Arnold Schwarzenegger Unveils His 3-Tier ‘Hierarchy of Muscle Gains’ – Fitness Volt

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a living legend who credits much of his success to health and fitness. He’s a former seven-time Mr. Olympia champion who graced bodybuilding’s biggest stages throughout the 1970s and 80s. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Arnold’s Pump Club, Schwarzenegger shared a ‘hierarchy of muscle gains’ which consisted of three tiers. 

As one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger still carries a deep passion for the sport. In retirement, he hosts the Arnold Sports Festival every year, an invite-only bodybuilding event, exclusive only to the most famous names in the IFBB Pro League. In addition to hosting these huge competitions, Schwarzenegger maintains an exceptional level of fitness at 75 years old. 

Schwarzenegger was widely respected for his size, symmetry, and proportions throughout his bodybuilding career. He possessed huge arms, a slim waist, and a commanding chest, which helped him stand out on stage against competition. Before calling it a career, Schwarzenegger pushed himself against greats Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, and Sergio Oliva. 

Given his status as one of the world’s best-built men, Schwarzenegger admits it’s been difficult to accept his physique as he’s gotten older. He’s also been more open about other sensitive aspects of his career, such as performance-enhancing drug use. According to Schwarzenegger, he utilized a two-compound cocktail of Dianabol and testosterone for most of his Olympia reign. 

From governing the state of California to philanthropy and acting, Schwarzenegger has done it all. His love for working out and bodybuilding has persisted for decades despite his busy schedule. One of the last tips he offered fans was suggestions on achieving more youthful skin. This time, he’s teaching us how to extract the most out of consistent training sessions. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger Breaks Down Hierarchy of Muscle Gains

When mapping out a workout plan, Schwarzenegger emphasized the importance of locking down a goal. The bodybuilding legend also underlined that consistency and compliance are most crucial for those aiming to build muscle or strength by working out. 

“Scientists found that if you’re stressing about optimizing the number of workouts, days per week, or specific exercises, you’re missing the forest from the trees. Consistency and compliance are the most important variables for building more strength and muscle.

The researchers found that the weight you can lift and the number of sets you perform are not the main drivers of muscle growth. First, it’s consistency, and then it’s total volume. In other words, if you did ten sets of 10 reps using 20 pounds (10 reps x 20 pounds x 10 sets = 2000 pounds of total volume), it would be more effective at building muscle than three sets of 3 reps using 100 pounds (3 reps x 100 pounds x 3 sets = 900 pounds of total volume)…assuming the ten reps at 20 pounds was near failure.”

While glorifying heavy weights is easy, consistency is most important, and volume pushes your muscles to their limit. If ten reps of 20 pounds are easy, then that won’t force your muscles to work towards their capacity, which means even though you have high volume, you won’t grow. So if you wanted to create a hierarchy of muscle gains, it would be

1. Build consistent habits for training.

2. Push your body as hard as possible at each training session (most people don’t push themselves hard enough, and that’s why they don’t grow).

3. Focus on total volume.

Schwarzenegger mentioned that the frequency of training sessions can also have a dramatic impact on gains, whether for strength or muscle growth. 

“If your goal is increasing strength, the variables change. You’re ability to become stronger is determined by progressively using more weight, the frequency of your training sessions (three times per week appears to be the sweet spot), and exercise order influences muscular strength.

Focus on your habits, make them automatic, and then you can figure out how to push yourself hard enough to see the desired results.”

Schwarzenegger’s impact on the sport is undeniable. Olympia judge Terrick El Guindy recently assessed his legacy on a special YouTube appearance. During the video, El Guindy called Arnold an ‘icon of modern times’ with a legacy that will last forever. El Guindy also examined Schwarzenegger’s physique before and after he became a Mr. Olympia winner. 


Similar to Joey Swoll’s mission, Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to see the world embrace fitness. He hopes to inspire and motivate people around the world with his workouts, recipes, techniques, and personal stories from his newsletter. 

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