Arnold Schwarzenegger's Most Valuable Workout Advice
In between saving the world from killer robots, becoming a killer robot, and having a baby with Danny DeVito, Arnold Schwarzenegger surprisingly managed to squeeze in some time at the gym.
But in all seriousness, there's probably no greater authority than the 7x Mr. Olympia to inspire you to reboot those biceps just in time for summer. These 9 nuggets of workout wisdom are best read in a thick, rugged Austrian accent—for maximum brain pump.
Bring a friend"A good training partner pushes you to handle more poundage and gives you incentive to grind out more reps per set...Workouts are more fun with a partner as well as more competitive...you challenge each other." - Arnold: Education of a Bodybuilder
While Arnold was specifically referencing lower body workouts in this example from his early autobiography, having a partner involved in your overall regimen can't be a bad thing, both for morale and for safety. Isn't everything more fun with a pal at your side? Just make sure your workout buddy is adequate.
Muscles hate this one shocking secret, so use it"I’d always try to shock the muscles...This shocking method was extremely important to my training. Your muscles tend to become complacent and resist growth if you are constantly doing the same workout for them. But if you try all different types of training methods, exercises, weights, set-rep combinations and training tempos, you keep the muscles off balance." - Muscle and Fitness Magazine
Keeping his muscles on their metaphorical toes was one trick Arnold used prodigiously throughout his career, and considered it key in shaping and forming new gains. Considering the Austrian mega-athlete had 19 inch biceps by the time he turned 19, it must have helped.
Sometimes, cheating is okay"When you become tired during a heavy barbell lift, begin to use you shoulders and back to help you in the lift slightly so that you can do another four or five reps...Cheat just enough so you can continue the set...By cheating you have forced the biceps to do more work than they could have done without help from the other muscles, so you have to put more stress on them, not less." - The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
As he was quoted The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, sometimes the Predator-killer was just fine with cheating in order to fully tax his muscles—despite being a consistent advocate for correct form. Rules were meant to be broken, as my Grandpa used to say (before he went to prison, of course).
Keep your mind and body in check, or your hard work isn't worth it"Bodybuilding is much like any other sport. To be successful, you must dedicate yourself 100% to your training, diet and mental approach." - Arnold: Education of a Bodybuilder
Arnold is rabid about proper health—both physical and mental, so applying proper focus to both caloric intake as well as keeping a fresh mind in the gym was always key to his success. Arnold was known to use calorie cycling, peppering higher-calorie days with lower-calorie days in order to keep his metabolism churning and his mind/body on point.
Don't skip leg day"It isn't enough just to subject the legs to heavy overload...You have to use heavy weights and sufficient volume to stress the fibers involved and exhaust the endurance capacity of the muscles..For many years I did only five sets of squats when I really should have been doing eight...I did not put enough weight on the leg-press machine. Once I realized my mistakes and corrected them, my thighs began to grow thick and massive." - The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding
Even if you are one of those Jersey-shore rejects who despise a proper leg day, you need to incorporate those gams into your routine to get a balanced and healthy body. You don't want to resort to calf implants, do you? And like any other aspect of your regimen, viable strategy and methodology is key in improving. Weight + volume = thick and massive legs...you heard the man.
Keep it simple while you're slimming down"Pretty simple...I would add in extra cardio–running on the beach, swimming, and bicycling. I cut out bread, pasta and desserts. It definitely wasn't rocket science, but it worked." - Reddit
Arnold gave this matter-of-fact response to a Redditor looking to trim down after bulking up. Though it's easier said than done, of course, his advice still rings true, despite its basic simplicity. If it works for Arnold, you can make it work for you.
Keep your goals in front of you to keep focused"Training might be harder, but if your goal is always in front of you then it’s fun. You’ve got to believe in yourself, have a very clear vision and a fire in your belly and not be shy of working hard." - Men's Fitness UK
Obviously, Arnold has been adequately motivated throughout his career. By setting goals, and following through and accomplishing them, you give yourself an end goal, besides "just looking good."
Free your mind to build your biceps“Throughout my bodybuilding career, I was constantly playing tricks on my mind. This is why I began to think of my biceps as mountains, instead of flesh and blood. Thinking of my biceps as mountains made my arms grow faster and bigger than if I’d seen them only as muscles...When you think of biceps as merely muscles, you subconsciously have a limit in your mind...when you think about mountains, there is no limit to biceps growth, and therefore you have a chance of going beyond normal mental barriers." - Muscle and Fitness Magazine
As referenced earlier, a proper state of mind was one of Arnold's preferred advantages over his rivals. Once he convinced himself he was more than a man, he was able to free himself and rid his body of any perceived limitations. It's pretty much like The Matrix, with a lot more protein powder.
Never give up, never surrender
To close out Arnold's words of wisdom, we have a response Mr. Schwarzenegger gave a demoralized weight-lifting amateur on Reddit. See kids? Even the strongest amongst us have a soft side. What a gym-going gem:
"I always say don't be afraid of failure, because how far can you really fall? You found out–to the ground. It's right there. Now you know it isn't anything that should scare you.
You should be proud that you weren't afraid–not embarrassed that you failed. You could have made excuses not to walk into the door, but you didn't. You knew it would be hard, and it would be uncomfortable, and it might be awkward–and you did it anyway. That's courage. I'm proud of you."