Watching Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo Train

Bob Swern witnessed Arnold, Columbo and other great legends training at the ‘Hudson Health Club’. He wrote the following report around 1980, hat’s off to Mr. Swern:

Bob Swern: “It was a Friday night in mid-September and I had just arrived at the gym – The Hudson Health Club.

‘You’ll never guess who just came in,” one of the fellows said, ‘Arnold, and Frank Zane. There are two other guys with them but I’m not sure who they are.’

‘Ok,’ I said, ‘calm down.’ I walked into the locker room and was confronted with more muscle than one usually sees in a lifetime.

Frank Zane, Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Zabo” Koszeski and Franco Columbo were in town for Weider’s big show. They had come down to the gym to use the Sun Room. This was the first time that I had ever seen any of them in person and the sight is almost impossible to explain.

Each of the four is truly great in his own way. Koszweski and Columbo (more about him later) are amazingly defined.

Zane has once of the most beautifully “balanced” physiques imaginable. He had gained some weight while maintaining all of the shape he had at a lighter bodyweight. But Schwarzenegger is really beyond description and must be seen to be believed (much more about him later).

They were kind enough to pose for us and I went through my workout that night in a daze.

I spoke to Frank Zane briefly and got a general outline of his training routine. As it’s quite similar to what I will discuss later, I will simply mention that Frank now lives in California, is teaching there, and continues to improve on an already great physique. I was unhappy that I wasn’t going to get a chance to see him train but Schwarzenegger said that he would be back in New York in a month to make a movie and might be using the gym train at.

The next few weeks went by and I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of seeing Schwarzenegger again. Then one night in late October, two huge shadows fell across the gym floor. I looked up and there was Arnold. He was accompanied by Frank Richards. Arnold apparently remembered me from his last visit, and put out his hand.

Fortunately, he didn’t squeeze too hard. He said he would be in New York for a month to film the movie “HERCULES IN NEW YORK.”

Frank Richards had just come over from London to work for Weider. When the movie was finished they were both going to California where Richards would work in Weider’s west coast office. 

Franco Columbo joined them a few days later and will accompany them to California. These three greats have been training at the Hudson for the last four weeks and what follows is a description of their training sessions.

Arnold set the pace for the workouts both in exercises and timing. They all did the same exercises, used the same poundages, and did the same number of sets. They trained six days a week and worked two parts each night with some waist, calf, and sometimes forearm work with each session. Each of the other parts was worked twice a week.

Monday was usually chest and thigh night. Chest work began with about 30 push ups for warm up. I might note here that they always began with very light weights for each exercise to insure a thorough warmup of each part as Richards said, “to get the blood flowing to the area and avoid any muscle strain.”

After the pushups they did bench presses. They began with a very light weight and worked up in 20 to 40 pound jumps until they reached 300 pounds. This took about six sets. They maintained about ten repetitions a set until they got to the top weight. They did two sets with the 300 and then dropped back to about 225 for the last set.

They do everything very strictly with a minimum of rest between sets. They go in turn with each man resting only as long as the others take to do their sets. As bench press is the only exercise that wasn’t supersetted with something else, this means that two of them were always working at any given time (I will explain this more clearly).

After the bench press, about ten sets, they supersetted incline presses and dips. They again began with a very light weight for the inclines and immediately followed each set with 10-12 dips with no weight. They worked up to about 180lb for the inclines.

Again, I might mention that they always worked with weights that were well within their capabilities. They did eight of these supersets. The chest work was completed by supersetting flat bench dumbbell laterals (flys) with dips. They used about 40 pound dumbbells to start and worked to 65’s. The dips were done as before, with no weight just for “pump.”

Thigh work consisted of supersetting front squats with leg presses. The same general pattern prevailed as had been used for chest. They began very light and worked up to 180lb for the front squats and 350 for the leg presses. They did about 12 reps per set for eight to ten super sets.

Although the weights may seem on the light side, remember they did this continuously with perhaps 30 to 45 seconds of rest between sets.

Stomach work consisted of supersetting situps and leg raises on the incline board. They did 15-20 reps per set but continued non-stop until about 200 reps had been done. Richards said that when they trained for a contest they would do 20 minutes of stomach work a session.

Calf work consisted of 8-10 sets of donkey raises, 20 repetitions a set, with Arnold or Frank providing the resistance. Arnold also did some leg lunges with a light weight while Richards and Columbo did some leg curls for thigh bicep work.

The next night was devoted to shoulder and triceps work. Behind the neck presses and face down laterals on the incline bench were supersetted for eight sets of ten repetitions. Again, a very light weight at the start, working up to 165 for presses and 25 pound dumbbells for the laterals. After two sets with the 165lb, they would drop back for a final set of presses with about 130lb. 

Next, alternate dumbbell presses were supersetted with leaning over side laterals done while sitting at the end of a bench. Eight sets of ten repetitions with light dumbbells at first, working up to a pair of 70’s and 25’s for the supersets.

This completed the shoulders and again, while the poundages they used were well withing their capabilities, they worked continuously with well under a minutes rest between sets and really only a few seconds between parts of the supersets. As a result, each of them was soaked with perspiration at the end of each workout. As for the pump they got in each area they were working, I will have more to say later.

Triceps work was next. As they explained, the triceps were already pumped from the pressing, so they took advantage of this. Bicep work was done on another night. For tricep, they did more sets than for any other part.

Some nights they did 40-50 sets and this was done almost non-stop. They would tri-set lat machine pushdowns, pulley extensions, and dumbbell tricep curls for 6-10 sets. Then they would superset tricep curls on a flat bench with a bar and tricep “kickbacks” with a pulley. Again, ten repetitions and 6-10 sets.

The third night was devoted to lats and biceps. For lat work they supersetted bent over barbell rowing and behind the neck chins. Chins were done with no weight, a full stretch and full contraction for each of the 10 repetitions. Rowing was done strictly with weights up to 180 pounds and the same sequence of sets and reps as before with continuous work.

Next, dumbbell rowing and lat machine pulldowns behind the neck were supersetted. A 75 pound dumbbell and 160 on the lat machine were the top weights used.

Bicep work consisted of supersetting barbell curls and reverse curls. 120 and 80 pound barbells were used at the top after starting with very light curls and seated dumbbell curls were supersetted.

Again eight sets of 10 repetitions with 35-50 pound dumbbells. For the inclines, the hand were turned out at right angles to the body. The seated curls were done with thumbs up.

Some additional forearm work was often done; mostly wrist curls, with the forearms flat on the bench while seated. Stomach and calf work were repeated.

After many sessions, some time was spent posing. The “pump” that they got was readily evident.

The part most recently worked was almost red. I will give my impressions of their respective physiques, remembering that in the final analysis, everyone has somewhat different likes and dislikes. Columbo has excellent shape and unbelievable definition.

In addition, he is extremely strong, having bench pressed over 450lb in training. If he were a few inches taller he would give everyone a tough time. Richards is very thickly muscles with his lats, triceps and shoulders being particularly impressive.

He is very friendly, and never hesitated to answer any questions. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger is “something else.” The breadth of his shoulders, the depth of his chest and the completely unbelievable arm development must be seen to be comprehended. He is much more defined and shaped than his pictures would lead one to think.

I doubt if anyone in the world can match his upper body development. If his legs were on anyone else they would also be fantastic. They have improved greatly and are rapidly catching up with the rest of him. He has well defined abdominals. It would appear that Sergio will have a very tough time next year.

Some odds and ends: Arnold encourages and pushes his training partners. Columbo speaks to Arnold in German, who translates into English for Richards.

They eat over three hundred grams of protein a day (Columbo may eat somewhat less). Arnold weights about 245, Richards about 225, and Columbo about 170.

They eat good all around diets with heavy protein supplementation in protein drinks. Carbohydrate intake is limited only before contests and consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, etc.

Arnold’s father, in his sixties, trains daily with weights. He has a 17 inch arm.

To sum up their training: they work hard and with little rest. Moderate poundage’s are used; strict performance is maintained and maximum “pump” is worked for.

The three were complete gentlemen all of the time. They were courteous and helpful to everyone at the gym. It was our privilege to have seen them train. They will be missed!”

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