Arnold Schwarzenegger shares his top two techniques for building muscle

And it doesn’t require lifting more weight.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
(Image credit: Getty)

 If your goal is to build muscle, who better to take note from than Arnold Schwarsenneger himself? The retired bodybuilder was (and, still is) a source of inspiration to those looking to gain size and strength. But if you’ve been pumping the dumbbells and are still struggling to build muscle, listen up, as Arnie’s shared two techniques that will help you do just that and, you may be surprised to hear, it doesn’t involve lifting more weight. 

We know muscle growth isn’t an overnight process, it takes time, consistent training and hitting every muscle group at least two times a week. While studies have shown lots of different styles of training can help grow muscle, what’s known as ‘hypertrophy’ training (where you lift moderate weight for a high number of reps) is the most effective when it comes to increasing the overall size of them.

Arnold Schwarzenegger two top techniques to build muscle

In a recent episode on his podcast ‘Arnold’s Pump Club’, the 75-year-old says the secret sauce to muscle growth is “progressive resistance”, also known as progressive overload. This is where you increase the intensity of your workout, either by adding more weight or performing more reps, which puts more stress on your muscles. But, contrary to this, Arnie says that adding more weight to a weight lifting barbell, or lifting heavier dumbbells, doesn’t always equate to a ‘great pump’. So, what does? 

Here are his two top techniques:

 #1:The 4-1-1 method 

'The what?', you say. This is all about the tempo in which you lift the weights and it’s one of Arnie’s favourites. Here’s how you do it:

  • Lower the weight four four seconds
  • Hold for one second
  • Return to the starting position in one second

“The slow four second lowering tempo forces you to control the weight through the full range of motion, which gives your body an incredible stretch,” says Arnold. "The flex portion of a lift gets all the glory, but research suggests the lowering portion, known as the eccentric, helps you add more strength and more tension which is a key part of muscular growth.” Also, by not swinging around large amounts of weight means you’re also less likely to injure yourself.

 #2:The pause 

 As you’ve probably guessed, ‘the pause’ (also known as a 'static hold') is where you hold at the bottom of your exercise for a number of seconds, for example, three instead of one. What does this do? “This removes all momentum and puts your muscles in a position where, on most exercises, they will be the weakest and forces you to generate force from a dead stop. This can help activate more muscle fibres,” says Arnold. It's also thought to create better ‘mind-muscle connection’, where you’re really thinking about the muscles that you're using, which can help activate them more.

If you found these two techniques helpful, then you may want to implement them into Arnold's full body dumbbell workout that you can do at home, or into this exercise he used to sculpt his back.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.