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How Arnold Schwarzenegger Really Trained - The Truth

By Strength Oldschool

I'm a massive fan of Arnold, but let’s face it, there’s a ton of exaggerated information online in regards to Arnold's training. You don't know what to believe from reading books and magazines etc. Well here’s first hand accounts from people who have trained with Arnold and observed him training in real life.

NOTE: Within this article there is an Amazon "Affiliated" link. If you click on this link and buy something from Amazon, Strength Oldschool will receive a small commission. Thank you for your support!

Young Arnold Schwarzenegger - How Arnold Really Trained - The Truth

* Photographer: Unknown. Perhaps Albert Busek. Anyone know?


"Are we to infer that you aren’t convinced of the accuracy of all the reports in Muscle Builder in the 70s? How about his encyclopedia (Arnold's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding) or his training booklets? " ~ David C New

Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding

Dan Brillantino's response to David C New above...

"The Muscle Builder and the Encyclopedia I feel are exaggerated. I had a short conversation with Dr. Michael Walczak a couple of years ago through the PROPTA Personal Training site. He said Arnold’s workouts lasted a little over an hour and ate a normal diet (3 squares)." ~ Dan Brillantino

For anyone who is not familar with Dr. Michael Walczak...

Dr. Michael Walczak was a sports nutritionist and helped bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger early in their career. He was a judge at bodybuilding competitions and had a front row seat on most competitions where he photographed the competitors.

Jerry Brainum mentions:

"It’s true that the various reports about Arnold’s training during his competitive years are mostly nonsense. I saw and trained with Arnold many times at the original Gold’s gym. He began training hard about 3 months prior to a contest, and did up to about 20 sets per muscle group. Some days, he favored training twice, doing one or two muscle groups per workout. He used moderately heavy weights, doing about 8-12 reps per set, up to 6 sets per exercise, especially legs. I remember this because when I trained legs with Arnold, my thighs were often exhausted after about 4 sets, but Arnold insisted on doing the full 6 sets.

During the off-season, he would train for about an hour, 4 times a week. The one muscle that he trained hard year-round was calves, which explains why another poster on this site noticed that he still uses heavier weights when he trains his calves today. I don’t recall him ever being in the gym for more than about 1 1/2 hours. On some days, we would train in the morning, go down to the beach, get some sun, eat lunch, then head back to the gym for another workout. It was enjoyable to train with him in those days because he was a fun guy, but still took his training seriously, particularly prior to a contest.

Most of the hijinks attributed to Arnold at that time were true. I know because I witnessed many of them. When I lived next door to Frank Zane in the early 70s, Frank set up a posing light in my living room, and he used to practice his posing there with Arnold and Franco while I was at school. I recall a funny incident at that time. Frank moved, but before he left, he asked if he could temporarily leave his trophies in my living room. I agreed to this arrangement. One afternoon, I came back to my apartment accompanied by a girl I had just met. She immediately noticed the large collection of trophies in my living room, and proceeded to read the names on the trophies, such as “Mr.America,” Mr.Universe,” Mr.International” and so on. She then looked at me in astonishment and asked, ”Are all these trophies yours?” My response was, ”Well, it’s my apartment, isn’t it?~ Jerry Brainum

Dan Brillantino's response to Jerry Brainum:

"Hi Jerry, Love your articles in IronMan! I deeply appreciate your time and detailed insight to my query. If I may, one more question? Were the bodyparts trained 2x or 3x a week? Was it a straight 6x/wk or 3on/1off, etc? Thanks again for your valued input. Dan" ~ Dan Brillantino

Jerry Brainum's response to Dan Brillantino:

"Thanks, Dan for that nice comment about my articles. As for Arnold, his pre-contest split was: day one: chest and back; day two: thighs, calves; day three: shoulders and arms. He would train 6 times a week, resting on Sundays. He would often split the upper body workouts into morning and evening sessions, depending on his mood and energy levels. Each muscle was trained twice weekly, and he would train calves about 4 days a week, and do some abs every day prior to a contest, as was the custom in those days. He never trained to failure, but did train intensely pre-contest. His off-season workouts were far more casual, he seemed to hardly break a sweat. I used to joke with him about his “15 minute” off-season training sessions." ~ Jerry Brainum

Dan Brillantino's response to Jerry Brainum:

"Hi Jerry, Thanks again for such straight, honest info. Was Dr. Walczak on the money also regarding diet (3 squares, up to 1gm/kg bwt for protein}, lipotropcs, etc.? Thanks again for your candor. Dan." ~ Dan Brillantino

Jerry Brainum's response to Dan Brillantino:

"The Doctor was correct. Arnold never went on extreme diets. He would simply reduce his total caloric intake, while still consuming many of the same foods with a focus on protein foods. As a contest drew closer, however, he did reduce his carb intake, but never to zero. If he felt like having some ice cream, he would, but it never seemed to adversely affect his preparations. Interestingly enough, he wasn’t big on supplements, either. Weider would give him a ton of supplements, but he would give most of it away to his pals at the gym. He did like Rheo Blair’s milk and egg protein. I once saw him make a protein drink in a blender, then add some rum. When I asked him why the rum, he told me that the alcohol speeds the uptake of protein into the body. Perhaps he got that notion because of the rapidity of alcohol uptake, but who’s to argue with Arnold?" ~ Jerry Brainum

Don Howorth and Rheo H Blair Protein Supplement

Alan Palmieri on Rheo H Blair and Blair Protein

* Check out Alan Palmieri's website - Great site!

Some info on Rheo H Blair and his special protein mix by Montague:

"Rheo Blair, like Vince Gironda, was ahead of his time. I believe his real name was Irvin Johnson – not sure why he changed it. He was born in 1921 and became a nutritionist some time in the 1940’s. Blair was also heavily involved in bodybuilding nutrition, which was quite unusual, as bb was a rather obscure activity in those days. Sometimes called “The Original Dr. Adkins,” Blair was the first authority on the matter to advocate a high fat/low carb diet – even for his bodybuilders.

He produced a line of supplements, the most popular of which was his protein mix. The powder consisted of a blend of egg and milk proteins. Blair recommended mixing it with heavy whipping cream or half & half. The addition of the cream supposedly created an amino acid profile and fat:protein ratio that closely resembled human breast milk, which Blair believed was a superior growth formula. The powder was on the pricey side, but people who used it SWORE by its effectiveness.

Blair also made some kind of amino tablets or capsules, of which guys took PLENTY. Desiccated liver tablets were quite popular back then, and I believe Rheo also had his guys taking those as well. Part of the effectiveness – I believe – of Blair’s instruction was nutrition timing, and literally being in a constant anabolic state. Between the shakes, meals, and pills, he had those guys consuming “something” throughout the day. The tablets made it easy to keep aminos in the blood without the need of eating a solid meal every hour.

If interested, many guys today who add protein powder to whole milk or cream report better gains. Beef liver tablets are, well, beef liver. You know the importance of red meat in building muscle, and liver tabs are still popular with many trainers today. Amino acids? Look at Milos’ pre, intra, and post workout drinks – lots of aminos in those. Blair was onto a lot of things that didn’t become popular for another 50 years, and you can see their presence today." ~ Montague (Online user)

Nathan Pearl responds to Jerry Brainum:

"Jerry, Rheo also came up with the fact that alcohol, particularly hard liquor, increases the uptake of protein consumed at the same time. It does this by causing secretion of digestive fluids/acid. Rheo himself used a little whiskey with meals at times, particularly with beef. Before anyone goes nuts, however, this was a shot, maybe two, of the stuff, not an amount such as to create “God’s Own Drunk And A Fearless Man”. ~ Nathan Pearl

Ric Drasin and Jerry Brainum discussing supplements...

Ric Drasin (RIP) talked to Jerry Brainum to discuss how Arnold Schwarzenegger really trained. Click here to watch the video.

Another video of Ric talking to Jerry about how bodybuilders like Arnold really trained back in the day.

Arnold's Steroid Cycle


Here is priceless audio conversation from 1969 involving Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leroy Colbert and his wife Jackie, Franco Columbu and Artie Zeller during a dinner Conversation.

At 12 mins 40, Arnold is asked by Leroy Colbert how long he works out for. Arnold responds... one hour (four times a week). But if he's training leading up to a competition, he changes to twice a day (six times a week) with each session lasting two hours, so that's four hours a day, six times a week, which is why Leroy Colbert commented... 24 hours a week (6 X 4) training.

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Take care and keep training hard folks!

Strength Oldschool

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