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Fact checked by Tyler DiGiovanni, BSBMFACT CHECKED
In 1968, 20-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger lost the IFBB Mr. Universe to a ripped Frank Zane. In his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold pinpointed his lack of ab development and muscle definition as a major contributor to his loss. Learning from that humiliating experience, the Austrian Oak made sure that a nicely developed abdominal region would never be his downfall again.
During his Mr. Olympia winning streak (1970-1975, 1980), Arnold followed a high-volume ab routine that helped him develop abs that complemented his outstanding chest, wide shoulders, and arm development.
In this article, I'll lay out Arnold's exact Mr. Olympia ab workouts, along with his training tips and key insights on how to present the midsection to the best effect on stage.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's ab routine was performed several times per workout as the last part of the workout. It was designed to hit the three key areas of the abdominal region - the upper abs, lower abs, and obliques - while also improving core strength.
Arnold's 1970s Mr Olympia ab workout consisted of the following five exercises:
The hanging knee raise, a variation of hanging leg raises, is Arnold's favorite move to target the lower portion of the abdominals. Here's how he did it:
Perform the exercise slowly and deliberately to avoid using momentum to get your knees up.
The Roman Chair, or hyperextension bench, is a padded bench with seat and foot supports designed to allow you to work your core at a range of angles. Here's how to do the Roman Chair Sit-Up:
Place a block under the back of the Roman Chair to increase the difficulty of the movement. If you're gym doesn't have a dedicated Roman Chair, you can also perform this move on a seated calf raise machine.
The lying leg raise is an exercise that has fallen out of favor with the realization that the abs do not actually attach to the lower body through the legs. As a result, the effect on the abs is minimal. However, Arnold swore by the effects of this move on his lower ab development.
Keep your head up by looking at your feet throughout the movement.
The side-to-side twist was Arnold's favorite exercise to develop the obliques at the side of the waist. He alternated between the seated and standing bent-over version of the exercise. Here's how to do the seated side-to-side twist:
Rather than swinging back and forth, perform the exercise in a fluid, smooth motion.
The seated leg tuck (also called the In and Out Abs Exercise) contracts the rib cage toward the pelvis, working both the lower and upper abdominal area.
Do not allow your feet to touch the floor between reps.
During the 1970s, bodybuilders were known for their high-volume training programs. The workout just described saw Arnold performing more than 500 reps every workout. Arnold felt that the abs should be worked several times a week. Leading up to the Mr Olympia competition, he was even known to work the abdominal muscles twice per day.
Arnold wasn't blessed with a naturally small waist. So, the last thing he wanted to do was make his midsection look any bigger. As a result, he never added extra weight to his oblique training. Instead, he used controlled twisting movements with an unloaded bar.
Arnold would train his abs at the end of his workout. He believed that his mental focus needed to go on his other muscles and major body parts and that he could afford to work the abs when his energy was diminished after smashing his chest, back, or quads.
While Arnold's abs during his 1970s Olympia reign weren't a weakness, neither were they a standout. He never had the great abdominal development of such competitors as Frank Zane or Serge Nubret.
Arnold was a master poser who knew how to showcase his physique to its best advantage. Take a look at video and photos from his Mr. Olympia wins, and you'll notice that he often twists his body while posing. This gave the impression of a tiny waist while emphasizing his gargantuan biceps and back.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's abs training routine was a product of its time. From a modern perspective, it seems to be very high volume and includes at least one exercise that is frowned upon today. However, there is no denying the results that Arnold was able to achieve with this routine. If you are giving this a shot, you may as well try Arnold's Chest Workout, Back Workout, Shoulders Workout, and Arms Workout.
Why not give it a try and see if it does the same for you?
(All image credit to original owners)
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