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Arnold Answers: From the Desk of Arnold Schwarzenegger

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In this classic Q&A, excerpted from the September 1979 issue of MuscleMag, “The Oak” takes time out from his burgeoning movie career to answer reader questions.

By Arnold Schwarzenegger

MuscleMag International, Issue #15 

BIGGER BICEPS

[Q] What in your opinion is the best exercise, or combination of exercises to build size in the biceps? I am not talking about building shape, definition or quality. I simply want to get my biceps bigger…bigger…bigger. 

[A] The best thing for gaining is not really worrying about what exercises you are doing but what weight you are using and the amount of reps. First of all let me tell you the simplest curls for size is the barbell curl (standing) 4 sets of 8 reps with heavy weight or maybe 5 sets of 8 reps with dumbbell curls sitting down and turning the wrists. Finish off with a few sets of dumbbell curl concentrations for the height of the biceps. These are the basic exercises to do when you train and use a lot of weight and no cheating. 

ON THE RUN

[Q] I have read that you do a lot of running now. Is it true that you are training to run in the Hawaii Marathon this year? 

[A] Yes, it is true that I do a lot of running. Although, it is conditional on how much time I have available. Like, when I was on location doing a film, I could only run 6 miles a day 4 times a week. My goal is to run a marathon in 1979. 

STRENGTH TRAINING

[Q] Mr. Schwarzenegger, I have personally seen you curl 240 pounds for reps, yet in all your articles you never mention your strength. Does a serious bodybuilder have to forget about strength training entirely? Or is it good to be involved in adding more weight to the bar? 

[A] Yes, it is true that I used to curl with heavy weights during my training. I remember one time, at a show I did for Reg Park, I curled 275 lbs. I also did deadlifts with over 700 lbs and bench pressed 500 lbs and so on. I do not feel that the weight is that important, what is important is that you can use weight that allows you to do 8 reps (or 10 reps). For some, 200 lbs in the squat is a lot of weight to do 10 reps. But for someone like Franco it is nothing. It is important to train with the most amount of weight you can handle if you want to gain weight and muscle. 

SHORT BICEPS

[Q] I am 17 years old. I have very short biceps. In other words when I flex my arms in the mirror my biceps knot up into a small ‘ball’ near my shoulder and there is an unsightly gap between them and my elbow. I would give anything to change this situation. 

[A] This problem reminds me a lot of Franco Colombu’s problem, but don’t be discouraged because all you have to do is a lot of preacher bench curls and barbell curls and when you are through with your reps, all you have to do are ‘burns’ from the lower part half way up. This goes directly to the lower biceps. So just keep working on it. Another thing for biceps to lengthen is to turn your wrists a lot. Do the Arnold curl. 

CHINS OR PULLDOWNS

[Q] I have a fairly thick back because I have done plenty of bent-over rowing movements, but I now want to concentrate more on building wider lats. What is the best movement, wide grip chins or wide grip lat pulldowns? Or are there even better movements for developing wide lats? 

[A] I think the basic exercises for developing wide lats are wide grip chinups to the chest with the bar and also behind the neck, and also pulldown exercises in a wide grip to the front and the back in order to get the lower part of the lats. Do a lot of close grip chinups and close grips pulldowns too. Finish off with pull-overs with the dumbbell across the bench. They help the seratus which is very important. Because from the front you need that separation to make your lats appear wide. But, I would still keep up the training for thickness of the back with a few sets. Never do more than 15 or 16 sets for the whole back. 

HOME OR GYM

[Q] I am fifteen years of age and train at home. There are no clubs near where I live and anyway I don’t have enough money to pay for a gym membership. My question is: Can I build a good body at home – Or do I have to train at a proper gym?

[A] Your problem reminds me a lot of my own when I started training at 15. I trained at home and there were no gyms around at all. The only club was 20 miles away. It was a weightlifting club and not a bodybuilding club. So with a lot of determination and willpower one can train at home. All you have to do is get the right equipment and have the right inspirational pictures on the wall, etc. Money is never really a problem because there are many YMCA’s around that are cheap. But, it is possible to train at home. 

THANKS JOE BUT… 

[Q] The article in Muscle Power “Thanks is not a four letter word” has created a renewed interest in the role Joe Weider has played in your success. Would you care to use a few lines of space here in MuscleMag to put the record straight…Maybe even say ‘thank you’ to Joe Weider? 

[A] I think sometimes Joe Weider is correct, a lot of people don’t acknowledge the fact that he has done much for bodybuilding, but I think at the same time, he has never acknowledged the fact that bodybuilding has done much for him. So, I think on both sides there is a shortage of “thanks”. I am happy to say “thank you” to Joe Weider because he has helped me very much in my career, but I think, on his part, he should say “thank you Arnold” because I have made him a lot of money. 

THE ARNOLD PRESS

[Q] I have read your courses thoroughly and heartily recommend them to all who seek to advance in the bodybuilding field. Am I correct in believing that you only perform the Arnold Press for shoulders or do you do other standard shoulder exercises? Could you explain exactly how the Arnold press is performed and why it is a favorite of yours? 

[A] Yes, you are correct, I do the Arnold Press for shoulders. The reason why, is especially recommended before competitions. I started with a heavy weight, do 6 or 8 reps and then go to a lighter weight, then 5 or 6 sets. This is because I feel when the muscle is tired with 90 or 100 lbs for 6 reps, it is not tired to do 6 reps with 80 lbs. I always use what strength I have left to train the muscle as hard as I can. There are other exercises besides this, especially lateral raises and bent over lateral raises and so on. 

ROTATING BICEPS 

[Q] I have watched you train your biceps on several occasions and notice that you always begin your biceps curls with your palms facing the floor (in the straight arm position) and as the arm flexes you rotate the dumbbells until your palm is facing upwards (and your little finger is almost touching your shoulder). I know that the biceps are involved in this rotating action, but surely it is worthless in the case of dumbbell curls because there is no resistance involved in this particular rotation? Please explain your thoughts on this. 

[A] You are right on this statement, but I think there is still resistance involved when rotating the dumbbells, especially if you have the inside of the dumbbell heavier than the outside. Which means, where your little finger is, this side has to be heavier (5 or 10 lbs) than the outside, then you will create enormous resistance and that is always what I did when I did my curls with dumbbells. Later on, I did not need anymore resistance, but in the beginning I used more weight.

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