Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 8 Rules For Bodybuilding Success

Arnold Schwarzenegger posing
"Stay hungry, stay healthy, be a gentleman, believe strongly in yourself and go beyond limitations."

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Here are 8 things Arnold Schwarzenegger advocates to keep building muscle and progressing in your bodybuilding journey. If you are not following these 8 nutrition, training and recovery principles then you will hold back your muscle building progress.

8 Muscle Building Mistakes to Avoid:

1. EAT SUFFICIENT AMOUNTS OF FOOD

Maybe you’re concerned that you’ll put on fat, but eating surplus calories are key to building muscle. Start by eating more quality calories. To start gaining muscle you just need 500 calories above your maintenance calories.

Arnold Schwarzenegger posing in the gym with Joe Weider
“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.”

If most of your calories are coming from protein, healthy fats and quality whole sources and you’re training hard then you won’t gain fat. In fact, if you train hard and don’t eat enough calories your body will start to burn muscle and increase fat storage as it goes into starvation mode slows down your metabolism.

2. EAT FOOD CONSISTENTLY

To make steady progress in your muscle building journey you have to optimize both meal intake and timing. Your body needs a consistent and steady supply of quality proteins, healthy fats and complex carbs every 3 hours for optimal protein synthesis to happen, for your metabolic activity to stay high and for your insulin levels to not spike.

Arnold Schwarzenegger posing in the gym
“For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.”

If you go long periods of time without food then you’re stalling many of the biological muscle building processes in your body and making your body more prone to storing fat instead of building muscle.

3. EAT ENOUGH PROTEIN

If you don’t sufficient amounts of protein then you’re significantly limiting your muscle building progress. Protein is especially important after your workouts. If you don’t take a whey protein shake after your workout and don’t consume a quality post-workout meal with lots of quality protein and healthy fats then that’s one of the reasons why you’re not making progress. Consume 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per day and get 30-40 grams of protein in each meal.

Arnold Schwarzenegger eating muscle building meal
“We all have great inner power. The power is self-faith. There’s really an attitude to winning. You have to see yourself winning before you win. And you have to be hungry. You have to want to conquer.”

4. DON’T DO TOO MUCH CARDIO

Cardio will stall muscle building progress if you do it too often, do it for too long or do it without sufficient calories in your system. Doing cardio every day burns off too many calories to allow for a calorie surplus for your body to build muscle.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane and Joe Weider running on the beach
“My instinct was to win, eliminate anyone who is in competition, destroy my enemy, and move on without any kind of hesitation at all.”

If your goal is to build muscle, limit your cardio to a couple of sessions a week and don’t do cardio for more than 45 minutes per session.

5. DON’T TRAIN TOO MUCH

You should train hard and lift with heavy with a sufficiently high amount of volume in your training. You should also focus on multi-joint compound movements that stimulate the highest amount of muscle fibers and cause the greatest increase in testosterone and growth hormone levels.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo relaxing on the beach
“Good things don’t happen by coincidence. Every dream carries with it certain risks, especially the risk of failure. But I am not stopped by risks. Supposed a great person takes the risk and fails. Then the person must try again. You cannot fail forever. If you try ten times, you have a better chance of making it on the eleventh try than if you didn’t try at all.”

But, you also have to be in tune with your body and know when you have sufficiently trained. Training to the point of exhaustion is going to lead you nowhere except to cause eventual injury and overtraining.

6. TRAIN THE HARD MUSCLE

The muscles groups that cause the greatest increase in total body muscularity are the muscle groups that are more challenging to train; these are primarily the back and leg muscles accounting for 70% of your total musculature.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his back with bent over row
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”

If all you do is train your arms and chest hard and slack off on your legs and back then not making progress is guaranteed. Training some muscle and not others also causes imbalances that diminish the aesthetic look of your physique and make you more prone to injury. Train your leg and back muscles hard to start making awesome progress.

7. CHANGE UP YOUR ROUTINE

Using the same routine for months or years without changing up the variables is a recipe for stalling progress. You have to constantly push for progress and challenge your muscles in new ways increasing the weight, sets, difficulty of the exercises, volume of the training, the amount of time you rest, etc.

8. GET ENOUGH SLEEP

Sleep is when most of your muscle repair, rebuilding and growth happens. When you go to sleep your body become active on a biological level, releasing an increased amount of testosterone and growth hormone and increasing protein synthesis to build muscle.

Arnold Schwarzenegger winning
“Just like in bodybuilding, failure is also a necessary experience for growth in our own lives, for if we’re never tested to our limits, how will we know how strong we really are? How will we ever grow?”

If you don’t sleep much or you have a bad quality of sleep then you are significantly limiting your muscle building progress. Make sure to get a 7-9 hours of quality sleep for optimal muscle growth.

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