The Complete Arnold: Intensity

Arnold Schwarzenegger answers your questions on training, nutrition, and intensity.


Which of the intensity techniques you used (forced reps, supersets, etc.) do you think would surprise people the most?


I would say the cheating technique. Even though I always believed in using strict form to isolate the muscles, I used the cheating method at some point in almost every workout because it allowed me to handle more weight, which allowed me to overload my muscles more so they would grow bigger. Think of it this way: Almost every exercise you do has a weak section of its range of motion. It can be at the start of the motion, at the end, or perhaps somewhere in the middle. The problem is, when you use very strict form, the only way to get through these weak points is to use a lighter weight. Yet when you do that, your muscles don’t get worked sufciently through the strong points of the range of motion. But by using heavier weight and cheating slightly through the weak point toward the end of the set, you can better overload the muscle on the strong points. Take biceps curls, for example. The weak point is at the beginning (bottom) of each rep. When I was going for a set of eight reps, I’d use the heaviest weight with which I could get four or five strict reps. When I couldn’t do any more with strict form, I’d start cheating a bit by using momentum to help me get the bar from the bottom of the rep to a quarter or so of the way up. From there, my biceps were at their strongest point, so I could keep the top part of the rep strict. However, I always made sure not to do this on every set— only the last set or two of an exercise—and I was always conscious not to risk injury. The cheating method also works well with dumbbell lateral raises for delts. The weak link here is at the start of the motion when the weights are still close to your sides. By cheating with a slight jerk at the start of the rep, keeping the elbows slightly bent, I could bypass the weak portion of the lift and move into the middle range, where the bigger, stronger parts of the deltoids can go to work. If you try this exercise with your elbows locked and without cheating a little bit, you not only have to use lighter weights but you also cause a strain on the elbows, which is another weak link.


Outside of specific training techniques, set and rep schemes, and bodypart splits, what was your key to maximizing your time in the gym?


Without a doubt, the key was focus. I really can’t emphasize this enough. If you have big goals in the gym, you must be totally focused on what you’re doing and what you want to achieve. When I entered the gym, even though I was thinking about being the greatest bodybuilder ever 24 hours a day, my mindset changed completely. I didn’t think about what I had to do afterward or any other concerns outside of training. For the hours I was in the gym, training was the only thing that mattered. Think about it: What is worrying about other things going to do for you in the gym? Nothing. You can do nothing about them for that period. What you can do something about is your body and your muscles. Don’t worry. Your other tasks and obligations will still be there when you leave the gym. Visualization was key for me when I trained. I didn’t just imagine my biceps growing to 22 or 23 inches—I fantasized about them expanding to fill the entire gym, as ludicrous as that may seem. My arms weren’t just big, they were mountains with vast peaks and valleys, at least in my mind. When training, never take your mind of the muscles you’re working. You must always concentrate all of your energy on the task at hand. Don’t let anything distract you. Don’t talk during the workout. If someone breaks your concentration by asking you questions, it can take your mind away from the intense concentration needed. Just keep right on going. It might sound rude and unfriendly, but others at the gym will understand that you came to the gym to work out, not to talk. Save your idle chitchat for after your workout, never during it. 


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