Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Bodybuilding Workouts

Arnold SchwarzeneggerArnold Schwarzenegger was certainly the greatest bodybuilder of his time, and will be remembered as one of the greatest bodybuilders of the 20th Century. His movie career has immortalized his body in a way that no other world class bodybuilder has accomplished. He won the Mr. Olympia 6 years running from 1970, beating Franco Columbu (who Sly Stallone employed for his training) in his final contest of 1975.

Here we have 3 weight training plans that Arnold followed at various times throughout his career. The first is one that Arnold Schwarzenegger used later in his career.

It is typical of the training style that Arnold Schwarzenegger preferred, i.e. many sets, lots of work, lots of time in the gym. The second routine is a 6 day per week routine which splits the body into 3 parts to avoid overtraining.

The final routine is a 3 day split that is similar to how Arnold trained during competitions. You can find some additional resources on Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of this page.

Arnold’s Early Bodybuilding Routine

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger Chest Exercises:

  • Bench press – 5 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Flat bench flies – 5 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Incline bench press – 6 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Cable crossovers – 6 sets, 10-12 reps, Dips – 5 sets, to failure;
  • Dumbbell pullovers – 5 sets, 10-12 reps.

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Back Exercise:

  • Front wide-grip chin-ups – 6 sets, to failure;
  • T-bar rows – 5 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Seated cable rows – 6 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • One-arm dumbbell rows – 5 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Straight-leg deadlifts – 6 sets, 15 reps.

3. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Legs:

  • Squats – 6 sets, 8-12 reps;
  • Leg presses – 6 sets, 8-12 reps;
  • Leg extensions – 6 sets, 12-15 reps;
  • Leg curls – 6 sets, 10-12 reps;
  • Barbell lunges – 5 sets, 15 reps.

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger Calves:

  • Standing calf raises -10 sets, 10 reps;
  • Seated calf raises – 8 sets, 15 reps;
  • One-legged calf raises (holding dumbbells) – 6 sets,12 reps.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger Forearms:

  • Wrist curls (forearms on knees) – 4 sets, 10 reps;
  • Reverse barbell curls – 4 sets, 8 reps;
  • Wrist roller machine – to failure.

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger Biceps Workout:

  • Barbell curls – 6 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Seated dumbbell curls – 6 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Dumbbell concentration curls – 6 sets, 6-10 reps.

7. Arnold Schwarzenegger Triceps Exercises:

  • Close-grip bench presses (for the all three heads) – 6 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Pushdowns (exterior head) – 6 sets, 6-10 reps ;
  • Barbell French presses (interior head) – 6 sets, 6-10 reps ;
  • One-arm dumbbell triceps extensions (exterior head) – 6 sets, 6-10 reps.

8. Arnold Schwarzenegger Shoulder Training:

  • Seated barbell presses – 6 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Lateral raises (standing) – 6 sets, 6-10 reps;
  • Rear-delt lateral raises – 5 sets, 6-10 reps ;
  • Cable lateral raises – 5 sets, 10-12 reps.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Weekly Weight Training Routines

Arnold Schwarzenegger, like all successful bodybuilders, varied his workout throughout his lifting career, to ensure that his muscles were always being driven to grow and not stagnate. We have already looked at Arnold Schwarzernegger’s full workouts for each body part. Here we can reveal one of his weekly training routines.

To work all muscles effectively, it is essential to split a weight lifting routine up into parts. At the most simple level is the push / pull split, which is aimed at people training twice per week at a high intensity. However, Arnold Schwarzenegger trained far more frequently than the average lifter, he was really a real “gym rat”, meaning that he was always down in his gym working on one part or another. In a way, this reminds us of Bruce Lee, as Linda Lee once described him as always having a dumbbell close at hand, and always doing something.

This Arnold routine is a 6 day per week routine. Like the full body workout we discussed before, it is typical Arnold style, in that there are a lot of sets and reps. To do such a routine effectively it is essential that you warm up well, eat very well, take supplements, and get lots of sleep. It is very easy to suffer from over training if you do not rest, so fuel and limber up before working out. Arnold generally performed 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps for each movement. For abdominal exercises, he did 5 sets of 25 reps each.

Arnold’s weekly routine was split into three groups:

  1. Chest, Upper Back and Abs
  2. Shoulders, Arms and Forearms
  3. Thighs, Calves and Lower Back

Monday & Thursday

  • Chest: Bench Presses, Inclines Presses and Pullovers
  • Back: Chinups (fours sets to failure), Bent-over Rows and Deadlifts
  • Abs: Leg Raises

Tuesday & Friday

  • Shoulders: Clean & Press, Lateral Raises, Push Presses and Heavy Upright Rows
  • Arms: Barbell Curls, Seated Dumbbell Curls, Barbell Triceps Extension and Narrow-grip Press
  • Forearms: Wrist Curls and Reverse Wrist Curls
  • Abs: Incline Sit ups

Wednesday & Saturday

  • Thighs: Squats, Lunges and Leg Curls
  • Calves: Standing Calf Raises
  • Lower Back: Straight Leg Deadlifts
  • Abs: Leg Raises

Really only professional bodybuilders have the time and resources required to workout six full days a week. Professional athletes manage it, and amateur athletes can only manage similar workouts with sponsorship (think Michael Phelps and Rebecca Adlington).

This workout is not for the light hearted. However, if you fuel your muscles and rest well, then it is possible. It can be reduced for those with a busier lifestyle, either by reducing the number of sets per exercise, or simply splitting the routine out over a 2 week period.

Arnold Schwarzenegger 3 Day Split Bodybuilding Routine

This routine is inspired by the way Arnold Schwarzenegger used to train during his competition days. The workout is split into 3 parts, and each part is trained each day, with one rest day. The idea is to cycle the workout so that while you are working one set of muscles, the other sets are recovering.

If you do a full body workout, you need more time to recover, and this means more days with no training. By doing a 3 day bodybuilding routine you can train every day without over training. Saying that, Arnold Schwarzenegger trained his abs everyday on top of this workout.  For abs Arnold kept the workout simple with 5 sets of 25 crunches, after each day’s weight training.


We will not specify the number of reps and sets for each exercise, as this is something that you should be discovering for yourself. However, Arnold generally did 8 to 12 reps for the upper body muscles, and 12 to 16 reps for the lower body muscles.

He also suggests that each set should increase the weight so that failure comes sooner (he liked to train to muscular failure). This would generally involve a warm up set of 15 reps, then the second set would be 10-12 reps, then the third 8-10, and the fourth around 6 reps.

In each session he would choose a weight that would result in muscular failure on the last rep. This is calculated using the previous weight lifting session stats. Obviously keeping a training log is essential.

Day 1 – Chest, Back and Legs

Arnold’s Chest Workouts

  • Bench Press
  • Incline Press
  • Pullovers

Arnold’s Back Workouts

  • Chin-ups – maximum of 50 pres for this, work until failure up to 50 before that
  • Bent-over rows

Arnold’s Leg Workouts

  • Deadlifts. Start with 10 reps, then 6, then 4. Arnold liked to add power lifting exercises to his workouts

Day 2 – Shoulders and Arms

Arnold’s Shoulder Workouts

  • Barbell Clean and Press
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raises
  • Heavy Upright Rows
  • Push Presses

The last two exercises are the power exercises, which meant that Arnold would go heavy on these, work intensively to failure.

Arnold’s Arm Workouts

  • Standing barbell curls
  • Seated dumbbell curls
  • Close-grip press
  • Standing triceps extensions with barbell
  • Wrist curls
  • Reverse wrist curls

Day 3 -Thighs, Calves and Lower Back

Arnold’s Thigh Workouts

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Leg Curls

Arnold’s Calf Workouts

Arnold’s calves were his weakest point when he started training.

  • Standing calf raises, 5 sets of 15 reps on each leg

Arnold’s Lower Back Workouts

For the lower back Arnold utilized power training once again:

  • Straight-leg deadlifts
  • Good mornings – always take extra care on these exercises, as too much weight and poor form can be lethal! Remember Bruce Lee.

Putting the Arnold 3 Day Bodybuilding Split Together

The easiest way to perform this routine is to start on a Monday, work everyday, ensuring that you eat and sleep well, and give yourself a break on Sunday.

This is considered to be a beginners bodybuilding routine, but you still need to have a reasonable foundation in weight training to be able to workout everyday.

If you feel that you are struggling in the early weeks, consider skipping some of the power training moves, such as the deadlifts, heavy upright rows and good mornings, until you are stronger. This will help to speed recovery and reduce risk of injury.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Bodybuilding Training Video

This video montage shows Arnold training in a gym prior to a major bodybuilding competition. You get a feel for the sheer brute force and immense effort he put into all his exercises. Anyone that says he did volume training and did not work to intensity has obviously never seem him do a T-bar row.

The Arnold Press

There are not many weight training exercises named after an individual bodybuilder, they usually simply describe what you are doing – bench press, squat, deadlift, curl. So, what is the Arnold Press? Why did Arnold Schwarzenegger feel the need to create the Arnold Press?

The aim of the Arnold Press is to build the front and sides of the deltoids. As dumbbells are used, the range of motion is much greater than if using a barbell, and the weight can be lowered to below shoulder height. This helps to really work the shoulders well, and Arnold Schwarzenegger considered it to be the best exercise for building the delts.

How to Do an Arnold Press

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your elbows tucked in to your ribs, so that the weights are held up level with your shoulders, with your palms facing you.
  2. Simply lift the weights up, while turning your hands so that your palms are facing away from you when you stop. Do not lock out the elbows. Hold for a moment.
  3. Lower the weights down, back to the start position, with palms facing you again and elbows tucked in as close to the ribs as possible.

Correct Form for the Arnold Press

This is not an exercise to be done quickly. Keep the movements slow and steady, and try to keep your body from swaying. You want to be isolating the deltoids, working both the anterior and medial heads of the delts. If Arnold Schwarzenegger felt that a new exercise was needed to complete his bodybuilding routine, then it is probably worth taking a closer look at this exercise, and try it for yourself.

Web resources on Arnold Schwarzenegger

33 Comments on “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Bodybuilding Workouts

  1. MotleyHealth says:

    You are thinking of pull downs. Pullovers are when you lie on a bench and lower a dumbbell back over your head with slightly bent arms until your elbows are level with your head. This works the chest.

  2. He is the god of body building… the one and only… Arnold…

  3. hi i am beginner, u just give me weekly whole body workout

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