Schwarzenegger’s Four Pioneering Tips on How to Gain Muscle and Lose Fat

The actor and former governor of California gained worldwide fame as an action movie icon due to his professional bodybuilder’s physique. What were the pillars of his lifestyle and training, which science has long since endorsed?

Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, such is the full name of the renowned actor, businessman, former governor of California and former professional bodybuilder was undoubtedly a pioneer in the art of taking care of the body and nutrition.

In the 80’s, when neither science nor medicine knew about aspects that today are known to be key to develop muscle mass and burn fat, he was already putting into practice techniques that were studied many years later.

However, the fact is that the man, who is about to turn 76 this month (July 30), was ahead of his time with these techniques and strategies.

What were the pillars of Schwarzenegger’s fitness?

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger became a bodybuilder at the age of 15 with the idea of becoming a Hollywood star (Getty).

1- Working multiple muscle groups with a lot of weight.

Schwarzenegger knew early on that in order to build big muscles, it was necessary to lift big weights. The best way he found to make sure he was maximizing the load in the gym was to focus on big, multi-joint “compound” movements that take full advantage of multiple muscle groups simultaneously, according to Mens Health.

“All the great bodybuilders I know started with basic movements and trained them very heavy. It feels great to be strong and gives you a psychological edge, but heavy training develops muscles to a degree that you can’t get exclusively from light, stimulating workouts,” Schwarzenegger used to opine when asked about it.

He knew it back then, but every self-respecting trainer today knows that starting your workouts with heavy compound lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, is one of the most effective strategies for building muscle. Today the scientific evidence agrees with that methodology.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“A man can get anything he wants as long as he’s willing to pay the costs that come with it,” Arnold responded to a trainer who mentioned to him that every person has his limits (Getty Images).

2- Portion size is what matters.

As a pioneer in the field, Schwarzenegger knew that focusing on the amounts and macronutrients of the ingredients he chose affected his fat loss far more by eliminating foods. In fact, he was an early advocate of nutritional sustainability, realizing that banning foods he loved was a fast track to failure and was not a decision that could be sustained.

And he used to share with his fans and admirers this secret to his success: when he had to lose body fat, whether for a bodybuilding competition or for a film, he simply reduced his portion sizes, keeping the types of foods he ate the same and only reducing the quantity.

Since then, science has done nothing but prove the wisdom of his strategy, asserting that having a constant “calorie deficit” is the only way to burn body fat.

“Fat loss depends solely on the energy deficit, regardless of the method of weight loss,” research concluded in 2007, more than two decades after Arnold’s method of weight loss. In that sense, a study published last week, also showed that caloric deficit is efficient, regardless of whether the method chosen is intermittent fasting or calorie counting .

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Austrian-born actor and politician used the sport that helped him become popular as a springboard for his career.

3- Looking for the muscle “pump

In the fitness world, the result of blood and lactic acid rushing into the muscles, a product of training, is known as the “muscle pump”. “The best feeling you can get in a gym or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump,” the former governor of California used to say in his days as a movie icon. Your muscles have a very tight feeling like your skin is going to explode at any moment and it just explodes and it feels different, it feels fantastic.”

And although the strategy garnered a number of detractors over the years, research has shown that dropping the weight, increasing reps and chasing the pump, especially after heavy lifting, can have some very beneficial effects on muscle development.

“Progressive resistance training at low to medium repetition ranges has earned its place in the training programs of bodybuilders and other athletes looking to maximize hypertrophy, for good reason. Heavy loads maximize muscle activation, and progressive overload ensures that muscles receive increased mechanical stress over time. Therefore, increasing strength in heavy multi-joint movements should be the foundation of long-term hypertrophy training,” concluded a scientific study.

4- Develop the mind/muscle connection

It was one of Schwarzenegger’s strong points, and what he used to insist on most to his students: putting every ounce of your attention on the muscle you were working, staying fully present in each repetition and concentrating hard on the muscles that were contracting.

“To get the perfect pump, your mind has to be the guide of the body, thinking about every part of the movement, every contraction, every squeeze,” is still to this day his bedside advice in this regard.

On this point, too, the passage of time and studies have proven him right: today it is known that this kind of mindfulness works to do more than just keep people from getting distracted at the gym.

Much current data shows that focusing on the muscles you’re working will not only help you get more reps, but can actually help activate even more of the muscles you’re working. According to one study in this regard, “strength-trained individuals can increase triceps brachii or pectoralis major muscle activity during the bench press when they focus on using the specific muscle.”

This activation is critical for optimal muscle growth, and Schwarzenegger knew this before anyone else.

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