Mitchell Hooper Tackles Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Brutal Back and Biceps Workout

The strongest man in the world undergoes a tough day session.

As if trying to match Ronnie Coleman’s best lifts wasn’t enough of a challenge, Mitchell Hooper also tried to keep up with the signature training of another all-time great. Although the current World’s Strongest Man doesn’t normally focus on getting energy during his workout, he had no choice but to embrace that feeling of satisfaction that Arnold Schwarzenegger strove for during his legendary gym sessions.

In a video posted to his YouTube page on November 13, 2023, Hooper tried out the seven-time Mr. Olympia winner’s iconic back and biceps workout. Needless to say, the high-volume training style gave the Canadian strongman an even deeper appreciation of Schwarzenegger’s accomplishments.

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Always up for a challenge, Hooper tested his upper body strength and endurance through a series of back and biceps exercises that fully exercised his muscles. Paying tribute to arguably the most popular bodybuilder who ever lived, it didn’t take the talented strongman long to understand the differences between how athletes in each sport benefit from their specific training modalities.

Hooper began the session with four back exercises before finishing with several curl variations. The training starts about 40 seconds into the video.

Pull-up with wide grip

Standing about 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, Hooper recruited his lats to lift his considerable frame to the top of the assisted pull-up machine. Using a wide grip improved lat engagement and allowed the Ontario native to better utilize his rhomboid and trapezius muscles.

After completing his second set, Hooper took a look at some of Schwarzenegger’s best lifts, which included a 498-pound (226-kilogram) bench press and a 709.9-pound (322-kilogram) deadlift. Despite not being overly impressed by those numbers, Hooper acknowledged that bodybuilders have a clear advantage in one key area.

“Upper body strength is disproportionately good in bodybuilders because their muscle mass is so high there,” he explained. “I don’t know what that is. Maybe strongmen should work much more with upper body accessories than us because bodybuilders are comparatively very strong.

After that brief rest period, Hooper concluded the first part of the workout by completing three more sets of wide-grip pull-ups.

T-bar row

Next, Hooper opted for a variation of one of Schwarzenegger’s favorite exercises: the T-bar row. Starting with three 45-pound (20.4-kilogram) plates, the big man explosively pulled and squeezed each repetition, noticing that the His upper body strength was not at the same level as that of his lower body.

“Like 80 percent of everything we do is quads, hamstrings and glutes,” Hooper said of strongmen. “Pulse with your legs, if you have it, you will do very well.”

Later sets of T-bar rows included heavier loads, forcing the Canadian athlete to use his core and legs to maintain stability throughout the movement.

Single Arm Dumbbell Row

Hooper then moved to the dumbbell section to perform one-arm rows. A classic back exercise that is great for building thickness. He performed quick work with 59-kilogram (130-pound) dumbbells on his first two sets. However, just because it looked easy doesn’t mean Hooper enjoyed this part of the training.

“I think this might be my least favorite exercise,” he explained. “The difficulty is a lot in your core, not a lot in the actual pull. It’s like a basic workout with an arbitrary dumbbell movement.”

Still, Hooper pushed (or in this case, pulled) to finish two more sets at the same weight, making sure to maintain a neutral spine while completing the heavy dumbbell rows.

Close Grip Lateral Pulldown

The last back exercise of the workout tested Hooper’s lats. Having already accepted the reality that he would be “sore as hell” the next day, he mustered the energy to complete four sets of close-grip pull-ups. Hooper leaned back slightly during the movement, lowering the handle to just above chest level.

Once he was done on the cable machine, he moved on to the second half of his session.

[Related: The Best Arm Workouts for Beginners, With Dumbbells, and More]

biceps circuit

With about 20 minutes left to train, Hooper wrapped his biceps in blood-restricting sleeves, which have been shown to help increase hypertrophy. (1) Although he performed fewer work sets than Schwarzenegger’s protocol, Hooper still achieved an excellent stimulus for muscle development.

Aiming to work his biceps from multiple angles, the current WSM completed four rounds of a four-part circuit that included the following exercises:

  • Standing Barbell Curl — I used a 70-pound (31.8 kilogram) curl bar
  • Barbell preacher curl — I used the same 70-pound (31.8 kilogram) curl bar
  • Alternating dumbbell curl — Used 50-pound (22.7 kilogram) dumbbells
  • Concentration curl — Used 45-pound (20.4-kilogram) dumbbells

By the time he performed his final rep, an exasperated, vascular version of Hooper seemed happy with the pump he achieved during the accelerated biceps session.

Schwarzenegger-style back and biceps training

Here’s a full breakdown of Hooper’s Arnold Schwarzenegger-inspired back and biceps workout.

  • Pull-up with wide grip — 5 x 8-12
  • T-bar row — 5 x 8-12
  • Single Arm Dumbbell Row — 4 x 8-12
  • Close Grip Lateral Pulldown — 4 x 8-12
  • Standing Barbell Curl — 4 x 8-12
  • Barbell preacher curl — 4 x 8-12
  • Alternating dumbbell curl — 4 x 8-12
  • Concentration curl — 4 x 8-12

While you shouldn’t expect to see Mitchell Hooper participating in a bodybuilding program anytime soon, the fact that he is willing to try different training styles and share his honest feedback shows why he is one of the most respected strength athletes and popular today. He is already a world-class strongman, anything he does to improve in other areas will only make him a fiercer competitor in the future.

Featured Image: Mitchell Hooper/YouTube

References

  1. Wortman RJ, Brown SM, Savage-Elliott I, Finley ZJ, Mulcahey MK. Blood flow restriction training for athletes: a systematic review. I am J Sports Med. 2021 June;49(7):1938-1944. doi: 10.1177/0363546520964454. Epub 16 Nov 2020. PMID: 33196300.
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