The Classics: Arnold’s Championship Workouts – Legs

There was a reason Arnold Schwarzenegger was, and still is, one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, commitment to excellence.  Never one to take it easy on a workout, Arnold pushed the limits of his body each and every time he was in the gym.  In the pursuit of perfect proportions, Schwarzenegger pounded his legs just as hard as the “glamour” muscles and the results were quadriceps that look like they were from a picture out of an anatomy book.

Unlike some people, Arnold thrived in high volume training.  Looking at his leg workout is extremely intimidating.  He has 3 supersets and the final exercise is 3 sets of deadlifts for a total of 7 movements and 29 sets!  However, one has to remember Arnold was on some form of steroids so his ability to repair and recover from workouts was much higher than a normal person.

Here is his competition workout:


  • Leg Extensions            5 sets x 12 reps
  • Squats                        5 sets x 15 – 20 reps
  • Front Squats                5 sets x 12 – 15 reps
  • Leg Curls                     5 sets x 12 reps
  • Hack Squats                5 sets x 15 reps
  • Leg Curls                     1 to 10 Method
  • Straight-Leg Deadlifts    3 sets x 6 reps

The sheer amount of lactic acid in your quads after the first 5 sets of squats would bring a mere mortal to tears, but Arnold kept going.  Another thing to consider is that he would do this workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  This is way too much volume and intensity for 3 days per week.  If you hit legs alone once per week, you could get away with a similar workout with less volume.  However, the rep count and number of sets would exhaust you to the point of overtraining within a few weeks.

Your leg workout could look like this:


  • Leg Extensions            3 sets x 10 – 12 reps
  • Squats                        3 sets x 10 – 12 reps
  • Front Squats                3 sets x 10 – 12 reps
  • Leg Curls                     3 sets x 10 – 12 reps
  • Hack Squats                3 sets x 10 – 12 reps
  • Straigh-Leg Deads        3 sets x 10 – 12 reps

You take out the additional 2 sets on each exercise and cut the volume down to 18 sets.  I would only do this one day per week because the intensity is still very high and if you are doing cardio, you could be in some serious pain after this workout!  One aspect that Arnold tries to get across is to work with the same intensity on both legs and upper body muscles.  This gives you a physiological symmetry that allows you to lift more on every body part.

Get your pre workout and towel ready to hit the squat rack!