As a self-confessed bodybuilder, I’m all for training for a competition. In fact, I compete in the most popular event in bodybuilding, the Men’s Physique division at the Ms. Olympia contest. I compete in bodybuilding to be the best I can be, and I train hard to achieve that goal.

The purpose here is to show you how the Arnold Schwarzenegger Shoulder Workout can be used to build a close to perfect set of shoulders, while also showing the significance of the “Arnold’s Rules”.

The Arnold Schwarzenegger Shoulder Workout! – Revolutionary Program Design

The Arnold Schwarzenegger Shoulder Workout! – Revolutionary Program Design

Arnold Schwarzenegger was best known for his incredible chest and biceps. But he also had incredibly developed shoulders! His deltoids were absolutely massive: the anterior, lateral and posterior deltoids were fully developed.

Arnold trained his shoulders 2-3 times a week with very high volume workouts. Arnold almost always trained his shoulders and arms together on the same training day to save time.

Here’s the breakdown of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strength training during the off-season:

Intersessional training Arnold Schwarzenegger

  • Monday: Chest / Back
  • Tuesday: Shoulders/Arms
  • Wednesday: Feet
  • Thursday: Chest / Back
  • Friday: Shoulders/Arms
  • Saturday: Feet
  • Sunday: On the website

As you can see, Arnold trained his shoulders twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday, just before arm training. It was the only way for him to train all parts of his body at least twice a week.

Let’s take a look at one of Arnold’s basic shoulder workouts during the offseason. Look at this:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shoulder workout

  • A1 : DB Bench Press, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • B1 : Dumbbell vertical rows, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps.
  • C1 : Lift the front of the body, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps.
  • D1: DB lateral raises, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps
  • E1 : 45 degree rear thigh raises, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps each.

As you can see, Arnold trained his shoulders with a variety of exercises. He wanted to make sure he focused on all three shoulders for full development.

Most bodybuilders would get overtrained doing such intense shoulder training twice a week, but for Arnold, this world is like magic.

Arnold says his favorite shoulder exercise was the bench press. He almost always started the shoulder workout with a dumbbell overhead press, a dumbbell overhead press or a dumbbell overhead press. After heavy overhead presses, he continued with a variety of isolation exercises for the front, side and rear deltoids.

Other famous bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates use a similar approach to shoulder training.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s high intensity training techniques

Arnold Schwarzenegger liked to use high-intensity training methods, such as drop sets and forced reps, to achieve muscle growth. This was especially evident with the shoulder workout! Arnold felt that these high intensity techniques were absolutely necessary to maximize Delta’s development.

One of Arnold’s favorite shoulder training techniques was the rack drop set.

Let’s say Arnold is doing a seated dumbbell press. He took 110-pound dumbbells and performed a challenging set of six reps. Then he grabbed 100-pound dumbbells and did as many reps as he could. He continued until he started using 10-pound dumbbells for maximum reps. Talk about intensive recruitment!

Arnold used lowering sets for all types of shoulder exercises, such as seated dumbbell presses, lateral raises, front and back raises.

Another of Arnold’s favorite shoulder training methods was triple sets. The basic idea is to perform 3 shoulder exercises back to back with only 10 seconds of rest between sets. For example:

  • Perform exercise 1, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform exercise 2, rest 10 seconds.
  • Perform exercise #3, rest 2-3 minutes, repeat!

Arnold’s favorite tri-set for his shoulders consisted of overhead presses, vertical rows, and side raises. Arnold thought it was a good way to strengthen the lateral deltas. Arnold also used unique exercises to train his shoulders. One of Arnold’s favorite shoulder exercises is the Arnold press.

Here is an excellent demonstration of this exercise:

During the Arnold press in the down position, drop your arms in front of your body. Arnold says this exercise worked intensely on his anterior hamstrings and was one of his key exercises.

Arnold also had a unique way of lifting dumbbells: He raised his arms high above the parallel. Arnold says this technique allowed him to reduce his deltoids much more than if he just half lifted them.

Arnold trained hard in the off-season, but took his training to the next level as he prepared for bodybuilding competitions. About 3 months before his next competition, he started training 2 times a day and each muscle group 3 times a week.

Here’s Arnold’s favorite pre-competition workout:

Arnold Schwarzenegger is training for the contest

  • Monday:
    • AM: Chest / Back
    • PM : Feet
  • Tuesday:
    • AM: Shoulders/Arms
    • PM : Taurus / abs
  • Environment:
    • AM: Chest / Back
    • PM : Feet
  • Thursday:
    • AM: Shoulders/Arms
    • PM : Taurus / abs
  • Friday:
    • AM: Chest / Back
    • PM : Feet
  • Saturday:
    • AM: Shoulders/Arms
    • PM : Taurus / abs
  • Sunday: On the website

This way of training would land most bodybuilders in the hospital, but for Arnold, it worked like magic. He felt that this increase in training frequency was absolutely necessary to bring his best physique to the bodybuilding scene.

Arnold also did more high intensity training for competitions to make his muscles as lean as possible.

Here’s a good example of what Arnold’s shoulder training looked like before the game. Look at this:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shoulder workout before the game

  • A1 : Arnold Press, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 1 minute rest
  • B1 : Head dumbbell presses, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 10 seconds rest.
  • B2 : Vertical rowing machine with dumbbells, 3-6 sets of 5-20 repetitions, 10 seconds rest
  • B3 : Lateral oblique lift, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps, 1 minute rest
  • C1 : Side deadlift, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps**, 1 minute rest.

** Perform a drop set on the bar in the last set. Grab some heavy weights and train until you give up. Then take the next lighter pair of dumbbells and train until you give up. Continue lowering the weight and reaching failure until you are lifting 5-10 pound dumbbells.

Arnold tried to incorporate all of his favorite training techniques, like drop sets and tri sets, into his workouts for competition. As a result, Arnold used a high volume, high frequency, high intensity training program to build massive shoulders that matched the rest of his upper body perfectly.

If your shoulders are lagging behind the rest of your body, Arnold shoulder training can give you some ideas. I especially like the way Arnold combines a heavy air press with lots of insulation work to get the best of both worlds.

Even if you don’t use Arnold’s exact shoulder training regimen, you can still learn a lot from the Austrian Oak about how to build big, strong shoulders.

Forget Plan B. To test yourself and grow, you have to work without a safety net.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your strength training!

Dr. Mike Jansen.

Thanks for stopping by my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT, and I am the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster, you’ve come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the best strength training resource in the world. So lean back, kick back and relax. There has never been a better time to lift weights or learn the art and science of developing strength training programs.

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