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Arnold Schwarzenegger had 6 favorite exercises that he attributed the majority of his muscle growth and massive gains to. In this video, I’m going to show you these “golden six” exercises, as he referred to them, and give you alternatives where necessary in case you cannot perform these for some reason or that an alternative is a biomechanical improvement over the original.
We are blending old school effort and the training strategies of the classic bodybuilders with new school science of strength training to give you the best exercises for mass and the fastest way to build muscle naturally.
We start with the classic barbell bench press. Arnold did a variation of this popular chest exercise where you took an extra wide grip on the barbell. He felt that by taking a wider grip that he could better stimulate the pecs by minimizing the contribution of the triceps. As a result, his weights that he lifted here were a little bit on the lighter side but the overall pec activation was greater.
That said, this position can be quite difficult for anyone that has shoulder pain or rotator cuff issues. The modification would not be to stop bench pressing all together but to take a more narrow grip instead. Two things happen when you do. Firstly, the shoulder will have an easier time getting through the full range of motion without getting painful and secondly the more narrow position is a better position to press from. You will have a stronger bench press if you push from this modified grip rather than the wide.
Next up was the behind the neck shoulder press. I have been very vocal speaking out against the use of this exercise. Very few people have the shoulder mobility required to perform this exercise as Arnold did. That said, it isn’t even necessary since you can get all of the muscle mass benefits of the move by simply pressing the bar from the front. If you would like, you can also use a dumbbell shoulder press instead.
Arnold’s third favorite exercise for building muscle and making massive gains is the chin up. In fact, this amazing pulling exercise was done both as an overhand grip pull-up and an underhand grip chin up. Surprisingly, Arnold and Franco Columbu used to perform these as a bodyweight only exercise, knocking out 50 reps before starting their workout. I tend to think that there is a great potential to make back and biceps workout gains by weighting this exercise.
Throw a plate or two around your waist and start performing this as a lower rep exercise and new back and arm gains will await you.
The fourth exercise of Arnold Schwarzenegger for building huge biceps was the classic barbell curl. There is nothing better than an overloaded curl for getting huge arms. Here, if I was going to make a suggestion however I would say to not always use the momentum gained from using heavier weights and make sure to include some strict curls as well. My favorite way to perform them is with my back against the wall and then step away for some cheat curls after reaching failure.
The sixth exercise is a surprise to many, as it was a devoted ab exercise – the situp. There is nothing wrong with this movement for your spine health provided you do it safely. The two most important things you can do is remember to paint your spine down to the ground on every rep by posteriorly rotating your pelvis and not anchoring your feet under something when you do it if you have back pain. Anchoring your feet over something will instead engage the hamstrings which will take some of the load off of the psoas and the strain off the low back.
Performing weighted sit-ups will also help to bring down the overall volume of the exercise needed to create the overload required to stimulate change.
Finally, you can’t talk about the golden six exercises without mentioning the squat. Arnold believed that the squats were the king of all lower body exercises. Load them up heavy and use them to build massive legs. If you can’t perform them due to knee pain, be sure to try the other classic leg exercise done with a barbell, the reverse barbell lunge.
The bottom line is, if you want to build a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you would be best advised to stick to the favorite exercises of his that he credits all of his mass building to. Try these 6 muscle building exercises and see for yourself first hand. If you’re looking for a step by step program that builds these movements in over a 4 month program to help you build a massive chest, biceps, legs, back and more be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and check out the Old School Iron program.
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