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Arnold Schwarzenegger Shoulder Workout – The Complete Routine

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In his time Arnold had the world’s biggest shoulders and deltoids because no bodybuilder worked out with as much volume/frequency as he did. Many might regard this as overtraining, but Arnold trained both his shoulders and arms for 60+ sets in a single workout, 3 times a week with extremely high intensity. As if that isn’t enough he even invented his own shoulder exercise known as the Arnold press to help spark new shoulder growth.

arnold doing arnold press

Furthermore, to ensure each deltoid head was targeted equally he would do a wide variety of multi-joint presses because Arnold believed and once said that “There’s no one exercise that will work all three areas of the deltoids. Therefore, when you’re planning your shoulder routine, you have to include the right variety of movements, so that you get full shoulder development.”. Leading to Arnold’s complete shoulder routine:

Seated Over Head Press

The seated over head press is one of the best shoulder exercises since it’s a compound movement that works all 3 heads of your deltoids which include your front delts, side delts and rear delts. Remember to keep your feet together, glutes (butt) tight and hold the barbell a little bit wider than shoulder width apart.

over head press

4 Sets Of 12, 10, 10, 8 Reps

1 Minute 30 Second Rest Inbetween Each Set

Arnold always went as heavy as possible with shoulder presses, especially in the beginning of his workouts when his strength and energy levels were highest.

Side Lateral Raise

When doing this exercise you must keep your shoulders blades pinched together at all times and remember to have a slight bend in your knees and elbows. Once in position raise the dumbbells just above your neck and then bring them back down slowly focusing on the contraction of the side delts.

dumbbell side raise

4 Sets Of 12, 12, 10, 8 Reps

1 Minute Rest Inbetween Each Set

Arnold liked to rotate his palms back so that his pinkie fingers were higher than his thumbs the whole way up because he felt that it isolated the middle delts much more. He also started with heavy weight until he was using 10-15 pound dumbbells with each set going to failure. After all sets have been completed he would once again pick up a heavier set of dumbbells to hold them at the finish position of the lateral raise for as long as he could until he had to drop the weights to the floor in pain !

Seated Rear Delt Raise

Doing rear delt raises seated will allow for a stronger contraction and less swinging of the weight. Start by sitting on the end of a bench with your legs together and the dumbbells behind your calves. Now keeping your chest stationary and forward lift up both arms until they’re parallel to the floor, once at the top contracted position pause for 1-2 seconds then slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

seated rear delt raise

4 Sets Of 12, 10, 10, 8 Reps

1 Minute Rest Inbetween Each Set

Arnold Press

The most noteworthy exercise in this routine is the Arnold press since it’s a very unique move that offers a much longer range of motion due to the low starting point and puts more emphasis on the front delts compared to the standard overhead dumbbell press.

Begin by grabbing a pair of dumbbells, then sit on a bench that has back support. Bring the dumbbells to the front of your shoulders with palm facing inwards and press up to the top, as you push through you will be rotating your hands about halfway through the exercise so that your palms are facing outward. Once at the top bring the dumbbell back down the same way you brought it up. Arnold didn’t like to lock out at the top of his presses because he wanted to focus more on his shoulders and less on his triceps.

arnold press

5 Sets Of 8-10 Reps

1 Minute 30 Second Rest Inbetween Each Set

Upright Barbell Row

This exercise targets the upper traps and all 3 heads of your deltoids. Grab the bar shoulder width apart and retract your shoulder blades. Now bring the barbell up to your nipple line and back down. Depending on your mobility it is extremely important that you don’t go above your nipple as that will put unnecessary stress on the wrists and shoulder joints.

barbell upright rows

4 Sets Of 12, 10, 10, 8 Reps

1 Minute 30 Second Rest Inbetween Each Set

Arnold occasionally did tri-sets of OHP first, then upright rows and lateral raises without resting for the burn.

That was Arnold’s full shoulder workout and you will achieve some serious deltoid/shoulder growth by following this workout. As always, if you have anymore questions about this topic then please leave a comment about it below.

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