5 Arnold Schwarzenegger Inspired Chest & Back Supersets

Roger “Rock” Lockridge
Written By: Roger “Rock” Lockridge
February 26th, 2018
Updated: December 17th, 2020
100.4K Reads
Muscular shirtless man holding dumbbells in the gym
Get a chest and back pump like never before with these 5 chest & back supersets inspired by the G.O.A.T himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger! Check it out!

He was a powerlifting champion, won 7 Mr. Olympia titles, dominated Hollywood for decades, was elected governor of California, and has a fitness weekend named after.

Make no mistake, Arnold Schwarzenegger will go down as not only one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, but as someone who impacted the world.

When it comes to fitness, his training is studied and admired - almost four decades after his last competition.

Standing Out as The Austrian Oak

Two of Schwarzenegger’s most admired aspects could be seen when he simply stood on stage. Those were the chest when he faced the front and his back when he was turned around. So obviously many people want to know how he developed those areas.

Related: 64 Arnold Schwarzenegger Quotes On Bodybuilding

If you’ve been into fitness for at least a few months, then you’re likely already aware he would superset chest and back exercises while preparing for competition. “The Austrian Oak” felt that doing this would pump more blood into both areas and would result in more growth as well as improved conditioning. It’s hard to argue with his results.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Workouts Modified

The Governator’s own workouts have been shared ad nauseam in many outlets over the years so this isn’t going to be a simple reprint of what he did. Instead, we’re going to use his principles along with some tweaks you can use to help you make your own gains.

This plan will still call for chest and back supersets. When possible, try to train when your gym isn’t as busy so you can access what you need and have minimum distractions.

If you need to make slight adjustments because of how your gym is set up or because someone is using equipment you want, that’s okay.

Make sure you warm up appropriately so you can take on these supersets with full focus and effort. When reps decrease, weights increase, and vice versa.

Your rest is long enough to change weights and sip your water or BCAA’s. That’s it.

A Word About Visualization

When Schwarzenegger would train, he would visualize the muscles working underneath the skin. This mind and muscle connection was something he considered vital to make the workouts productive.

Make sure you take a moment before you start to visualize yourself working hard, dominating the weight, and feeling that pump grow rep by rep. If you want some extra visual motivation, think about that iconic photo of Arnold hitting the side chest pose or watching him hit that rear double biceps pose in Pumping Iron.

Superset 1: Incline Barbell Bench Press & Pull Ups

Arnold would start with flat bench but many lifters nowadays aren’t fans of this version so we will start with incline which can help you focus on the upper portion of the pecs. When the bar touches your chest, pause for a second before pressing. This can help you improve your power as well as make the pecs work harder.

When it comes to pull ups, use a neutral grip where your palms are facing each other. I know you’re going to say your biceps will be involved but if you focus on your back and use a full range of motion, you’ll get a lot out of this and the biceps recruitment will be at a minimum.

If you need to, use an assistant. Avoid pull downs here unless you have no other alternative. If you’re strong enough to do more than the required reps on pull ups, use a vest or weight belt.

Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Barbell Bench Press 4 12, 10, 8, 6
Pull Ups 4 12, 10, 8, 6

Superset 2: Low Incline Dumbbell Press & Two Arm Dumbbell Row

We’re going to target the pecs from a different angle so use an adjustable bench on the lowest setting or set a flat bench up on a plate or small step. Make sure the bench won’t move if you choose the latter. When you perform the presses, turn the dumbbells at a slight angle instead of holding them straight. This will take a little pressure off the rear delts and make the pecs work harder.

We’re going to target the pecs from a different angle so use an adjustable bench on the lowest setting or set a flat bench up on a plate or small step. Make sure the bench won’t move if you choose the latter. When you perform the presses, turn the dumbbells at a slight angle instead of holding them straight. This will take a little pressure off the rear delts and make the pecs work harder.

Exercise Sets Reps
Low Incline Dumbbell Press 3 12, 10, 8
Bent Over Dumbbell Row 3 12, 10, 8

Superset 3: Wide Seated Row & Pec-Deck Fly

Here is where you’ll start to notice some changes. Arnold would focus on chest and then perform back. To make sure we pay attention to balance, we are now going to start with back and train chest second.

Also, the rep scheme will be different because we’re going heavier to start and lighter as we go along. This will challenge our muscular endurance and really pump blood into the areas we want.

For the wide seated row, use a long handle with an overhand grip. Squeeze the muscles and lower the handle slowly. If the weights can touch when you’re stretched, sit further back. The goal is to make the exercise as challenging as possible.

The pec-deck can help you isolate the chest and since it’s a machine, you will be fixed in a path so the chances of injury are decreased. Make sure you contract those pecs as hard as possible and feel a stretch at the bottom. If you have to set the weight a little lighter than normal, go ahead and do so. Sacrificing weight for proper form will be worth it.

Exercise Sets Reps
Wide Seated Row 3 10, 12, 15
Pec Deck Fly 3 10, 12, 15

Superset 4: Straight Arm Pulldown & Cable Crossover

While pull ups are great and Arnold liked them a lot, he would opt for pull downs occasionally and this version is a great one. If you want to really contract the lats, use a rope so you can pull the ends apart and pull the handle in a little tighter to your body. You will likely be tired at this point and want to speed up the reps. Seriously, slow down and make each rep count.

The same request is asked of the crossovers. You might want to jerk the weight in, bend the elbows a little more to make sure they touch, and let them go at the end. You want a big and powerful chest, right? Pay attention and follow protocol.

Exercise Sets Reps
Straight Arm Pull Down 3 15
Cable Crossover 3 15

Superset 5: Machine Pullover & Pushups

Schwarzenegger believed that pullovers helped him expand his entire rib cage and helped make his massive upper body even bigger. Nowadays, pullovers are largely considered a back movement. So for this workout, we’ll do the same. If you don’t have a machine version, use a dumbbell and a bench like the man used to in the Golden Era.

Related: Golden Era Gains - 4 Lifts From the Greatest Bodybuilding Era

Once you finish these, get down on the floor and perform some basic pushups. These have been used sparingly or as a warmup over the years but at this point it will make a great finisher. You’re coming down the home stretch so you can take a minute between supersets to stretch out and catch your breath. Once you finish here, you’re done and can get out of the gym.

Exercise Sets Reps
Machine Pullover 3 20
Push Ups 3 20
Posted on: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 03:45

Too long ? Arnold would say “ wtf i can do all five superset twice in an hour” astalavista baby
Seriously with 1min30 rest betwen set it’s possible

Posted on: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 10:40

Seem like it would take too long to do the complete workout. I have only 1 hour for my workout.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 11:13


You don;t have to perform them all in one workout. You could select your favorites for a full workout, or pick 1-2 and add it to the end of your upper body days.

Hope this helps!

Roger Rock Lockridge
Posted on: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 18:16

What's good, Rmg? Thanks for the comment. I actually did this workout a few times before I wrote it and each time it took me at no more than an hour. Keep in mind you are performing both exercises back to back before taking a rest. I also set them up as best as I could so there is little time to transition from one to the other.

That said, what Josh said is true. You can use any, a couple, or all of these as a part of your plan. The goal is ultimately to help you achieve your goals and if part of this is what you feel works best, do that. Thanks for reading and checking out M&S!