Chin Master

How Arnold Schwarzenegger used chins to build his "road map"


There’s a scene in Pumping Iron where Arnold Schwarzenegger is checking out his back in a mirror at Gold’s Gym. After visually certifying its jumbo-jet width with an over-the-shoulder glance, he turns around to let his buddy Ken Waller evaluate his rear double-biceps shot. “Looks like a road map back there— fingers running all over it,” Waller remarks. Clearly, Schwarzenegger’s fellow Mr. Universe champ was impressed.

Although Schwarzenegger didn’t consider his back to be one of his stronger features, it was actually quite a remarkable expanse of muscle. From his Christmas tree spinal erectors to the lats that seemed to originate from his hips to the “road map” of his trapezius and rhomboid muscles, his was truly a back for the ages.

Interestingly, to build that great expanse of sinew, Schwarzenegger anchored his back training with an exercise that’s frequently ignored by today’s muscle set: chins. From the very start of his bodybuilding career, the Oak made chinning a priority in his workouts. Chins to the front and behind the neck, with a narrow grip and a wide grip, with a V-bar and a straight bar—Schwarzenegger was a chinning connoisseur, dabbling in the exercise the way a master painter plies his oils, with a little of this, a little of that, all to create a masterpiece.

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