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The Arnold Schwarzenegger Tricep Routine!

Arnold Schwarzenegger is known for his unbelievable arm development. His biceps were so large that they looked like mountain peaks sitting on top of his arm!

Of course Arnold also had a very impressive pair of triceps that perfectly matched the rest of his physique. If you want to train your triceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Arnold’s Offseason Training Split
  • Part 2: Arnold’s Offseason Tricep Workout
  • Part 3: Arnold’s Pre-Contest Training Split
  • Part 4: Arnold’s Pre-Contest Arm Workout

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how Arnold Schwarzenegger trained his massive triceps for size and strength. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger trained his triceps 2-3 times per week using a high-frequency training program. During the offseason Arnold trained his shoulders, biceps and triceps together every Tuesday and Friday. Check it out:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Bodybuilding Training Split

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

This type of training split is very difficult to recover from but it worked like magic for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

One of the reasons Arnold liked this split is because it lets you train antagonistic muscle groups like chest and back or biceps and triceps together in the same workout.

Arnold felt that training opposing muscle groups together was the key to getting a great pump and getting the most out of your workouts.

Arnold’s bicep workouts were focused on different types of curls like dumbbell curls, barbell curls and preacher curls. However, when it came to training the triceps Arnold used many different types of exercises.

Arnold felt that a huge variety of exercises was essential for isolating the 3 different heads of the triceps. Here is the Governator hammering this point home:

“One thing I learned in my many years of training is that the isolation principle is very important for developing fabulous triceps. Triceps exercises must isolate the three muscle heads to work them properly.”

Of course Arnold is talking about isolating the lateral head, medial head and long head of the triceps. Each of these muscles responds best to slightly different types of exercises.

Here is one of Arnold’s go-to offseason triceps workouts. Check it out:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Offseason Triceps Workout

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

Here is a great video of Arnold performing some of his favorite biceps exercises:

As you can see Arnold used a wide variety of exercises to train his triceps.

Here is Arnold’s training partner Ric Drasin talking about Arnold’s favorite triceps exercises:

“The triceps was a lot of close-grip bench presses, then triceps pushdowns, overhead extensions with one-arm and with both arms. And then also triceps extensions with the barbell where you let the bar drop down to your forehead and you press out.”

In case you were curious here is how Arnold used these four exercises to target all 3 heads of the triceps:

  • Bench press = lateral head, long head
  • Rope pushdowns = lateral head, medial head
  • Lying extensions = lateral head, long head
  • Overhead extensions = long head

Of course it is impossible to truly isolate the long, medial or lateral head of the triceps.

Any time you do a triceps exercise you will recruit all three triceps heads to some degree. However, you can absolutely use different exercises to emphasize one or two triceps heads more than the others.

Arnold loved to mix things up during his triceps workouts. He was famous for using different high-intensity training techniques like drop sets and forced reps to “shock the muscle.”

One of his favorite strategies for building his triceps was to perform three different types of triceps exercises in a row with no rest between exercises. This is called a tri-set and it is a very effective way to build bigger triceps.

Here is Ric Drasin talking about one of Arnold’s favorite triceps tri-sets:

“Arnold had another way of performing lying triceps extensions. He would bring them to the forehead for 6 reps, then behind the head for 6 reps, then do bench presses with the same weight for 6 reps. That really pumped up the triceps.”

This reminds me of Josh Bryant’s 3-way dumbbell triceps extensions.

Josh has his clients do a neutral grip dumbbell press, a lying dumbbell extensions and a pullover dumbbell extension in a row. Performing all three of these exercises in a row counts as 1 rep and you would do 5-10 reps per set. Check it out:

Of course Arnold’s favorite way to shock his triceps into growth was to perform supersets. Arnold would perform 1 set for his triceps, then perform 1 set for his biceps, then go back and perform another set for his biceps.

This is called an “antagonistic superset” and it is extremely effective for building bigger arms.

Many world-class bodybuilding coaches like John Meadows and Milos Sarcev like to use bicep / tricep supersets to blast through training plateaus.

Arnold trained his triceps twice per week in the offseason. However, about 3 months before his competition he switched things up and trained his triceps 3 times per week using a high-volume / high-frequency training split. Check it out:

Here is 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

As you can see Arnold trained his triceps three times per week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday leading up to the Mr. Olympia competition.

Arnold focused on supersets for his bicep / tricep workouts to build as much muscle as possible before the contest. Check it out:

“Three months before a contest, I would change my arm routine completely. My goal now was to zoom in on chiseling in all the cuts and shape possible.

I’d cut down on my sets and go to a superset style of training and try to get a maximum pump each workout.”

Here is the exact bicep / tricep routine that Arnold Schwarzenegger used leading up to the Mr. Olympia contest. 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, 30-60 seconds rest
  • A2: Cable rope pushdown, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest

Superset #2

  • B1: Standing alternating DB curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest
  • B2: Lying ez-bar extension (to forehead), 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest

Superset #3

  • C1: Preacher ez-bar curls, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest
  • C2: Diamond push ups, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest

Superset #4

  • D1: DB concentration curls, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest
  • D2: Overhead rope cable extension, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest

Superset #5

  • E1: Preacher ez-bar curl (reverse grip), 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest
  • E2: Barbell wrist curl, 3-5 sets of 8-20 reps, 30-60 seconds rest

Arnold performed an unbelievable 15-25 sets for his triceps 3 days per week! This kind of training volume would put most bodybuilders in the hospital but it worked like magic for the Austrian Oak.

If you are stuck at a training plateau then I highly recommend you give antagonistic supersets a shot! If you want to learn more about bicep / tricep supersets then check out the following articles:

Remember, the human body has not changed much sense the 1970’s. Bicep / tricep supersets work just as well today as they did in the golden age of bodybuilding!

Conclusion

Arnold Schwarzenegger used a very smart training program to build his 22-inch arms. He used a variety of exercises to train all 3 heads of the triceps and was always willing to experiment with different training methods to shock the muscle into growth.

People have debated for decades about why Arnold was able to dominate the sport of bodybuilding for so many years.

Arnold believes it is the same in bodybuilding as it is in business, entrepreneurship or any other endeavor.

The most important thing is to develop the crystal clear vision of where you want to go. That vision will pull you forward like a magnet on your way to the top.

Here is the Austrian Oak himself driving this point home:

“No matter what you do, you first have to have a vision… to see your goal, to believe in it, have faith in it and chase it. And then it’s fun to chase it. If you don’t have a goal or a vision, then you have nothing.”

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