By Ted Hammond
After you've mastered these essential Arnold favorites be sure to check out 5 more Arnold training tips!
While this exercise is a bit tricky to master, Arnold knew that all variations of the squat were useful to master because each worked the leg musculature slightly differently, and he could optimize overall muscle mass by including each in his workout at some point. With the front squat, the center of gravity is forward and the muscular tension falls more directly on the quadriceps.
Though shown here with a board under his heels, which Arnold felt helped improve his balance, this move can also be done on a flat floor. Hold the barbell in place across your front delts by elevating your arms, forming a “shelf” from which the bar be secured. Cross your arms and grasp the bar with your hands to control it. Maintaining a flat back and looking forward – not up – descend into a deep knee bend. Without bouncing out of the bottom position, explode upward and press your hips forward to full knee and hip extension. Practice it with light weight first to get the hang of doing it correctly before moving on to more challenging weights.
Incline-Board Reverse Crunch
One of the best ways to train your abs is to hit them from many different angles using a variety of exercises. One of Arnold’s favorite lower-abdominal exercises was the reverse crunch on an incline bench. This advanced exercise is obviously more challenging than its cousin that’s done on the floor because of the incline board, which can be incrementally repositioned to more challenging positions that are steeper. To begin the movement, lie on the bench and grab either the top or sides to prevent your body from sliding down. With a slight bend at the knee and your feet just off the end of the bench, contract your abs to pull your knees over your chest. Lift your butt and lower back a bit off the bench to get a better contraction in the lower abs. Hold for a second and then slowly lower your legs back to the starting position. Make sure the movement is controlled on the way down, keeping the knees slightly bent to avoid lower-back strain.
Smith-Machine Incline Press
During Arnold’s competitive days, he was known for his outstanding pec development. To see Arnold hit a side chest pose was truly awe-inspiring! To get such an impressive chest, Arnold trained smart and used several different exercises to hit his pecs from all angles. One of his secret weapons was the incline Smith-machine press. The beauty of the Smith machine is that it allows you to pack on heavy weights without having to worry about balance, so you can probably lift more than when doing its free-weight barbell counterpart. To begin the movement, set the bench at a 30-40-degree angle (the steeper the bench the higher your target on your pecs, but the more the delts have to work, too). You may need to move the bench up or back a bit within the machine until the bar (in the down position) hits that sweet spot right at the top of your pecs. Lie back squarely on the bench with your feet firmly on the ground. Grab the bar with a pronated grip, hands well outside shoulder width. Unhook the bar and slowly lower to your chest. Reverse direction without bouncing as you press the weight back to full-arm extension, exhaling at the top of the move. Always use good control and be conservative with the amount of weight if you’re new to this exercise.
Lying Lateral Raise
Arnold liked to hit his delts hard and from all angles to make them grow. Although standing lateral raises are the exercise you’ll find most bodybuilders doing when they want to target the middle delt head, Arnold also did a variation by lying on a bench. This exercise is fantastic for working the middle deltoids while also stressing the rear head. It was introduced to him by an old rival, the late Serge Nubret. Doing the lateral raise in a lying position forces the middle delt to work very hard through the entire range of motion, and the bench position reduces body english to make the muscle work ever harder.
To begin, lie on your side on a bench set at a very slight incline with your head raised. Holding onto a dumbbell with one hand, lower until it almost touches the floor. Keeping your arm locked with a very slight bend in the elbow, raise the dumbbell over your head. Remember to twist your hand slightly as you raise your arm and turn your thumb toward the floor to contract the rear delt; the movement should resemble pouring water from a jug.
Seated Cable Row
One of Arnold’s favorite back exercises for overall back development was the seated cable row. This exercise blasts the entire lat area and helps to develop huge thickness, especially in the lower-lat region when using a close-grip handle. To begin the movement, sit with your feet braced against the foot support. With your knees slightly bent, reach forward and grasp the handle using a neutral grip. Sit upright with your arms outstretched, leaning just slightly forward to feel the lats stretch. From this position pull the handle back and into your abdomen. Squeeze your shoulder blades together while keeping your chest out, pulling your elbows back as far as possible. Maintain an upright body position without leaning back too far to reduce the role of your lower-back muscles and to better isolate the back. Allow the weight to pull your arms to full extension. For added variety try using different handle attachments; the long bar is especially good for targeting the upper lats. So hit the gym hard and watch those lats grow!