Three game-changing muscle-building techniques from Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74

Three essential muscle-building tips from Arnold Schwarzenegger's long career

Arnold Schwartzenegger
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This article has been amended on 13/04/22

Arnold Schwarzenegger knows a thing or two about lifting weights. The seven-time Mr. Olympia winner has accumulated more muscle-building knowledge over his lifetime than anyone we care to mention. 

If you've been working out diligently with a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells or best resistance bands at home, you might be frustrated at your apparent lack of muscle-building progress. But in a comprehensive YouTube video, Arnold Schwarzenegger has shared his blueprint to building muscle. 

We've pulled out our top three tips below, and looked at the science backing them up. 

1. Train the basics

In his prime, Arnold was 6'2" and weighed 240lbs. With a very low body fat percentage, his days as a champion bodybuilder meant that he trained for hours in the gym each day. But he wasn't doing lots of outlandish exercises; in fact, he would always return to the basics. 

"The important thing is that you train the proper way, which means you train the basics. Whether it's the squats, the two-arm curl, the bent-over rowing... the bench press, incline press, dumbbell press... all of those basic exercises."

Don't worry about bizarre exercises you might have seen on the internet—when lifting weights, make sure you master fundamental training principles which haven't changed much over the years. The exercises Arnold lists above are classic exercises that have been performed almost the same way for decades. If you're not sure where to start, you can check out our guides on how to do a bench press, how to do a barbell squat and how to deadlift properly with barbells

2. Shock the muscle

Arnold Schwarzenegger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"You've got to shock the muscle with different kinds of training principles," said Arnold. 

"When you first start, your body will hit a wall, which is your body's way of saying 'I know all your tricks. You're going to start with the bench press, then I know you're going to do chin-ups... I know that routine, and I am prepared for that.' Then you have to go and use the shocking principle."

Stuck in a rut? Arnold would often vary his training routine with different weights and volumes. Research from the American Council on Exercise says the body adapts to a training program after around six to eight weeks, so changing the sets, reps, exercises, and weights you use every two months or so might net you big results. 

3. Protein intake

"I think the most important thing is that you eat the right way. I always lived off the formula that for every pound of body weight you want to get one gram of protein."

We'll place a quick caveat here: Arnold's mammoth protein intake of 250 grams a day isn't something the average person needs to achieve. However, there's plenty of evidence that fitting extra protein into your diet can increase your overall satiety levels and decrease body fat, according to research from Yale University of Medicine and other contributors.

Getting the right amount of protein is essential to muscle growth and maintenance, especially if you're rich in years. As you age, your muscles undergo a process known as atrophy, as they waste and become weaker. This affects everything from your posture to your mobility, eventually becoming frail. 

Regular resistance training and a healthy diet, upping your protein intake, can counteract this. Research from the Journals of Gerontology has found "beneficially associated with maintenance of physical function in middle-aged, high-functioning U.S. adults over the span of two decades", particularly in older women. Don't forget to fuel all these gains with our best protein powder for weight loss entries.  

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.