We test and review fitness products based on an independent, multi-point methodology. If you use our links to purchase something, we may earn a commission. Read our disclosures.

Hurry—get to the barbell!

Arnold’s arm workouts were more than just routines—they were iconic in the world of bodybuilding. His approach was a tandem of dedication and precision, a workout regimen that upheld his famous words: “The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.” This mantra embodies the essence of Arnold’s arm workout—a belief in determination and commitment to pushing physical boundaries.

Arnold’s arm workouts are comparable to crafting movie masterpieces. Using bicep curls, shoulder and bench presses, and tricep extensions as his tools, he sculpted a physique that defined what it took to sit atop the bodybuilding world. The combination of “Arnold curls,” “Arnold presses,” and intense tricep extensions, directed with precision and aimed to achieve the ultimate pump—a feeling that he likened to “the greatest feeling you can get in a gym.” 

RELATED: Bodybuilding Workouts

Schwarzenegger’s workout philosophy merged mind-muscle connection with relentless determination, transforming his arm routines into legendary performances. I mean, who else has multiple bodybuilding exercises named after them?

Who is Arnold Schwarzenegger?

A titan of fitness, a towering figure in the world of entertainment, and one of the most quotable icons to live (“I’ll be back!”)—Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka “The Austrian Oak.” Arnold had a profound influence as a bodybuilder, winning Mr. Olympia titles and redefining the sport with his iconic physique. He even has a bodybuilding competition—the Arnold Sports Festival—named after him. His transition to Hollywood was meteoric, starring in blockbuster films like “The Terminator” series, “Predator,” and “Total Recall,” solidifying his status as an action movie legend. 

Arnold left his mark in the cinematic land of fitness with his notorious documentary “Pumping Iron”—a favorite film of any gym junky. His multifaceted journey—from bodybuilding champion to movie star is a testament to his determination, charisma, and unparalleled drive to excel, in and out of the gym.

What is Arnold’s Arm Workout?

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arm workouts have stood amongst the legends—vein-pumping routines crafted with sleeve-filling bicep curls, tricep extensions, and presses. He would tactfully plan his training into two main cycles: off-season and competition prep. Each cycle served a specific role reflected in the methods applied to develop muscle mass, strength, and maintain a godly physique on stage. 

While you may not intend to step on stage and hit a back double biceps pose like Arnold’s, these principles can help you achieve your goals when added to your upper body workout routine.

RELATED: Upper-Body Workout At Home

Off-Season Arm Workout

In the off-season, Arnold’s arm workouts were developed to accomplish two goals: muscle growth and strength development. Off-season training allowed building quality mass to areas of the arms that might be lacking and pushing the weight. Arnold’s arm workouts layered movements to yield optimal results, training with a six-day split, targeting the arms twice a week. He would break down exercises into two categories and chase high-volume supersets full of bicep and tricep density. 

RELATED: Arm Workouts with Weights

With each arm day, Arnold would divide his sessions into 45 minutes of biceps exercises, 45 minutes of triceps movements, and 30 minutes of forearms. First, he would focus on mass-building exercises like cheating barbell curls. Then, he would move into isolation-focused exercises like concentration curls. The central concept to pull from his workouts is that each exercise served a purpose.

how-to-close-grip-bench-press-cover

Check out this example workout below:

Biceps

ExerciseSetsReps
A1. Barbell Cheat Curl5-88-12
A2. Incline Dumbbell Curl5-88-12
B1. Single-Arm Concentration Curl510
B2. Alternating Dumbbell Curl510

Triceps

ExerciseSetsReps
C1. Close-Grip Bench Press66-10
C2. Triceps Pushdowns66-10
D1. Barbell French Press66-10
D2. One-Arm Dumbbell Triceps Extensions66-10

Note(s): Letters (i.e. A1., A2.) indicate a superset. So, you’ll be performing 5 to 8 rounds of the barbell cheat curl immediately followed by the incline dumbbell curl before moving on to the next group of exercises (B1., B2.).

RELATED: Superset Workouts

Competition Prep Arm Workout

When it was time to flip the switch and begin his competition prep, Arnold’s arm workouts would take on a new identity. These regimens would hone in on the precise chiseling of each muscle group through supersets, aiming to achieve the ultimate pump paired with minimal rest periods. Training principles would shift from mass and strength building to maintenance and refinement. 

man-doing-ez-bar-preacher-curl

Arnold’s training plan would still consist of six training days, except now he would hit doubles, meaning he would train his arms twice in one day.

Check out this sample workout below:

ExerciseSetsReps
A1. Incline Dumbbell Curl 48-10
A2.Triceps Pushdown48-10
B1. Alternating Dumbbell Curl48-10
B2. Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension48-10
C1. Preacher Curl48-10
C2. Lying French Press48-10
D1. Concentration Curl 48-10
D2. Reverse Triceps Pushdown48-10
E1. Reverse Preacher Curl410-12
E2. Barbell Wrist Curl410-12

Note(s): Letters (i.e. A1., A2.) indicate a superset. So, you’ll be performing 4 to 8 rounds of the incline dumbbell curl immediately followed by the triceps pushdown before moving on to the next group of exercises (B1., B2.).

RELATED: Curl Bar Workouts

How to Train Arms Like Arnold

Arnold’s arm workouts stood on the principles of supersets, hypertrophy workouts, and utilized short rest periods—pushing each muscle group to exhaustion. 

Utilizing supersets is an excellent technique to bolster muscle size and condense training durations while complementing hypertrophy-focused workouts. A July 2017 study published in the European Journal of Physiology1 stated that supersets are “the completion of two exercises consecutively followed by a recovery period that enhances training efficiency and may be an effective mechanism to provide an appropriate resistance training stimulus, in a short period of time.” Hypertrophy training capitalizes on a moderate repetition scheme with moderate load2— from 8 to 12 repetitions per set with 60% to 80% of your one-rep max (1RM)—and serves as the cornerstone for maximizing muscle growth. Rest periods in workouts can substantially influence muscle hypertrophy (muscle size). It’s best to use rest periods of 30-60 seconds with moderate-intensity sets3 when the training goal is muscle hypertrophy. Arnold Schwarzenegger ingeniously employed supersets, hypertrophy-focused routines, and brief rest intervals, creating workouts that propelled him toward sculpting massive muscles.

woman-doing-cable-triceps-pushdown

While these concepts are excellent for developing muscle size and strength, the workouts listed above may only be suited for some training levels. Rest assured (well, minimal rest to amplify the effects of supersets), as I, a CSCS-certified coach, have dedicated time to carefully crafting variations of these workouts based on your experience in the gym.

Beginner

I want you to understand this—at some point, Arnold Schwarzenegger had to step into a gym for the first time. We all start somewhere in our fitness journey. If you are new to working out and have the motivation, dedication, and consistency to hit the gym regularly, these workouts are a great starting point. At first, you want to ensure you aren’t getting into too much volume (number of sets and reps) or weight too soon. Master the basics and train through a full range of motion.

woman-on-bench-doing-ez-bar-skullcrusher

Here’s a great example of a modified workout influenced by Arnold’s arm workout:

ExerciseSetsReps
A1. Barbell Curl 38-10
A2. Dumbbell Hammer Curl 36-8
B1. Dumbbell Skull Crusher38-10
B2. Tricep Pushdown 310-12

Note(s): Letters (i.e. A1., A2.) indicate a superset. So, you’ll be performing 3 rounds of barbell curls immediately followed by dumbbell hammer curls before moving on to the next group of exercises (B1., B2.).

You’ll notice there are fewer total sets and reps in this workout. The workout pairs supersets with mass-building exercises followed by isolation exercises, matching the methods of Arnold’s arm workouts. Start with light to moderate weights, and don’t worry about lifting heavier until you can complete all the sets at the higher rep ranges.

RELATED: How to Do Hammer Curls

Intermediate

Intermediate lifters have time under their belts—literally and figuratively if you rock a weight belt during your heavy workout days. Luckily, you know when to use a lifting belt—and arm days aren’t it. I classify intermediate lifters as those who have consistently worked out for one to three years. You’ve added strength and size to your physique and know your way around the gym. You’ve dabbled with the best pre-workout and own a nice lineup of training gear. 

Coop curling dumbbells

Compared to an advanced lifter, we still want to control the volume and increase weight incrementally week-to-week as an intermediate. Your experience should prepare you to crush the workout and handle the demands of a grueling session.

ExerciseSetsReps
A1. Barbell Cheat Curl410-12
A2. Dips48-10
B1. Alternating Dumbbell Curl310-12
B2. Cable Tricep Extension310-12
C1. Dumbbell Preacher Curl38-10
C2. Dumbbell Overhead Extension38-10

Note(s): Letters (i.e. A1., A2.) indicate a superset. So, you’ll be performing 4 rounds of barbell cheat curls immediately followed by dips before moving on to the next group of exercises (B1., B2.).

Advanced

Advanced lifters carry the “been there, done that” moxy in the gym. There aren’t many, if any, exercises you haven’t conquered. You can handle the weights, supersets with short rest, and hypertrophy workouts without batting an eye. If you fall into this category, there’s no reason you can’t push yourself through one of Arnold’s arm workouts. No modifications are needed here, just grit and determination.

Arnold’s Arm Workout: Final Thoughts 

Any word synonymous with “tough” fits the bill when it comes to repping out one of Arnold’s arm workouts. His sleeve-filling, arm-pumping routines were constructed with the end goal of being the best. As carefully as the dumbbell and barbell exercises were selected and placed, so were Arnold’s methods to chisel his generational physique. Supersets, hypertrophy training, and controlled rest intervals guided Arnold through the journey that was his bodybuilding career.

Arnold concocted a beautiful mix of mass-building exercises paired with isolated bicep and tricep exercises to drive off-season training. In pre-competition phases, Arnold shifted the focus to supersets, allowing more work to be done in shorter periods. Although you may never step on stage, these workouts are an excellent option to define your physique and fitness goals.

Arnold’s Arm Workout: FAQs

What workouts did Arnold do for arms? 

Arnold’s arm workouts were constructed using supersets, hypertrophy training, and the principle of short rest periods. These sessions would start with mass-building movements like barbell cheat curls and isolation exercises like incline dumbbell curls. Off-season workouts focused on hammering biceps and triceps separately. Pre-competition training shifted to pairing biceps and triceps together in a superset fashion.

Is Arnold’s split good for arm growth?

Arnold’s workout splits are excellent for arm growth. They capitalized on moderate-intensity sets with moderate repetition ranges to squeeze out as many sets and reps as possible. Grouping hypertrophy-based training with supersets and controlled rest intervals (30 to 60 seconds) makes Arnold’s arm workouts one-of-a-kind for muscle building. The results Arnold achieved with his arm workouts speak for themselves.

How many inch arms did Arnold have?

Recorded measurements officially slated Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arms at 22 inches in diameter. He relied on effective arm workouts, focused training, drive and determination in the gym. If you want bigger biceps and triceps, train like Arnold!

Did Arnold work arms everyday? 

Arnold’s training plan consisted of two arm-focused workouts per week. Arnold instructed users of his program that “the severity of using absolute maximum poundage for each exercise of this super-bombing routine requires three to four days of rest between arm workouts so that full recuperation and maximum growth occur.” Even Arnold knew to emphasize training and recovery. Check out the best muscle recovery supplements to level-up your recovery game to tackle Arnold’s arm workouts. 

References

  1. Weakley JJS, Till K, Read DB, Roe GAB, Darrall-Jones J, Phibbs PJ, Jones B. The effects of traditional, superset, and tri-set resistance training structures on perceived intensity and physiological responses. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017 Sep;117(9):1877-1889. doi: 10.1007/s00421-017-3680-3. Epub 2017 Jul 11. PMID: 28698987; PMCID: PMC5556132.
  2. Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Van Every DW, Plotkin DL. Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports (Basel). 2021;9(2):32. Published 2021 Feb 22. doi:10.3390/sports9020032
  3. de Salles BF, Simão R, Miranda F, Novaes Jda S, Lemos A, Willardson JM. Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports Med. 2009;39(9):765-777. doi:10.2165/11315230-000000000-00000

Further reading

Transparent Labs LEAN Review (2024): The Best Pre-Workout for Cutting? Cover Image
Transparent Labs LEAN Review (2024): The Best Pre-Workout for Cutting?

In this Transparent Labs LEAN review, we tested out and rated our experience using this pre-workout that also doubles as a fat burner. Read more

How to Cold Plunge: Hot Tips and Cold Facts About Cold Water Therapy Cover Image
How to Cold Plunge: Hot Tips and Cold Facts About Cold Water Therapy

Cold water immersion has never been hotter! Our guide shares how to cold plunge, plus the many benefits of cold plunging. Check it out! Read more

Best Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees in 2024: Treadmills and More for Achy Knees Cover Image
Best Exercise Equipment for Bad Knees in 2024: Treadmills and More for Achy Knees

Hurry—get to the barbell!Arnold’s arm workouts were more than just routines—they were iconic in the world of bodybuilding. His approach was a tandem of dedication and precision, a workout regimen that upheld his famous words: “The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.” This mantra embodies the essence of Arnold’s arm workout—a belief in determination and commitment to pushing physical boundaries.  » Read more about: Arnold’s Arm Workout: The Ultimate Sleeve Pump  » Read more

Rogue MobilityWod Stick Released! Cover Image
Rogue MobilityWod Stick Released!

The Rogue Mobility Wod Stick is a new mobility tool that is essentially a barbell in an easier to use size. Here's the details on the release. Read more