Pete McCall by Pete McCall
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As a Gen-Xer growing up in the 1980s, I was motivated to start working out by the action heroes in the summer blockbuster flicks. Larger-than-life movie stars like Arnold, Stallone and Van Damme had big muscles, always beat the bad guys and ended up getting the girl. Who wouldn’t want to emulate that? 

When I was in my teens and wanted to start lifting weights, I invested in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder. Interested in growing muscles like my favorite action movie heroes, I devoured Arnold’s book and started spending a lot of time in the weight room at my high school. 

When I started my fitness career in the late 1990s, I soon learned that most clients interested in weight loss or improving muscle mass were not well served by bodybuilding programs that focused on individual body parts or muscle isolation. Because total-body, movement-based exercises involve many muscles working together, they can be an effective component of a weight-loss program. Even though I have greatly expanded my education and knowledge of how the body adapts to exercise, doing an old-school, high-volume bodybuilding program can often satisfy the primal urge to lift heavy stuff. 

In honor of Arnold’s birthday (he turns 68 on July 30), here are five benefits of following an Arnold Schwarzenegger-inspired bodybuilding program. 

1. Improved muscle tone and definition.

One of the top goals clients mention when starting a workout program is to “improve muscle tone.” Body-part training can require a lot of daily trips to the gym, but for those who can invest the time the payoff is increased muscle tone and definition.

2. Increased muscle size.

High-volume bodybuilder exercise programs not only improve definition and tone, but can also add significant mass or size to the involved muscles.

3. Increased levels of hormones that can slow down the aging process.

“Anti-aging” clinics charge thousands of dollars for hormone treatments that have been shown to slow down the aging process. However, high-volume strength training can increase levels of testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)—the hormones that help grow new muscle tissue—as well as slow down the affects of biological aging.

4. Enhanced aesthetic appearance.

Isolation training can help increase the size of the back, shoulder and arm muscles responsible for developing the downward V-taper of the upper-body, which helps create the appearance of a smaller waist.

5. Greater ability to lift heavy stuff.

High-volume strength training not only increases size and definition, it can significantly enhance muscle strength as well. The ability to lift heavy weights can help improve your self-confidence and it’s nice knowing that you won’t need help lifting a suitcase or carrying a heavy purchase from a store. 

The following is a three-day Schwarzenegger-inspired workout program. This program is based on Arnold’s advice in his book, Education of a Bodybuilder, and requires that you lift four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday are designed to be days for moderate- to high-intensity cardio or simply rest. Mondays and Thursdays are for legs, chest and abdominals (this was before the era of core training), while Tuesdays and Fridays are for back, shoulders and arms. Do your favorite cardio workouts on Wednesdays and Saturdays and give yourself Sundays off for rest, recovery and muscle growth. Each weightlifting exercise should be done for five sets of eight reps, with the last one to two reps of each set being difficult and the last set of each exercise causing fatigue by the last rep. Complete all sets of an exercise before moving on to the next exercise.\

Mondays and Thursdays: Legs, Chest and Abdominals

According to Arnold, leg exercises, specifically squats, require deep breathing, which can help warm up and stretch chest and abdominal muscles. Do a complete dynamic warm-up to prepare for the workout, and select weights that make completing eight repetitions difficult. Brief rest periods between each set can help elevate levels of muscle-building hormones. To save time, do two sets for different body parts back-to-back; for example, squats followed immediately by bench press and then rest.

Exercise

Intensity

Reps

Sets

Rest Interval

Barbell back squats

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Barbell flat bench press

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Romanian deadlift

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Dumbbell incline bench press

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Barbell lunges

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Standing cable flyes

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Standing calf raises

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Reverse crunches

Body weight

To fatigue

5

60 seconds

Bicycle crunches

Body weight

To fatigue

5

60 seconds

Tuesdays and Fridays: Shoulders, back and Arms

Arnold’s theory is that shoulders should do pushing movement while the back does pulling movements; therefore, he alternates exercises with these body parts to allow one to rest while the other is working. In addition, shoulder and back exercises use the upper arms, which makes it a great way to pre-fatigue those muscles before isolating them. Do a complete dynamic warm-up to prepare for the workout, and select weights that make completing eight repetitions difficult. Brief rest periods between each set can help elevate levels of muscle-building hormones. To save time, do two sets for different body parts back-to-back; for example, shoulder press followed immediately by chin-ups and then rest.

Exercise

Intensity

Reps

Sets

Rest Interval

Standing barbell shoulder press

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Chin-ups

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Rear deltoid raises

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Barbell bent-over rows

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Dumbbell lateral raises

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Dumbbell single-arm rows

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Dips

Body weight

To failure

5

60 seconds

Barbell biceps curls

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

Triceps press-downs

8RM

8

5

60 seconds

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