Arnold Schwarzenegger blazed such a trail in the bodybuilding world that people still look to his classic training routines for inspiration.
In a new Athlean-X video, top trainer Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. breaks down the workout staples that Schwarzenegger referred to as his “golden six,” which he credits with helping him both build and maintain his muscle mass gains.
Barbell Bench Press
One of Arnold’s go-to chest builders was the barbell bench press, done with an extra-wide grip. “Arnold felt that when he got his arms out wide, he could minimize the tricep contribution and maximize his chest development,” explains Cavaliere.
However, he adds that this particular technique could cause pain, discomfort and even injury for anybody with shoulder issues. He advises taking a slightly narrower grip in order to achieve a greater, more “natural” range of motion. “If you’re looking to increase your overall strength, a slightly narrower grip is actually going to help you,” he says.
Behind the Neck Press
This variation of the overhead press places the shoulders in an artificial position, which Cavaliere believes is less than ideal, but he concedes that there is some validity to Arnold’s technique. “He kept his elbows forward while his hands were back, so even though he was pressing the bar behind his head, his shoulders were in the right plane,” he says. “If you have the flexibility to do this, you probably could pull this exercise off, but very few people have the ability to do this.”
Cavaliere recommends positioning the barbell in front of your body for a safer, simpler variation, or alternatively doing a standing dumbbell press to achieve the same scapula movement.
While Arnold personally only did bodyweight chinups, Cavaliere believes there’s an opportunity to add weight here.
“I think that the exercise can be one of the best mass builders when you go for a little additional overload, and add some weight around your waist,” he says. “Treat this like you would any other strength-building exercise, and the gains will be waiting for you.”
“If you’re looking for the most mass possible, the barbell curl gives you the best option,” says Cavaliere. “You can take that weight, lift it up, and provide that slow eccentric on the way down.” He also recommends trying the strict curl, which is performed while standing with your back against a wall, which places more pressure on the biceps to work without using momentum to cheat.
While situps might not be closely associated with Schwarzenegger, he was actually a big fan of this bodyweight move. And while it’s a simple enough exercise, Cavaliere stresses that correct technique is important to avoid spinal issues. “Paint your spine back to the ground on every repetition; don’t slam yourself backwards,” he says.
“Heavy squats can build substantial leg size, and Arnold relied on them to do so,” says Cavaliere.
However, if you’re unable to do squats due to knee problems, there’s another exercise which can help you get the same results: a barbell lunge. “There’s always something you can do to continue building the size of your legs, regardless of how they feel right now.”
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