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Why You Shouldn’t Do Arnold Schwarzenegger Style Volume Workouts

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There’s a popular belief that to build muscle you must use a high volume approach like the workout system that Arnold Schwarzennegger used during the 70’s. Heck, if Arnold used it and made great gains, you could to!

Unfortunately, Arnold didn’t make the majority of his muscle gains using a high volume workout. Shocked? Let me explain…

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding role model was Reg Park. Growing up, Arnold wanted to have a heroic physique, like the one Reg Park had in the Hercules movies. So, like many young men of that era, Arnold trained like Reg Park…

Using a fullbody workout system, and not volume training!

Yes, you read that correctly. Arnold Schwarzenegger made the majority of his size and strength gains using a fullbody workout system, much like many of the workouts featured on this site.

By the time the 70’s rolled around and Arnold started to experiment and evolve his training, he was already a monster! Volume training did little to add to his already impressive physique.

Why shouldn’t you use Arnold style volume workouts and bomb, blast and blitz your chest and biceps twice a week? Because:

1) Even Arnold didn’t use that style of training to make most of his gains. He used fullbody workouts which and efficient and work extremely well.

2) Arnold was taking steroids. Steroids allow for greater recovery and more frequent training. Steroid users receive a much greater benefit from volume work.

You are not on steroids. Stop training like you are.

But hitting the arms with “only” compound lifts can’t possible work? let’s see what Arnold Schwarzenegger had to say about this:

The triceps have already been thoroughly exercised during the bench press and the overhead press.

Arnold was advocating NO additional direct tricep work. At the time of this statement, he was also performing a minimal amount of direct bicep work – only barbell curls for 3 sets of 10 reps on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is only 9 sets of direct bicep work a week.

How To Get Big Like Arnold Schwarzenegger

To gain muscle size as fast as possible you have to set aside the misguided belief that volume training is a necessity. It isn’t, especially for a natural lifter.

Arnold Schwarzenegger relied on fullbody workouts to build most of his muscle mass. Here are a few sample workouts that Arnold used early in his lifting career to pack on the beef.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Early Years

When I was trying to get bigger in my early days of training, I followed a routine called the Golden Six. I made tremendous gains on this program and do did many others who trained at my gym in Munich. All agreed that this simple system of training produced excellent gains in muscle size and bodyweight. Here are the Golden Six:

1.) Barbell Squats. This exercise not only develops the lower body, but it strengthens the heart and lungs while improving the general circulation as well. Use a weight that will permit you to perform 4 sets of 10 reps. Always lower yourself until your upper thighs are at least parallel to the floor, and keep your back flat.

2.) Barbell Bench Presses. This is my favorite upper body exercise, and almost every training program I’ve ever used includes it. Take a fairly wide grip — your hands about 32 inches apart. Inhale as you lower the bar to your nipples and exhale as you push it back to arms’ length. Don’t bounce the weight off your chest. 3 sets of 10 reps.

3.) Chins. If you have limited training experience you may find chins difficult at first. If you have a lat machine, you can perform pulldowns until you’ve developed sufficient strength to do chins. Use a fairly wide grip and try to bring your chin over the bar. Do as many reps as you can for 3 sets.

4.) Overhead Presses. This exercise reigns supreme for widening and thickening the shoulders. I prefer to do it seated and often press behind the neck. Use a wide grip — your thumbs about six inches wider than your delts on each side. Lower the weight slowly and don’t pause at the bottom. 4 sets of 10 reps.

5.) Barbell Curls. The triceps have already been thoroughly exercised during the bench press and the overhead press. Use a shoulder width grip and a weight you can curl without any body movement. Don’t let your elbows move away from the sides of your body, make sure you straighten your arms completely before each rep and do 3 sets of 10 reps.

6.) Bent-Knee Situps. It’s only sensible to keep your midsection firm and toned when gaining muscular weight. Situps also improve digestion and elimination as well. Don’t pause between reps and continue for 20 or as many reps as you can do without stopping. Do 3 or 4 sets.

The Reg Park Beginner Routine

This is a workout that Arnold used with great success (provided by Kaya Park, Reg Park’s grandson)

Workout A

Back Squats 5×5
Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups 5×5
Dips or Bench Press 5×5
Wrist Work (Grip Work)  2×10
Calves 2×15-20

Workout B

Front Squats 5×5
Rows 5×5
Standing Press 5×5
Deadlifts 3×5 (2 warm-up sets and 1 “stabilizer set”)
Wrist Work 2×10
Calves 2×15-20

Week 1: A, B, A
Week 2: B, A, B
Week 3: A, B, etc

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw is the founder of Muscle and Brawn, and a powerlifter with 30+ years of experience. Steve's recorded a 600lb squat, 672lb deadlift and a 382lb bench press.
Steve Shaw

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  • Richard Brouillard Apr 13,2018 at 2:13 pm

    Steroids. Back then they were legal, it was the latest craze to get big and strong, he was just trying it. Like cannabis today, it used to be legal.

  • Vincent Jan 1,2016 at 10:24 pm

    I totally agree. My best gains came following Mike Mentzers Consolidated routine.

  • Eric Thiel Aug 16,2014 at 4:38 am

    Actually to say Arnie built most of his mass from full body is not true, at least from Arnie’s own writings.
    In fact from his book he states he quickly escalated his workouts from 3 a week to 6 constantly doing more sets and trying to stay in the gym longer. As well from his words the biggest mass gain he had came when he was in the Army when he had to workout throughout the whole day. It is there to read…it just might not be what many want to hear.

    • dguy Dec 3,2014 at 10:33 pm

      This site has some hangup about splits and is prone to spreading fairy tales about full body workouts of the golden era. The workouts of people like Reeves, Park, etc. make most peoples’ splits look tame.

      • Mick Madden Dec 7,2014 at 5:42 pm

        Join the forum. You’ll see one article does not represent the entire opinion of the site.

  • Adam Francomb May 8,2014 at 12:14 pm

    How much rest do you recommend between sets?

  • Everett Ketelhut Feb 19,2014 at 7:58 am

    Love this information, glad I educated myself within the first few years of training and for over a decade have been training full-body 3 days per week. It is amazing today how much people still poo poo full body training as being ineffective when it is EXACTLY what they should be doing to maximize their growth, especially for naturals!

  • Jason Nov 18,2013 at 10:46 am

    Articles like these always make me realize how much time I wasted doing body part splits. Not that I didn’t make gains with an Arnold style of training, but I’ve made more gains in size and strength using a full body routine. Leroy Colbert is on YouTube and listening to him has really opened up my mind to training, nutrition and recovery.

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