Athlete/Celebrity Workouts

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Leg-training Tips

Build new mass by employing The Oak's favorite techniques.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Training Tips

Long before he governed the Golden State and out-muscled bad guys on the silver screen, even before he won a then-record seven Mr. Olympia titles, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a promising young bodybuilder who had one glaring weakness (seriously)—his legs. At 6'2", Arnold knew firsthand the difficulty tall bodybuilders face in bringing up their lower bodies. Rather than accepting this shortcoming, however, Arnold endured the most grueling, even sickening, workouts up to three times a week to build massive tree-trunk thighs worthy of someone nicknamed The Oak.

While Arnold did conventional exercises, his training strategy was anything but. He approached legs days with an extraordinary tolerance for pain and dedication to push his body past its physical limits. Here, we share the training techniques he used to completely transform his legs.

1) Turn up the volume

Endurance, in addition to sheer size, makes the legs a difficult bodypart to train. "It isn't enough just to subject the legs to heavy overload"” Arnold said. "“You have to use heavy weights and sufficient volume to stress the fibers involved and exhaust the endurance capacity of the muscles."”

Arnold's early training wasn'’t sufficiently high in volume. "“For many years I did only five sets of squats when I really should have been doing eight . . . [and] I did not put enough weight on the leg-press machine"” he said. "“Once I realized my mistakes and corrected them, my thighs began to grow thick and massive."” At his peak, Arnold did at least 20 working sets for legs and took each set except his warm-ups to failure. This high-volume approach helped him put on the size and build the strength (his best was a 400-lb squat for eight reps) that turned around a weak bodypart.

Note: Arnold's high-volume approach is extremely taxing at first, but eventually the body adapts and grows stronger. Stick with it for 6-–8 weeks to induce dramatic changes in your own legs.

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