Many bodybuilders have sculpted impressive chests – something we all want! – but none more so than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Perhaps the most influential and famous bodybuilder of all time, Arnold was known for his well-proportioned, muscular, and aesthetic physique, featuring a large, powerful-looking chest.
According to the man himself, he always placed a special emphasis on his chest, training it first during his session, so that he could hit it while he was fresh. Arnold place an emphasis on doing high-volume training, over a variety of rep ranges, and mainly used big, compound lifts. He didn’t waste time with lots of fancy, isolation exercises; rather, he worked very hard to get strong at several main movements, which trained all areas of the chest.
“I always like to start my chest routine with barbell bench presses. I’ll use the pyramid principle, starting with a lighter weight and going to a heavy weight for six reps. After that I’ll do barbell presses on an incline to hit the upper chest. These I like to do for 10 to 15 reps and get a good pump. After that I do dumbbell flyes on a flat bench to really stretch out my pecs and hit the inner part. And finally I’ll end my routine with dips, and I lean into these a lot. This also stretch out my pecs and get a lot of blood in there. Dips also focuses more on my lower pecs.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
As you can see, he mainly used bench presses, incline bench or dumbbell presses, flyes, and dips to achieve his powerful chest. Heavy barbell bench presses allowed him to build strength and size. Arnold believed it was important to get strong at the weights, as using heavier weights over time would allow the muscles to fully develop.
The incline bench press would allow him to get a good pump going in his pecs, and force a lot of blood into the area, which he believed to be essential for muscle growth. The flat dumbbell flys allowed him to isolate, stretch, and contract the pecs, and the dips finished it off, while emphasizing the lower pecs. This was a well-designed workout that hit all areas of the pecs – upper, middle, and lower, and did not have any unnecessary movements.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Chest Workout Example
If you’d like to try the workout yourself, it looks something like this. Remember, for the bench press, pyramid schemes were used. That means with each set, you will decrease the reps completed, and add weight to the bar. Start with a set of 15 repetitions, and progress to 12, 10, 8, and 6, adding weight each time if possible. It would be a good idea to do some light rotator cuff and shoulder exercises to warm-up, as barbell flat and incline benching both involve the shoulders a lot. You can also sub in dumbbells instead of barbells if you are unable to use barbells due to injury, or lack of a spotter.