The Arnold Schwarzenegger Arm Workout!


Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He won the Mr. Olympia contest 6 times in a row from 1970 – 1975 and again in 1980 for his seventh title.

When most people think of Arnold Schwarzenegger they think of his monstrous biceps and triceps. Arnold’s biceps were so big that they looked like mountain peaks sitting on top of his arms!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Arnold’s Offseason Training Split
  • Part 2: Arnold’s Offseason Bicep Workout
  • Part 3: Arnold’s Offseason Tricep Workout
  • Part 4: Arnold’s Favorite High-Intensity Techniques
  • Part 5: Arnold’s Pre-Contest Training Split
  • Part 6: Arnold’s Pre-Contest Arm Workout

In this comprehensive guide I will show you exactly how Arnold trained his 21 inch arms to become the 8 time Mr. Olympia champion.

Arnold trained his arms 2-3 times per week using an extremely high volume training style. He performed lots of sets, rep and exercises to hit his muscle from all angles and to maximize the feeling of the pump in the gym.

During the offseason Arnold trained his on Tuesday and Friday using a 6 days per week training split:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Offseason Training Split

  • Monday: Chest / Back
  • Tuesday: Shoulders / Arms
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Chest / Back
  • Friday: Shoulders / Arms
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Off

The average person would never be able to recover from this type of training schedule. Arnold was famous for burning through training partners faster than anyone else in the history of bodybuilding. No one could recover from his workouts! However, for Arnold it was just what he needed to become the Mr. Olympia champion.

Let’s take a look at some of Arnold’s offseason bicep and tricep workouts. Check it out:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Offseason Biceps Workout

  • A1: Standing barbell curls, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • B1: 45 degree incline DB curls, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • C1: Preacher ez-bar curls, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • D1: DB concentration curls, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

During the offseason Arnold likes to stick to the classic mass-building biceps exercises like standing barbell curls, incline dumbbell curls and preacher ez-bar curls. He varies the exact number of sets and reps from one workout to the next.

On some workouts he performed lots of heavy sets of 5 reps and on others he lightened the weight and pumped up the volume with lots of sets of 10, 15 or even 20 reps per exercise.

Arnold always liked to include the dumbbell concentration curl in his routine. This was one of his “trademark” exercises. Here is a perfect video demonstration:

Arnold felt that this was the best exercise for really isolating the biceps.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Offseason Triceps Workout

  • A1: Lying ez-bar extensions (to forehead), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • B1: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • C1: Seated DB overhead extensions, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D1: Standing rope cable pushdowns, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps

Arnold’s triceps were never quite as impressive as his monstrous biceps. However, Arnold’s triceps were still one of his stronger body parts and it’s easy to see why when you look at Arnold’s offseason training routine.

Arnold sticks to a lot of classic mass-building triceps exercises like skull crushers, bench presses and overhead cable extensions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s High-Intensity Training Techniques

Arnold Schwarzenegger used a lot of different high-intensity training techniques during his arm workouts. Of course his favorite high-intensity technique was drop sets. Arnold used a variety of drop sets for both his biceps and his triceps to stimulate growth. Here are some of his favorites:

  • Mega Drop Sets
  • 1-10 Drop Sets
  • Strip The Rack Sets

Mega drop sets were Arnold’s version of a drop set where you perform as many separate weight drops in a single set as possible.

For example on cable tricep pushdowns Arnold would perform a heavy set of 8 reps to failure. Then he would decrease the weight and perform another 5-8 reps to failure. Arnold would continue dropping the weight like this every time he reached failure until he was using just 10-30 pounds on this exercise! By the end of the set his triceps were absolutely engorged with blood.

Another one of Arnold’s favorite drop sets was the 1-10 drop set. Arnold loved to perform this technique on the standing barbell curl.

He would load up the weight with his 1-rep max and perform 1 grueling rep. Then he would drop the weight enough so that he could get 2 hard reps and he would rep out the weight. Then he would drop the weight enough so that he could get 3 hard reps and he would rep out the weight. He continued doing this until he was using a weight he could lift for 10 hard reps! Now THAT is a high-intensity set!

Arnold also really liked to perform “strip the rack” drop sets. He would start with the heaviest dumbbells he could handle on an exercise like dumbbell concentration curls. After reaching failure he would pick up the next lightest dumbbells and rep out that weight to failure. He would continue this process until he was using the 5 or 10 pound dumbbells for as many reps as he could get.

This is an extreme training method but for Arnold it worked like magic.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was getting ready for one of his bodybuilding competitions he started training twice per day, six days per week. Here is what his new training schedule looked like:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pre-Contest Training Split

Monday: 

  • AM: Chest / Back
  • PM: Legs

Tuesday: 

  • AM: Shoulders / Arms
  • PM: Calves / Abs

Wednesday:

  • AM: Chest / Back
  • PM: Legs

Thursday: 

  • AM: Shoulders / Arms
  • PM: Calves / Abs

Friday:

  • AM: Chest / Back
  • PM: Legs

Saturday:

  • AM: Shoulders / Arms
  • PM: Calves / Abs

What an unbelievable training split! Arnold wasn’t kidding when he said he trained 4-5 hours per day, every single day for his bodybuilding competitions! Arnold was now training his arms three times per week.

But that wasn’t the only thing that changed about his workouts when he was getting ready for his competitions. Arnold began using antagonistic body part supersets in all of his workouts but especially for his arms. An antagonistic superset is a training method where you alternate sets for opposing muscle groups.

For example Arnold would perform a set for biceps, rest 20-30 seconds, perform a set for triceps, rest 20-30 seconds and perform another set for biceps. He continued alternating back and forth like this until he performed all of his working sets for each exercise.

Here was Arnold’s full pre-contest arm workout. Check it out:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pre-Contest Arm Workout

Superset #1

  • A1: 45 degree incline DB curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • A2: Cable rope pushdown, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Superset #2

  • B1: Standing alternating DB curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • B2: Lying ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Superset #3

  • C1: Preacher ez-bar curls, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • C2: Diamond push ups, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Superset #4

  • D1: DB concentration curls, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • D2: Overhead rope cable extension, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Superset #5

  • E1: Preacher ez-bar curl (reverse grip), 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E2: Barbell wrist curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps

Talk about a high-volume arm workout! Arnold performed 5 supersets for his arms. Arnold likes these superset workouts when he is preparing for a competition because it really lets him maximize the pump in the gym and helps him create more lactic acid in his muscles which is helpful for fat loss.

The bottom line is this superset workout helped Arnold to bring his best possible physique to the bodybuilding stage every single time.

If you want to build arms like Arnold then you should absolutely use some of Arnold’s favorite techniques in your routine. I really like Arnold’s emphasis on antagonistic supersets and drop sets to create as much muscle fatigue in his arms.

The average person may not be able to recover from Arnold’s full arm routine but I am confident you can learn a thing or two about building big arms from the Austrian Oak.

“We all have great inner power. The power is self-faith. There’s really an attitude to winning. You have to see yourself winning before you win. And you have to be hungry. You have to want to conquer.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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