Arnold Schwarzenegger's Blueprint To Cut: Training

Arnold knew that no classical statue was complete until the final cuts were etched in. Here's how you'll train for ultimate definition on the Blueprint to Cut program!

Main | Vision | Training Overview | Nutrition overview
Supplementation Overview | Get Started

Arnold Schwarzenegger was big and strong from a young age, and there was even a time when he thought that carrying around an epic amount of mass was enough to win bodybuilding competitions. However, as Arnold learned firsthand, losing body fat and revealing quality, chiseled mass was of the utmost importance to victory on the stage.

Yes, Arnold knew how to build muscle, but he also knew how to sculpt and carve it. He knew how to strip away fat and reveal a masterpiece underneath. Learn from his training principles—just like you did in his Blueprint to Mass program—and you can achieve your own weight loss goals, whether you want to compete, see how far you can shred, or simply live lean 365.

Cut or Be Cut

When first compared with the preeminent bodybuilders of his day—Sergio Oliva, Frank Zane, and Bill Pearl, for instance—Arnold definitely wasn't the leanest. He learned the importance of lines and cuts quickly, however. "When I came to America in 1968 for the Mr. Universe contest, I weighed 245 pounds. I thought I had it made," he writes in "The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding."

"Joe Weider took one look at me and declared me the biggest bodybuilder there was. Here I was in America to show everybody how great I was—and I lost! Frank Zane took the title with his smaller but cut-to-ribbons quality physique. And that taught me a valuable lesson," Arnold confesses.

The lesson wasn't to get bigger—although he definitely did that over time. It was to get shredded, or die disappointed.

"Mass is vital to a bodybuilder's physique. But it is the shape and the quality of this mass that wins contests," he wrote. "Seeing big numbers on a tape measure or scale, or striving for the feeling of your clothes being tight all over your body, and not applying enough attention to stripping away fat, achieving ultimate definition and contest quality, will give you one inevitable result—you'll lose. And that I can tell you from experience."

But what about people who aren't preparing for a contest? There's a case for them to cut as well—and even to call it "competition training," just like Arnold did.

What are you competing against, you ask? It's simple: everything in your life that's trying to keep you soft. As Arnold explained in his book, maintaining a layer of body fat "makes you feel bigger than you are." It can even become a crutch that allows you to avoid making difficult dietary choices and avoid training intensely or doing—ugh—cardio.

Arnold's Blueprint to Cut is the answer you've been avoiding. If you loved the Blueprint to Mass, you'll feel right at home here, and you'll get results that enhance everything else you've been doing in the gym for the last few years. One glance in the mirror during Week 8 and it will all make sense.

How Arnold Got Cut

Like his mass-building workouts, Arnold's cutting routines were constantly evolving. But nothing he did was random. He built his cuts around seven principles he laid out memorably in "The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding," and which his fans have been repeating ever since.

Concentration, mind-muscle connection, flexing, and finding a training partner are up to you. The training, nutrition, and supplement plan in the Blueprint to Cut Trainer will handle the rest.

Blueprint to Cut The Training Program

Your eight weeks of training will be split into two four-week phases. Each week you'll hit chest, back, and legs twice, and during the second four weeks, you'll work shoulders and arms twice a week as well. If you find you're having trouble fitting all the volume into your customary workout time, consider trying two-a-day workouts, where you train the big-gun muscles during the morning or early in the day, and do detail work like calves, abs, and arms at night.

When you jump into Week 1, you'll quickly notice something missing. That's right: There's no programmed ab training for the first four weeks of the program. You can add a little if you feel you must, but it's not necessary, so keep it minimal and really consider leaving it out as recommended. You'll get plenty in Phase 2, and your body's recovery ability will already be tested throughout by the added volume and intensity techniques.

Blueprint to Cut Intensity Techniques

Over the course of the next eight weeks, you're going to encounter a number of Arnold's favorite intensity-boosting techniques. Some will be familiar if you followed the Blueprint to Mass trainer. Others might be new. Remember, Arnold advocated using an even greater number of shock methods when cutting than he did while building!

Supersets and Trisets

If you need a quick refresher, a superset is simply two exercises performed back-to-back without rest. A triset or giant set is any series of exercises greater than two performed without rest between exercises.

Arnold's contest-prep training was incredibly efficient. He was rarely resting, choosing instead to perform supersets that forced one muscle to rest—and gave it a stretch—while another was working. One well-known example was his barbell bench press superset with wide-grip chin-ups. Phase 1 of the cut trainer is almost entirely comprised of supersets, while Phase 2 adds in abdominal giant sets and—one of Arnold's favorites—a triset finisher during chest workouts.

1-10 Method

After a warm-up set or two, find a weight you're only able to lift for 1 rep. After you perform that 1 rep, take just enough weight off to perform 2 reps. From there, do the same for 3 reps and 4 reps, going all the way up to 10 reps. This is brutal because you take no rest between sets. The only rest you get is when you're unloading the weights.

Stripping Method, "Strip Set," or Dropset

Immediately after your final working set, take some weight off the bar or stack and lift for another 5-10 reps. Then, with no rest, keep repeating this process. Reduce your weight, lift, reduce again, lift, and continue until you're down to the bar. Once you're down to the bar, lift for 20 reps.

Max Effort

Pick one exercise and see what you can do for a 1-rep max on that particular day. To get there, ramp up to the weight with the following rep pyramid, taking ample rest between each set: 20, 15, 10, 8, 5, 3, 1, 1, 1-rep max.

1/4-Rep Method

You could also call this the "1-1/4 rep method," to help distinguish it from the type of quarter-reps you might see in the gym on a daily basis. Here's how it works: Perform the complete eccentric (weight-lowering) portion of a movement. Then raise the weight only a quarter of the way back up, lower it back down again, and perform a complete rep.

Running the Rack

Running the rack was a well-known favorite technique of Arnold and his fellow Gold's Gym legends. You'll be using it on flyes, dumbbell skullcrushers, and front raises. It's simple to perform. Just go to failure with your prescribed weight, then put the weight down and pick up the next lightest in line. Repeat the process until you're exhausted.

5-Count Method

Some exercises get more intense when you do them quickly. Others dial it up when you turn the pace down. At times during this trainer, you'll perform exercises like curls and lying lateral raises, and make both the lowering and raising halves of the lift last 5 seconds apiece. Those last few reps will definitely show on your face!


You probably know how to do 21s: 7 top-half reps, 7 bottom half, and 7 full reps. The 28 method adds a new level of intensity by changing up the order and adding in an additional 7 super-slow reps using the 5-count method, where you make both the raising and lowering portions of the rep last 5 seconds apiece. Here's the order: 7 full reps, 7 slow reps, 7 top-half reps, 7 bottom-half reps. You can read more about 28-method training here.

The Running Man

Arnold made some waves in 2014 when he jumped into a Reddit thread titled Best Damn Cardio Humanly Possible in 15 Minutes and spoke up in defense of running. "My favorite form of cardio when we worked out at Gold's was to run down to the beach and run in the sand after I finished lifting," he wrote. "Today, I don't run, but I still ride my bike through Santa Monica and Venice. Or I do interval-style training on a stationary bike."

Running was even more prominent in Arnold's training when he was cutting for a contest, which is why, 3-5 times a week throughout this program, your assignment is to run 1-2 miles as fast as possible. How fast it ends up being doesn't matter; all that matters is that it's as fast as feels possible to you.

Running? Yes, running. Don't worry, despite what you've heard, this won't cost you any of your gains. You'll just find yourself leaner, meaner, tanner, and feeling more energetic and nimble. If it's at all possible, run outside like Arnold did, or even better, on an uneven surface like a trail or beach. With time, you might even enjoy it. You'll definitely enjoy the results it helps you achieve.

Achieve Ultimate Definition

"The most important thing is that you have a vision—a goal," Arnold told us. Yours can be an event, a person, a number—it's up to you. This program is the way to get dialed in for it. Don't just do these workouts to do them; do them right, and do them to get ready for something that truly matters to you. Make the right choices now, and you'll look back fondly on this adventure 40 years from now.

Leave your mark, and create a physique that will always be remembered. Embrace what you know is difficult, and finally get cut!

Main | Vision | Training Overview | Nutrition overview
Supplementation Overview | Get Started