Not everyone may entirely agree with his acting abilities or his otherwise funny accent and such iconic lines as “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, Baby!”, but everyone can agree that Arnold Schwarzenegger happens to have one of the best and well-sculpted bodies in the universe. Known as the Austrian Oak, this professional builder turned model and actor before venturing into film production and direction and finally business and politics, happens to hold 7 Mr. Olympia titles, a feat that remains unbeaten to this very day. Already 70 years old, his physique remains one of most admired in the world of professional bodybuilding. For his young acolytes, following in the footsteps of having an enviable frame worthy of the roles of Conan, the Terminator, and the Kindergarten Cop remains an elusive dream. Here’s a look at what makes the bodybuilding program of Arnold Schwarzenegger so uniquely different yet effective.
Understanding the Basics of the Arnold Workout
In a word, the Arnold workout is old-school. It doesn’t require any fancy equipment or very complicated exercise regimen. In fact, the principles at play in the workout are very plain and simple – one must simply have to push himself beyond his limits. It also requires the observance of a high protein diet to help in the rejuvenation and continuous buildup of muscle tissues in the body. Let us take a closer look at the fundamental elements of Arnie’s incredible bodybuilding workout.
- Basic Strength Training Exercises
It is no secret that the Austrian Oak is a huge proponent of going back to the basics of strength training. In fact, in all of the literature he has ever written as well as the workout and bodybuilding media he has ever created, Arnold would lament at the tendency of many modern bodybuilders to neglect traditional training regimen including the snatch, the deadlift, the clean and press, and even basic squats. What many bodybuilding gyms today emphasize is the use of machines that essentially take the fight out of aspiring bodybuilders by making it a lot easier for them to “sculpt” their bodies. Unfortunately, such gains are also easily lost. Arnie, as everyone knows, is a huge fan and a living example of the no pain, no gain philosophy.
An exercise program that is based on fundamental exercise movements is crucial to building muscle. However, a more important element is the level of intensity of such exercises. You may be performing hundred repetitions day in and day out but if the level of resistance upon which your muscle groups have to work against is sufficiently small, you really couldn’t expect any improvements in your muscle mass, could you?
The whole point in the Arnold workout is to increase both the number and intensity of basic strength training exercises to push muscle tissues to work even harder. It is the application of tension or stress on the muscles that individual tissues undergo a process of hypertrophy whereby individual cells increase both in size and in functional capacity to accommodate ever-increasing stresses. With each change in the physiological and morphological characteristics of the muscle cells, they grow stronger and become more efficient at contracting. That is why even while the muscles are in a resting state they are still in a state of partial contraction.
If you’re interested in keeping a leaner body, this is the way to go as the partially contracted state of the muscles mean you are burning more energy. And everyone knows where most of the body’s energy is stored – in fat cells. However, don’t expect a loss of body fat will translate to a loss in body weight. On the contrary, you might even gain more weight. The good news is that the weight is a reflection of muscle mass and not body fat.
- The Importance of a Sound Diet
Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a believer of zero- or low- calorie dieting. In fact, he espouses for the right amounts of calories needed to help him sustain his high intensity strength training.
If you want to lose weight, people will tell you to minimize your consumption of calorie-rich foods or even reduce your frequency of feeding. On the other hand, Arnie’s diet plan calls for more frequent feedings, typically ranging between 5 and 6 times per day complete with protein and amino acid supplementation in between meals as well as whenever necessary.
In addition to increased frequency of meals and snacking with supplements, the Arnold workout calls for a high calorie and high protein intake. We are always told to limit our calorie consumption to less than 2,000 calories per day if we want to lose weight. But the Arnold workout is all about building muscle tissues and not about losing weight. As such, Arnie consumes at least 4,000 calories per day, 25 percent of which must be supplied by high quality protein sources or roughly equivalent to 250 grams of protein. In addition to high protein diet, Conan also requires hefty servings of protein shakes in situations where the daily protein intake needs to be increased.
Most of us are also averse to eating a lot of carbs for our diet. The Arnold workout specifically calls for plenty of complex carbohydrates as the main provider of energy. While it is true that protein can be an excellent source of energy as well, these macronutrients have a more useful purpose – the building of tissues. That is why increasing the consumption of energy-giving carbs can help save proteins for bodybuilding purposes and not be burned as fuel for the body. Typically, Arnie consumes carbs within 30 minutes of an intense bodybuilding workout.
To give you an idea of how Arnie integrates sound diet to his workout program, he will typically consume 3 to 4 eggs, quarter cup of oats, 2 strips of bacon, and 1 to 2 pieces of bread complete with almond butter. About 30 minutes prior to his workout, he will be downing a creatine-free supplement. Within 30 minutes of working out, Arnie will be downing creatine powder, weight gain powder that contains branched chain amino acids, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Creatine powder is essential for improving muscle recovery while increasing strength. Just before bed, Arnie also downs a nighttime support powder that is especially formulated with 5-HTTP to help maximize muscle growth and improve overall sleep cycle.
- Overcoming Body Acclimatization
One of the most amazing things about the human body is that it is very efficient when it comes to adapting. Doing the same things over and over acclimatizes it, making it all too familiar with the routine. That is why if you keep on doing the same bodybuilding routine, performing the same exercises with the same number of repetitions day in and day out, there will always come a time when your body has fully adjusted to such changes that it instantly knows how to manage the changes the moment you hit the exercise floor.
Arnold knows this. That is why an integral part of the Arnold workout is shock therapy. This essentially entails doing your exercises in a manner which will keep the body guessing what type of resistance or physical activity you will perform next. Because you are essentially keeping the body in a suspenseful mode, unable to anticipate what you are going to do next, it doesn’t have the time to build up defenses that will make it ready for the task. This helps increase its work all the time, every time.
Conan employs a variety of techniques to help his body stay always on the edge. He doesn’t allow his body to become complacent simply because ‘it’ already knows what Arnie is going to do next. At times he would start with 135 and moving up from there. Then, he will modify his approach by starting from 315 and moving progressively less resistant. At other times, he will employ variations in intensity as well as the different techniques employed for a particular targeted muscle.
The trick is to never allow your body to become all too familiar with what you’re doing so it is kept at a particular level of alertness and vigilance all the time. This is one of the essential elements to the Arnold workout.
Putting Everything Together
The Arnold workout can be rightfully considered as a very old-school approach to bodybuilding. Modern bodybuilders may profess an entirely new approach to building and strengthening muscles, but one cannot simply shrug off the effectiveness of the Arnold workout. While it is true that Arnold Schwarzenegger no longer has the same physique that he once had during his Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia days, his physique as a septuagenarian is still a lot better and more well-sculpted than those who are still in their 40s or even 30s. By working every bit of muscle, pushing them well beyond their limits, one can achieve the physique that he or she deserves. Couple this with high protein and high calorie diet plus sensible use of shock therapy and you’ve got a fool-proof way of following in the footsteps of the Governator.