The World’s Strongest Man puts himself through a tough day of pulling.
As if trying to match Ronnie Coleman’s best lifts wasn’t challenging enough, Mitchell Hooper also tried to keep up with another all-time great’s training. Although the reigning World’s Strongest Man doesn’t usually focus on getting pumped during his workout, he had no choice but to embrace that satisfying feeling that Arnold Schwarzenegger strived for during his legendary gym workouts.
In a video posted on his YouTube page on November 13, 2023, Hooper tried the seven-time Mr. Olympia. Needless to say, the high-volume training style gave the Canadian strongman an even deeper appreciation for Schwarzenegger’s accomplishments.
Always up for a challenge, Hooper tested his upper body strength and endurance through a series of back and biceps exercises that left his muscles thoroughly taxed. Paying homage to arguably the most popular bodybuilder to ever live, the talented strongman didn’t take long to understand the differences between how athletes from each sport benefited from their specific training methods.
Hooper started the session with four back exercises before finishing with several curl variations. The workout starts about 40 seconds into the video.
Wide grip pull
Tipping the scales at about 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, Hooper enlisted his lats to lift his sizable frame atop the assisted pull-up machine. Going with a wide grip resulted in 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 kg) bench press and a 709.9-pound (322 kg) deadlift. Although he wasn’t overly impressed by those numbers, Hooper acknowledged that bodybuilders have a distinct advantage in one key area.
“Upper body strength is disproportionately good in bodybuilders because their muscle mass is so high up there,” he explained. “I do not know what this is. Maybe strong men should do a lot more upper body accessorizing than we do because bodybuilders are so strong by comparison.
After this short rest period, Hooper completed the first part of the workout by completing three more sets of wide-grip pull-ups.
Hooper then 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 pulled and squeezed explosively through each rip, noting that his upper-body strength isn’t on par with his lower body.
“Like 80 percent of everything we do is quads, hamstrings, glutes,” Hooper said of strongmen. “Leg drive, if you’ve got that, you’ll do really well.”
Subsequent sets of T-bar rows involved heavier loads, which forced the Canadian athlete to use his core and legs to maintain stability throughout the movement.
One Arm Dumbbell Row
Hooper then went to the dumbbell section to perform one-arm rows. A classic back exercise that’s great for building thickness, quickly set up 130-pound (59 kg) dumbbells for the first two sets. However, just because it looked easy didn’t mean Hooper enjoyed that part of the workout.
“I think this might be my least favorite exercise,” she explained. “The difficulty is big on your core, not big on the actual pull. So it’s like a basic workout with an arbitrary dumbbell movement.”
However, Hooper pushed (or in this case, pulled) to complete two more sets with the same weight, making sure to maintain a neutral spine as he completed the heavy sets with dumbbells.
Close-Grip Lat Pulldown
The final back exercise of the workout put Hooper’s lats to the ultimate test. Already accepting the reality that he would be “sore as hell” the next day, he mustered the energy to complete four sets of close-grip lat pulldowns. Hooper leaned back slightly during the move, pulling the handle down 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]
With about 20 minutes left in the workout, Hooper wrapped his biceps in blood restriction cuffs, which have been shown to help increase hypertrophy. (1) Although he performed fewer sets of work than Schwarzenegger’s protocol, Hooper achieved an excellent muscle growth 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 Curl with a bar — Used a 70-pound (31.8 kg) curl.
- Barbell Preacher Curl — Used the same 70-pound (31.8 kg) curl.
- Alternating dumbbell curl — Used 50-pound (22.7 kg) dumbbells.
- Concentration Curl — Used 45-pound (20.4 kg) dumbbells.
By the time he finished his last rep, a pissed off and vascular version of Hooper looked happy with the pump he achieved during the speedy biceps session.
Schwarzenegger-style back and biceps workout
Here’s a full breakdown of Hooper’s Arnold Schwarzenegger-inspired back and biceps workout.
- Wide grip pull — 5 x 8-12
- T-Bar series — 5 x 8-12
- One Arm Dumbbell Row — 4 x 8-12
- Close-Grip Lat Pulldown — 4 x 8-12
- Standing Curl with a bar — 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 show anytime soon, the fact that he’s willing to try different training styles and share his honest feedback shows why he’s one of the most respected and popular strength athletes today . Already a world-class strongman, anything he does to improve in other areas will only make him a tougher 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.