Arnold Schwarzenegger's Training Program

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Nov 26,2023|14 min| 2152

The Golden Era approved training program

When you think of bodybuilding, the chances are 7x Mr. Olympia champion Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to mind. He is forever a pioneer of the sport, having an entire sports festival named after him that hosts events for bodybuilders, powerlifters, and Olympic Weightlifters as well as other sports. Let’s not forget that just about every generation of bodybuilders looks up to him for what he did. Arnold brought a balanced physique to the stage, with great muscle mass and low amounts of body fat. So, how did he get to that point? What exercises did he do?

Luckily, the Boostcamp Team has found Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famed training program for you to use, and create a physique similar to his. 

Let’s dive in.

Who is Arnold Schwarzenegger? 

Image courtesy of Instagram (@schwarzenegger)

Born and raised in Thal, Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a household name within the world of bodybuilding, and even outside of it as he has led quite the life even after retiring. Schwarzenegger is a 4-time Mr. Universe champion, as well as a 7-time Mr. Olympia champion. Outside of bodybuilding, he is an Emmy-award winning actor, and was the governor of California, two times. Not to mention the Arnold Sports Festival, also known as the Arnold Classic which has been held annually since 1989, is named after him as well, and it has spread to multiple countries.

Bodybuilding Career

Perhaps one of the most important figures in bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physique is one that many people have tried to replicate, he is the face of the Golden Era of bodybuilding. Arnold was known for his wide and thick back, with lats that looked like the wings of a bat, as well as his incredible biceps that mirrored the peaks of Mt. Everest. But, perhaps the thing that stuck out the most was his chest, as it appeared to be a shelf that you could stack books on top of.

However, many point out one weak point in his physique, which seemed to be his legs, as many called them disproportionate to his upper body. Regardless, his leg day training was absolutely brutal, and you will see that as we dissect his overall training program. 

That being said, let’s dive into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Training Routine

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training routine is certainly not for the faint of heart, as he utilized a lot of volume compared to other bodybuilders during that time, like Mike Mentzer who stayed within the 6-8 rep range. Arnold’s training program included hitting each muscle group twice a week, allowing Sundays to recover. It was broken up into the following format: 

  • Monday: Chest and Back

  • Tuesday: Shoulders and Arms

  • Wednesday: Legs (Quads, calves, hamstrings)

  • Thursday: Chest and Back

  • Friday: Shoulders and Arms

  • Saturday: Legs (Quads, calves, hamstrings)

  • Sunday: Rest

As you can see, Arnold hit multiple muscle groups each day. Let’s break down each muscle group.

Chest and Back

Arnold liked to do chest and back together, as they were opposite muscles, meaning one involved pushing and one pulling. Take a look at the exercises he did:

  • Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 10

  • Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 10

  • Dumbbell Bench Pullover: 3 sets of 10

  • Chin-Up: 3 sets of 10

  • Bent Over Barbell Row: 3 sets of 10

  • Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 10

  • Abs Crunch (Bodyweight): 5 sets of 25

Shoulders and Arms

  • Clean and Press: 3 sets of 10

  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 10

  • Barbell Upright Row: 3 sets of 10

  • Barbell Overhead Press: 3 sets of 10

  • Barbell Bicep Curl: 3 sets of 10

  • Dumbbell Bicep Curl: 3 sets of 10

  • Close Grip Bench Press: 3 sets of 10

  • Barbell Tricep Extension: 3 sets of 10

  • Wrist Curls: 3 sets of 10

  • Reverse Wrist Curls: 3 sets of 10

  • Reverse Bodyweight Abdominal Crunches: 5 sets of 25

Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, Calves)

  • Barbell Squats: 3 sets of 10

  • Barbell Lunges: 3 sets of 10

  • Leg Curls: 3 sets of 10

  • Stiff Leg Deadlift: 3 sets of 10

  • Good Mornings: 3 sets of 10

  • Standing Calf Raises: 3 sets of 10

  • Bodyweight Abs Crunch: 5 sets 25

As you can see, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workouts utilized a lot of high volume and free weights instead of machines. He put a large amount of emphasis on barbell and dumbbell movements rather than using things like cables or standard gym machines. Arnold’s training program also uses a mix of compound and isolation exercises, to really build the mass and then fine tune the muscles. 

He also included abdominal exercises every day, as abs are a muscle you can train pretty much everyday. Having a strong core helps with compound lifts as well, especially lifts like the deadlift and squat as they place a lot of tension on the abdominal muscles. Not to mention, Arnold’s training program also included forearm training, to really complete his overall physique.

Day of Rest

While Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training program consisted of hitting each muscle group two times per week, he also included Sunday as a rest day to allow himself time to recover. This is one thing that many younger lifters do not do enough, and that is take time off. The body grows and repairs itself when not being stimulated and broken down, as you do when resistance training. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger Diet and Supplementation

Image courtesy of Instagram (@schwarzenegger)

While you can follow Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training routine all you want, it will not do anything if you do not follow a proper diet and supplementation. Many people automatically attribute Arnold Schwarzengger’s physique to steroid usage, but in reality he put in great amounts of work in the gym, as well as laser focus on his diet, eating a lot of protein and fats but not a lot of carbohydrates, especially when it came time to prep for a bodybuilding show. There also were not many cheat meals involved in his diet.

Some foods that Arnold Schwarzennger would eat to help recover from his intense training routine included: 

  • Whole Eggs

  • Red Meat

  • Grilled Fish

  • Chicken

  • Nuts

  • Rice

You can also see Arnold and some of the other Golden Era bodybuilders eating during the documentary Pumping Iron, and Arnold was eating a burger with no bun.

Aside from diet, Arnold Schwarzengger used a few supplements to recover during his time in bodybuilding. However, supplements were very rare and new back during that time, so he was mainly limited to protein powder and multivitamins. 

Wrap Up

Arnold Schwarzenegger's high volume workout offers a tried-and-tested, high-volume approach to a bodybuilding routine. Arnold’s workout is a challenging routine that demands dedication and effort, but the potential payoff in terms of muscle growth and strength is significant. Remember, it's crucial to listen to your body, adapt the workout to your needs, and consider working with a trainer to ensure proper form and prevent injury. After all, as Arnold famously said, "The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow”.

For finding the best training routines, check out the Boostcamp App, where you can choose from over 50 free training programs or even create your own. Boostcamp also allows you to track progress, so you know how to adjust each week.


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