Four times Arnie was right about building muscle and burning fat before science

In an effort to help you boost the effectiveness of your training sessions, add muscle and burn fat, we’ve rounded up four tips, tricks, and techniques that Arnold has been swearing by for decades, and that science is just catching up.

1/ Focusing on the “big bang of your moves” first leads to serious gains

While it’s not outlandish to use lighter weights and “chase the pump” (we’ll get to that later), Schwarzenegger knew from the start that in order to build big muscles, you need to lift some big weights. What’s the best way to ensure you maximize the weight you’re changing in the gym? Focus on large, multi-joint, “compound” movements that utilize multiple muscle groups at once.

Take Arnold: “Every great bodybuilder I know started with core movements and trained them really heavy. It feels great to be strong and gives you a psychological edge, but intense training develops muscle to a degree that you can’t get exclusively from pumping and light workouts.”

Arnie knew it then, but every trainer worth his salt now knows that starting your workouts with heavy compound lifts like squats and deadlifts is one of the most effective ways to build muscle, and science agrees.

When it comes to losing fat: It’s just as much what you eat that matters as what you eat

Although Arnie didn’t count calories like many fitness buffs chasing fat loss today, Arnold knew that focusing on how much Eating him would affect his fat loss much more than worrying about the types of foods he was consuming. In fact, Arnie was an early advocate for food sustainability, realizing that cutting out the foods he loved was a fast track to misery and wasn’t sustainable in the long run.

In his newsletter that Arnold shared with fans, instead of completely overhauling his diet when it came time to lose body fat, he would simply reduce his portion sizes, keeping the types of foods he was consuming the same amount and only reducing the amount.

Science has since shown that being in a consistent “calorie deficit” is the only way to burn body fat, and that the types of foods you eat matter a lot less than you might think for fat loss.

The important thing to add, though, is that while quantities were the most important factor for Arnold’s short-term fat loss, sticking to the types of foods he enjoyed eating was probably the key factor in maintaining his calorie restriction for the long haul. Enough to achieve the ripped physique of Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Olympia.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Jack Mitchell//Getty Images

Chasing a pump isn’t just for the mirror, it’s adding big muscles

In recent years, the ‘pump’—the feeling of congested, swollen muscles one experiences when training with too many reps and too many sets—has received some bad press, with many trainers calling it an annoying waste of time that does nothing more than ineffectively ( And temporarily) the muscles swell with blood, before contracting steadily after exercise.

Even with those naysayers on his ear, Arnold was unlikely to stop chasing the pump, as his feelings about the practice were, to say the least, ardent.

“The greatest feeling you can get in the gym or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Your muscles feel really tight like your skin is going to explode at any moment and explode and you feel different. It feels amazing.”

I’ll spare you the rest of this rhetoric, but let’s just say Arnold compared Pump favorably to the other, more special climax of the pursuit.

But even if Arnie is pumping for feeling on his own, research has shown that losing weight, increasing reps, and chasing the pump, especially after heavy lifting, can have some very beneficial muscle-building effects. The science of influences is just beginning to be understood.

Maybe they should have consulted Arnold?

Developing your mental/muscle connection will help you pack on the pounds

One of Arnold’s favorite talking points of the day was the mind/muscle connection. He often told trainees to put every ounce of their focus into the muscles being worked, to stay fully present with each rep and to focus intensely on the muscles being contracted.

Even recently, in his newsletters, he continues to offer advice on the matter: “In order to get the perfect pump, your mind must be a guide to the body, thinking through every part of the movement, every contraction, every push.”

This kind of mindfulness does more than just keep you from getting distracted at the gym. Lots of data is emerging now to show that focusing on the muscles you’re working, one lift at a time, will not only help you get more reps, it can actually help you increase activation of the muscles being worked. This activation is pivotal in achieving optimal muscle growth, and Arnold knew this all along.

take away? Focus hard on stiff muscles.

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Shot in the head by Andrew Tracy

With nearly 18 years in the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer, nutritionist, breathing coach, and writer, Andrew has spent nearly half of his life exploring how to help people improve their bodies and minds.

As our fitness editor, he prides himself on keeping Men’s Health at the forefront of reliable, trusted, and trusted fitness information, whether that’s writing and testing thousands of workouts each year, delving into the science behind building muscle and losing fat or exploring the psychology of performance and recovery.

While he continually updates his knowledge base through seminars and courses, Andrew is as much of a process lover as he is of theory and regularly puts his training to the test, tackling everything from CrossFit and strongman competitions, to ultra-marathons, to multiple interval training over the course of his career. 24 hours and (very unofficially) world record attempts.

You can find Andrew on Instagram at @theandrew.tracey, or simply hold up the “Free Pizza” banner and wait for him to show up.

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