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Arnold’s ‘Golden Six’ Routine For Muscle Mass Review




For many:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physique during the ‘Golden Era’ of bodybuilding (1960’s – 1970’s) epitomised sublimity.

His body exuded with excellence and vitality, like an original Michelangelo sculpture, FC Barcelona under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage, or a busty Gal Gadot.


A lot of beginners (myself included at an earlier stage) fail to replicate the ‘Styrian Oak’s’ impressive size and kick things off the wrong way.

Too often, the majority of beginners will focus their workouts on building bigger arms and chiseled abs at the expense of other muscle groups.

The reason?

An over-saturation of complicated beginner routines which read as if the editor from Men’s Fitness magazine has about as much gains as his little sister, Sally, beginning puberty.

The fact is:

Arnold built a solid foundation of muscle mass not from paraphernalia, but from simple and easy to execute compound lifts and full body workouts.

Arnold’s Golden Six routine is one program which contributed to his menacing build and one we’ll be exploring today.

Let’s get started.

Arnold’s Golden Six Workout Routine

Arnold's Golden Six - Workout Overview

The ‘Golden Six’ is a bodybuilding program – predicated around six basic exercises – that Arnold Schwarzenegger routinely performed after moving to Munich in 1966 to compete for all major European bodybuilding championships.

He later met and learned from his idol Reg Park (who’s bodybuilding regimen he’d been following for years prior) who molded his approach to developing his physique with a clear focus on never neglecting the basics:

From the beginning I was a big believer in the basic movements, because that was Reg Park’s preference. He would stay with the basic exercises – bench presses, chin-ups, squats, rowing, barbell curls, wrist curls, pullovers, leg extensions, calf raises.

These were the movements that worked most directly on all body parts. I was following his example to the letter. And as it turned out, I could hardly have chosen more wisely.” 

– Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder (1977).

Not only has Arnold proclaimed to have made “tremendous” gains on his ‘Golden Six’ routine, but former Mr World and Welsh bodybuilder, Paul Grant is also said to have adopted this routine and gained an incredible 65 pounds (29kg) of pure muscle in under 12 months!


All Paul did was simply increase his sets up to 4 for the first 5 exercises after 3 months, and after 6 months, he gradually increased his sets up to 6.

This was also a program Arnold frequently prescribed for new trainees looking to get big in the shortest time possible.

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Squat 4 10
Wide Grip Barbell Bench Press 3 10
Chin-Up 3 Failure
Behind The Neck Overhead Press 4 10
Barbell Curl 3 10
Bent Knee Sit Up 3/4 Failure

We also put together the below infographic which includes additional notes on Arnold’s Golden Six workout.

Arnold's Golden Six Workout Routine - Infographic

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The Golden Six is a proven old-school bodybuilding routine void of unnecessary exercises and complexity.

Plain and simple:

When followed well, this routine is very effective.


Given the rise of bro splits and PPL routines, Arnold’s Golden Six routine and others like it are hugely undervalued these days.

This is a pity because although they’re not as current as they once were, it lays a solid foundation for an all-round muscular build.

The best part is:

As the workout is only focused on six key exercises, it’s the perfect program for anyone just starting out in the gym, those who are strapped for time or for those who simply want to add some extra size and mass (hard gainers).

In terms of the exercises themselves, each are compound movements so they’ll be working more than one muscle group simultaneously.


You may find it beneficial over time to adjust some of the exercises to target more specific muscle groups.

For instance, there are 3 pushing exercises versus 2 pulling exercises. I would recommend adding in some seated or bent over rows into the mix for extra hypertrophy.

Arnold's Golden Six - Seated Rows Alternative

As well as this, the behind the neck overhead press puts unnecessary strain on your rotator cuff which can cause injury if performed incorrectly or with excessive resistance.

Instead, it would be much better to swap this with a standard military press (seated or standing) to avoid this.

Finally, I would also look at replacing the bent knee sit-ups with leg raises to engage more of your core and increase the flexibility in your hips and lower back.

Of course – making your own modified Golden Six routine does mean you won’t be performing Arnold’s Golden Six in its purest form – but there’s no harm in adapting, adding or removing some exercises to suit your body and goals.



Arnold suggested performing this routine 3 times per week on alternate days (such as Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) on a 12 week cycle.


Wherever possible, always aim to progress by increasing the weight once you can comfortably perform 2 – 3 reps above the recommended amount and repeat.


It is recommended that you rest for two minutes between sets of squats and no longer than one minute and a half for the rest of the other exercises.


To get maximum benefit out of this workout you need to be eating like a champ.

Ideally, you should aim to approach every meal like Fat Bastard at a bottomless dinner party and eat for size.

We’re talking devouring whole based foods (and not absolute shit) such as red meat, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes grains, full-fat milk, eggs and vegetables. The whole shabang.


Following the high volume from this routine, it is crucial you are getting enough downtime to allow your muscles to repair and grow (besides, this is how they get bigger).

Aim for at least 8 hours of undisturbed sleep every night.


All in all,

If you’ve never stepped foot in a gym before and are looking for a no bullshit routine to build some size, muscle and strength, give Arnold’s Golden Six routine a crack.

But don’t get me wrong,

Even if you’re a seasoned lifter, a 3 month cycle of this workout will be immensely beneficial in taking you ‘back to basics’ to help develop your primary muscle groups without all of the isolation work, saving you both time and energy.

The point is:

Arnold’s Golden Six is a bare-boned, straight forward and efficient workout routine.

Besides, it also gets a massive thumbs up from Terminator himself, how can you argue with that?

Have Your Say

Have you tried Arnold’s ‘Golden Six’ routine?

What were your workout results?

Let us know in the comments below!