In contrast to strongman or powerlifting competitions, where physical strength is paramount, or to Olympic weightlifting, where the main point is equally split between strength and technique, bodybuilding competitions typically emphasize condition, size, and symmetry. Different organizations emphasize particular aspects of competition, and sometimes have different categories in which to compete.
Perusing Arnold's signature tome requires some effort: The hardback version comes in at an even 800 pages, after all! While it's hefty weight might make it a nice addition to your coffee table, the nuggets of training gold take a little work to find. In the interest of mining the best knowledge from one of the strongest minds in bodybuilding, here are 31 Arnold-approved training tips to help you build your best body ever!
Overtraining occurs when a bodybuilder has trained to the point where his workload exceeds his recovery capacity. There are many reasons why overtraining occurs, including lack of adequate nutrition, lack of recovery time between workouts, insufficient sleep, and training at a high intensity for too long (a lack of splitting apart workouts). Training at a high intensity too frequently also stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) and can result in a hyperadrenergic state that interferes with sleep patterns. To avoid overtraining, intense frequent training must be met with at least an equal amount of purposeful recovery. Timely provision of carbohydrates, proteins, and various micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, even nutritional supplements are acutely critical. A mental disorder informally called “bigorexia” (by analogy with anorexia) may be held accountable of some people overtraining. Sufferers feel as if they are never big enough or muscular enough, which forces them to overtrain in order to try and reach their goal physique.
Your lifting form is more important that how much you can lift or how many reps you can do. If you are not lifting with the right form, you are not only just inviting injury, but also hampering progress and possibly gains as well. Advanced body builder will use tricks like partial reps to build up more pump in their muscles. If you are a beginner, you don’t need to. Learn to walk before you learn to fly.
One new exercise is added to each bodypart routine to provide even more angles from which to train your target muscles to promote complete development. You’ll hit each muscle group with two exercises of 3–4 sets each: four sets for large bodyparts (chest, back, shoulders, quads, hamstrings) and three sets for smaller bodyparts (biceps, triceps, abs, calves). The result is 16 total sets for the week for large bodyparts and 12 sets total for smaller ones—again, working in the 8–15-rep range—which is a substantial increase in volume from Week 1.
If you've been competing for five-plus years, there is a quiet confidence that comes from knowing what you bring to the table. If it's your first time, don’t allow yourself to get rattled. Nerves cause cortisol to shoot up, which causes water retention and all kinds of other unwanted issues. If you’re well prepared and you have done all the hard work, it's time to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
Arnold sought out alternative exercises that worked a target muscle from slightly different angles. When using dumbbells rather than the barbell on overhead presses, for example, he deliberately lowered the weights several inches below the bottom position of the barbell movement, and he brought them together at the top to elongate the range of motion.
"Wide-grip pull-ups coax the upper lats to come out," Arnold wrote. Understand that with wide-grip movements, the elbows stay out away from the sides, which engages the upper lats more effectively. With closer-grip and reverse-grip back exercises, the elbows stay in tighter to the sides, which reduces the emphasis on the upper lats and instead places more of the focus on the lower lats. So depending on elbow position relative to your torso, you can effectively focus on some areas of the back over others.
Maximize your body's response with new challenges. Even the most brilliantly designed training program will gradually lose its efficiency. In simple terms, your body is too smart for its own good. As you become more and more adept at performing a particular movement, the results you get from that movement will reach a plateau. It's time to mix things up. Your entire work out should be modified every few weeks for best results. I urge you to constantly try new exercises to add to your repertoire. Look around the gym. Talk to people. Consult magazines. Experiment on your own: change bench angles; alter foot stances; switch the order of your exercises; try supersets; strip sets; etc. Be creative.
Put simply, "strength training means using resistance to create work for your muscles," says Hannah Davis, C.S.C.S. and author of Operation Bikini Body. So even if your mind jumps straight to those hardcore machines and massive weights, there are a lot of ways to create this resistance that require minimal equipment (or none at all). Bodyweight workouts can be an incredibly effective way to strength train. Squats and push-ups FTW. You can also use tools like dumbbells, medicine balls, TRX bands, resistance bands, kettlebells, and slider disks, to help get the job done, explains Davis. But if that sounds like gibberish don't worry about it. Keep it simple and focus on equipment-free routines first. No matter what you do, the most important thing is to find something that challenges you, says Davis.
A brief, fairly unscientific explanation will do for this one. You cannot work the fat off any specific area of your body because, well, you cannot work fat. People mistake that good old muscle burn for something that magically removes adipose proximally from wherever it burns. Those were your oblique abdominals being worked, not the love handles next to them.
Several exercises from Week 1 are carried over to Week 2, but one move is added to each bodypart routine—with the exception of abs—so you can train all muscle groups more completely from multiple angles. Chest, for example, includes two exercises: One is a compound movement (dumbbell bench press) that involves multiple joints (both the shoulder and elbow) to work the largest amount of muscle possible, and the other is an isolation exercise (dumbbell flye) that involves only one joint (shoulder) and targets the pecs to a greater extent. (When doing presses for chest, the deltoids and triceps are involved to a degree, meaning presses don’t isolate the pecs as much as flyes do.)
Sandow organized the first bodybuilding contest on September 14, 1901, called the "Great Competition". It was held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Judged by Sandow, Sir Charles Lawes, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the contest was a great success and many bodybuilding enthusiasts were turned away due to the overwhelming amount of audience members. The trophy presented to the winner was a gold statue of Sandow sculpted by Frederick Pomeroy. The winner was William L. Murray of Nottingham. The silver Sandow trophy was presented to second-place winner D. Cooper. The bronze Sandow trophy — now the most famous of all — was presented to third-place winner A.C. Smythe. In 1950, this same bronze trophy was presented to Steve Reeves for winning the inaugural NABBA Mr. Universe contest. It would not resurface again until 1977 when the winner of the IFBB Mr. Olympia contest, Frank Zane, was presented with a replica of the bronze trophy. Since then, Mr. Olympia winners have been consistently awarded a replica of the bronze Sandow.
Another important part of form is using a full range of motion while doing the exercise, meaning you do not stop your bench press half way down. If you cannot complete the full range of motion you are probably using too heavy of a weight. Your motion should also be slow and controlled, avoiding jerking the weights, swinging the weights to get momentum, or bouncing the weights.
Stretching after each lifting session is extremely important in preventing injury. Flexibility allows your body to become much more able to handle the odd assortment of stresses that are placed upon it each day. I'm sure that the more hardcore of us bodybuilding fans heard that Branch Warren recently slipped and fell, landing on his outstretched hand and tearing his triceps in the process.
Rep schemes remain in the hypertrophy range this week, but overall volume increases by adding more sets to individual exercises: up to five sets per move for larger bodyparts, and even 10 sets of calf raises on Thursday. This bump in volume will ensure that your muscles are overloaded sufficiently to continue the growth they’ve already begun experiencing in the first three weeks. Completion of this four-week program now entitles you to go to the next stage.
How you eat to recover from exercise is one of the most important principles in exercise nutrition. Glucose, or glycogen, is the athlete’s and exerciser’s main fuel. You get it from carbohydrate foods and drinks. If you don’t refuel sufficiently after each session, glucose stores in muscle can get depleted. This can lead to fatigue, poor performance, and even immune system suppression and infection. What's more, inadequate refueling after your session won't take advantage of that hard muscle work by giving those muscles an anabolic boost that repairs and builds.
The exercise order should be maintained as above, busy gyms notwithstanding. This order has been designed with large muscle group, compound exercises first, the smaller muscle isolation exercises following and with alternating ‘push’ and ‘pull’ to achieve a session that alternates muscle groups and modes of action as much as possible to enable maximum rest and recovery of the various muscle groups. Some compromises were required. Don’t get too hung-up if you can’t achieve this sequence. It’s not always possible to access equipment when you want it in gyms. In the scheme of things, it’s not fatal.
They simply pushed my limits. When you see someone do something better than you, it naturally pushes you to do better. Even today, I hate to see anyone lift more than me. I always want to beat them! Healthy competition is good, so surround yourself with successful people in your sport or profession and it'll force you to excel. There's always something new to learn and some new way to improve, so find someone and make him your training partner.
Keep your arms almost straight and elbows not quite locked. Raise the handles straight out to the sides and upward to only a couple of degrees above shoulder level without rotating your hands (do not pronate or supinate). Palms should face downward throughout the move. Leading with your elbows, lift only with your deltoid muscles, not with your traps or upper back. Resist during the descent to the starting position. Make sure that the movement is controlled and consistent from the beginning to the end of the set.
Now, I understand that going from two to three meals a day to six can be quite a shock. However, I do not expect you to change everything all at once. As a matter of fact, this is the reason why 99% of dieters out there fail. My goal is to have you succeed just as I did when I had weight problems. Therefore, if you rather ease into this program slowly by making small changes to your current diet on a bi-weekly basis, then please visit my article on Easing Into A Bodybuilding Diet
See what's happening? You'll do 8 reps of incline hammer presses. Then, in drop-set fashion, you'll lower the weight so you can do 8 more reps. Lower it again so you can do a final 8 reps. Immediately go to machine flies where you'll also do 3 drop sets of 8. Follow those up with 3 drop sets of decline dumbbell presses. Each set ends up being 72 reps!
Muscle soreness is a common side effect to working out. It subsides as part of the recovery process. Delayed-onset muscle soreness is the most common type of soreness and occurs 24-72 hours after training. This is why rest days are important, to allow soreness to disappear before training again. In fact, if you are scheduled to train and are still sore, take an extra day off.
Simply stated, this means that if you perform an exercise using a complete range of motion, you can achieve a maximal effect in the process of muscle breakdown. Stressing the muscle over a long range of motion not only breaks down a much more significant amount of tissue, it also can help lead to more flexibility in the joints associated with the lifts.
This no-holds-barred quest for growth is based on the principle of four: performing four exercises and adding four extra reps to each exercise after the first. Because each lift changes the area of the muscle that receives the most stimuli, the ever-increasing reps shift the demands of the muscle from strength to hypertrophy to endurance to a skin-stretching crescendo that flushes the muscle and celebrates the pump.
In the 12th week of the program, performing three sets of three on all exercises will provide a barometer with which you can measure your improvement. Then, in the 13th week, you’ll test your three-rep max (3RM) on five major strength lifts. If you performed the 3RM test before you began the program (see “Testing Your 3RM”), you should be looking at roughly a 25% improvement on all five lifts.
The squat is performed by squatting down with a weight held across the upper back under neck and standing up straight again. This is a compound exercise that also involves the glutes (buttocks) and, to a lesser extent, the hamstrings, calves, and the lower back. Lifting belts are sometimes used to help support the lower back. The freeweight squat is one of 'The Big Three' powerlifting exercises, along with the deadlift and the bench press.
You’re only a week into the program, yet you’ll begin to train different bodyparts on different days with a two-day training split (meaning the entire body is trained over the course of two days, rather than one as in the first week). You’ll train a total of four days this week; the split includes two upper-body days (Monday and Thursday) and two lower-body days (Tuesday and Friday), and each bodypart is trained twice. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday will be your recovery days.
Prepare for the long haul. It's important to know that you're not going to start doing deadlifts one day and wake up the next day bulked up like the Hulkster. Bodybuilding takes a long time for you to see the kind of results you're hoping for, but with the proper time and dedication, you will start seeing those results. This isn't a field for weekenders who love action movies, it's a 24-7 lifestyle. Think you got what it takes? Get training.
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers and diet professionals at every level.
Research confirms that training one limb at a time forces the recruitment of more muscle fibers and produces more force, since a limb working alone requires more effort to move a weight from point A to point B than when it’s working in concert with another limb. Consider the barbell curl: A lifter who can curl a 100-pound barbell for 10 reps can likely perform dumbbell curls with 55 or 60 pounds in each hand because of the resultant increase in muscle fiber recruitment. In addition, unilateral training tends to maximize the number of growth-prone fast-twitch fibers that are called into play.
This is very important and can be very beneficial for beginners. It allows you to track your progress, see what exercises you enjoy, which ones you are improving the most, and what areas you need the most work on. Your journal should include the date, time of workout, duration of workout, the exercises, sets, reps, rest between sets, meals for the day, and supplements you may be taking.