Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Guide To Beginning Bodybuilding

Arnold Schwarzenegger posing
"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."


Outlined below are the bodybuilding methods that Arnold Schwarzenegger applied throughout his bodybuilding career to become a champion and legend in the sport.

To pack on solid amounts of muscle in your bodybuilding journey you have to educate yourself on optimal training, nutrition and supplementation.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training biceps with hammer curl
“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 you don’t optimize these three aspects of bodybuilding you won’t reach your highest natural muscle building potential. Let’s look at how you can optimize training, nutrition and supplementation to make great progress and get results:


1. Lift heavy and high volume in the 6-10 rep range.

The goal of weight training is to subject your muscle fibers to a stress load that your muscles haven’t handled before. This is known as putting your muscles under progressive overload.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo relaxing on the beach
“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?”

You can subject your muscles to progressive overload by performing higher number of reps than your muscles are accustomed to, increasing the weight being lifted, by decreasing the amount of rest you take between your sets and by using certain intensity techniques.

Any of the above ways that you overload your muscles, it will create muscle damage in the cells. Then, with the right nutrition and rest in place, your muscle cells will repair and regrow from this damage larger and stronger than they were before.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training chest with dumbbell chest flyes
“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.”

If you want to build lean and dense muscles then lift in the 6-10 rep range. It’s important that you lift heavy, with high volume of reps and sets, and also include intensity techniques.

2. Select free-weight compound exercises:

Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at once and involve multiple joints. Compound movements place the greatest load on your target muscles. Free weight and compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, flat and incline bench presses, barbell and dumbbell back rows, pull ups, parallel bar dips and barbell and dumbbell shoulder presses are what you want to stick to.

Arnold Schwarzenegger winning
“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.”

These compound exercises are the most effective and will provide you the most returns for your hard training. Other great exercises to include are cable lat pulldowns, cable seated rows, barbell and dumbbell shrugs, and barbell and dumbbell arm exercises.

These exercises will recruit, stimulate and grow your muscle fibers the most. Other exercises involving machines and isolation work are good to do after the core lifts.

3. Push yourself a little harder each time

The key to training is to always push for progress. So, try to push yourself further in each workout. Add more weights, decrease the rest time, add more exercises, add more reps, do another set, experiment and figure out what works better for you and keep pushing yourself to progressively grow stronger and more muscular.

Young Arnold Schwarzenegger on the bench press
“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.”


Diet and nutrition heavily determine whether you build high quality, lean dense muscles or you don’t. To build lean muscle, eat no more than 500 calories above your maintenance calories. Eat 1 gram of protein per lb of body weight.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his chest with incline bench press
“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.”

High amounts of quality lean proteins will provide you the raw source you need to rebuild your muscle tissues, complex carbohydrates will provide you sustained energy to work hard at the gym and recover effectively, and healthy fats will optimize your muscle building hormones (e.g., testosterone) to maximize your muscle and strength development.

Modulate your carbs depending on how active you’ll be that day. Keep fats around 20% of your total calories. I usually do 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fats, known as 40/40/20 macros.

Arnold Schwarzenegger training his biceps with dumbbell curl
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

You can divide your daily calorie intake however you want. Say your total daily calories are 2,500 calories. You could have 5 meals of 500 calories or 6 meals with less calories per meal or 4, or 3 meals with more calories.

The two most important times that you should ensure that you get quality meals with quality protein, carbs and healthy fats are morning time upon waking up and after workouts. You also want to eat well a couple of hours before working out to fuel your intense training session.


Creatine Monohydrate: Creatine will help you maintain higher levels of energy during hard weight training sessions. Long term studies have shown that creatine can help increase strength by 5-15%.

Whey Protein: Whey protein is a fast digesting protein that helps you recover quicker from workouts and stimulates muscle growth.

Pre-workout: Preworkouts contain caffeine, B vitamins and nitric oxide – which help increase blood flow to the muscle and increase energy levels to be able to train harder and longer.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): BCAAs help protect muscles from protein degradation and promote muscle growth. This can improve recovery time from workouts.

Omega 3 Fish Oil: Omega 3s and other healthy fats play a crucial role in muscle repair and maintaining healthy connective tissues.

Multivitamins: Look for high quality multivitamins to fill the gaps in your nutrition.

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