When discussions of great chest development arise, there is one name that is always mentioned, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold may not have the greatest chest of all time but he’s definitely in the top two! The Schwarzenegger’s chest was complete. Huge, thick pecs from top to bottom coupled with an equally large rib cage. To see Arnold Schwarzenegger doing his chest workout in Pumping Iron is a sight to behold!
Arnold’s chest was so big that he could balance a glass of water on his upper pecs when doing a side chest pose! So, how did Arnold build such a phenomenal chest? His chest workout utilized basic exercises, mostly barbells and dumbbells, and few machines. Arnold did have a special “something” that he added to most exercises that, in his opinion, added to their effectiveness. Let’s look at each exercise in a typical Schwarzenegger chest workout.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger Workout for Chest
1) Bench Presses
A Schwarzenegger staple. Arnold would start with a proper warm up and then proceed to add weight and decrease repetitions over 5 sets. He rarely went below 8 reps or above 12. The Schwarzenegger twist for bench presses was to keep the elbows well back and touch the bar high on the chest.
2) Incline Barbell Presses
Arnold would perform 10-12 reps for 5 sets preferring to focus more on form rather than weight lifted. He claimed most of his upper chest mass was from this movement. The Schwarzenegger twist for incline barbell presses is much like bench presses. That has he kept his elbows well back and touched the bar very high on the chest.
3) Dumbbell Flyes
Arnold would choose dumbbells that would allow him 5 sets of 10-12 reps. The Schwarzenegger twist? He would perform each rep as though he were hugging a large tree. The dumbbells never touched each other. Rather they’d remain 8-10 apart at the end of each rep. One only has to watch the opening scenes of “Pumping Iron” to see Arnold doing dumbbell flyes with impeccable form.
4) Parallel Bar Dips
When bulking, Arnold favored this move. Once again, 5 sets of 10-12 reps. Arnold claimed dips created a definitive line around his lower pecs. The Schwarzenegger twist here is Arnold would lean forward and hang a dumbbell from a chain around his neck for added resistance.
5) Dumbbell Pullovers
Schwarzenegger claimed one could add inches to their chest measurement by doing these across a flat bench. As with most movements, Arnold would do 5 sets of 12-12 reps. The Schwarzenegger twist here is to keep the hips low at all time throughout the movement allowing for a great stretch.
6) Cable Crossovers
These were usually done pre-contest as Arnold believed this movement brought out the striations in his chest. Five sets of 12-15 reps were the order of the day. The Schwarzenegger twist? Arnold would forcefully squeeze the cable handles together at the end of each rep as if doing a most muscular pose.
Arnold typically did 20-25 sets each training session choosing from the listed exercises. He’d train chest 2 or sometimes even 3 times per week!
If he felt an area was lagging in his chest development, he’d train that area first. For example, if his upper pecs need more mass, he’d do incline barbell presses first in the workout when he was fresh and could really work the area hard.
Clearly, the Arnold Schwarzenegger training routine was the volume to the extreme. Not everyone can handle this much volume. So why not pick and choose from Arnold’s favorite exercises and create your own bodybuilding routine? Chest training with a Schwarzenegger twist!