conan the Destroyer and Commando … he has earned the name of being a badass action hero.

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And it is no wonder given the size of his muscles. They are a bodybuilders’ wet dream, and something that even 30 years after his bodybuilding career ended, still inspires avid gym enthusiasts.

And that is the funny thing…

Long before he became your favourite 80s/90s action hero, he was 7 times winner of Mr. Olympia (1970-75 and 1980). SEVEN TIMES! How many bodybuilders can make such a claim? Not that many…

Yet his journey to achieving this wasn’t an easy one. Hell, his famous Arnold Schwarzenegger workout is known to be the stuff nightmares.

You see, whereas most of us would begin our week with good intentions of working out and eating right (before caving on Wednesday); Arnold is renowned for the level of dedication and commitment he gave to every single workout.

As witnessed in his Pumping Iron appearance and his book ‘Muscle and Strength’, his 16 week workout consisted of six days of intensive workouts for 60-75 minutes at a time!

Knowing this, his impressive stats come as little surprise:

Arnold’s Stats

  • 7 time Mr. Olympia – 1970-75, 1980
  • Height – 6’2″
  • Weight – 235 lbs
  • Arms – 22 inches (Many sources claim this number to be inflated)
  • Chest – 57 inches
  • Waist – 34 inches
  • Deadlift – 710 pounds
  • Bench Press – 440 pounds
  • Squat – 470 pounds

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Bodybuilding story:
Before Arnold ever ventured onto American soil, he competed as a powerlifter in Austria. This is because – like his hero Reg Park – he believed it was important to appear more than strong but to actually be strong.

In fact, he attributed his world-class physique to his years of focusing on heavy lifting/powerlifting.

And it certainly worked…

Dave Draper in his 2008 interview with Bodybuilding.com described 1968 Arnold as being on a trajectory all of his own. Instead of teaching him how to weight train, they taught him by NOT teaching him, and the result was a physique that has formed the blueprint of many bodybuilder’s workout regimes.

His routine:

In order to fit in every rep and set, Arnold rose early every day. He also chose not to work, and is said to have been one of only two full-time bodybuilders – during Pumping Iron – to not have a day job (something only elite competitors normally do). With no rush to get to a job, he was able to workout for 3-4 hours every single day.

Similarly, every one of his workouts was designed to be done in one single, time efficient session.

Another belief he had was ensuring that you did enough foundation training. He would regularly do heavy ground work, heavy squats, heavy deadlifts and rowing to help strengthen his spine and give him more power.

TIP: to achieve the same level of intensity as Arnold, it is recommended that you workout first thing in the morning. The earlier you do it, the better.

Arnold’s favourite workouts

The Arnold Schwarzenegger workout routine that we are about to describe is believed to be the one that earned him his Mr Olympia status.

And as workouts go, whilst it might be considered gruelling to even the most advanced bodybuilder; we have no doubt that it will become your favourite, once the results start rolling in.

Info: Designed to help build muscle, this 16 week workout will have you exercising 6 days a week for around 60-75 minutes per session. This workout is no joke, and is better suited for advanced bodybuilders, as it takes an intense, high volume and frequent approach to training where you will train each major muscle group 2-3 times a week.

Equipment: You will need Barbells, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells and EZ Bars, and you should use the following supplements: protein powder, Mass Gainer and Multivitamins.

Old gym interior with equipment

Variation 1

    • Day One and Four

– Arnold Schwarzenegger chest and back workout

Chest – bench press (3-4 sets, 10 reps); incline bench press (3-4 sets, 10 reps) and Dumbbell pullovers (3-4 sets, 10 reps)

Back – chin up (3-4 sets, 10 reps); bent over row (3-4 sets, 10 reps) and deadlift (3-4 sets, 10 reps)

Abs – crunches (5 sets, 25 reps)

    • Day Two and Five

– Shoulders and arms

Shoulders – barbell clean and press (3-4 sets, 10 reps), dumbbell lateral raise (3-4 sets, 10 reps); upright row (3-4 sets, 10 reps) and military press (3-4 sets, 10 reps).

Arms – standing barbell curl (3-4 sets, 10 reps), seated dumbbell curl (3-4 sets, 10 reps), close grip bench press (3-4 sets, 10 reps) and standing barbell tricep extension (3-4 sets, 10 reps)

Forearms – wrist curls (3-4 sets, 10 reps) and reverse wrist curls (3-4 sets, 10 reps)

Abs – reverse crunch (5 sets, 25 reps)

    • Day Three and Six

– Legs and Lower Back

Legs – squat (3-4 sets, 10 reps), lunge (3-4 sets, 10 reps) and leg curl (3-4 sets, 10 reps)

Lower back – stiff leg deadlift (3-4 sets, 10 reps) and Good Mornings (3-4 sets, 10 reps)

Calves – standing calf raise (3-4 sets, 10 reps)

Abs – crunches (5 sets, 25 reps)

    • Day Seven

– REST

Variation 2

During this Arnold Schwarzenegger bodybuilding routine, you will be expected to workout every major body part three times per week (high frequency workout).

    • Days 1, 3 and 5

– Chest, back and legs

Chest – bench press (5 sets, 6-10 reps), dumbbell flye (5 sets, 6-10 reps), incline bench press (6 sets, 6-10 reps), cable crossovers (6 sets, 10-12 reps),

Dips (5 sets, failure) and dumbbell pullover (5 sets, 10-12 reps)

Back – wide grip pull up (6 sets, failure), t bar row (5 sets, 6-10 reps), seated pulley row (6 sets, 6-10 reps), one arm dumbbell row (5 sets, 6-10 reps) and stiff leg deadlift (6 sets, 15 reps)

Legs – squat (6 sets, 8-12 reps), leg press (6 sets, 8-12 reps), leg extension (6 sets, 12-15 reps), leg curl (6 sets, 10-15 reps) and barbell lunge (5 sets,15 reps)

Calves – standing calf raise (10 sets, 10 reps), seated calf raise (8 sets, 15 reps) and one leg dumbbell calf raise (6 sets, 12 reps)

Forearms – wrist curl (4 sets, 10 reps), reverse barbell curl (4 sets, 8 reps) and wrist roller machine (4 sets, failure)

Abs – non-stop abs training (30 minutes, by instinct)

    • Days 2, 4 and 6

– Shoulders and arms

Biceps – barbell curl (6 sets, 6-10 reps), seated dumbbell curl (6 sets, 6-10 reps) and dumbbell concentration curl (6 sets, 6-10 reps)

Triceps – close grip bench press (6 sets, 6-10 reps), tricep pushdown (6 sets, 6-10 reps), barbell French press (6 sets, 6-10 reps) and one arm dumbbell tricep extension (6 sets, 6-10 reps)

Shoulders – seated barbell press (6 sets, 6-10 reps), lateral raise (6 sets, 6-10 reps), rear delt lateral raise (5 sets, 6-10 reps) and cable lateral raise (5 sets, 10-12 reps)

Calves – standing calf raise (10 sets, 10 reps), seated calf raise (8 sets, 15 reps) and one leg dumbbell calf raise (6 sets, 12 reps)

Forearms – wrist curl (4 sets, 10 reps), reverse barbell curl (4 sets, 8 reps) and wrist roller machine (4 sets, failure)

Abs – non-stop abs training (30 minutes, by instinct)

    • Day 7

– REST

Old worn dumbells in gym in black and white

Other Arnold Schwarzenegger workout routines include:

Day one

Chest, Backs and Abs Workout
Barbell bench press (medium grip) 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Barbell incline bench press (medium grip) 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Dumbbell flyes 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Dumbbell pull-over 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Chin-up (wide grip) 4 sets to failure, 45 seconds rest
Bent over barbell row 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Bent over two-dumbbell row 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Hanging leg raise 5 sets of 25 reps, 45 second rest

Day Two:

Shoulders, arms and abs Workout
Clean and press 5 sets of 25 reps, 45 second rest
Standing dumbbell press 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Front dumbbell raise 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Side lateral raise 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Upright barbell row 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Barbell curl 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Incline dumbbell curl 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Concentration curls 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Close-grip barbell bench press 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Lying triceps press 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Dumbbell one-arm triceps extension 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Palms-up barbell wrist curl over a bench 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Palms-down wrist curl over a bench 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Decline crunch 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest

Day Three

Legs Workout
Barbell squat 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Stiff-legged barbell deadlift 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Good Morning 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest (only perform once a week)
Barbell lunge 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Leg extensions 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Seated leg curl 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Standing calf raises 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Seated calf raise 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Cable crunch 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest

When Arnold really wanted to push his limits, he would do a Max-Effort squat. You can do something similar by picking one exercise and seeing if you can move up the rep pyramid with each set e.g. 20, 15, 10, 8, 5, 3, 1, 1, 1-rep max.

Day Four: Repeat your chest and back day from day one.

 

The key is to not cheat – something Arnold was very big on himself. He never cheated on his days, but instead ensured he worked out every body part twice a week.

Day Five: Shoulders, arms and abs

 

This day is roughly a repeat of day two, but you will start it off with 5 sets of Arnold presses, before moving onto front raise, behind the neck presses, and then the rest.

Below are the extra moves you need to do:

Shoulders, arms and abs Workout
Arnold Dumbbell press 5 sets of 5 reps, 45 second rest
Push press 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Front Dumbbell raise 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest
Reverse flyes 5 sets of 30, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps, 45 seconds rest

Do these and then follow the same routine from day two.

Day Six:

 

Heavy Legs Workout
Front barbell squat 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Barbell deadlift (option 1) 3 sets of 10, 6, 4 reps, 45 second rest
Barbell deadlift (option 2) 3 sets of 10, 6, 4 reps, 45 second rest
Barbell deadlift (option 3) 3 sets of 10, 6, 4 reps, 45 second rest
Good Morning 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Barbell lunge 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Leg extensions 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Seated leg curl 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest
Cable crunch 5 sets of 8-12 reps, 45 second rest

When Arnold really wanted to push his limits he would do a Max-Effort squat. You can do something similar by picking one exercise and seeing if you can move up the rep pyramid with each set e.g. 20, 15, 10, 8, 5, 3, 1, 1, 1-rep max.

Day 7: RELAX!!!!!!!

sports bodybuilder guy sleeps with athletic barbell, concept of healthy lifestyle

Arnold Schwarzenegger diet

Given how hard he worked his body, is it any wonder that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding diet is just as intense?

He paired his days of hard-core training with carefully planned meals to ensure he received plenty of food, calories and nutrition.

Think you can handle the same? Here is the plan that he followed to achieve his famous physique:

Schedule: he ate 5-6 times a day. This consisted of 3 whole food meals and 2-3 whole food snacks.
Calorie intake: up to 5,000 calories a day.
Protein intake: 300g+ of protein.
Post-workout carbs: he ate carbs within 30 minutes of finishing every workout.
Protein shakes: only use if you need to up your daily protein intake.

Conclusion

To say Arnold Schwarzenegger is a walking, talking bodybuilding inspiration is an understatement. During his bodybuilding career, he achieved amazing things. Feats that have gone on to push generations upon generations of bodybuilders to work harder and aim higher.

And you can do the same.

That’s right! You don’t have to remain on the periphery wishing it could be you. You too can take his workouts, take his diets and make them your own.

If anything Arnold is living PROOF that with determination, passion and commitment, it IS possible to achieve the muscle, the gains and the size that YOU want.

So, if you are passionate about pursuing a career as a bodybuilder or competing professionally, why not give one of Arnold’s workouts a go and use them to achieve the results you crave?

Go for it, and tell your experiences below…

Check also: The Mountain’s INSANE workout routine >>

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