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The Terminator Workout

By Dr. Riley Williams with contribution from Evan Schwartz .

Arnold Schwarzenegger is many things – a movie star, a politician – but he is also one of the most accomplished weightlifters in history. Even though he was winning Mr. Olympia 40 years ago, many of his techniques still apply today.

Arnold’s Secrets

As a weightlifter, Schwarzenegger had impeccable attention to detail, and remarkable flexibility. Arnold wasn’t afraid to leave behind old workouts once he became aware of new scientific discoveries.  For example, in the early days Arnold worked his legs by doing ten sets of squats and ten sets of leg curls.  His legs got bigger but he wasn’t happy with the overall results.

Bodybuilding guru Joe Weider introduced Arnold to the science side of weightlifting.  Arnold adjusted his routine to include a broader array of exercises that hit more leg muscles, with fewer sets for each exercise but more overall reps. The results for the multiple-time Mr. Universe speak for themselves.

The Basics of Weightlifting for Strength

There are plenty of resources out there to provide the details, but here are the basics: eat well, get plenty of rest, warm up properly, use proper form, work hard, and repeat.  If it seems so simple, why does it feel so hard?

Even the best athletes get tired, both physically and mentally.

The “Attitude Lift” for Lifting More Weight

Even the best athletes get tired, both physically and mentally.  In fact, the best athletes get tired more often than the rest of us, and that’s why they’re the best.  According to Muscle & Fitness magazine, Arnold would play mental games with himself: instead of lat pull downs, for example, he would pretend he was pulling the sky down to his chest.  When deadlifting, he pretended he was not lifting weight plates, but small planets on the ends of his barbell.  Arnold engaged in positive thinking, visualization, and whatever else it took to give his attitude a lift so he could lift more weight.

3 Sets of 10 Reps Won’t Cut It

If you’re still stuck in the retro thinking of “3 sets of 10 reps,” it’s time to face the future.  Three sets of 10 reps is a fine way to get in shape or stay toned.  But for real strength, you need 4 or 5 sets of declining reps starting with 12 reps at a comfortable weight, then decreasing reps down to 6 as you increase the amount of weight.

How to Win by Failing

For many exercises, Arnold would lift to failure.  It means exactly what it sounds like: Arnold would do as many reps as he possibly could until he could barely complete the last few reps of an exercise.  He was famous for doing pull ups to failure for 5 to 7 sets.  If you’re new at this, you may want to limit your “failure” exercises to one or two to start.  And, BE CAREFUL!!!  Don’t sacrifice form just to add a few pounds.  Use good form and struggle; don’t cheat to lift the weight.  The point is to engage in the struggle, not to win a trip to the hospital with a herniated disc.

Incorporate Science into your Strategy

If the Terminator workout works for you, it’s time to learn how to recover and warm up like an efficient machine. Warm up is a vital part of any weightlifting routine, and taking care of strains and pains properly can let you maximize your potential.

That’s where the Therma1 can help. The revolutionary hot cold rolling device lets you put cold on tender biceps, can heat up muscles for better elasticity, and generally help you be even more of a Terminator in the gym.

Try warming up with a Therma1™ hot roller before your next work out.

Image via Orion Pictures

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