Arnold Schwarzenegger Arm Workout (Maximize Your Arm Growth)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: May 10, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most iconic bodybuilders of the past century, carrying some of the most defined biceps and triceps.

Schwarzenegger’s arm workout is among the most effective ways to build bigger biceps and triceps because it is well-structured and programmed.

As a fitness trainer, I like to share different workouts with my fitness clients and I spent a few weeks researching Arnold's regimens to find and deconstruct his arm workout.

Here's what I put together.

Quick Summary

  • Arnold's Arm workouts include barbell curl, incline dumbbell curl, cheating barbell curl, preacher curl, alternate dumbbell curls, single-arm overhead triceps extension, and lying triceps extension.
  • Besides working out, the most important aspect of growing your arms for Arnold was adequate nutrition with an effective ratio of carbs and proteins.
  • Arnold worked out using progressive overload, which, according to the European Journal of Applied Physiology, is highly effective for muscle hypertrophy.
  • The most important supplement for developing your arms is a protein powder because it will help with the recovery and hypertrophy phase after the intense workout.

Celebrity Stats/Career Highlights

  • Date of birth: July 30, 1947
  • Height: 5'11½
  • Weight: 154 lbs
  • Waist: 27½”
  • Chest: 41¼”

The Arnold Schwarzenegger Arm Workout Routine

Arnold Schwarzenegger used the same principles for developing his muscles as his fellow bodybuilder colleagues did in his time.

They would have two styles during the day that would help them experience the best hypertrophy effects.

Hypertrophy is the term that describes the enlargement of the muscle fiber, which is the goal of every bodybuilder.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's workout routine was split into off-season workouts focused more on muscle growth and gaining strength and competitive preparation, which focused on weight loss and muscle definition.

Both workouts are essential to getting the best of all three words: hypertrophy, strength, and aesthetics.

Both are essentially the same workout, but the competition workout has additional supersets for the triceps.

Most bodybuilders prefer to use supersets to build their arms.

Using supersets is extremely helpful and effective because you can place two agonistically different exercises to work for one muscle group while the other is resting and preparing to be activated after you finish the first exercise.

This is why pairing biceps curls and triceps extensions is so effective. There is little or no rest at all between the exercises.

The same can be done for large muscle groups, and one of the examples is pairing a bench press with a biceps curl or even with a pull-up or row.

Off-Season Workout

Here is the off-season workout Arnold used in his prime:

  • Barbell cheat curl: 5–8 sets x 8–12 reps
  • Incline dumbbell curl: 5–8 sets x 8–12 reps
  • Single-arm concentration curl: 5 sets x 10 reps
  • Alternating dumbbell curl: 5 sets x 10 reps

Competition Prep Workout

This arm routine completely hits all the necessary muscles in your arms to show and pop during the bodybuilding competition.

The supersets below will effectively build your triceps and biceps muscles.

Here is the competition prep workout routine:

  • Incline dumbbell curl + triceps press down: 4 sets x 8–10 reps
  • Alternating dumbbell curl + single-arm overhead triceps extension: 4 sets x 10 reps
  • Preacher curl + lying french press: 4 sets x 10 reps
  • Concentration curl + reverse triceps press down: 4 sets x 8–10 reps
  • Reverse preacher curl + barbell wrist curl: 4 sets x 10–12 reps

Historical Context of Arnold's Training Techniques

Reflecting on Arnold Schwarzenegger's arm workouts from the 1970s, I'm reminded of how they revolutionized bodybuilding.

When I first tried incorporating his high-volume, frequent arm training into my routine, I was amazed at the difference it made.

Training arms three times a week with a variety of exercises, I began to appreciate the era's focus on symmetry and proportion, a stark contrast to today's emphasis on size.

Arnold's philosophy of 'muscle confusion,' constantly changing exercises and routines, was revolutionary and remains influential. Modern training, however, leans more towards scientifically backed methods, emphasizing periodization and recovery.

Workout Principles

From my own experience, the principles of mind-muscle connection and progressive overload in Arnold’s arm workout are game-changers.

I remember the first time I really focused on the muscle during each exercise, visualizing every contraction and extension. Combining this with progressive overload and proper nutrition, I saw a significant improvement in my arm development.

For each arm workout, you must incorporate the principle of progressive overload to increase the volume. Research from the European Journal of Applied Physiology shows that progressive overload may be one of the best ways to put on more muscle effectively [1].

Arnold also emphasized the mind-muscle connection, focusing on the muscle during each exercise for maximum engagement.

This involves visualizing the muscle contracting with each rep, a practice now supported by research for enhancing muscle activity [2].

To improve this connection, try slowing down reps, prioritizing form, and using lighter weights to really 'feel' the muscle work. This technique not only enhances effectiveness but also aids in developing a deeper understanding of your body's mechanics."

Another point worth mentioning is overtraining. I've seen one too many beginners think that if they train more than necessary with no rest days, it'll help them put on more muscle.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

Research from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine shows that overtraining won't just affect your muscle growth but also your immune, nervous, and endrocrine system functioning [3].

Diet Plan

For his main meal, Arnold would eat scrambled eggs or an omelet with vegetables, often with a salad.

He preferred to have the same thing for his breakfast but with additional yogurt and granola. For dinner, he ate vegetable soup with pumpkin oil. He'd also eat plenty of meats throughout the day for protein.

Between meals, he ate almonds as a snack.

"A bodybuilder’s arms are their calling card. You could make a case for other muscles being more important in the eyes of a judge at a physique show, but nothing drops jaws and turns heads like a pair of thick and muscular arms. Arnold Schwarzenegger knew that."

- Jake Dickson, Certified Personal Trainer

Diet Principles

Diet written on a wood

Arnold's diet's first principle is getting protein in every meal.

The previous examples show that he does that by including scrambled eggs during breakfast and lunch.

Proteins are extremely important to preserve muscle mass and support the muscle-building effects right after the workout.

Arnold also says he doesn't like measuring his food because he has no patience.

The next principle is to eat your veggies.

Arnold struggled in the past with serious heart problems, so he is mostly on a plant-based diet. It has been doing wonders for him, and his cardiac health has significantly improved.


Supplements scattered on floor

Even today, at 75, Arnold's main supplement is a quality whey protein powder.

Whey protein powder is among the most effective types of protein that enters your bloodstream fast, enabling quick muscle recovery and improved lifting performance.

Arnold likes having his protein shakes right after each workout or sometimes even as a snack.

Besides whey protein, Arnold also used to take a high-quality creatine supplement, which helped him increase PR (personal records) on his big lifts.

Creatine is one of the best supplements for weight lifting because it replenishes the energy in your system called creatine-phosphate.

Creatine-phosphate synthesizes ATP (adenosine-triphosphate) during high-intensity exercises or heavy lifts.

Anyways, you might see Arnold take these whey protein and creatine shakes with the popular alcoholic drink called schnapps.

He claims tequila and schnapps enable protein and creatine to enter the bloodstream faster, but please don’t listen to this advice and stick to the normal water + protein shake after the workout session.


What Is Arnold Bicep Workout?

Arnold's biceps workout consists of exercises such as barbell curls, alternating dumbbell curls, barbell preacher curls, and concentration curls. However, these exercises change if Arnold works out during the season or off-season.

How Many Sets Did Arnold Do for Arms?

Arnold did up to 20 sets for his arms. However, the number of sets changes and highly depends on the percentage of 1RM (repetition maximum) and his goal of building for mass or definition.

Is Arnold Split Good for Arms?

Yes, Arnold's split is good for arms. The Arnold split consists of a six-day workout split where you train your back, chest, shoulders, arms, and legs twice weekly.


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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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