It has been over forty years since Arnold Schwarzenegger won the last of his seven Mr. Olympia titles in 1980. But there’s no denying that he’s a legend, just like his training. The advice of the king of bodybuilding is just as relevant today as it was during the heyday of his sports career. And MedAboutMe will tell you what he recommends for those who want to see not just voluminous muscles of the arms and shoulders, but a clear relief.
Supersets — your choice
Not just regular sets: Schwarzenegger strongly recommended supersets — and did them himself with biceps, triceps, chest and back muscles. In addition to general approaches, he also performed additional sets for biceps and triceps. This helped to build not just volume, but the maximum muscle mass “in all directions and forms.” For those who are not Arnold, we advise you to do 5–10% more than usual, without getting carried away by sharp muscle overloads.
Excessive load injures muscle fibers. After serious supersets, the muscles remain not just dense, but “stone” for quite a long time — this is the result of micro-ruptures and inflammation. If you do not plan to win world titles, we advise you not to exceed your limit and always monitor your well-being.
Fewer sets, more reps with almost no pauses
Before the competition, Schwarzenegger changed the program and reduced the number of approaches by increasing the number of repetitions. So, in the off-season, training for biceps and triceps included 4 exercises with 5–6 sets of 6–8 repetitions each. And before the competition — 3 exercises with 4 trips of 8–10 repetitions.
In addition, rest was reduced to a minimum: no pauses during supersets and often even between them. All for the sake of victory!
Don’t just focus on lifting weights during workouts. Visualize the process! He himself, for example, did not just pull the bar, but “pushed the sky.” And he also said: “If I had known about Konan the Barbarian in those years, I would definitely have imagined myself as him during workouts!”
Surprisingly, visualization works even without training. As the results of a study in The International Journal of Psychophysiology, If you regularly imagine yourself performing certain movements, neurons send a signal to the muscles. Muscles react with microcontractions. As a result, they exercise a little. The volume cannot be pumped up like that, of course, but muscle memory is strengthened and the correct reflexes develop.
Train more often!
Do you want lean muscles for your vacation? Do like Arnold: Between seasons of competition, when the goal was to increase volume, Schwarzenegger trained his arm muscles twice a week. And before performances — three days a week to fully shape the muscle mass.
Train your forearms
Working only the biceps or the back and the forearms helps, but it’s not enough. At least if you’re aiming for the perfect body. Regular wrist curl exercises — both forward and reverse — should be on your list.
Between seasons, Schwarzenegger did at least 10 of these sets in each workout: “You have to lean on your forearms as hard as you can. The rules of muscle physiology also apply to the forearms, so don’t forget them.”
Attention to detail!
Without attention to micro-details, it is impossible to become the king of bodybuilding, but Schwarzenegger does not advise ordinary guys to simply repeat what they see on the monitor. Be picky about the order in which each exercise is performed, the number of sets, the correct angle, and the calculation of the load.
It is interesting!
Schwarzenegger was sure that in order to increase the volume of hands, you need to gain weight. He estimates that you need to add about 5 kilograms in weight to add 3 centimeters to your arms. To do this, he had to increase calories by 1500–2000 kcal per day compared to his typical diet.
Supination is your friend
Just building up a lot of muscle mass was not in Schwarzenegger’s interests. Not only voluminous, but the most developed and embossed biceps — this was one of the goals. To do this, not only the barbell, but also dumbbells were included in the training plan for the hands. “No amount of barbell squatting has produced the intensity and soreness of the biceps muscles as supination exercises with the palms of the dumbbells turned out.”
This is what, according to the seven-time Mr. Olympia, helped him develop the largest biceps in the world. The exercises look easy, but are quite painful: when you lift dumbbells, turn your palms outward — that is, with your little finger towards you — to the maximum. And remember: without pain, muscles do not grow.
Find out exactly how supination helps and what other exercises use arch supports in this article.
Stop hand movements
Schwarzenegger also believed in a method that helps to increase the biceps through the “lag” arm movement. Most athletes keep their wrist straight while lifting the dumbbell in flexion and only bend it at the top. An alternative is to keep your wrist curved at all times during the lift, while holding the dumbbell with your fingers. This lengthens the lever arm and increases the load.
To avoid injury, use gloves or talcum powder on your hands and start this variation of the exercise with light weights.
Slow down reps
At peak loads for building up shapes and honing the relief, Arnold points out the importance of not only observing the technique of all exercises for the biceps, but also the speed of execution. Do them slowly so that the muscles feel every moment of lifting and lowering the dumbbell or barbell.
Typical “Schwarzenegger” repetitions: slowly lower the weight on the negative and blow it up on the positive. This gives a double load and contributes to the maximum growth of muscle mass.
Don’t overdo it
It is necessary to select weights according to your capabilities for any part of the body. But most athletes overstress the biceps, for example, with cable presses. This forces other muscle groups to be included in the work — the press, back, chest, which means that the efficiency of working with the biceps is reduced.
Russian scientists published a study (“Sports Science Bulletin”) about the genetic predisposition to strength and muscle mass. As it turned out, three gene mutations out of 73 studied make the greatest contribution. So be aware of individual differences when choosing a load!
Work on individual muscles
Isolate exercises to individual muscles, learn what works best for the biceps and only for him, what will develop the triceps, and what will help build broad shoulders.
It is interesting!
As Schwarzenegger said, “Broad shoulders give a man a sense of superiority, a sense of security and self-confidence.” It is not surprising that an exercise specifically for the deltoid muscles is named after him — the Arnold press.
Don’t try to fool yourself!
Schwarzenegger noticed that many pumped-up athletes lose the shape of their hands due to a careless attitude to execution technique. Focus on each repetition of each exercise, do not give yourself any indulgence and do not lose focus by mechanically pumping muscles.
Mark Sobzhak, master of sports in race walking
The hardest part of any sport is discipline. Making training plans is good, but sticking to them and not giving yourself the opportunity to miss the workout, doing all the exercises with maximum concentration is much more important. Especially often self-deception is observed in those who have achieved some success through blood and sweat: self-discipline is reduced, and the form inevitably begins to get lost. This happens even among professionals. What I advise:
- Don’t cut corners, one kilometer today tomorrow can be half the distance.
- Don’t manipulate the numbers, be honest with yourself in your entries.
- If you stick to a meal plan, really stick to it.
- Choose realistic goals. No need to strain yourself today so that tomorrow it would be impossible to get up — training does not wait.
- Always follow safety precautions!
To avoid unnecessary pain and frustration, read our article on Gym Injuries.