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Old School Workout for Arms – Train Like Arnold

Old School Intensity for Arms

Intensity boosting techniques helped the legends build amazing arms and they can help you do the same now.


When looking back on classic photos that have anything to do with muscle, they have one common theme. Well-developed arms are prominently featured in some way, shape, or form. Think about it. Do you remember the old-school bodybuilding photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferrigno? How about the still-shots from Hercules with Steve Reeves? Pro wrestlers, boxers, and actors in superhero roles all have pictures where their arms are awe-inspiring.

While those moments took place decades ago, the training and techniques these pioneers used are just as relevant today. Over my 20 years of training, these methods have helped me attain arms that I’m proud of. These intensity-boosting methods work. They are the ways for you to develop biceps and triceps so you can have your own images of greatness. Better yet, the HD-quality photos today will make your guns will look even more impressive!

Drop Sets
This is a method that was used by many champions. But, “The Incredible Hulk” himself, Lou Ferrigno, was most associated with drop sets thanks to the film “Pumping Iron” as he prepared for the 1975 Mr. Olympia. In the clip, he’s doing barbell curls and upon reaching failure with his weight, he drops the barbell. Then, a training partner hands him a “present” in the form of a lighter barbell for him to continue performing reps. Some present, huh?

Here’s the theory behind drop sets. If you’re lifting a weight until you reach failure, you have only reached failure with that weight. It doesn’t mean that you have reached complete failure. Your muscles still have a little left in the tank! You can use a lighter weight to further fatigue the muscle you’re targeting.
Doing this allows more blood to pump into the muscle. This breaks down the muscle fibers more than stopping with a normal set. With proper recovery, this means better results in terms of growth and strength. The key to drop sets is keeping the amount of time between drops to a minimum. Strip the weight as fast as you can and immediately get back to work. Once you reach failure, then you take your well-deserved rest break!

How much weight should you drop? 10-20% of what you start with is a recommended benchmark amount. You want to reduce the weight so that you can continue performing reps. But, you don’t want to drop so much that you can do more reps than you began with. Also, you don’t want to reduce it so little that you can only perform an additional 1 or 2 reps. So, if you’re doing barbell curls with 100 pounds, reduce it down to 80 or 90 pounds.

If you’re an Arnold fan, then I can stop right here. But, for those of you who might be new to this “bodybuilding thing”, I’ll share more. Arnold Schwarzenegger believed that performing two exercises in a row helped the working muscle grow more than a traditional set. He usually did this with opposing muscle groups, like biceps and triceps. This brought more blood to the entire area. The pump was greater, which meant that, eventually, his arms would become that size.

You can try this theory by selecting two exercises that work muscles in close proximity, or allow you to stay in one position. For example, you can perform incline dumbbell curls for biceps and immediately switch to incline dumbbell extensions for triceps. Supersets aren’t restricted to dumbbell work. Cable exercises, such as cable bar curls and straight bar press-downs, will offer the same benefits.


Many of the legends liked this one, and I’m sure you will too! Let’s say you choose an exercise and can only manage 6 reps with 100 lbs. What if there was a way for you to use that same weight and get 10 reps? That’s where the rest-pause technique comes into play. You would perform as many reps as you could until reaching failure. Once you reach that point, you would set the weight down. But, don’t go far! The rest-pause technique requires you to wait for 10-15 seconds. You can catch your breath and allow some of the soreness to go away. As soon as that time passes, pick up the weight and continue performing reps until you reach failure again. That extra volume could be the difference between good results and great results!

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Putting It Together
The following arm workouts can help you bring in all these intensity boosters into one program. You’ll be able to achieve the best results possible. Keep in mind that proper nutrition and supplementation are crucial as well. You can find more tips to help you with these essential aspects of training right here in Muscle Media. Try these arm workouts for yourself and see the results for yourself!

Drop Dead Biceps
(Perform with Back or Triceps)
Standing EZ-Bar Curl – 2 sets of 12, 10 reps. 2 drop sets to failure. 60-seconds rest between sets.

Hammer Dumbbell Curl – 2 sets of 12 reps. 2 drop sets to failure. 60-seconds rest between sets.

Preacher Curl Machine – 3 drop sets to failure. 60-seconds rest between sets.
*Rest between drops should be no more than 10 seconds.

Triceps to Make You Pause
(Perform with Chest or Biceps)

Close Grip Bench Press – 2 sets of 10 reps. 2 rest-pause sets to failure. 60-seconds rest between sets.

Single-Arm Overhead Triceps Extension – 2 sets of 10 reps per arm. 2 rest-pause sets to failure per arm. 60-seconds rest between sets.
Rope Press-down – 3 rest-pause sets to failure. 60-seconds rest between sets.
*10 seconds rest-pause upon reaching failure. Then perform more reps to failure again.

Supersets for Super Arms
(Careful, if you choose this one, do it on its own day!)

Barbell Curl & Triceps Dips – 3 supersets of 10-12 reps each.

Alternate Dumbbell Curl & Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press – 3 supersets of 12 reps.

Standing Rope Curl & Rope Overhead Extension – 3 supersets of 15 reps.

Preacher Curl Machine & Straight Arm Pushdown – 3 supersets of 15 reps.
*No rest between exercises in supersets. 60-seconds rest between supersets.

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