As if attempting to match Ronnie Coleman’s best lifts wasn’t challenging enough, Mitchell Hooper also tried to keep pace with another all-time great’s signature workout. Although the reigning World’s Strongest Man typically doesn’t focus on getting a pump during his training, he had no choice but to embrace that satisfying feeling Arnold Schwarzenegger strived for during his legendary gym sessions.
In a video posted on his YouTube page on Nov. 13, 2023, Hooper tried the seven-time Mr. Olympia winner’s iconic back and biceps workout. Needless to say, the high-volume style of training gave the Canadian strongman an even deeper appreciation for Schwarzenegger’s accomplishments.
Always up for a challenge, Hooper tested his upper-body strength and stamina via a series of back and biceps exercises that left his muscles thoroughly taxed. Paying homage to arguably the most popular bodybuilder ever to live, it didn’t take long for the talented strongman to understand the differences between how athletes from each sport benefit from their specific training modalities.
Hooper kicked off the session with four back exercises before finishing up with several curl variations. The workout begins about 40 seconds into the video.
Tipping the scales at about 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, Hooper recruited his lats to lift his sizable frame to the top of the assisted pull-up machine. Going with a wide grip led to enhanced lat engagement and allowed the Ontario native to better utilize his rhomboids 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 distinct advantage in one key area.
“Upper body strength is disproportionally good in bodybuilders because their muscle mass is so high up there,” he explained. “I don’t know what that is. Maybe strongmen should do a lot more upper body accessory work than we do because bodybuilders are so strong comparatively.
Following that brief rest period, Hooper wrapped up the first portion of the workout by completing three more sets of wide-grip pull-ups.
Next, Hooper went with 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 rep, noting that his upper-body strength isn’t on the same level as his lower body.
“Like 80 percent of everything we do is quad, hamstring, glute,” Hooper said about strongmen. “Leg drive, if you’ve got that, you’re going to do very well.”
Subsequent sets of T-bar rows included heavier loads, which forced the Canadian athlete to use his core and legs to maintain stability throughout the movement.
Hooper then went over to the dumbbell section to perform single-arm rows. A classic back exercise that’s great for building thickness, he made quick work of 130-pound (59-kilogram) dumbbells for his first two sets. However, just because it looked easy doesn’t mean Hooper enjoyed this part of the workout.
“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 pulling. So it’s like a core workout with an arbitrary dumbbell movement.”
Still, Hooper pushed (or in this case, pulled) on to finish two more sets with the same weight, making sure to maintain a neutral spine as he completed the heavy dumbbell rows.
The final back exercise of the workout put Hooper’s lats to the ultimate test. Having already accepted the reality that he would be “sore as hell” the next day, he mustered up the energy to complete four sets of close-grip lat pulldowns. Hooper leaned back slightly during the movement, pulling the handle down to just above chest level.
Once he finished on the cable machine, he moved on to the second half of his session.
With about 20 minutes left to train, Hooper wrapped his biceps in blood restriction cuffs, which have been shown to help increase hypertrophy. (1) Although he performed fewer working sets than Schwarzenegger’s protocol, Hooper still achieved an excellent muscle-building stimulus.
Aiming to hit his biceps from multiple angles, the reigning WSM completed four rounds of a four-part circuit that included the following exercises:
Standing Barbell Curl — Used a 70-pound (31.8-kilogram) curl bar
Barbell Preacher Curl — 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 cranked out his final rep, an exasperated and vascular version of Hooper seemed happy with the pump he achieved during the expedited biceps session.
Here’s a complete breakdown of the Arnold Schwarzenegger-inspired back and biceps workout Hooper performed.
Wide-Grip Pull-Up — 5 x 8-12
T-Bar Row — 5 x 8-12
Single-Arm Dumbbell Row — 4 x 8-12
Close-Grip Lat 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 enter a bodybuilding show anytime soon, the fact he’s willing to try different styles of training and share his honest feedback shows why he’s one of the more well-respected and popular strength athletes today. Already a world-class strongman, anything he does to improve in other areas will only make him a more fierce competitor moving forward.
Featured Image: Mitchell Hooper / YouTube
Wortman RJ, Brown SM, Savage-Elliott I, Finley ZJ, Mulcahey MK. Blood Flow Restriction Training for Athletes: A Systematic Review. Am J Sports Med. 2021 Jun;49(7):1938-1944. doi: 10.1177/0363546520964454. Epub 2020 Nov 16. PMID: 33196300.