How To Train Like Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Arnold Split Workout Explained

Celebrity workouts have been popular for years, with people desperate to replicate the physiques of their favourite actors or musicians. However, while some will work, there are many of these routines that simply won’t garner the results you are hoping for, for one reason or another.

The main reason is that these workouts are often designed to get quick results for an acting role and use extreme methods and supplements that are neither healthy nor sustainable. In other cases, it is simply that the nutrition plan required for a routine to be effective isn’t made publicly available.

There is one such plan that fits the bill of “celebrity workout” that stands apart from the rest though, and that is the Arnold Split. Having been used for decades, it has been responsible for crafting some of the most impressive physiques in history.

So, what exactly is the Arnold Split, where did it come from, and how can you use it improve your own physique? Well, that is exactly what I hope to show you in today’s article. So, if you truly want to attain the body of your dreams, I would highly suggest reading on.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Who Is Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Born in 1947 in the village of Thal, in Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most successful bodybuilders, actors, businessmen, and politicians in history. A lifelong fan of bodybuilding, he started training when he was very young and entered the pro ranks at the age of just 21 in 1968.

His training methods would become the stuff of legend and he would go on to win 3 Mr. Universe titles and a then record 7 Mr. Olympia titles. He also lost only once in his entire professional career, when he placed 2nd in his Mr. Olympia debut to the reigning 3 time champion Sergio Oliva.

During his career, Schwarzenegger completely altered the world of bodybuilding. His physique not only changed what it took to become a champion, but his award winning documentary “Pumping Iron” and movie “Stay Hungry” also helped the sport to burst into the mainstream like never before.

Since 1989 he has hosted the annual Arnold Sports Festival, one of the world’s top weightlifting and bodybuilding events. While he went on to become a Hollywood superstar and even the Governor Of California, it is his lasting impact on bodybuilding that will forever be his crowning achievement.

What Is the Arnold Split?

The Arnold Split is the infamous, gruelling training routine that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to build his physique. It became one of the most popular styles of training among top bodybuilders in the 1970s and remains one of the most frequently replicated training philosophies to this day.

The idea behind the Arnold Split is to train the body by the individual muscle groups, which each one being isolated and pushed to its limits before you move on to the next. Each muscle group is trained using a high volume of exercises and sets and will also be trained multiple time per week.

While the exact split could vary based on where he was in his competition prep, the normal Arnold Split layout sees you train chest and back on Mondays and Thursdays, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and forearms on Tuesdays and Fridays, and quads and hamstrings on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Calves and abs would also be trained in a second daily session every day from Monday to Saturday, while Sunday was designated as a rest day. This rest day is particularly important, given the extreme amount of volume used on training days in the Arnold Split.

Arnold Split Workout Example Routine

The exact routine Arnold would use would vary slightly, based on what stage of his competition prep he was in, as well as whether his sessions were becoming stale, and he needed to shake things up to encourage more growth.

That said, what we will look at now is an example of one of the routines Arnold is known to have used regularly throughout his professional bodybuilding career.

Monday – Chest, Back, Calves, Abs

Morning

  • Bench Press Pyramid – 6 Sets with a reps of 30, 20, 12, 10, 8, 6. Be sure to up the weight each set.
  • Incline Bench Press – 6 x 6 – 15 reps

Superset: Flat Dumbbell Flye / Dumbbell Pullover – 5 x 10 – 15 reps of each

Superset:

  • Weighted Dips / Wide Grip Pullups – 5 x 15 of each (making sure to train to failure)
  • T-Bar Row – 5 x 10
  • Bent Over Barbell Row – 5 x 10
  • Seated Cable Row – 5 x 10
  • Stiff Legged Deadlift – 5 x 10

Evening

  • Standing Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Seated Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Toe Press – 5 x 20
  • Single Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise – 3 x 15 reps per leg
  • Roman Chair Crunches – 5 x 25
  • Kneeling Cable Crunches – 4 x 25
  • Leg Raises (Hanging Or Lying) – 4 x 25
  • Side To Side Twists – 3 x 25 per side

Tuesday – Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps, Forearms, Calves, Abs

Morning

Clean And Press – 5 x 5

Superset: Dumbbell Press / Dumbbell Front Raise – 5 x 8 – 10 of each

Superset:

  • Cable Lateral Raises / Upright Rows – 5 x 10 – 12 of each
  • Close Grip Bench Press – 5 x 6 – 8

Superset:

  • Barbell Skull Crushers / Single Arm Overhead Extension – 4 x 8 – 10 of each
  • Barbell Curl – 6 x 6 – 8
  • Dumbbell Curl – 6 x 6 – 10
  • Concentration Curl – 5 x 6 – 8 per arm

Superset: Reverse Barbell Curl / Barbell Wrist Curl – 6 x 8 – 10 of each

Evening

  • Standing Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Seated Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Toe Press – 5 x 20
  • Single Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise – 3 x 15 reps per leg
  • Roman Chair Crunches – 5 x 25
  • Kneeling Cable Crunches – 4 x 25
  • Leg Raises (Hanging Or Lying) – 4 x 25
  • Side To Side Twists – 3 x 25 per side

Wednesday – Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs

Morning

  • Squats – 6 x 8 – 12
  • Leg Press – 6 x 8 – 12
  • Lunges – 5 x 8 – 12

Superset: Leg Extensions / Leg Curls – 5 x 8 – 12 of each

Evening

  • Standing Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Seated Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Toe Press – 5 x 20
  • Single Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise – 3 x 15 reps per leg
  • Roman Chair Crunches – 5 x 25
  • Kneeling Cable Crunches – 4 x 25
  • Leg Raises (Hanging Or Lying) – 4 x 25
  • Side To Side Twists – 3 x 25 per side

Thursday – Chest, Back, Calves, Abs

Morning

  • Bench Press Pyramid – 6 Sets with a reps of 30, 20, 12, 10, 8, 6. Be sure to up the weight each set.
  • Incline Bench Press – 6 x 6 – 15 reps

Superset: Flat Dumbbell Flye / Dumbbell Pullover – 5 x 10 – 15 reps of each

Superset:

  • Weighted Dips / Wide Grip Pullups – 5 x 15 of each (making sure to train to failure)
  • T-Bar Row – 5 x 10
  • Bent Over Barbell Row – 5 x 10
  • Seated Cable Row – 5 x 10
  • Stiff Legged Deadlift – 5 x 10

Evening

  • Standing Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Seated Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Toe Press – 5 x 20
  • Single Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise – 3 x 15 reps per leg
  • Roman Chair Crunches – 5 x 25
  • Kneeling Cable Crunches – 4 x 25
  • Leg Raises (Hanging Or Lying) – 4 x 25
  • Side To Side Twists – 3 x 25 per side

Friday – Shoulders, Triceps, Biceps, Forearms, Calves, Abs

Morning

Arnold Press – 5 x 5

Superset: Behind The Neck Presses / Rear Delt Lateral Raises – 5 x 8 – 10 of each

Superset:

  • Lying Lateral Dumbbell Raise / Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise – 5 x 10 – 12 of each
  • Barbell French Press – 5 x 6 – 10

Superset:

  • Cable Tricep Press / Dumbbell Kickbacks – 5 x 6 – 8 of each
  • Barbell Cheat Curls – 6 x 6 – 10
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl – 6 x 6 – 10
  • Preacher Curl – 5 x 6 – 8

Superset:

Reverse Preacher Barbell Curl / Barbell Wrist Curl – 6 x 8 – 10 of each

Evening

  • Standing Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Seated Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Toe Press – 5 x 20
  • Single Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise – 3 x 15 reps per leg
  • Roman Chair Crunches – 5 x 25
  • Kneeling Cable Crunches – 4 x 25
  • Leg Raises (Hanging Or Lying) – 4 x 25
  • Side To Side Twists – 3 x 25 per side

Saturday – Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs

Morning

  • Front Squats – 6 x 8 – 12
  • Deadlift – 5 x 8 – 12
  • Good Mornings – 5 x 8 – 12

Superset:

Leg Extensions / Leg Curls – 5 x 8 – 12 of each

Evening

  • Standing Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Seated Calf Raise – 5 x 15-30
  • Toe Press – 5 x 20
  • Single Leg Dumbbell Calf Raise – 3 x 15 reps per leg
  • Roman Chair Crunches – 5 x 25
  • Kneeling Cable Crunches – 4 x 25
  • Leg Raises (Hanging Or Lying) – 4 x 25
  • Side To Side Twists – 3 x 25 per side

Sunday – Rest

Is The Arnold Split Effective?

The Arnold Split is an incredibly effective training method, which should come as no surprise given the accomplishments of the man who created and used it. It will put every muscle in the body under a significant amount of strain in each workout, which is essential for maximum growth to occur.

Additionally, training every body part twice per week (and even more regularly in the case of the abs and calves) ensures that you work them as often as you can, while still giving them sufficient time to rest and not impairing their performance during sessions by overworking them.

What Diet & Supplements Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Use When On The Arnold Split?

Arnold didn’t follow a set diet every day. Instead, he had a number of rules that his daily food intake had to follow. He would eat “smaller” meals roughly every 3 hours, amounting to 5 to six meals per day. He would also consume a small amount of carbohydrates around 30 minutes before a workout.

Each of these meals would include around 40 grams of protein, while also containing a mix of carbs and healthy fats. His diet included foods such as lean cuts of beef, chicken, fish, and pork, as well as vegetables, eggs, grains, and starchy foods like potatoes.

As for supplements, Arnold tried to get the majority of his nutrition from whole foods. That said, he would use supplements like vitamins and minerals to keep his levels high and him healthy, as well as protein shakes after a workout, to help his muscles start to repair as quickly as possible.

In total, Arnold’s calorie consumption was around 4,000 calories per day, and consisted of roughly 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fats. For reference, these levels worked for him while he was competing at a weight of 235 lbs (106.5 kg) and standing 6 foot 2 inches (188 centimeters) tall.

Is There Any Cardio In The Arnold Split Workout?

Arnold is notorious for his, now somewhat controversial, stance on cardio, which is that he feels it is a waste of time and you would be better focusing on developing your physique through diet and targeted weightlifting exercises.

While there is some logic to that, not everyone is blessed with Arnold’s incredible genetics. This will mean, for some, it can be challenging to build muscle without putting on fat and then equally hard to remove it again.

The problem is that when following such a high volume training program like the Arnold Split, adding in cardio can both use up time you don’t have and overexert your body, reducing the impact of your regular training sessions.

One way that you can add an element of cardio to your routine though is by trying to train at a faster pace. Training styles like EMOM are great ways to get cardio from your weightlifting sessions, but  you should stick to using the principle on the exercises where you use slightly lighter weights.

Comparing The Arnold Split To The Alternatives

So, as we have seen, the Arnold Split is an extremely tried, true, and effective workout routine. That said, it isn’t the only one out there. With that in mind, we’ll now look at some of the alternatives to the Arnold Split to see how they compare and make it easy for you to work out which is best for you.

Arnold Split Vs Bro Split Workout

A bro split is a training routine that is among the most commonly followed by new and experienced lifters alike. A five day split, it will see users have a set day for their chest, back, shoulders, legs, and arms. They will usually do an ab workout 3 to 5 times per week and then have two straight rest days.

The benefit to this is that each day is dedicated solely to a single part of your body, allowing you to put all of your energy and strength into it. It also allows you to refuel quickly after training the area, allowing it to begin repairing as quickly as possible.

The amount of rest is also notably increased from the Arnold Split, as each muscle is only trained once per week, and you will get between 48 and 72 straight hours of complete rest at the end of each week to let their entire body recover, depending on the timing of your workouts.

Where the Arnold Split is more beneficial is that it allows you to train each muscle twice per week, which is considered by many to be the optimal amount, while hard to build areas like the calves and abs are hit every day.

When picking between the two, the Arnold Split is more effective, but requires a huge amount of dedication, due to the volume of exercises and doing a total of 12 workouts each week. Be honest with yourself about how much time and effort you will be able to put in when choosing which to use.

Arnold Split Vs Push Pull Workout

The Push Pull Workout is a 4 day training split. On day one, you will train the muscles that involve a pushing motion, i.e., the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Then, on day two, you will train the pulling muscles, the back, biceps, and forearms, while also hitting the legs as well.

On day three you will rest, before repeating the first two days on days four and five, then rest on days six and seven. You will then repeat the cycle again the next day. Abs will usually be trained on two or four of the working days.

Much like the Arnold Split, a push pull workout will see you train each muscle group twice per week, although the abs and calves will get much less work. Where it will appeal to many is that it needs much less time input, as you will do 1 daily workout instead of 2 and get 3 rest days instead of 1.

The greater rest times are ideal for those struggling with energy and motivation, while the fewer training days make it ideal for those with less time to spare. However, each day will receive much less dedicated work than in the Arnold Split, as you will be condensing 12 workouts into 4.

This makes the Arnold Split the better option for those seeking maximum results, while the Push Pull Workout is better for those who want to make good progress but can’t dedicate quite as much time.

Arnold Split Vs PPL

The PPL workout stands for push pull legs and is the closest option to the Arnold Split workout. It is another 6 day routine where you split the upper body in 2 and train each half twice per week, then train the legs twice per week as well, and rest on the 7th. There are two main differences though.

Firstly, the upper body splits are different. While the Arnold Split pairs the chest and back on one day and the shoulders and arms on the other, the PPL routine pairs the pulling muscles, the back, biceps, and forearms on one day, and the pushing chest, shoulders, and triceps on another.

The other difference is that there will only be a single workout each day in the PPL Workout. The calves will get trained twice per week on each leg day, while the abs are trained between 2 and 6 times per week.

The results offered by the two routines are fairly comparable, but the Arnold Split is able to offer slightly better results for the abs and calves, due to the second workout.

This makes the PPL Routine a great option to help you grow, while the Arnold Workout is the option for those who want maximum results and can cope with extreme amounts of volume.

Final Thoughts

The Arnold Split is a fantastic routine and is a great way to train for anyone hoping to recreate one of the most impressive and successful physiques in history. While it admittedly takes an incredible deal of time and discipline to complete in its entirety, it is worth it if your main focus is to see top results.

If you don’t think you quite have what it takes to complete the full Arnold Split routine, you could try starting by building your own routine using some of his principles, trying one of the alternatives on our list, or seeking out an online fitness program that better aligns with your own goals and needs.

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