The Arnold Schwarzenegger Workout
In 1975, Arnold Schwarzenegger competed in the Mr. Olympia competition and won...for the sixth time in a row. (He later went on to win the title a seventh time.) Earlier that same year he had accepted an offer to star in the film Stay Hungry (a movie based on a novel of the same name by Charles Gaines) for which he was apparently asked to shed 60 pounds. When he finished filming, barely three months before the competition, no one thought he had any chance of winning the title.
But Arnold performed something of a miracle by adding over 50 pounds of rock-hard muscle to his body in just 90 days. He did this by training six days per week—twice per day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and once per day on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. By the time of the competition, he was in possibly the greatest shape of his life.
This is the routine he used to get him there: Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1975 Mr. Olympia workout routine.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday Morning Routine
- Bench Press (shoulder width grip) 5 X 8–10
- Flat Bench Flye 5 X 8
- Incline Press (Universal Machine) 6 X 8–10
- Parallel Bar Dip 5 X until tired
- Cable Crossover 6 X 12
- Dumbbell Pullover 5 X 10
- Wide Grip Chin-Up 6 X until tired
- T-Bar Row 5 X 8
- Cable Pull 6 X 8
- Bent-Over Row 6 X 12
- Deadlift (on box) 6 X 15
- Dumbbell Row 5 X 8
- Squat (parallel) 6 X 10–12
- Leg Extension 6 X 15
- Leg Press 6 X 8–10
- Leg Curl 6 X 12
- Barbell Lunge 5 X 15
Monday, Wednesday, Friday Afternoon Routine
- Heel Raise (calf machine) 10 X 10
- Seated Heel Raise 8 X 15
- One Legged Heal Raise 6 X 12
- Wrist Roller 4 X until tired
- Reverse Curl 4 X 8
- Wrist Curl 4 X 10
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Routine
- Barbell Cheat Curl 6 X 8
- Seated Dumbbell Curl 6 X 6
- Concentration Curl 6 X 10
- Close Grip Bench Press 6 X 10
- Triceps Pressdown 6 X 10
- French Press 6 X 8
- One Arm Triceps Stretch 6 X 10
- Seated Front Press (Universal Machine) 6 X 8–10
- Lateral Raise 6 X 10
- Standing Dumbbell Press 6 X 8
- Bent-Over Laterals 5 X 10
- Cable Laterals 5 X 12
Calves and Forearms
Same as Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine.
(From the book Posedown by George Snyder & Rick Wayne)
Arnold Training and Posing
A High-Volume Workout Routine
To say this is high-volume training would be a gross understatement, and I would not recommend that anyone try to duplicate it. A much more sensible and effective type of workout routine for most people—but particularly if you are in your first year or two of training—would be to do a brief full-body workout three times per week. Or if you are a little more advanced, an upper/lower split might be a better choice.
This is just for information, and maybe to give you a few ideas for your own training.
Arnold's Training Philosophy
Though this kind of high-volume training isn't for everyone (or even for most), it certainly worked for the Austrian Oak who seemed to thrive on this type of training. Here are a few other tenets of Arnold's training philosophy.
Train Opposing Muscle Groups
Arnold liked to train using the "opposing muscle groups" method, so he would normally train chest and back in one workout, arms and shoulders in another and legs in a further workout.
The above is a slight deviation from that, in that legs are trained in the same workout as chest and back. But it's still the same basic principle. And each body part is trained three times per week.
Keep Rests Short
He also trained in high-density fashion, keeping his rest periods between sets very short. This type of training is becoming more popular now, but it’s nothing new. Arnold did it, Serge Nubret did it, and the late great Vince Gironda (trainer of movie stars and champion bodybuilders) used it in his infamous "8 sets of 8" routine.
Because he trained in this way, Arnold could get his morning workouts done in just 90 minutes.
Push Yourself to the Limit
Arnold always tried to get at least 6 reps out on every set; sometimes calling on a training partner to help him get the weight past the sticking point on the last rep or two.
In fact, he believed that you should always push yourself to the limit on every set, and not save yourself for the next set. This is not something I would advise any natural trainee to do, as it will quickly lead to burnout.
"Shock the Muscle"
He also believed in "shocking the muscle" by altering the number of sets and repetitions on a regular basis. And he employed supersets, giant sets, drop sets and working "down the rack" when he felt the need for them, or when time was limited.
Work Your Calves Extra Hard
His attitude to calf training was very simple. These muscles are accustomed to a lot of hard work (from walking and running) and therefore must be worked very hard with high reps and heavy poundages.
He would use up to 1,000 pounds on the calf machine when doing heel raises, and sometimes he would give them extra work by training them with staggered sets during his chest workouts.
The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
If you'd like to find out more about Arnold's training methods I can only recommend you pick up a copy of his book The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. This is an 800-page manual that gives detailed information on weight training and proper exercise performance, as well as diet and nutrition. There are also sections on injury prevention, stretching, competition and so much more.
The only things I don't like about it are he doesn't give much information on supplements, and his training programs are far too lengthy (and intense) for the genetically typical natural lifter. But still, you will learn a tremendous amount of valuable information from this classic book.
So that's Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1975 Mr. Olympia workout routine, or how bodybuilding’s greatest legend got in the best shape of his life to dominate the competition in the most prestigious bodybuilding contest in the world.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 David
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on June 24, 2018:
Thanks for your comment Mark; you make some interesting points. The routine as laid out here is definitely not suitable for natural trainees, but as you say if you drastically cut down on the volume and reduce the frequency to about twice per week per body part, it would be fine. In fact if you look at my article on the opposing muscle groups routine you will find something similar.
You say Arnold did not train to failure, but on his videos he says he always pushed every set to the limit. So I don't know. Either way it's much better for a natural lifter to stop short of failure on most, if not all, of their sets. But if you are using short rest periods like this it will be ok to hit max effort on your last set or two, as you are reaching this point with sub-maximal weights.
Mark on June 21, 2018:
It’s a great routine. Can a natty do it? I’d say with a few adjustments, yes. Either cut back on the sets or cut back on some of the exercises. As for frequency, tone it back to hitting each bodypart twice a week or, at the most, hit each bodypart every five days. E.G. chest/back on Monday, shoulders/arms on Tuesday, Wednesday off, legs on Thursday, Friday off, repeat routine with chest/back on Saturday.
As for sets, not all of the sets in the routine were work sets. Arnold for the most part, would pyramid/ramp up his sets starting with a light weight then increase the weight every set, sometimes every 2 sets. So only the last set or 2 were the real work sets. Plus Arnold didn’t train to failure. He would stop a rep or 2 (or 3) from failure on his heaviest sets.
Another way to do this is to do a few warm up sets then do 3-4 work sets with the same weight or drop the weight down every couple of sets.
Barbell cheat curls 6 x 8
1st set use 60% of top weight (warm up)
2nd set use 80% of top weight (warm up)
3rd set use top weight for 8 reps not to failure (stop 1-3 reps shy of failure on each work set)
4th set use same weight as 3rd set try for 8 reps not to failure
5th set drop the weight down by 10 pound (more if needed) go for 8 reps again not to failure
6th set use same weight as 5th set try for 8 reps not to failure
The aim is to get 8 reps on each set but the reps may drop down to 7 or 6 reps hence why the drop in weight to stay in the desired rep range. Also the rest periods between sets are shorter, about 30-60 seconds rest between sets as Arnold liked to train at a fast pace.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on October 04, 2014:
I'll have to take a look at those Novator. He was a great inspiration to me when I was younger. An incredible man.
novator from Denver on October 04, 2014:
Arnold is still a monster to this day. His arms are more developed than most 20 year olds in his most recent photos that he has on facebook.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on August 17, 2014:
Yes I do think Ronnie is amazing, but like you I prefer Arnold's physique. To my mind bodybuilding was at its very best in the 70's.
David 470 from Pennsylvania, United States on August 17, 2014:
It's true that steroid dosages are higher today than they used to be back then. Although I respect Ronnie Coleman, I like Arnold's physique better.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 29, 2014:
Well, according to the book ‘Posedown’ (by George Snyder & Rick Wayne) this was how he trained specifically to win the 1975 Mr. Olympia. I don't know cos I wasn't there, but I do know that Arnold trained in many different ways over the years. Your version does make a lot of sense though.
stoutmuscleman33 on May 28, 2014:
These workouts aren't completely accurate. He would do opposing muscle groups in his sessions. So chest and back was a morning training session. Same day legs and abs in the evening. Next day shoulders, tris, and biceps in morning. Calves and abs at night. Repeat over and over.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on May 21, 2014:
Well he is actually resting each muscle two days, as he is training each body part three times per week. You are of course entitled to your opinion :)
........ on May 21, 2014:
YOu need 2 days to rest your muscle before exercising it again. I bet this was not arnold's workout
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on March 11, 2014:
I agree with you NotArnold. Those three things were obviously key to Arnold's success.
NotArnold on March 11, 2014:
I'm tired just from reading that.
I think genetics + training history + "performance enhancement" (in that order) = Ahnold's success.
Anyone else attempting this without those 3 things would be a moron.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on March 10, 2014:
Yes Easy Exercise I think HDT is great for general conditioning and muscle building. Not quite so good for strength though. The gym I go to has TRX bands. They are certainly a great aid to bodyweight exercises.
Kelly A Burnett from United States on March 09, 2014:
High density training isn't new but it is gaining a new popularity which is great. The rest periods don't necessarily help our heart and if we can train our heart at the same time we are training our muscles - what a great workout design.
I wish to try out the TRX - that fascinates me as I always enjoy body weight exercises.
Great hub. Voted up!
Bobby Isenhower from Crothersville, IN on September 23, 2012:
Yea it wouldn't be the way I could do it but carbs can put on fat but if you're working out a lot like he did then it would transfer that into muscle.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 23, 2012:
To be honest I'd never heard of that. Beer is high in carbs and is also estrogenic, so it would tend to make you fat - especially in the abdominal area. So not really recommended for muscle building. Some people will get away with it more than others however, and Arnold had exceptional genetics which could explain it.
Bobby Isenhower from Crothersville, IN on September 23, 2012:
It doesn't talk about before all that when all he did was drank beer and workout, he did that for a long time. He would go drink beer and then workout come back drink beer and then workout. Because it built muscle fast.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 07, 2012:
Yes; I've read that book. I think it's probably a combination of genetics and training history. I'm of the opinion that highly trained athletes in any endeavor who have got used to daily training from a young age or built up to it slowly over time can benefit from much higher training volumes than the rest of us.
Michael J Rapp from United States on September 07, 2012:
Arnold was also a freak. In his book The Education of a Bodybuilder he talks about how he trained every day with high volume from a very young age. When he was in the military his job was to lift weights all day. So, either by his own design or just his genetics, it seems he was well-prepared for a program like this. In bonus features on the Pumping Iron DVD he admits he did take steroids, but he says they were legal back then and not such a big deal. I agree the dosage he was taking was likely much lower and less potent than what goes on today.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 07, 2012:
It's not really that steroids are forgotten I don't think. It's that they are not mentioned very often. Yes I agree with what you are saying, but I believe they take a much higher dosage nowadays than they did then. The bodybuilders of today are a ridiculous size in my opinion.
And I'm sure you can grow by taking roids and not training. But you will grow a lot more with a good training program as well.
Either way this article really was just for information. Certainly no-one who is training naturally should do anything like this sort of volume.
Janko on September 07, 2012:
A lot of these routines work.Arnold was a and is a great bodybuilder.It seems that people forget the chemicals taken.Most routines work.One well known bodybuilder I know personally took chemicals for 12months without training at all.I seen him at a bodybuilder show.He flexed a double bicepts shot,and laughed and siad"tell me roids don't make you grow.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on September 04, 2012:
Yes, I agree. I'd be in hospital if I tried it. Arnold was one of a kind.
Michael J Rapp from United States on September 04, 2012:
I've heard about this . This routine is completely bonkers! I think most people would disintegrate if they tried it, but that's why Arnold was Arnold! I feel sore just reading it.