Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Bodybuilding Idol Swore by This Simple 5×5 Training Routine
Reg Park was Arnold before Arnold was Arnold: A three-time Mr. Universe bodybuilding champion in the 1950s and ‘60s, Park went on to star as Hercules on the silver screen. A young Schwarzenegger took notice. Park became Arnold’s idol from the first time he saw the big Brit on a magazine cover.
“He was so powerful and rugged-looking that I decided right then and there I wanted to be … another Reg Park,” Schwarzenegger said.
A lot has changed in the 60 years since Park was a champion, but one of his signature training techniques—performing 5 sets of 5 repetitions of an exercise—has stood the test of time. Here’s a 5×5 program inspired by the one Park prescribed for beginners in his 1960 book, Strength & Bulk Training for Weight Lifters and Body Builders.
Perform the following workout three times per week for three weeks. For each exercise, rest 3 to 5 minutes between the last 3 sets of the move.
Exercise 1: 45-degree Back Extension: Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
1. Set a back extension bench so the top of the leg pad is just below your waist. Stand in the bench with your thighs against the pads, legs straight.
2. Your upper body should be aligned with your lower body so that you’re in a straight line from head to toe, with your spine in a neutral position. Cross your arms over your chest, or hold a weight plate against your chest.
3. Bend at the waist to lower your torso towards the floor, maintaining a flat back. When your waist is around a 90-degree angle, squeeze your butt and contract your back to lift your torso back to the start position.
Exercise 2: Back Squat: Perform 5 sets of 5 reps.
1. Stand in a normal back squat position, barbell across your shoulders, feet between shoulder- and hip-width apart, toes slightly out.
2. Push your hips back to initiate the squat.
3. Bend your knees to descend until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, keeping your chest up and your weight on your heels.
4. Keep the weight of your body in your heels and press back to standing. Perform 20 reps in each set.
Exercise 3: Bench Press: Perform 5 sets of 5 reps.
1. Lie faceup on the bench and grab the bar with an overhand grip just wider than shoulder-width. Push your heels into the floor and unrack it, holding the bar above your sternum with straight arms.
2. Brace your core and bend your elbows to lower the bar to your chest. Your elbows should stay close to your sides, forming a 45-degree angle rather than a wide, “T” shape.
3. Pause for a beat, then press back to start. Perform 10 reps in each set.
Exercise 4: Barbell Deadlift: Perform 5 sets of 5 reps.
1. Stand with the barbell at your shins.
2. Bend at your hips and knees to grab the barbell a little wider than shoulder width: You can use an overhand grip, a mixed grip, or a hook grip. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
3. Keeping your weight in your heels and maintaining the natural curve of your spine, pull the bar up as you thrust your hips forward and stand. The bar should remain close to your body as it comes off the floor.
4. Reverse the maneuver to return to start. Repeat.
This workout is an excerpt from The Workout Bucket List: Over 300 Life-Changing Races, Epic Challenges & Incredible Hikes, Bikes, Lifts, and Runs Around the World, In Your Gym, or Right in Your Living Room, available April 26 wherever books are sold.
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