Athlete/Celebrity Workouts

Rise of the Machines: Arnold Schwarzenegger on Training With Machines

Arnold Schwarzenegger talks to M&F Editor-in-Chief Shawn Perine about the evolution of his training and why he loves machines.

Shawn Perine thumbnail by Editor in Chief

SHAWN PERINE: How does your training today compare with the way you trained in the ’70s?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I always have done each body part three times a week, with the idea being to train six days a week. But when you average it out it ends up being five days a week. You know, there are weeks when you’re sick, or weeks when you travel.

Are there core exercises that you still do today?

Well, my favorite exercises I’m not able to do today, because of joint problems. For instance, the basic squat. I would love to be able to squat again, but in order to protect my knees I do mostly the Lifecycle and bicycling and the elliptical, but no more squats. The knees are like a tire. When the tires last up to 30,000 miles, you have to decide how you want to use them. Do you want to use them up in one year, or do you want to use them over a period of 10 years? It’s the same thing with joints. So, I decided 10 years ago, when I started to feel the wear and tear and was feeling pain in my joints, that now I should adjust my training and do more high reps with less resistance. Therefore I stay away from the squat, and I stay away from heavy bentover rows, but I do the heavier rowing on a Cybex machine and do the lighter exercises with free weights.


What about for shoulders? You’ve had rotator cuff surgery.

I used to love doing the clean and press, because you get the traps, the front deltoids, and the side. It’s really a fantastic exercise that I recommend to anyone who starts out weight training. I also liked to do the dumbbell press, but I can’t do either anymore. So now I just do my presses on a Smith machine, which is safer on my shoulders because it’s on a track. But I have to say, it’s so fantastic to see the development of all of these machines. It allows you to train around your injuries— you don’t have to stop training because of injuries anymore. These machines allow you to isolate your muscles without the risk of hurting yourself.

If you had access to these kinds of machines in your competition days, would you have used them?

I had access. When I came to America I had the choice to join the European Health Spa, where they had an endless amount of machines—everything that was available then. But I decided to join Joe Gold’s gym, because I thought whenever you can, you should use free weights, and only for sculpting purposes you should use machines. Now, when you get older and you can’t do things like squats with the free weights, you use the machines. I think it can become a problem when everyone copies everyone without asking ourselves why they’re saying something. Like the people who might read this and wonder why Arnold is now saying to use machines, when 40 years ago I read these stories that he was kind of negative about machines and said, “No, use free weights.” So, why did my approach change? Because my needs then were different and my abilities then were different than they are today.