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 – especially with the greats like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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 be on the wrong site. I recommend taking a brief tour through the documentary, “pumping iron” and coming back later!
Arnold is the king of bodybuilders, first and foremost. 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 wasn’t the most successful bodybuilder of all time, but he was – and continues to be – the face of Bodybuilding even decades after retiring.
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 and maybe this has been the reason to his obsession with lifting weights. Bodybuilding is an important form of escapism and personal-control for many trainees!
Arnold Schwarzenegger had quickly shown progress and people saw a bright future for Arnold like his friend, Reg Park, whom he met when he was 19 years old. Joe Weider also felt invested in Arnold and his potential early on.
Frank Zane mentioned in the past that “Joe Weider was all over Arnold”and that “Everyone knew he was meant for greatness”. High praise from one of the best of all time!
Not everyone would understand what was at the back of Arnold’s head, but he knew it well.
Arnold went on to become one of the most successful bodybuilder in the world, then a famous Hollywood actor, and ultimately governor of California.
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 include 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 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.
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 can look at what he said about his own training and his approach to bodybuilding. These quotes really help us understand both the methods and the personality of the man.
“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. Your body adapts to training, and you can patiently load up more and more over time/
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!
Get in, work hard, leave. But make sure you’re back, consistently, session after session and week after week. Turning into a golden-era bodybuilding god like Arnold doesn’t happen unless you give it years of hard work and consistent effort.
By the way, whatever happened to this Arnold guy?
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 of the time would use.
Let’s get into it and see what you can get from it as a natural bodybuilder.
According to manofmany.com, 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.
It’s important to remember that 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 long time.
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 75-90%. You are forcing growth but also not burning yourself out. Once you gain experience, you will know whether or not you can increase the difficulty of your workout, and your body will be better-adapted to doing more work.
We also have to take in consideration that it was Arnold’s full-time 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. However, for most of us, it’s not realistic to train 12 times a week and spend the rest of our time eating/sunbathing!
This just comes back to your priorities, commitments, and how seriously you want to be a bodybuilder! No matter your schedule, 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 and growth 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, which obviously had overlap.
I really don’t recommend trying that as a natural lifter! You’ll overtrain the muscles and see fewer results because they’re never getting the rest and growth time they need!
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:
Friday: Legs, calves
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, as a more general training session, since they overlap with some of the other sessions through the week.
Notice how we have given space to the muscles to recover in between the sessions while still keeping a high volume of work.
Based on your needs and 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. It’s about prioritising some session and using others as lighter days to work through weaknesses and build injury-resistance with “prehab” exercises.
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!
Key points to remember from Arnold’s split routine:
- Start small but up your game consistently over time
- Don’t give it 100% from the start and go to failure. You need to learn your own body – you’re going to make gains either way – so be patient!
- The natural limit is far from what you think, and you shouldn’t accept anyone else’s idea of what you can achieve
- Try and give enough space in your routine between your muscle groups even if the volume is high!