The Arnold Schwarzenegger Workout Split (and How to Modify It)

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a monolith. From his careers in politics, philanthropy, and leisure to his years as knowledgeable bodybuilder, Schwarzenegger has cultivated a fame for being borderline allergic to half-hearted efforts.

His all-in philosophy was actually an asset in Hollywood, however Schwarzenegger’s mythos is constructed upon his success on the physique stage — and the coaching he put himself by way of to get there. Seven wins on the Mr. Olympia competition communicate for themselves, however take one take a look at Schwarzenegger’s strategy to bodybuilding and also you’ll see that his workout split, like the person himself, is bigger than life. 

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When you’re on the prowl for a brand new strategy to muscle achieve, Schwarzenegger’s cut up would possibly be up your alley. However make no mistake, this coaching plan isn’t for the faint of coronary heart. To coach like Arnie, it’s good to be barbaric. A predator; a Terminator. 

Earlier than You Start

Success in bodybuilding is determined by extra than simply the amount or high quality of your exercises. Muscle mass doesn’t construct itself, in fact, however reaching your bodily potential requires diligence exterior the load room as nicely.

Extra importantly, Schwarzenegger’s success within the bodybuilding world was multifaceted and far of his renown got here from having nigh-impeccable genetics for the game. Adopting his exercise cut up gained’t flip you into the Austrian Oak in a single day; his workouts of selection gained’t alter your bone construction, peak, or limb size.

So, mood your expectations earlier than you dive headlong into his grueling strategy to physique improvement. And “grueling” is placing it mildly — these exercises, pulled from Schwarzenegger’s personal e book The New Encyclopedia of Trendy Bodybuilding, (1) are extraordinarily high-volume. You’ll want ample free time to spend within the fitness center (and diligent restoration habits) to run this factor because it’s written. 

The Arnold Schwarzenegger Exercise Break up for Bodybuilding

Schwarzenegger was a bonafide golden-era bodybuilder. Skilled physique athletes have utilized a big selection of various coaching strategies through the years, however the gents (and girls) of the ‘70s and 80’s constructed their our bodies by way of set after set (after set) of body-part-specific coaching.

You’ll discover that right here in spades. Schwarzenegger doesn’t strictly specify in Encyclopedia which of his many routines he used throughout his aggressive low season, however many execs from that period weren’t liable to drastically alter their exercises all year long. 

The Break up

Schwarzenegger’s “Stage 1 Train Program” is a six-day physique half double cut up consisting of 9 particular person exercises unfold throughout the week with one devoted relaxation day. 

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

(Morning) Chest

(Morning) Again

(Night) Legs

  • Squat: 5 x 20, then 4 x 10,8,6,4
  • Front Squat: 4 x 10,8,8,6
  • Hack Squat: 3 x 10
  • Leg Curl: 4 x 20,10,8,6
  • Standing Leg Curl: 4 x 10
  • Straight-Leg Deadlift: 3 x 10

(Night) Calves

(Night) Abs

  • Crunch: 3 x 25
  • Bent-Over Torso Twist: 100 reps all sides
  • Machine Crunch: 3 x 25
  • Crunch: 1 x 50

On Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday




  • Barbell Wrist Curl: 4 x 10
  • Reverse Wrist Curl: 3 x 10


  • Seated Calf Increase: 4 x 10


  • Reverse Crunch: 4 x 25
  • Seated Twist: 100 reps all sides
  • Vertical Bench Crunch: 4 x 25

How It Works

Schwarzenegger didn’t glamorize or embellish his strategy to bodybuilding. There’s no secret approach or historic data at play right here; you simply want a superb work ethic and plenty of time in your arms.

Schwarzenegger takes a conventional strategy to arranging his physique half cut up. Chest and again coaching are paired collectively within the mornings; a well-liked determination, since these muscle teams antagonize one another and, when skilled in the identical session, create one heck of an upper-body pump.

Night classes and alternate days are reserved for different muscle tissue, with loads of training volume dedicated to smaller muscle tissue just like the calves and forearms. Schwarzenegger additionally opted to coach his abs each day, primarily by way of low-load calisthenics like crunches or twists. 

What You’ll Want

If you wish to perform Schwarzenegger’s exercise cut up as-written, you’ll want just a few issues: The primary (and most essential) is time. The morning exercises on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday alone comprise 32 units, which might require between one and a half and two hours to finish. 

Second, this isn’t a home-gym-friendly exercise plan. A smart bodybuilder makes use of a wide range of completely different instruments to build muscle, and Schwarzenegger was no completely different. You’ll discover loads of free weight workouts in right here in addition to many cable actions and some massive machine workouts just like the hack squat. 

To run Schwarzenegger’s exercise cut up, you’ll must put aside between 15 and 20 hours per week for coaching and have entry to a well-furnished weight room.

Tips on how to Modify the Arnold Schwarzenegger Exercise Break up

The sobering actuality of Schwarzenegger’s coaching is that his legendary physique was constructed upon an equally astounding period of time within the weight room. When you’re not a full-time profession bodybuilder, his precise exercise cut up could also be impractical to try to match into your way of life. 

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That mentioned, there are steps you’ll be able to take to change the Schwarzenegger cut up to take care of the spirit of his coaching fashion whereas additionally making certain you don’t should spend each waking second pounding the weights. Make use of a number of of the next changes as wanted:

Drop the Quantity

Coaching quantity is, debatably, an important driver of muscle progress over time. (2) To encourage progress, it’s good to put your physique by way of a harder workload than it’s accustomed to.

Nevertheless, most trendy proof means that piling on the coaching quantity solely works up to a degree. Past a sure threshold (that varies between people), you’re more likely to expertise diminishing returns. (3)

In reality, the info show that whereas 10 to twenty weekly units is broadly thought of very best for most people, you’ll be able to most likely make a overwhelming majority of the good points on provide with a fraction of the amount. You’ll be able to choose to trim just a few workouts out of every particular person exercise, or go for fewer units per train; the previous will prevent extra time within the fitness center.

Up the Depth

Schwarzenegger and plenty of of his golden-era contemporaries (together with eight-time winner Sergio Oliva) operated below the “stimulate, don’t annihilate” philosophy of muscle coaching. In real-world phrases, this implies coaching laborious, however not pushing your self to the brink of failure on each set.

This follow aligns with trendy analysis on hypertrophic stimuli, which largely concludes that coaching to failure isn’t vital for muscle progress, however could confer a small further profit. (4)(5)

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Upping your set-specific depth accomplishes two issues. It gives a muscle progress “safeguard,” all however guaranteeing that your exercises present as a lot worth as attainable. Coaching to or close to failure can be markedly higher for gaining energy, (5) which can aid you preserve progressive overload long-term. 

When you select to decrease a few of Schwarzenegger’s coaching quantity, pair it with an increased workout intensity to proceed driving progress. 

Use Supersets

You might take pleasure in how Schwarzenegger organizes his weekly coaching, however merely lack the requisite time to run by way of all of his exercises. If you wish to run the default program and want only a bit extra time, make use of supersets.

Supersetting, or performing two completely different actions again to again with no relaxation in between, is a implausible time-saving approach. Lowering your downtime will even improve the quantity of energy you burn throughout your session. Most of Schwarzenegger’s exercises are well-suited to supersets. For example, you could possibly carry out the Monday morning chest and back workout like this:

  • Barbell Bench Press + Weighted Chin-Up
  • Barbell Incline Bench Press + Shut-Grip Chin-Up
  • Dumbbell Flye + T-Bar Row
  • Dip + Barbell Row
  • Pullover: 3×15

Keep in mind that supersets do save time, however are metabolically demanding. Pairing two massive compound exercises back-to-back is extra of a problem than it seems on paper, particularly if these actions have intricate methods or require invaluable tools.

If You’re a Newbie

You could be one of many many 1000’s of people that have been drawn to lifting weights due to Schwarzenegger. When you’re taking your first steps in your health journey, energy to you. Nevertheless, you need to most likely avoid operating Schwarzenegger’s exercise cut up.

An athlete bench pressing.
Credit score: BLACKDAY / Shutterstock

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That is a particularly high-volume, demanding train routine. It requires mastery over many various workouts, tools, and movement patterns. For a bodybuilding beginner, it’s greater than overkill. Your greatest guess is to start out with a beginner bodybuilding routine and lay some groundwork earlier than tackling the Austrian Oak’s coaching fashion.

What Are Exercise Splits?

No, exercise splits aren’t a solution to check your hip flexibility. For bodybuilders like Schwarzenegger, splits are a catch-all time period for a way an athlete splits up their completely different muscle tissue into separate exercises.

Consider splits as the other of total-body coaching; you don’t have a exercise, you’ve gotten a chest exercise. Many professional bodybuilders choose to design their very own distinctive physique half splits that handle their particular physique weak points or that align with their schedules. That mentioned, there are just a few archetypes that work nicely if Schwarzenegger’s routine isn’t for you:

Higher-Decrease Break up

An upper-lower exercise cut up entails coaching your complete higher (or decrease) physique in a single session, normally a number of occasions every week. Higher-lower splits are easy and have a tendency to comprise largely compound workouts. This makes them phenomenal for freshmen who must develop total energy, flexibility, and muscularity. 

Push-Pull-Legs Break up

Think about the push-pull-legs (PPL) split a step up from an upper-lower plan. Reasonably than coaching your high half altogether, PPL divides your higher physique muscle teams into “push” or “pull” workouts

Push classes prepare your chest, shoulders, triceps, and infrequently some accent muscle tissue like abs or calves. Conversely, most pull exercises are targeted on growing your again and hips.

Most leg workouts may be categorized on this style as nicely, however many push-pull routines choose to dedicate a complete distinctive exercise towards lower-body exercises, because the muscle tissue in your legs work so nicely as a synchronized unit. 

Physique Half Break up

Schwarzenegger’s exercise regime is taken into account a (extremely specialised) physique half cut up. Physique half splits are the intermediate or superior bodybuilder’s bread and butter. There isn’t essentially a singular organizational precept right here; muscle tissue are grouped collectively into exercises based mostly on comfort, practicality, private choice, and so forth. 

For instance, your chest and shoulder muscle tissue are concerned in lots of the similar workouts (suppose all manner of bench press). As such, chest and shoulders is a standard pairing for physique half splits. 

A female bodybuilder doing a barbell back squat.
Credit score: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

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Or, you’ll be able to have a devoted arm day that runs completely on supersets to avoid wasting time and blow up your weapons. Physique half splits provide essentially the most flexibility and alternative for muscle progress, however require extra working data to assemble and preserve. 

Elevate Just like the Oak

The night time earlier than the 1980 Mr. Olympia competition, Arnold Schwarzenegger — who had determined to enter the operating that very same day — was attacked by one other competitor. (6) His determination and subsequent victory have been thought of an enormous upset. Partly on account of Schwarzenegger’s commanding (and controversial) demeanor, but in addition as a result of he was, even after a multi-year break from aggressive bodybuilding, a lethal risk on stage.

In a golden period of bodily greats, Schwarzenegger was an ideal storm. By pairing his pure proclivity for the game with a hauntingly-challenging coaching fashion, Schwarzenegger cemented his legacy as one of many all-time greats of bodybuilding. 

Will adopting his exercise cut up set you on the trail towards seven Sandow trophies? Maybe not. However there’s no higher solution to pay homage to the Oak than following in his footsteps.


  1. Schwarzenegger, A., & Dobbins, B. (2014). The New Encyclopedia of Trendy Bodybuilding: The bible of bodybuilding. Simon & Schuster USA. 
  2. Schoenfeld B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their software to resistance coaching. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 24(10), 2857–2872. 
  3. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance coaching quantity and will increase in muscle mass: A scientific evaluation and meta-analysis. Journal of sports activities sciences, 35(11), 1073–1082. 
  4. Refalo, M. C., Helms, E. R., Trexler, E. T., Hamilton, D. L., & Fyfe, J. J. (2023). Affect of Resistance Coaching Proximity-to-Failure on Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Overview with Meta-analysis. Sports activities medication (Auckland, N.Z.), 53(3), 649–665. 
  5. Nóbrega, S. R., & Libardi, C. A. (2016). Is Resistance Coaching to Muscular Failure Mandatory?. Frontiers in physiology, 7, 10. 
  6. Peter McGough, ‘The 1980 Mentzer Arnold Punch Up,’ Digital Muscle, October 9, 2011.

Featured Picture: @schwarzenegger on Instagram

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