Arnold Schwarzenegger's back exercise routine. (Image by @tommytalksfitness and @schwarzenegger via Instagram)

Arnold Schwarzenegger Back Workout: Advanced Exercises for Lifters

In his prime, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s back workout was a combination of different classic exercises that helped him target his muscles from all angles. He trained his back anywhere from two to three times per week and used extremely high-volume routines with lots of reps, sets and exercises. Schwarzenegger believes that his high-volume back training was very important for building the thickness and width of his upper back.

“When you train the back, you need the thickness, and you need the width”. - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Back exercises Arnold Schwarzenegger preferred


Schwarzenegger worked his back with several advanced exercises. These related to pull-ups and pull-downs, and also included different variations of rows in his routine. He viewed his back as two different body parts – back thickness and back width.

For width, he mostly worked on his lats, and for thickness he trained his rhomboids, traps and spinal erectors. His utmost favorite for developing the width of his back was pull-ups. He liked doing wide overhands, hammer grips and supinated pull ups. For his back thickness, on the other hand, Schwarzenegger preferred heavy rowing exercises such as barbell rows and T-bar rows.


Pull-ups and pull-down exercises helped him strengthen his V-taper, while variations of rows helped him work the muscles in his middle back.

Here’s an overview of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s back exercises:

1. Wide-grip chin-ups/pull-ups (5 sets, 15 to 18 reps):

  • Hold a pull-up bar with your hands wider than your shoulder width and make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Hang at the bar and start to pull your chest towards it.
  • Pause at the top position and reverse the movement to the start.
  • Repeat.

2. T-bar row (5 sets, 6 to 10 reps):

  • Take an overhand grip on the handles of a T-bar.
  • Keep your back flat, arms straight, knees bent and core engaged throughout the exercise.
  • With your elbows tucked in, explosively pull the weight towards your torso and pause for a moment.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the initial position.

If you don’t have a T-bar, no worries - just use a barbell in the landmine set up.


3. Single-arm dumbbell row (4 sets, 10 to 12 reps):

  • Place your right knee and right hand on a bench and hold a dumbbell in your left hand at the length of your arm towards the ground.
  • Keep your core engaged, elbows tucked in and back flat as you pull the weight to the side of your body.
  • Return to the start and do the same on the left side.

4. Close grip lat pull down:

  • Attach the handles to a pull-down machine and sit comfortably in the seat.
  • Hold the handles at the length of your arm just above you.
  • With your core engaged, elbows tucked in and back absolutely flat, start to pull the handles towards the top of your chest.
  • As you pull, squeeze your shoulder blades and then return to the start.

A few more exercises from Schwarzenegger’s back routine include:

· Seated pulley rows

· Straight leg deadlifts

· Bent over barbell rows


Tips that Arnold Schwarzenegger followed during his back routine:

1. He believed that it was best to target all the areas of the back, including upper, outer, middle and lower at the same time. He completed the exercise with a few powerful movements such as cleans and deadlifts to give that extra attack to his back muscles.

2. When Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to target his lower lats, he generally used a narrow grip on pull-ups and pulldowns and used the same grip length for his row exercises.

3. Once he completed any of his back exercises, he stretched his lats by pulling a stationary object really hard with one or both arms. He believed that stretching his lats helped him attain overall lat development and also helped his upper body to remain limber and flexible. Improved lower lat strength also helped him complement the width of his upper body.



If you are looking for an effective back training program to develop and strengthen your muscles, consider trying Arnold Schwarzenegger's back routine. However, remember that these exercises are all advanced. If you are a beginner, first master your form and technique with beginner-level exercises. After that, gradually work your way up to using heavy weights and high-volume movements.


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Edited by
Nicolaas Ackermann
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