Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Chest Routine

Arnold Schwarzenegger: ChestThere is no denying that Arnold Schwarzenegger was an anomaly in the bodybuilding world. To this day, Arnold is recognized as the greatest of all time by many bodybuilding competitors and fans. What he did for bodybuilding in general was amazing.

Arnold was massive and had many great features, but none more impressive than his massive chest expanding to an incredible 58″. It was not just the size of his chest though. It was the balance, shape and definition that truly made it an amazing chest.

Even today, everyone thinks that size is what gets the titles, but it is so much more than size that matters. Even Arnold quickly learned this humbling lesson early in his career. He developed the largest, most muscular chest that had even been seen, but still lost the Mr. Universe title to Frank Zane who was 60 pounds lighter because Zane had a more defined chest.

Reg Park and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold was always a tremendous student of bodybuilding, which is one of the talents that made him so successful. His primary source of inspiration was Reg Park who won 3 Mr. Olympia titles over the span of 14 years (1951, 1958, 1965). Park was a giant at 6’2″ and weighing 230 pounds. Arnold took it as a personal challenge to reach the goals that Park already had.

One of the methods that Arnold used throughout his career was a double split routine where he would train twice per day for 6 days with a single rest day. Every 2 days, he would be training the same body part, except for his calves, which he trained every day. Today, many “bros” call this over-training, but I tend to think that Arnold knew a little something about bodybuilding and that no one knows his body like him.

These days, not many people perform double splits. In the old days, bodybuilders treated training as their 9-5 job. They would not leave the gym until their shift was over. They would train in the morning, stay at the gym, then train at night before going home. Take a look at Arnold’s double split routine.

 MorningEvening
Day 1Chest, backThighs, calves, abs
Day 2Shoulders, armsCalves, abs
Day 3Chest, backThighs, calves, abs
Day 4Shoulders, armsCalves, abs
Day 5Chest, backThighs, calves, abs
Day 6Shoulders, armsCalves, abs
Day 7RestRest

Notice that he trained the chest 3 times per week, which could explain a lot about his size. Since he trained chest and back together, he would superset a lot of his exercises. He actually took no rest in between sets because of his supersetting. This is his chest/back split routine.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Chest/Back Split Routine

Exercise# Sets#Reps
Bench Presses56-10
Wide-grip Behind-the-neck Chins56
Incline Bench Presses56-10
T-bar Rows510-15
Dumbbell Flyes56-10
Wide-grip Barbell Rows (standing on a block)510-15
Dips56-10
Close-grip Chins512
Dumbbell Pullovers56-10
Iso-tension Contractions

Breaking that down further into just his chest routine, we have the following.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Incline Bench Press

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Chest Routine

Exercise# Sets#Reps
Bench Presses56-10
Incline Bench Presses56-10
Dumbbell Flyes56-10
Dips56-10
Dumbbell Pullovers56-10
Iso-tension Contractions

He ended every routine with an intense session of flexing and posing (which I am a huge fan of by the way). As you can see, there is really nothing revolutionary about his chest routine and it is actually more simple than a lot of others that I have seen. The basics are there without much of the fluff included in many other routines.

While a lot of people focus on barbell bench presses, incline bench presses and decline bench presses, Arnold only did 2 of the 3. He did have 2 stretching exercises in the dumbbell flyes and dumbbell pullovers. Arnold believe that he could effectively expand his rib cage by performing dumbbell pullovers and performed 5 sets of them 3 times per week.

If you take a step back and think about it, there is no doubt that Arnold knew a thing or two about bodybuilding and you could do much worse than learning from him. Keep in mind that he was young and this routine is not for everyone because of the toll that it takes on your central nervous system. Also note that Arnold’s nutrition was impeccable, which made recovery time shorter.

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