31 Worthwhile Tips from Arny

Long before Arny started to earn fabulous sums for movie roles, he wrote articles for one famous person, Joe Weider. Of course, Arnold’s writing didn’t win the Pulitzer prize, but today we have 800 pages Arny’s book based on those articles. ‘The New Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding’ is popular even now in spite of it was published before the two thousands.

I think few people can read it in one gulp, so, we collect 31 Arny’s tips and training methods. 

Let’s go!

General Training Tips

1. Take the Best Exercises for Growth

Not only should you train hard but you should train smart. As Arny said, before you get bigger you need to get stronger. Beginners and intermediates should be worried about growth but not about muscle building. For this reason, you should prefer basic multijoint exercises. The bench press, squat, deadlift are excellent examples of those exercises that require coordinated work of several muscles groups. These basic exercises must be included in your training plan.

Yes, the base is more difficult in technique than isolation exercises, but it has one huge and distinct advantage. It gives you the opportunity to train with heavy weight to overload the target muscle. In Arny’s opinion, training such exercises is the key moment for the mass gaining and strength growth.

2. Use Heavy Weights for Low Reps

Choosing the right load is as important as choosing the right exercise. Squats of 8 reps with 165 kilos are far more effective for muscle growth than squats of 40 reps with 45 kilos.

As Arnold wrote, you should start with a few warm-ups, but without overload. And after that you should increase the weights gradually from set to set decreasing the quantity of reps. You may need the spotter only for passing the dead spot or taking weight when using cheating (when muscle failure occurs, for example).

In Arny’s opinion, you have to do not less than 6 reps per set but no more than 12. This rule works in absolutely all exercises, including calves. That’s why make sure that you choose the right weight.

3. Try to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone 

If you do the same workout for Too long, its value will fall rapidly. Bodybuilders call this situation ‘plateau’.

Arny is writing about this that within his basic framework he constantly changed his exercises. It is easy way of shocking the muscles and avoiding habituation. When exercises stopped being effective Arny had just changed them.

Thus never afraid to experiment with new exercises and training methods furthermore there are varieties of them. If you feel old method is not working any more, leave it behind and implement the new one.

4. Muscle Failure Should Be Passed by High-Intensity Training

In his book Arnold has focused more than once on different high-intensity training techniques which should be used to load lagging muscle groups. That is why don't be afraid to apply in your workouts such of techniques as dropsets, negatives and partials, rest-pause method… In short, everything you might read or hear before.

Don’t forget to evaluate your body feelings after each new exercise in your training. It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t try to reach muscle failure in every set. It is enough to get it in 1-2 the heaviest reps of each exercise.

5. Avoid Overtraining

Trying to correct what nature hasn’t given, you might be tempted to use everything for result. It is a usual story that is why Arnold warned that such a strategy might be dangerous.

Sometimes some muscle group can be lag just because you are overtraining it giving it so big weight that it hasn’t chance to normal rest, recovery and growth.

The best decision in this situation it’s just to give them a rest and opportunity for recovery. After that, you should review your training plan to avoid overloading in the future. (What overtraining is you can see in our article ‘What is overtraining and how to avoid it’). Remember that difference between medicine and poison is in the doze only. And bodybuilding is not an exception.

Tips for Shoulders

6. Military Press the Best Mass Gaining Exercise 

Multijoint exercises like military press and upright rows are the best mass builders for shoulders, since they load deltoids in the best degree.

In his trainings Arnold focused on these exercises especially, training them at the beginning of workout when energy level was the highest. Furthermore, Arny commonly trained overhead press both behind and in front of his head for the harmonious development of the body. And we all know the result.

7. Learn Different Variants of Training the Same Exercise.

Small nuances and some insignificant details in well-known exercises can load the muscle in a new way and give strong stimulus for growth.

Arnold always tried to find exercises which would have loaded a target muscle from different angles. Thus, training overhead presses he used dumbbells instead of barbell to lower the weights several inches below and bring hands together at the top. This all was being done for an increase in the amplitude of the motion.

8. Each Delt Head Should Have Its Own Isolation Exercise

Arnold wasn’t fool. He used isolation exercises in addition for base movement, overhead press and to train each delt head individually. In that case, uncle Arny was trying to find those differences and details in technique, which could have given bigger result. For example, in the cable lateral raise cable can be both behind and in front of body. This is big difference in sensation.

For the beginners all these variants don’t play a major role. But it is essential for bodybuilders who want to reach the next level.

9. Train Traps with Delts

The upper traps take part in almost all shoulder exercises. That is why Arny trained them with delts. His main upper exercises was shrugs though he told more than once that for maximum growth of these muscles you need other exercises, including barbell clean, upright rows and lat pulldowns.

As the range of motion in shrugs is fairly short, Arnold recommended backing off on the weight in favor of being able to fully shrug your shoulders as high as possible.

Tips for Biceps

10. Build Mass with the Standing Barbell Curl

Arnold preferred the standing barbell curls. The reason is in the development of strong biceps (of course, if you have proper technique but not convulsions as it usual can be observed). Choosing mass gaining exercises, Arnold preferred those which allowed pushing heavy weights, work with full range and do 6-8 reps.

That’s how his biceps became what they are. It’s not bad starting point for your workout, isn’t it? 

11. Muscle Failure is Not a Final Point 

During his biceps curls Arny commonly reached the muscle failure. But it wasn’t finish for him. Being in dead point he made a little effort and continued the set. Cheating helped him to make extra couple of reps and stimulate bigger muscle growth. But cheating should be made in proper technique and only in some cases. Cheating will not be effective in regular use.

12. Dumbbell Curls with Supinated Grip

Arnold wrote that he always included at least one dumbbell movement in his routine. By supinating his hand upward as he curled, he got a greater peaking effect. So even hand is in neutral position, shoulders take an active part in the movement. 

With supinated grip Arnold trained curls simultaneously and with alternating reps. The latter allows to improve concentration in every movement and gives the opportunity for muscles to have a rest between reps.

13. Use High-Reps Training for Certain Exercises

Not every biceps movement did Anry for 6-8 reps. Some exercises that he called "definition-building movements", he performed with relatively lighter weights for 8-12 reps. 

Here, the focusing was on squeezing and contracting the muscle, and holding the peak contraction for several seconds.

Tips for Triceps

14. Experiment with Well-Developed Muscles

Arnold's chest and triceps were particularly strong body parts, so he didn't train them in the same ways he did his biceps. Arnold trained about 20 reps per set. It’s like a hyperpump.

15. Find the Main Target 

As Arnold write, it is very stupid and absolutely ineffective to train biceps exercise and not understand which muscle is loaded. It is a good thought but how to practice it?

Arnold advises to try a little trick which he learned from legendary Gironda. You should do 20 sets of certain exercise and leave overloaded muscle in rest after. Next day you will see which muscle will ache most of all.

16. Add Partials after Failure Rep

During high-intensive training Arny liked such a method as partial reps. Thus, after doing a set of full-range push-downs, he continued the set with about 5 partials, both over the top and bottom half of the trajectory.  

Even though he couldn’t do any more even one full-range rep, when dead point was really dead, Arnold managed to do a couple of reps more. And it gave real boost of mass growth.

17. Do Supersets with the Pump 

Arnold frequently combined biceps and triceps exercises into supersets. Besides accelerated muscle filling with oxygen and nutrients it took a killer pump.

Supersetting a smaller muscle group like arms is easier than a larger one like legs. Though, Arnold often did that before competitions.

Tips for Legs

18. Pay Attention to week parts

If you've got big pecs, it's only natural to want to show them off where is possible. And you will probably also give them an extra attention in the gym. But Arnold took exactly the opposite approach. In fact, at one point, Arnold decided his calves had fallen behind the rest of his physique in overall development.

Rather than hide the glaring weakness, he just cut off the lower half of his pants and showed everybody his weakness parts. This is the very motivation to redouble or even retriple efforts in the gym. That’s why he trained calves more frequently, early in his workouts when he was fresh yet. Great strategy, isn’t it?

19. Try to Test Everything

Being long-legged, calves weren't Arnold's only shortcomings early in his career; his thighs were also not great. It was the reason for refusing standard training schemes. In his words building up legs was hard because they were long. Long legs and long leg muscles

The long-legged bodybuilders have to explore a wider variety of exercises on their lower-body part. That means you need to include more and more exercises in your training plan until you find out which ones make your legs respond best. And you have to keep varying your routine so that your muscles are constantly shocked with the load you're putting on them.

20. The Position of Feet Has a Value

Arny found experimentally that different feet position during squats worked different areas of the thighs. Thus, he wrote, that with feet farther apart and toes pointed out the load was felt on the insides of thighs. So the position of the feet determines which part of the thigh will be most affected.

Besides squats Arny used various machines, training both standing and lying during legs workouts. All this was done to have an opportunity to change feet positions and work all leg muscles.

21. Maximize Benefits from the Machines

Machine squats may not be superior to free-weight ones, but Arnold modified them to make them harder. Here, Arnold used a shortened range of motion — going about three-fourths of the way down to a quarter of the way from the top. He called his technique "tension squats". That range allowed tearing the muscle fibers without having to balance.

22. Add Hamstring Exercises in Training

During basic squat and leg-press movements the hamstrings get worked too. Their contracting allows controlling the speed of the descent phase as the quads are being stretched. Arny insisted on need to do special exercises for hamstring. 

Deadlift is the great total-body movement. Single-joint leg curls and Romanian deadlift also focus on the rear thighs. Hamstring strength is important to reduce the risk of knee injuries. It can occur when the strength of the quads overpowers the strength of the hams.

23.  Train Your Abs between Other Exercises

Arnold's approach to abs training was fairly simple. He had a few favorite moves that he did with high reps. Though, if to consider how hard he trained his core in leg and back workouts during the week, it probably didn't even need to train his abs at all.

And yes, heavy basic free-weight movements played a bigger role both in the strength and aesthetics of his midsection than his limited abdominal workouts.

Tips for Chest

24. Develop Strength to Gain the Mass

For Arnold, building a big chest started with training for strength only since he competed as a powerlifter early in his career. Later he discovered that mass gain was easier when you had foundation of strength. So pay attention to offseason powerlifting cycle before coming back to routine bodybuilding trainings. 

25. Change Angles Where is Possible

There were base exercises in Arny’s program that load pecs much from a variety of angles. He wrote that program should be fundamental and very heavy. For him it meant loyalty to flat, incline, and decline benches and preference the power training to a multitude of machines or using unproved techniques. Arnold saved pumping sets for the end of his workout.

26. Change the Training Volume for Growth Stimulation

Even today Arny has outstanding trainings. The reason is the volume and frequency with which he trained every body part. During offseason chest routine consisted of 26 everyday sets on a high volume. And he trained his pecs three times a week! It is hard to believe and stretch along the spine. To avoid overtraining Arny cycled heavy and light workouts.

That kind of volume and frequency suited Arny very well during his competitive years. For bodybuilders such a cycling will decline the risk to take overtraining.

27. Get to Know Variations with Dumbbells

While Arnold favored barbells in the gym he knew the advantages of dumbbells. When doing dumbbells, especially with incline movements, you can feel a better stretch. Besides, dumbbells can be lowered deeper than a barbell.

Oh, yes, dumbbells allow you to work through a longer range of motion, but be careful not to overstretch the shoulder joint at the bottom of the move.

Tips for Back

28. Vary Your Pull-Ups and Pull-Downs

Arnold typically divided his back training into two types of movements. The first part included chinning and pull-downs for width, and the second was rows for overall muscle mass. In the first part he used all kinds of variations trying to bring his back up to match his pecs.

During his trainings he did underhand-grip pull-ups with and without added weight, and sometimes he brought the bar behind his head and other times to his chest. The result was an assault the lats from multiple angles that had worked.

29. Mind Your Elbows

Arnold wrote that wide-grip pull-ups coax the upper lats to come out. During wide-grip movements, the elbows stay out away from the torso, which engages the upper lats more effectively. 

With closer-grip and reverse-grip back exercises, the elbows stay in tighter to the sides. The load moves down from the upper lats to the lower lats. So changing the elbow position you can effectively work definite areas of the back.

30. The Number of Reps Has a Value 

Usually sportsmen do up to 5 reps per exercise, but Arny used another technique. He aimed to train not a particular number of sets but total number of reps. Say, 50. How does it work? It is simple.

Perhaps on the first set you may do 10 pull-ups. It could be difficult to you with 8 reps on the second set. But you will already have 18 reps. If you make 5 on the third set, you will have 23 reps. You should continue the pull-ups until you have reached 50 reps. Even though if it takes you 20 sets to do it.

This is exactly how Arny developed the strength during pull-ups.

31. Use the Pyramid Principe during Rows

Rows in back workouts were Arnold’s favorites. T-bar rows, bent-over barbell rows and others – all of this was done with high volume and progressively heavier weights. Arnold followed a pyramid scheme, in each next set he increased the weight for fewer reps. He achieved the muscle failure only in the heaviest sets.

So, these are untricky tips from Arnold’s book. Of course, we told them shortly, hardly a half of author’s volume. We hope that even this small text can help somebody in a hard bodybuilding work.

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