Want to get big arms this winter? Good. How about a big chest? And big legs, big thighs, big head, big personality… big everything basically. Who better to teach you than The Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. No, this is not a feature about how to build muscle over 70 – almost unbelievably, Arnie is now 73 years old – this is a workout from the peak of Arnie’s movie star days when he was The Terminator, Dutch in The Predator and most famous of all, Kindergarten Cop.

Arnold Schwarzenegger full body workout

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Arnold Schwarzenegger full body workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger is hands down one of the best bodybuilders who ever lived. His physique was almost too perfect: broad chest and shoulders, tree trunks for arms, glutes as tight as a tiger. And if you want to be as big as he used to be in his peak in the 70s, all you have to do is to follow the Arnold Schwarzenegger 8-week muscle building workout plan, explained below.

The ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger Blueprint to Mass’ is not an overly complicated workout plan. Much like the Mike Tyson bodyweight workout, or the Superman-style Henry Cavill workout, this strength and bulk-building bonanza uses simple gym exercises that require no nuanced knowledge about how different machines work in the gym. Following the plan, you will be doing a lot of weighted squats, barbell bench presses, overhead presses and the likes.

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Before we move onto discussing the Arnold Schwarzenegger 8-week muscle building workout plan, let’s talk about nutrition for a minute. Probably you know that in order to build muscle, you must supply your body with the right nutrients so your body can grow. This involves upping your protein intake and making sure you eat some healthy carbs throughout the day, but especially before and after the workout, to aid muscle performance and regeneration.

Arnie reportedly took around 1 gram of protein per pound of body mass when he was competing. According to Wikipedia, he was around 260 lbs (~118 kg) ‘off season’, before he started cutting for competition. That means he took 260 grams of protein per day, which is an insane amount. You don’t necessarily have to take that much but you will most likely have to eat more than you do now.

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Back to the Arnold Schwarzenegger 8-week muscle building workout plan. The eight week plan is broken down into Phase 1 and – not surprisingly – Phase 2. Phase 1 is the first four weeks while Phase 2 starts at week 5 and runs all the way through the end of the plan. The main difference between the two phases is the way you perform the exercises.

In both phases, you will be working out for six days a week, following this pattern:

  • Monday: Chest, back and abs
  • Tuesday: Shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms and abs
  • Wednesday: Legs, calves and abs
  • Thursday: Chest, back and abs
  • Friday: Shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms and abs
  • Saturday: Legs, calves and abs
  • Sunday: Rest

If this looks like a lot of effort and many hours spent in the gym every day, we have some bad news for you: that is exactly the case here. The Arnold Schwarzenegger 8-week muscle building workout plan might not complicated but it is tough as hell and will require you to lift heavy weights until you can’t life anymore.

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As Arnie himself once said: “Experiencing this pain in my muscles and aching and going on and on is my challenge. The last three or four reps is what makes the muscles grow. This area of pain divides a champion from someone who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”

“I have no fear of fainting. I do squats until I fall over and pass out. So what? It’s not going to kill me. I wake up five minutes later and I’m OK. A lot of other athletes are afraid of this. So they don’t pass out. They don’t go on.” Do you want to be a champion? Get familiar with pain, your new best friend.

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As you might have noticed, the workout plan includes abs exercises pretty much every day. Back in the day, abs were thought of as ‘high load-bearing’ muscles and were trained pretty hard. The current consensus is different now but that said, Arnie did have a pretty amazing six pack so feel free to do the recommended amount of abs exercises.

Gallery: How to burn belly fat and get in shape (T3)

And finally, it’s worth mentioning the three ‘Arnie-methods’. These are specific ways to perform exercises in order to “help shock your body even more and open yourself up to more growth.” Understandably, these make the workout even harder to stimulate muscle growth even more.

The first method is ‘1-10 method’ where you perform 10 sets of one exercise, starting with your one rep max working your way down to 10 reps in the last set with a weight you can lift that many times.

The ‘stripping down/shocking principle’ pushes your muscles even further. After you finished with last set, take some weight off and churn out 5-10 reps. Then, without any rest, keep repeating, dropping the weight between each sets until there is nothing left but the bar. Do 20 reps with that and you’re done.

The final method is called ‘max effort’. As the plan explains: “Pick one exercise and see what you can do for a 1-rep max. To get there, work up to the weight with the following rep pyramid, taking ample rest between each set: 20, 15, 10, 8, 5, 3, 1, 1, 1 (max).”

You can find the full detailed plan of Phase 1 here and Phase 2 here.


Arnie’s plan uses simple chest exercises throughout the plan, such as the flat and incline barbell bench press and a special ‘superset’ where you’ll need to perform dumbbell flyes and dumbbell pullovers back-to-back without a break in Phase 1. During Phase 2, you’ll switch things up and perform dumbbell flyes and cable crossovers as a superset.


As well as doing wide-grip chin ups, you will be required do a superset using two out of these exercises: bent-over row, dumbbell row or T-bar row. T-bar rows are a variation on the theme and involves pulling a hinged-barbell towards your chest. 


Although you will perform abs exercises every day, you will only have to do one at a time. None of them will be easy, though, especially the hanging leg raises, one of the best exercise to make that six-pack pop but also pretty hard to master. Other exercise include decline sit ups and kneeling cable crunches.


Arnie recommends bombing the delts with exercises such as the clean & press and his signature move, the Arnold press. As well as those two, you will be required to do not one but two supersets per day, including front and lateral raises, upright rows and dumbbell presses.


Biceps training is pretty straightforward: you will be doing standard barbell curls mixed with a superset of seated incline two-arm dumbbell curls with concentration curls. Easy-peasy.


Another no-frills workout. To train the triceps, you will have to do close-grip bench presses with supersets of barbell skull-crushers and one-arm overhead dumbbell extensions. On the second day you will swap out barbell skull-crushers for triceps pushdowns.

Arnie also trained his forearm doing a superset of wrist curls and reverse wrist curls on arm days.


And finally, the legs! Be like Arnold and never skip leg day. Following his plan, you will be bombing your legs, twice a week for eight weeks with exercises such as back and front squats, romanian and standard deadlifts, good mornings, lunges and leg extensions/curls. Just make sure you are ready for the DOMS to set in a day after the workout.

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