Everyone goes to the gym for different reasons, whether it’s to build muscle, burn fat, or work up the endurance required to run a marathon. No matter what your motivation is, your training plan should adapt to meet your goals. That’s a lesson Arnold Schwarzenegger drove home this month in his latest newsletter, which is packed—as usual—with useful advice about the actor and bodybuilding legend’s current workout regimen.
Responding to a reader who wrote in asking how often someone “well-trained” should work for each muscle group, Arnold started by emphasizing that you first need to set a goal. Then, you need to adjust your goal to fit your body.
“My chief of staff is a stockier guy and sticks to compound heavy lifts and he stays very physically fit. My assistant is tall and lanky and works out with lower weight and higher reps. He also stays in good shape,” Schwarzenegger said. “Again, every goal and everybody is different, and the key thing really is to find out what gets you excited to train.”
Schwarzenegger then acknowledges that his own goals have evolved with time, and so his training plan has changed accordingly. These days, he writes, he trains 6 days a week, focusing on the chest and back one day; then biceps, triceps, and shoulders; and finally legs. Then he repeats the sequence. A typical chest and back day, he says, would include five sets of the following exercises:
Machine Bench Press x 20 reps
Lat pulldown x 20
Machine flys x 20
Rows x 20
Incline bench x 20
Pullover x 20
“I am not training to win Mr. Olympia, I am training to stay as lean as possible, so I go through those exercises as a circuit with almost no rest,” he says. Schwarzenegger added that if your goal is to build more muscle, do fewer reps and instead of a circuit, do the exercises as a superset. “Finish the 5 sets of bench and the pull-down and then move on to the next two exercises.”
That said, he concludes the answer by recommending everyone experiment and find out what works best for them, rather than simply copy and paste his routine. If what works for Arnold doesn’t work for you, then it might have a negative impact on your motivation. Ultimately, the best routine is the one that keeps you coming back.
Or as Arnold puts it, “The key is that you show up every day.”