On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
Bodybuilding icon Joe Weider, who played a key role in introducing Arnold Schwarzenegger to the world, was famous for calling bodybuilders “lazy bastards.” But if you had the opportunity to follow Arnold Schwarzenegger around for a day during his bodybuilding heydays, you’ll realise that Weider’s sentiment didn’t apply to all of them.
While living in the U.S. with his friend and roommate, Franco Columbu, the pair applied their regimented approach to training and nutrition across all facets of their lives — from getting up early in the morning to making sure their apartment was always tidy.
“Our place was immaculate,” Arnold wrote in his 2012 memoir Total Recall. “We vacuumed regularly; the dishes were always done, with nothing piling up; and the bed was always made, military-style. We were both into the discipline of getting up in the morning and straightening up before you leave the house. The more you do it, the more automatic it becomes, and the less effort it takes. Our apartment was always way cleaner than anyone else’s I went to, men or women.”
After waking up and getting their home in order, Arnold would head off to Gold’s Gym for the first of his two-a-day training sessions. While preparing for bodybuilding contests, Arnold would frequently train six days a week, twice a day, with an aim to target each muscle group three times a week — a staggering amount of volume, even for professional bodybuilder standards.
He gave readers a look at an example weekly training routine in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding:
- Day 1 – Chest and Back
- Day 2 – Shoulders and Arms
- Day 3 – Legs and Lower Back
- Day 4 – Chest and Back
- Day 5 – Shoulders and Arms
- Day 6 – Legs and Lower Back
- Day 7 – Rest
My confidence came from my vision because I am always a big believer that if you have a very clear vision of where you want to go then the rest of it is much easier. Because you always know why you are training five hours a day, you always know why you are pushing and going through the pain barrier, and why you have to eat more, and why you have to struggle more, and why you have to be more disciplined.Tim Ferriss Interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger on Psychological Warfare (And Much More) (#60) | The Tim Ferriss Show
Following his morning training session, Arnold would head down to Venice’s Muscle Beach for some outdoor training and tanning. “When you did your chin-ups, your presses, your curls, you got the tan everywhere. Then we would run over to the ocean, jump in the waves, get the salt water all over, and again, get tan all around.”
Of course it wouldn’t be a bodybuilder’s daily routine if we didn’t talk about food. In his memoir Arnold recalls his visits with Franco to the local buffet:
The bodybuilder would start with five, six, or seven eggs, after which we go to the next station and eat all the tomatoes and vegetables. Then we would have the steak, and then the fish. Muscle magazines in those days were always warning you that you had to have your amino acids, and that you had to be careful because the amino acids in certain foods weren’t complete. ‘Hey,’ we said, ‘let’s not even think about it; let’s just eat all the proteins. We have egg, the fish, the beef, the turkey, the cheese—let’s have it all!’Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story | Arnold Schwarzenegger
Bodybuilding aside, Arnold was also a successful entrepreneur, and was always on the look out for new opportunities to finance his passion. Starting off with mail-order booklets on training, Arnold and Franco graduated to starting their own construction company, advertising themselves as, “European bricklayers. Experts in marble and stone.”
The venture proved to be incredibly lucrative for the pair. “We could save some money and buy our protein powders and were able to eat steaks and have our protein shakes and eggs and the best foods and all this stuff that we needed. We had a very successful business,” Arnold told Tim Ferriss.
Following the day’s work, Arnold would head back to Gold’s Gym for his evening training session, usually a brutal leg work out involving up to 25 sets.
While his bodybuilding routine is vastly different to Arnold’s current routine, he still follows the same disciplined habits of his younger self. These days, he’ll wake up at 5am and ride his bike to the gym where he’ll train for 45 minutes, with a focus on lighter weights. “I’m not training heavy anymore,” he told Men’s Health. “After my heart surgery, I was advised not to train heavy. Not go go three reps, heaviest weight, and all that stuff. So now I do lighter weights and more reps.”
When it comes to sleep, Arnold is sleeping less now than he was when he was younger. “I have slept nine hours a day when I was 19 years old because at that point, when I was younger, I needed more sleep,” he told Tim Ferriss in 2018. “As time went on, I needed less and less sleep. Now, it doesn’t matter where I am, I wake up six hours after I go to sleep.”
Say ‘I’m going to wake up in the morning an hour early,’ and just work on that. And then the next time, say ‘I’m going to wake up early and I’m going to make my coffee or my tea, and I’m gonna read papers.’ The key thing about a routine, is that you don’t ask yourself should I, shouldn’t I, you just do it. We don’t ask ourselves ‘should I inhale now? Should I exhale now?’ We don’t ask ourselves if we should take a shower every day.Arnold Schwarzenegger Stresses the Importance of a Daily Routine to Staying Fit at 72 | Men’s Health
Before you go…
Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Joe Rogan, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.