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Arnold Schwarzenegger Back Workout – The Full Routine

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Arnold’s back wasn’t as impressive as his perfectly symmetrical 58 inch chest or 20 inch arms, but as he continued to compete at an elite level he was able to build his back up to an impressive standard making his already small waist look even smaller.

To do this he followed a few basic principles that you should already know; the first was to train his back muscles from all angles so that each area of his back was targeted equally,  the second was to go all the way up for any pull-up/chin-up exercise by physically touching your chest to the bar when going in front of the head and touching the back of your neck to the bar when going behind the head. The last principle was to break his back training into two kind of movements each time, so for example bent-over movements and rows for overall thickness/lat pulldowns and pull ups for width.

arnold back

You might not know this, but Arnold combined his back and chest training into one giant superset and for most natural bodybuilders this may prove to be too hard so only the back part of his routine will be listed:

Exercise 1 – Wide Grip Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are a compound exercise that work the pull muscles in your body and maybe the best exercise for a wide back. They work a variety of muscles, but mainly the upper lats and traps with a bit of your biceps, triceps and chest also involved within the movement. Place your hands a little bit wider than shoulder width apart on the pull-up bar and literally pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.


1 Set 50 Reps

Exercise 2 – Chin-Ups

Chin-ups are a great exercise for developing your back muscles, but with added emphasis on the lower lats and biceps due to the way you grip the bar. To perform the exercise simply place your hands shoulder width apart with the palms facing towards you on the bar and literally pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.

chin ups

For both pull-ups and chin ups Arnold would shoot for a total number of reps instead of aiming for a number of sets. Of course not many people can do 50 reps of pull-ups/chin-ups without rest so whenever you can’t do another rep just let go of the bar and rest until you feel like you can do another, even if it takes you 20 sets to reach 50 reps. However, if you can do 10-12 reps of pull-ups/chin-ups without rest Arnold recommended that you should now add some weight around your waist to maximise muscle growth.

1 Set 50 Reps

Exercise 3 – T-Bar Rows

T-Bar rows help build massive thickness in the back and hits your lats, traps and rhomboids. Stand with a wide stance and bend over at a 45 degree angle, pull the bar all the way up towards your chest/lower abs and then all the way back down. For all the rowing exercises Arnold would progressively use heavier weights for fewer reps.

t-bar row

4 Sets Of 15, 12, 8, 6 Reps

1 Minute 40 Second Rest Inbetween Each Set

Exercise 4 – Bent Over Barbell Row

Grab the bar just outside of shoulder width and bend over at a 45 degree angle, now pull the barbell up towards your upper abs. The lower you pull the more the lats will be engaged and the higher you pull (don’t pull anywhere higher than above your upper abs) the more the traps, upper back and rear delts will be engaged.

bent over barbell row

4 Sets Of 12, 10, 8, 8 Reps

1 Minute 45 Second Rest Inbetween Each Set

Exercise 5 – Seated Cable Row

Start by attaching a close grip bar onto the pulley then sit down and place your feet onto the front platform. Make sure there’s a slight bend in your knees, keep your shoulders down/pinched and back arched, when you’re ready pull the bar towards your torso and back forward to 90 degrees.

seated cable row

4 Sets Of 12, 12, 10, 10 Reps

1 Minute 30 Second Rest Inbetween Each Set

Between each set Arnold would stretch out hit lats by either holding onto a stable object and leaning away or by hanging from a bar. He also flexed his lats as hard as he could to help achieve a great pump.

That was Arnold’s full back workout and you will gain some serious back thickness/width by following this workout. As always, if you have anymore questions about Arnold’s back routine then please leave a comment about it below.

For Arnold’s Complete Chest Routine Click Here

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