Get inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger | Profile and split routine analysis

Welcome to this new “Get inspired by…” article. While this website is mainly for natural bodybuilders, it’s undeniable that old-school bodybuilders were inspiring and were in great condition on stage, steroids or not. It would be a shame not to get inspired from their stories and work ethic. 

We will go through a quick biography of the athlete presented and discuss their main beliefs and best training advice. Then, we will talk about their program and see what, as natural bodybuilders, we can learn from them.

This article will take you 5 minutes to read! Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!

Today we are talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you do not know Arnold, you might as well just leave this website and never come back! Arnold is the king of bodybuilders, before anyone else! He hugely changed the fitness industry and the bodybuilding world. Even though he is not the one who won the most Olympia titles (Ronnie Coleman had 8), he is still considered as the icon of bodybuilding.

Arnold Schwarzenegger with Joe Weider getting a trophy
Too many trophies for Arnold!

Arnold started bodybuilding when he was 15 years old. Missing a work-out would be painful and it became his obsession. In many reviews, it is said Arnold Schwarzenegger might have had difficult times when he was growing up as a kid. Maybe this has been the reason to his obsession with lifting weights.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had quickly shown progress and people saw in himself a bright future like his friend, Reg Park, whom he met when he was 19 years old. Joe Weider also had plenty of belief for Arnold to become great. Frank Zane mentioned in the past that “Joe Weider was all over Arnold”and that “Everyone knew he was meant for greatness”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger with Frank Zane and Joe Weider on the beach
Joe Weider, Frank Zane, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Not everyone would understand what was at the back of Arnold’s head, but he knew it well.

You probably know the rest of the story, Arnold went on to become one of the most successful bodybuilder, actor, and politician in the world.

What’s impressive about Arnold?

Arnold Schwarzenneger was highly obsessed with his goals. He was also one of the bodybuilders to train the hardest. His sessions would be of huge volume and he would sometimes go to the gym 12 times a week for 25-30 hours. His frame was gigantic and two things which stood out on his physique are his chest and biceps.

Arnold Schwarzenegger showing his biceps peak
Arnold’s biceps peak
Arnold Schwarzenegger doing biceps cage pose
Arnold’s big chest

Arnold was 235 lb/107kg on stage and 260 lb/118kg off competition.

He won the Mr Olympia title 7 times, between 1970 to 1975 and in 1980.

Arnold Schwarzenegger with Frank Zane and Lou Ferrigno on stage

It is said that some of his best lifts were (approximately) these:

Bench-press: 500lbs | 220kg

Squat: 545lbs | 247kg

Deadlift: 710lbs |322kg

What can you learn from Arnold?

To learn from Arnold, we will use a few quotes he’s used before.

“There are no shortcuts—everything is reps, reps, reps.”

We could say that you have to work hard and do the work to get to where you want, but here we want to emphasize the fact that for natural bodybuilders, your limit is far from being reached! Too many natural bodybuilders find excuses not to push harder. The truth is, you can do a lot as a natural bodybuilder and do a huge amount of volume once you’ve gained experienced. So next time you feel like leaving the gym, think about reps, reps, reps!

“Positive thinking can be contagious. Being surrounded by winners helps you develop into a winner.”

Arnold probably has not invented that, but he reminds us that surrounding oneself with positive and encouraging people can only be beneficial to ones’s journey. You might learn from them but also feel like pushing it more!

“I’ll be back”

Who does not know this one? Arnold will always be back to kick your ass if you are not working hard enough in the gym! By the way, what has Arnold become now?

How is Arnold doing now?

Well, you might be surprised but Arnold went from being a bodybuilding freak to chasing his donkeys on his bike.

Nonetheless, Arnold for his age still has bigger biceps than you!

Arnold Schwarzenegger at 70 years old with incredible biceps

His old-school work-out routine

One of the most important thing in this article will be to see what his program looked like. Arnold was probably the hardest working bodybuilder of his time! The volume he used to do was phenomenal compared to most of what other bodybuilders used to do!

Let’s get into it and see what you can get from it as a natural bodybuilder.

According to, this is what his program looked like

Arnold would do chest and back together the morning while doing his legs/forearms/abs the afternoon/evening. The most experienced natural lifters might be able to get as much done in one session, but not 3 times a week like Arnold did. Arnold probably did recover faster and it might be thanks to the help of PEDs. Nonetheless, it is not rare to sometimes see natural lifters doing as much volume on their chest or back session.

The key point to remember seeing Arnold’s program is to train hard and not limit yourself thinking it is not possible to go hard as a natural bodybuilder. Of course, doing 35 sets on chest like he does on his program would only be for highly experienced natural lifters who have been training for a good decade. You should always try to be better each session without burning yourself out. This starts by not doing so much and see how you improve first. If you feel like you can do more then up your game. Up your game each time you feel like you can do so.

If you are a beginner lifter, it is probably good not to go to failure too much. You want to improve by giving it at 80/90%. You are forcing it but also not burning yourself out. Once you gain experience, you will know whether or not you can increase the difficulty of your workout.

We also have to take in consideration that it was Arnold’s full job so he could afford to train this much almost every day. The better you want to get, the more time you will have to invest into bodybuilding.

This just comes back to what you really want to do! Nonetheless, start small but try and see if you can’t do more than last time!

What you probably should not take from Arnold’s program if you are natural

As said earlier, you have plenty of room to improve as a natural lifter. But it’s good to remember Arnold was using performance-enhancing drugs so his recovery was much quicker. Arnold could afford to train his back and biceps 6 days in a row. By 6 days in a row, we mean that he was doing back 3 times a week and biceps 3 times a week.

Everyone knows that biceps are used a lot when training back so this seemed to be a lot to take on. One solution might be to deactivate your biceps on your back exercises and always go for a pronated grip, nonetheless, they’re still used. As a natural lifter, we would recommend that you try and give more space in your split routine between muscles similarly involved.

If you wanted to train with Arnold’s split style and have a look alike program, here is what you could do:

Monday: Chest/Back

Tuesday: Shoulders/calves/forearms

Wednesday: abs

Thursday: Chest/Back

Friday: Legs, calves

Saturday: Shoulders/arms/forearms

Sunday: rest

That was an alternative to Arnold’s type of training for an advanced natural bodybuilder.

Let’s say you want to perform the good old chest/back Arnold workouts. You could do chest, back, shoulders, forearms, calves twice a week. You could perform arms and legs once a week.

Notice how we have given space to the muscles to recover in between the sessions while still keeping a high volume of work.

Upon your preferences, you could replace the muscles worked twice a week by the one worked once a week in that example. You might also want to be careful with your shoulders as it can take a lot out of you considering the back and chest workouts twice a week.


Key points to remember from Arnold’s split routine:

  • Start small but up your game as soon as you can
  • Don’t give it a 100% from the start so you gain experience and adjust later when you know yourself
  • The natural limit is far from what you think
  • Try and give enough space in your routine between your muscle groups even if the volume is high
Arnold Schwarzenegger with a tank top at a young age