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June 12, 2022 10 min read

Other than his role on screen in movies we just cannot forget, Arnold Schwarzenegger has impacted the fitness and bodybuilding world. From the numerous awards he won as a professional bodybuilder to the books he wrote, diet plans he created, and even exercise he designed, Arnold is no doubt an icon when it comes to sculpting the body.

Arnold Schwarzenegger did not achieve all these the easy way.

For years now, he has continuously shared the secret to his past massive and still muscular build: a grande eating regimen and an unforgiving workout routine.

He dedicated his physique to his fool-proof workout split system, which allowed him to target and touch all parts of his body. Below, we have provided an in-depth description of working out like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Arnold Workout Split

Past Arnold was a massive hunk of muscular meat. He had a massive, intimidating build that was impressive enough that it won him the Mr. Olympia contest seven times.

At one point during his career, he hulked at 106.6kg, 6’3 inches, videos that measured 22 inches, rock-hard chests that measured 57 inches, and calves that measured a whopping 20 inches.

It is impossible to think of Arnold as anything other than a force to be reckoned with. Even now 74 years old, the Austrian Adonis still sports a very fit and youthful physique that has skimmed years off his age.

How does the most famous bodybuilder to ever walk the planet achieve this?

Arnold was a resilient bodybuilder with diligence anyone will envy. He never skipped the gym and often split his exercises between two groups, enabling him to dedicate time to all the major muscle groups of his body. The split is the Terminator's secret to securing a high muscle volume routine.

The Arnold workout split is a six-day workout routine split designed by Arnold to enable him to train the significant muscles- arms, legs, forearms, calves, shoulders, back, and chest- two times a week.

He arranged this workout routine to double the response of his muscles, a feat not a lot of bodybuilders can pull off.

What is the Arnold Workout Split?

The Arnold workout is a high-volume workout routine designed to boost muscle mass and improve your physique in no time. Arnold often followed this split faithfully each time he prepared for a bodybuilding contest. With his repertoire, it is safe to say that the Arnold solid is exceptionally effective.

The Arnold split is not for the faint-hearted.

It is an intense routine that goes from low to medium to high-intensity exercises and only rests once a week in his time.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was known for training twice a day in the morning and afternoon. He split his exercises between these periods and never misses a single day.

Admittedly, Arnold used to be on a little ‘something, something.’ In those days, steroids were legal, and Arnold has admitted to using them in his time. Regardless of this slight chemical push, it takes a certain degree of dedication and tenacity to pull off the frequency of these exercises.

He is also very fond of dietary supplements.

Way before he founded his own supplement company, he used to take supplements for his nutritional needs and fitness goals.

Who Should Practice The Arnold Split?

While this split might be effective, Arnold does not recommend it to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is a challenging routine and requires time and strict adherence to the schedule.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is essential to note that if you are not fit enough, you won't be strong enough to last a day.

The Arnold split should only be practiced:

  • If you are a professional bodybuilder: The Arnold split is almost a cheat book for bodybuilders preparing for bodybuilding competitions. It is practical and, when done correctly, will set you on the same paths that dear Arnie walked.
  • Bored and in the mood for a challenge: There's no other way to test your strength than to challenge yourself with a legend’s workout routine and see how long you last. This will help you to identify your weaknesses and also probably be your source of motivation for working harder.

If you are a beginner or a weekend warrior who is now bent out of shape, you might want to steer clear of this one.

It is a better option to start with shorter and easier routines to condition your body and build total-body strength. Even after this, it is still a long shot before you can give the Arnold split a trial… But hey! Who knows?

Also, time is a vital part of the Arnold split. If you don't have a log of time on your hands, you might want to skip the Arnold split off now.

How Does The Arnold Split Work?

While there are various versions of what many people claim is the Arnold split, there are only two widely accepted variations: 

  • The usual Arnold off-season training split
  • Arnold’s pre-contest training split

The Off-Season Split

Even when he wasn't competing and winning awards, Arnold’s regular training split was a high-volume bodybuilding strength-training program. Arnold regularly trained six times a week, focusing on working each body part at least twice a week.

Arnold’s off-season split looked like this:

  • Day 1: Chest and Back
  • Day 2: Shoulders and Arms
  • Day 3: Legs
  • Day 4: Chest and Back
  • Day 5: Shoulders and Arms 
  • Day 6: Legs
  • Day 7: Rest

Splitting his routine to look like this helped him focus and intensely train every major muscle group and their connected muscles.

He specifically loved to train like this because he could train antagonistic muscles in the same workout session.

This saves him the stress of having to dedicate separate routines to focus on more muscle groups at a time.

Arnold’s off-season split also enabled him to rest correctly and ward off early fatigue during workout routines. Think about it: the legs are not the primary movers during chest and back exercises, so they get minimum intense movements. 

Dedicating these exercises to specific days helped to keep each part well-rested until it's their turn to be engaged in intense, high-volume exercises.

Besides, there is about a 48-hour interval between each muscle group routine which is more than enough time to recover.

This split also helps Arnold to strike a balance in his routine.

It provides an opportunity to give each muscle group an equal amount of focus and energy without feeling burnt out. Below, we have provided a breakdown of the exercises he performs on each part.

Where the incline bench press allows him to hit his chest muscles from different angles, the dumbbell flyes were Arnold’s tickets to targeting his chest muscles. 

Arnold also confessed to using the pyramiding technique during his chest routine.

He often practiced with one weight, and as soon as his muscles felt pumped enough, he switched it for a heavier weight and reduced the number of reps he performed. This helps to get complete and optimal contractions in his muscles, shocking them into growth.

When he trains his back, Arnold focuses on all parts from top to bottom.

This not only helps him to attain a viable symmetry but ensures he strengthens all parts and muscle groups in his back.

Arnold chooses this combination of exercises because he believes in strength and thickness in the back. He was adventurous and experimented with different grips for targeting other muscles. He uses a narrow grip for the low back muscles and a wider grip for the upper ones.

Arnold’s Off-Season Workout Routine 

Arnold’s routine looked like this:

Chest and Back (Version 1)

  • Flat barbell bench press –4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Bent Over rows – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell incline bench press – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Cable crossovers – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Dumbbell pullovers – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Seated cable rows – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Incline barbell bench press – 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Pull-Ups – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell pec flyes – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Kroc rows – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Dips – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Lat pulldowns – 3 sets of 12-15 reps

(Version 2)

  • Bench press, 5 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Incline bench press (set to shift between low, medium, and high incline setting), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps 
  • V-bar dips, 3-6 sets of 6-10 reps or until failure
  • Dumbbell flyes, 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Cable crossover, 3-6 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Dumbbell pullover, 5 sets, 15-20 reps
  • Pull-ups (wide/overhand grip), 3-6 sets of 5-15 reps
  • Cable pulldowns (wide/overhand grip), 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps
  • T-bar rows, 5 sets of 6-10 reps
  • Barbell bent-over rows, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Seated cable rows, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Barbell deadlift, 3 sets of 6-10 reps.

Shoulders and Arms:

  • Overhead press – 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Seated Arnold press – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Lateral raises – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • EZ curl bar bicep curls – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Hammer curls – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Skull crushers – 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Seated dumbbell press – 4 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Face pulls – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Close grip bench press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Overhead tricep extensions – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Bicep 21s – 3 sets
  • Shrugs – 3 of 15-20 reps

Legs:

  • Squats – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Straight-leg deadlifts – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Leg press – 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Hamstring curls – 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Calf raises – 4 sets of 15-20 reps
  • Cable crunches – 2 sets of 25 reps
  • Deadlifts – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Hack squat – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Good mornings – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Glute ham raise – 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Leg extensions – 4 sets of 12-15 reps
  • Lying leg raise – 2 sets of 25 reps

Arnold’s off-season routine is packed full of so many exercises that will leave you shaking and breathless. It is no news that no one can do Arnold better than Arnold can, but if you feel up to the task to take on his training split, you will need all the help you can get.

Pair your efforts with ADABOLIC for increased muscle endurance, skin-rippling muscle fullness, better muscle tone, and intense performance.

The Pre-Contest Split

When Arnold was preparing for a contest, he often ramped his training up 2-3 months before. He increased the volume and intensity of his workout sessions.

For his pre-contest workout, Arnold often split his routine in half every day, so he worked some muscle groups in the morning and the rest in the afternoon.

His split often looked like this:

  • Monday: 

AM: Chest, Back,

PM: Legs, Abs, calves

  • Tuesday: 

AM: Shoulders, Arms

PM: Calves, Abs

  • Wednesday:

AM: Chest, Back

PM: Legs, Abs, Calves

  • Thursday: 

AM: Shoulders, Arms

PM: Calves, Abs

  • Friday:

AM: Chest, Back

PM: Legs, Abs, Calves

  • Saturday:

AM: Shoulders, Arms

PM: Calves, Abs

  • Sunday:

Rest day

Arnold chose to train this way because it allowed him to perform antagonistic supersets.

This made it possible to alternate between opposing muscle groups. While this was great for muscle response, the volume of the workout often took most of his day, something many people cannot afford.

Arnold’s Pre-Contest Split Routine

For his pre-contest chest and back routine: 

Superset #1:

Bench press, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Pull-ups (wide/overhand grip), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Superset #2:

Incline bench press, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Cable pulldowns (wide/overhand grip), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Superset #3:

V-bar dips, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

T-bar rows, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Superset #4:

Flat DB flyes, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Barbell bent-over row, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Superset #5:

Cable crossover, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Seated cable row, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoyed using a mixture of antagonistic superset and high-intensity to provide his muscle with maximum pump.

This helped him to increase muscle endurance and shock his muscles into growth.

Another method he loved to use was the pre-exhaust method.

This technique included using high-intensity exercises to fatigue his body before finishing resistance exercises. Arnold liked to use this method to train his legs, especially the quad muscles of his thighs. This helped him reach an impressive thigh girth.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pre-exhaust Quad exercises include:

  • Leg extensions, 5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Back squats, 5 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Leg presses, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps
  • Hack squats, 3-6 sets of 8-20 reps

The leg extensions helped his legs to reach fatigue while the hack squats trained every muscle in his legs.

Arnold also trained using the drop set, during which he uses a higher weight to achieve muscle failure before continuing with a lower weight. He often used this method to train his arms and shoulders.

His typical arm and shoulder drop set included:

  • Press the 110-pound dumbbells, 6 reps at no rest
  • Press the 100-pound dumbbells, 6 reps at no rest
  • Press the 90-pound dumbbells,  6 reps at no rest
  • Press the 80-pound dumbbells, 6 reps at no rest
  • Press the 70-pound dumbbells, 6 reps at no rest
  • Press the 60-pound dumbbells, 6 reps at no rest
  • Press the 50-pound dumbbells, 6 reps at no rest
  • Press the 40-pound dumbbells, 6 reps at no rest

For his legs, the drop sets often looked like this:

  • Perform 6 reps with your 6-rep max, drop the weight
  • Perform 6 reps drop the weight
  • Perform 6 reps, drop the weight
  • Perform 6 reps, drop the weight

For his back, Arnold performed:

  • Hanging Knee Raise – 3 sets of 25-50 reps
  • Roman Chair Sit Up – 4 sets of 25-30 reps
  • Lying Leg Raise –  3 sets of 25-30 reps
  • Side-to-Side Twist – 3 sets of 50 reps
  • Back Extension – 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Seated Leg-Up – 4 sets of 25-50 reps
  • Standard crunch – 3-5 sets of 25-30 reps
  • Reverse crunch – 3-5 sets of 25-30 reps.

Training Like Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout routines will leave even the most experienced bodybuilder shaking. It is an all-encompassing high-volume and even higher-intensity routine that leaves no room for slacking.

Arnold was consistent and dedicated; he worked long and hard for his results.

Arnold also supplemented his intense workout routine with a diet plan almost as massive and detailed as his workout routine. If you are feeling adventurous, check out Sylvester Stallone’s workout routine and diet plan.