Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Golden Six’ Routine

When I first started getting into bodybuilding in my teens, my only sources of information were a copy of a bodypart split routine which Arnold Schwarzenegger had used in the mid-70s and the advice of a peer who claimed he could bench press 200kg with one hand.

Unsurprisingly, both of these sources were useless.

My friend couldn’t bench press a salami, let alone 200kg with one hand, and Arnold’s zillion-sets-per-session routine, while no doubt effective for someone juiced to the hilt and with above average genetics, was not the ideal workout for a 15-year-old boy who’s diet primarily comprised Dairylea Dunkers and Jaffa Cakes.

Like many, during my first gym sessions I made the mistake of trying to replicate the high volume routines used by the pros, thinking this would transform me into a cigar chomping, uzi lubing, truck lifting badass.

However, this was NOT how Schwarzenegger started out in the gym, nor how he made most of his gains.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Although Arnold is famous for the high volume body part split routines he outlined in the various Weider publications, when he first ventured into a gym he emulated the training philosophy of his hero and future mentor, Reg Park:

I found out everything I could about Reg Park. I bought all the magazines that published his programs. I learned how he started training, what he ate, how he lived, and how he did his workouts. I became obsessed…

Indeed, the Austrian Oak built his impressive foundation on full-body workouts such as Park’s ‘Beginner 5×5‘ routine and his own ‘Golden Six’ routine which we are going to look at today.

By the 1970s, when Arnold started experimenting with anabolic steroids and had escalated the volume and intensity of his workouts, he had already built an imposing physique on the back of these basic full-body routines.

The Golden Six Routine

The ‘Golden Six’ was a programme – based around six key exercises – that Arnold followed when he started training at a gym in Munich, and, according to the man himself, it was one he made “remarkable” gains on.

This was also the routine which Arnold prescribed for his personal training clients who were looking to “get big”.

Arnold also claimed that Welsh bodybuilder and former Mr World Paul Grant used this exact routine to gain more than 65 pounds of muscle in less than a year!

All he did was gradually increase the number of sets on the first five exercises, moving up to four sets after three months and then six sets after six months

Bear in mind, however, that this is the same Arnold who, in an attempt to land his first movie role, convinced movie producers that he had “done Shakespeare” back in Germany, so take everything he says with a grain of salt.

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Squat 4 10
Wide Grip Barbell Bench Press 3 10
Chin Up 3 Max
Behind The Neck Overhead Press 4 10
Barbell Curl 3 10
Bent Knee Sit Up 3-4 Max

 

Notes

Cycle

Arnold recommended performing this routine 3 times per week on alternating days for a 3 month cycle.

Progression

Once you can do 2/3 reps above the recommended amount increase the weight.

Strive to progress wherever possible.

Rest

Rest for 2 minutes between sets of squats and no more than 90 seconds for the other exercises.

Exercise advice

For Arnold’s comments on each exercise, have a read of this article.

Thoughts

This classic 1950s-1960s style full-body workout is an ideal routine for beginners and ectomorphs looking to bulk up.

These kind of routines – in the vein of Reg Park, John McCallum, Peary Rader etc – are massively underappreciated these days, which is a shame, because although they’re not fashionable or mainstream any more, they are the perfect way to lay the foundation for a well balanced, muscular physique.

Get in, blitz everything, get out, eat, rest, repeat.

It’s as simple as that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

With regards to exercise selection in this particular routine, I would make a few adjustments, such as adding in some rows (there’s an imbalance between push and pull movements here) and replacing the behind the neck press with a standard military press.

The former, in my opinion, is an unnatural plane of movement which places undue stress on your rotator cuffs – just thinking about the movement makes my shoulders hurt.

I would also replace the sit-ups with a more efficient ab exercise – such as hanging leg raises, for example.

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Verdict

If you’re new to the gym and looking for a productive routine to build muscle and size, ditch the dense bodypart splits, isolation exercises and bullshit, and give Arnie’s Golden Six workout a go.

In fact, whatever level of training you’re at, a cycle of this routine will no doubt be extremely productive.

It’s simple, enjoyable, effective – and comes with the seal of approval from Conan the Barbarian.

What more could you want?

Over to you

What are your thoughts on the Golden Six routine?

Already tried it or thinking of giving it a go?

Have any questions?

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!