An Easy Guide to Building Muscles Like Arnold Schwarzenegger

The body of Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most admired in cinema of all time. Are you wondering how to attain a Terminator-like musculature? Take note of his workout.
An Easy Guide to Building Muscles Like Arnold Schwarzenegger
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 03 March, 2023

The essence of building muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger is high volume and frequency. The 75-year-old Austrian is a Hollywood star, politician, and professional bodybuilder (the latter discipline enabled him to win the title of Mr. Olympia). In fact, his appearance is evidence of the reason for the trophies, as the Terminator star has been showing off his muscular physique since he was young.

So, it’s not for nothing that he is known as “The Austrian Oak”. In fact, the build of his physique is the model followed by some fans of his films and fitness career. However, is it really possible for a beginner to achieve muscles similar to those of “Conan the Barbarian”?

The answer lies in consistency and training approach. Although it’s not advisable to replicate Schwarzenegger’s routine exactly from the start, with certain variations in the circuits, you can achieve the same results.

Putting strength into your training: This is how Arnold Schwarzenegger keeps it up

In interviews on the subject, Arnold Schwarzenegger urges you not to go overboard lifting heavy weights and not to overdo push-ups in order to accelerate muscle gain.

Furthermore, the actor and athlete’s recommendation is, with the help of a trainer, to focus on a minimum gain of 6 kilos of muscle mass. From there, you’ll see better results by diversifying your routines.

In addition, for guidance on the proper way to train, the former governor of California shares tips in his newsletter The Pump Daily. It’s a sort of motivational and inspirational manual in which he tells exercise anecdotes and promotes healthy living.

Both in the newsletter and in other ways, Schwarzenegger has made it known that his circuits in the gym are strength-based. In fact, the exercises he practices revolve around shoulders, arms, and abs. That said, a review in the ABC newspaper highlights that Mr. Olympia intermingles his arm sequence with abs, which helped him to slow down the aging of his torso.

This is a version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout that’s suitable for beginners

Search Biographies comments that the International Federation of Bodybuilding lists Schwarzenegger as the greatest bodybuilder of all time. In fact, the honor is due, in large part, to his commitment to his health and fitness for more than 50 years.

The actor trains as follows:

  • Firstly, he works each muscle group 2 to 3 times per week.
  • He does six to 10 repetitions per movement.
  • Furthermore, he lifts weights until he feels like he no longer can.
  • Then, he breaks of 1 minute or a minute and a half between sets.
  • Finally, he stretches the area worked at each rest.

So, let’s take a look at an adaptation of the Arnold Schwarzenegger workout for beginners, with some variations. Furthermore, remember that the weight of the bars is calculated by a trainer. 

Days 1 and 4: Chest and back

To train the chest and back like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you have to work with weights. The Mayo Clinic argues that working out with such tools helps you lose fat, gain muscle tone, increase strength, and promote bone density.

Pesas para entrenar como Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Arnold’s routine seeks muscle failure, calculating the amount of weight accordingly to achieve it.

Dumbbell pullovers

  1. Hold a dumbbell with both hands.
  2. Then, stand near a bench and rest your shoulder blades on it.
  3. Your knees should be bent at 90° to the bench, while your feet are flat on the floor.
  4. Stretch your arms and move the dumbbell toward the back of your head, letting it reach the height of the bench.
  5. Return the dumbbell to the center of the chest and again move it back, in 4 sets of 10 repetitions.

Bench presses

  1. Lie on a bench and extend your hands outside shoulder-width apart to grip the dumbbell.
  2. Then, adjust and drive the shoulder blades into the bench. The trainer’s support simplifies takeoff and contributes just the right amount of tension in the back.
  3. Take a breath as the bar slowly lowers in line with the base of your sternum, so that it touches your chest.
  4. Push the bar upward, pressing the floor with your feet and pushing off with your legs.
  5. Remember to keep your elbows extended throughout the 10 repetitions in 4 sets.


  1. Place a mat on the floor and a bench at one end, simulating a T-shape.
  2. Lie down on the mat, placing your legs on top of the bench at right angles so that your calves rest on it.
  3. Then, touch your head to your sides using your fingertips.
  4. Lift the shoulder blades, contract the abs, and move your elbows to your waist.
  5. Pause 1 second at the top and then slowly lower.
  6. Complete 4 sets of 15 repetitions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger workout, days 2 and 5: Arms and shoulders

On days 2 and 5 Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout focuses on the shoulders and arms. As the Runner’s Bag points out, to achieve a V-shaped back it is essential to strengthen the shoulders from the anterior, middle, and posterior angles; these should be balanced with biceps and triceps exercises.

Press militar en el entrenamiento de Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The military press strengthens the shoulders and is an inescapable movement in gym routines.

The military press

  1. Place the barbell under your shoulders and grab it.
  2. Reach under the barbell, pull it out, and place it under your chin.
  3. After a couple of steps back, inhale and raise the bar, stretching your arms as far as possible.
  4. Exhale and slowly lower the bar down to your chest for 4 sets of 10 repetitions.

Lateral raises with dumbbells

  1. With a dumbbell in each hand, stand up straight.
  2. Grasp the dumbbells slightly away from your body, making sure your palms face your body.
  3. Lift the dumbbells toward your shoulders in a slow lateral movement.
  4. Then, pause as you raise the weights and then slowly lower back down to the start position.
  5. Finally, repeat 10 times in 4 sets, without the weights touching your body.

The French press

  1. Place a curved barbell on the floor, making sure it faces you.
  2. Bend at the knees and hold the bar with your palms down and at least 8 inches between your hands and feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lift the bar overhead, transferring the tension to the biceps. In this movement, the palms pass upward.
  4. Finally, lower the bar overhead, pause briefly, and raise again for 4 sets of 10 reps.

Days 3 and 6 of an Arnold Schwarzenegger workout: Legs and lower back

On days 3 and 6, Schwarzenegger trains his lower back and legs. Fitness magazine claims that exercises related to these areas also benefit the increase of muscle mass in the upper body, because they are composed of multi-joint movements that condition the torso to maximum isometric tension.

Sentadillas con barra.
Barbell squats have become popular in women’s training, as they enhance lower-body muscle development.

Barbell back squats

  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, positioning yourself under the bar.
  2. Let the bar rest above your upper back muscles, but not over the back of your neck.
  3. Lower down while holding the bar tightly, bending your knees, and keeping your back straight.
  4. Push up with your legs and repeat the movement 10 times in 4 sets.

Barbell lunges

  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands behind your back to grip the bar.
  2. Then, keep your back straight and your eyes straight ahead.
  3. Step forward with your left leg, bending the opposite knee.
  4. Finally, return to starting position and step forward with your right leg while bending your left knee. Complete 4 cycles of 10 repetitions.

Leg curls

  1. Adjust the machine to fit the length of your legs.
  2. Lie facing down on the machine.
  3. Then, tighten your hamstrings and lift as much weight as you can while squeezing your hamstring hard.
  4. Finally, lower to the starting position and repeat 10 times in 4 sessions.

On day 7 it’s time to take a break. Also, remember that all exercises should be supervised by a certified trainer.

Nutrition is key in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training

Like all strength training, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training needs to be accompanied by healthy nutrition for the results to be effective and reach their maximum potential. In general, the movie star consumes whole foods – up to 4,000 calories a day of them -, and his diet exceeds 300 grams of protein, including post-exercise shakes.

So, whether a beginner or expert, the American Council on Exercise suggests a nutritional plan accordingly. This is the only way to see the success of strength training like “The Austrian Oak”.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.