Arnold Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Olympia title seven times, was a famous bodybuilding champ as well as a Hollywood star, a governor of California and even has statues erected after him. He isn’t just a bodybuilder or someone that influenced bodybuilding – he has a worldwide significance as a person, which will keep him in the history books for a long, long time. The way that this guy trained is still carefully studied and practiced by millions, and it’s been over forty years since the last time he competed.
The two most noticeable aspects of Arnie’s physique are his chest, when he faced you, and his back, when he turned around, so a lot of people want to imitate his progress and try to get their bodies to look like his. If you’ve been in a gym for a while and you’ve been talking to people, it probably came up in conversation that Arnold would often do supersets for his chest and back before a competition. He was called “The Austrian Oak” for a reason, and he thought that by doing these supersets, he would make more blood go into both areas cumulatively and both of them would grow more than normally, with his conditioning improving as well. If you have ever taken one look at him, you can’t say he was wrong.
Arnold’s workouts have been part of the public domain for a long time now, so this article isn’t just repeating what everyone else has already read. Instead, his chest and back supersets are tweaked a bit for maximum effect and for the best gains possible. If you have the opportunity, do these supersets in an empty or a non-busy gym so that you can always get what you need without being distracted. If you must, you can also make tiny changes in this routine. Only do this if your gym is very specifically set up or you don’t have access to equipment that you need. You will need to warm up properly before doing these supersets – they will require the maximum amount of effort and focus that you can muster. As your weight goes up, your reps go down and this is also true the other way around! Your rest period is for changing weights, taking a sip of water or some branched-chain amino acids – nothing else.
Another thing Schwarzenegger was really proficient at was his ability to visualize the muscles he was working on at the moment of exercise. You can do this too – it significantly strengthens the connection between your mind and your muscles, which he thought was incredibly important in getting the desired effect. He always said you need to take a second before working out and visualize yourself lifting that weight with the utmost dominance, feeling your muscles pumping and burning rep after rep. If you need to be additionally motivated, remember that picture of Arnie doing the side chest pose or his legendary double biceps pose. With all that said and done, let’s start with the supersets.
SUPERSET #1: Incline Barbell Bench Press and Pull Ups
Mr. Schwarzenegger would begin his workout with some flat bench lifts, but we will change it to some incline barbell bench presses for the best upper chest effect. When the bar reaches your skin, pause for just a second before pressing it upwards. This will help you become more powerful but it will also make your pectoral muscles deliver a bigger punch.
Pull ups require a neutral grip and your palms facing each other, and even if the biceps are involved, you can minimize this by focusing on your back and doing a full range of motion of the exercise. This will bring you the best results. It’s not impossible to do these, but you can use an assistant as well. Pull downs are an option too, but any other alternative would be better. If you can do more pull ups than it is required, use a weighted vest or a weight belt. You will need 4 sets of each exercise, with 12, 10, 8 and 6 reps respectively.
SUPERSET #2: Low Incline Dumbbell Press and Two Arm Dumbbell Row
You need to hit the pectoral muscles from different angles, so you will need an adjustable bench on the lowest setting or a flat bench on a plate or a small step. If you pick the modified flat bench, make sure that it’s solid and doesn’t move when you move. When you do the dumbbell presses, turn your dumbbells a bit instead of holding them completely straight. The effect of this little turn takes pressure off your rear deltoids and redistributes it to your pecs. The bent over dumbbell rows are done like any other bent over dumbbell rows with both arms. You will need three sets of each exercise, with 12, 10 and 8 reps respectively.
SUPERSET #3: Wide Seated Row and Pec-deck Fly
This is a little different than what Arnie used to do, simply because he would focus on chest exercises and then work on his back, but to have some more balance, this one activates the back muscles first and the chest later. Also, you will start with heavy weight and fewer reps and then progress into lighter weights and more reps. This boosts muscular endurance and gets blood into the muscles you want to grow.
When doing the wide seated rows, I suggest you use a long handle and an overhand grip. Squeeze your muscles a bit and carefully lower the handle. Your weights shouldn’t be able to touch when you are at your most-stretched out position, so if they do, sit further back. This exercise needs to challenge you, this isn’t a walk in the park.
The pec-deck flyes will isolate your chest muscles and reduce the chances of injury as well since it’s a machine exercise. You need to work hard to contract your pecs as much as you can until you feel a stretch in the bottom part of your chest. Make sure to have the best possible form at all times – if you need to, you can even take some weight off. It is definitely worth it, if your form is at stake. Do three sets of 10, 12 and 15 reps each respectively.
SUPERSET#4: Straight Arm Pulldown and Cable Crossover
Schwarzenegger loved doing pull ups, but he would also do pull downs. This version is really awesome, so I highly suggest you use it. To contract your lateral muscles as much as possible, use a rope and pull the ends apart while pulling the handle closer to your torso. You will probably be exhausted by now, but don’t rush the reps – slow down and make them count. The same thing goes for the crossovers. Do them according to instructions, make your elbows touch, let them go at the end and jerk the weight in if you can. Do three sets of each exercise with 15 reps per set.
SUPERSET#5: Machine Pullover and Pushups
Arnie thought that his pullovers helped him expand his rib cage and made his already-huge upper body even bigger than before. Now, pullovers are considered a back exercise, so we will treat them as one. If you can’t do them on a machine, use a dumbbell like they did back in the old days, but be careful not to hurt yourself.
When you’re done with the pullovers, get down and do some pushups. They are usually an exercise that serves for warming your body up, but now they are a great finishing move. Take a minute between supersets to stretch your body and take a breath, but when you’re done with these, you can go home. Do three sets of each exercise with 20 reps each and you’re set.