Old School Arm Workout

Today we’re throwing it back to the Golden Era of Bodybuilding, the era of greats such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbo, Lou Ferrigno, and Frank Zane. The list of legends from this time period goes on forever and their impact is still felt today. Many of today’s gym-goers are still influenced by Arnold and other bodybuilders from this time. Well, if you want arms like Arnold, you have to train like Arnold. This workout is based on the training philosophies of these old school bodybuilders. They knew that the standard 3 sets of 10 wouldn’t give them the legendary status they sought. Golden Era bodybuilders focused heavily on volume, intensity, and contraction. We’ll be utilizing eccentrics (negatives), supersets, and multiple different angles to give you the old school arms you’ve always wanted.


Terms to know

-Superset: A superset is simply completing a set of two separate exercises back-to-back with no rest in between.

-Triset: A superset consisting of 3 movements


SUPERSET #1: 4 sets

  • Arnold Cheat Curls: 6-8 Reps
    • Arnold Cheat curls are a staple in most bodybuilders’ arm days, and for good reason. Popularized by Schwarzenegger during his bodybuilding heyday, Arnold Cheat Curls are performed using a straight barbell. Using slight swing of your hips for momentum, curl the bar up..The way down is where the real damage to the muscle occurs, as you control the descent of the bar using only your biceps.  The swing will take some of the strain off of your biceps, however, it will allow you to use a greater weight than you normally would. This allows for more weight to be used on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement where most of the damage occurs, leading to more growth.
  • Dips: 8-12 Reps
    • Dips are an old school exercise that are essential for optimal chest and tricep development. Though your chest will be involved, keeping your body upright will help to keep a majority of the stress on your triceps. This movement will also have a great carryover towards your bench press! If 4 sets of 8-12 is too easy with just your bodyweight, add weight using a dip belt or hold a weight between your legs.


SUPERSET #2: 5 sets

  • Larry Scott-Style Preacher Curls: 12-15 Reps
    • In a typical curl, the long (outer) head of the bicep generally dominates the movement. Preacher curls allow you to isolate the short (inner) head of the bicep, which is a weak point for many gym-goers. The original  Mr. Olympia Larry Scott did the movement with his elbows tucked close together in order to completely isolate the bicep. Removing all helpful momentum and leverage from the movement is extremely demanding on the biceps and will leave your arms burning.
  • Overhead DB Tricep Extensions: 12-15 Reps
    • A great exercise for building both size and strength, overhead triceps extensions will emphasize the long (inner) head of the triceps. As the largest portion of the muscle, this will lead to significant strength gains as well as increases in overall triceps mass.


TRI-SET #1 Biceps Finisher: 3 sets

  • Incline Dumbbell Curls: 12-15 Reps
    • A favorite of former Mr. Olympia and T.V.’s the Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno, incline DB curls allow you to emphasize the long head of the biceps. The long head should already be incredibly fatigued at this point. Be careful not to use any swing, and keep your upper arms perpendicular to the ground to avoid getting any shoulder involvement. Arnold was a big fan of performing these two arms at a time.
  • Concentration Curls: 15-20 Reps Each Arm
    • An exercise that became famous after Arnold did them in Pumping Iron, concentration curls are a great isolation exercise for building the biceps peak.The “old school” way of doing them is not with your elbow tucked against your knee as many do today, but rather with the dumbbell hanging while keeping your upper arm perpendicular to the floor.
  • Reverse Grip Curls: 15-20 Reps
    • The brachialis is an often forgotten muscle that lies underneath the biceps. Because this muscle is rarely worked on, training it hard can make your biceps and forearms stand out from the competition. The brachialis can be targeted with reverse grip curls, an exercise that will leave you with a whole new kind of burn in your arms.


TRI-SET #2 Triceps Finisher: 3 sets

  • Reverse Grip Cable Extensions: 12-15
    • Starting with the hardest exercise in the triset, reverse grip tricep extensions, is essential. Because you will be going from the hardest grip to the easiest, you will likely be able to keep going without changing the weight. This requires no time to rest, allowing you to really push your triceps. The reverse grip will isolate the medial head of the triceps.
  • Tricep Cable Extensions: 12-15
    • With both the long and medial heads of the triceps sufficiently worked we will shift our emphasis outwards, focusing on the short (outer) head of the triceps with this movement. This is great for developing the triceps “horseshoe” look.
  • Bench Dips: 15-20
    • A favorite of Schwarzenegger, bench dips is a great way to burn out your triceps. If you’re looking for a real challenge, stack plates on your lap during your dips.


You’ve made it through TheFitExpo’s Old School Arm Workout!

Though it’s important to strive for progress and look towards the future on your journey to reach your goals, don’t forget about some of the simple old school techniques. Though many of these movements may seem dated and overused, they are only popular because they work! These essential exercises, combined with some crazy Golden Era volume, will shock your muscles like never before!
Alex Gaynor


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