Arnold Split Explained: Inside Schwarzenegger’s Workout Plan

Arnold Split Explained: Inside Schwarzenegger’s Workout Plan

When we think about bodybuilding legends, one of the first names that come to our mind is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not only did he redefine the sport through his physical achievements, but he also introduced the world to his distinctive training methodology, famously known as the arnold split. This workout plan, built on the foundation of discipline, consistency, and precise focus, catapulted him to international fame and set a benchmark for bodybuilders everywhere. It demonstrates the importance of a thoughtfully structured fitness regimen for achieving formidable physical strength and muscular development.

In this article, we will delve into the evolution of the Arnold Schwarzenegger workout plan, tracing its origins back to his early training days, moving onto the famed arnold split routine during his prime, and finally looking at how he has adapted his workout regime at the age of 75. Furthermore, we will explore his nutritional approach and the role of supplementation in achieving peak physical condition. This comprehensive insight aims to shed light on the principles behind Schwarzenegger’s workout plan, providing a roadmap for those inspired to follow in the footsteps of this bodybuilding giant.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Early Training Days

Introduction to Bodybuilding

Arnold Schwarzenegger began his journey into bodybuilding at the young age of 14 after being inspired by his football coach who introduced him to weight training. His early exposure to sports like soccer had already prepared him physically, making the transition to intensive training smoother. By 15, Arnold was deeply immersed in understanding the psychology behind bodybuilding, setting the stage for his future in the sport.

Training Methods in Early Career

In his hometown of Graz, Arnold was mentored by Alfred Gerstl and often trained at a local gym where he admired bodybuilding icons through movie screenings. His dedication was evident as he would break into the gym during weekends just to maintain his training regimen, reflecting his unparalleled commitment to bodybuilding. This early discipline laid the foundation for his later success.

Influences and Mentors

Significant figures such as Reg Park and Joe Weider played pivotal roles in Arnold’s bodybuilding career. Reg Park, a former Mr. Universe, became Arnold’s idol and inspired him to move to America and pursue bodybuilding and acting. Joe Weider, on the other hand, not only inspired Arnold through his muscle magazines but also actively supported his career, inviting him to America and advising him throughout his journey. These mentors were crucial in shaping Arnold’s approach to training and his professional path.

Arnold’s Workout Routine in His Prime

Typical Weekly Workout Schedule

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s prime workout routine was meticulously structured, engaging in chest and back exercises on the same day, using supersets for efficiency, and embracing leg days split between quads and hamstrings. Operating on a six days per week schedule, Arnold pumped his arms with barbell curls and ended workouts with abdominal crunches.

Detailed Breakdown of Exercises

During his prime, Arnold’s routine included exercises like bench press, squats, and deadlifts, with each major muscle group targeted multiple times a week. For instance, Arnold would do chest and back on Monday and Thursday, legs on Tuesday and Friday, and arms and shoulders on Wednesday and Saturday. His workouts typically consisted of 8 to 12 reps per set for upper body muscles and 12 to 16 reps for lower body muscles to maximize muscle hypertrophy.

Intensity and Volume Techniques

Arnold employed several intensity techniques like “Volume Training,” where he and a training partner would squat upwards of 50 sets until they could no longer stand. Another technique was “Running the Rack” during dumbbell shoulder presses or side raises, starting with a light weight and progressively moving to heavier weights until reaching a limit, then reversing the order. Additionally, Arnold’s “I Go, You Go!” method involved competitive sets with barbell curls, alternating without letting the barbell touch the ground to maintain intensity.

Current Workout Routine at 75

Adjustments Due to Age and Health

At 75, I’ve had to make significant adjustments to my workout routine to accommodate my age and health conditions, including several heart and joint surgeries. To protect my body, I now focus on therapy training, using workout machines instead of free weights to avoid injury.

Simplified Exercises and Routines

My current routine includes high-repetition exercises to warm up vulnerable areas like my elbows, using machines for most exercises. For instance, I perform an arm circuit with machine preacher curls and dips, and a shoulder circuit with overhead presses, lateral raises, and rear delt flies, all aimed at maintaining muscle without overstraining.

Focus on Efficiency and Safety

Understanding my body’s limitations is crucial, so I emphasize moving quickly between exercises with lighter weights. This approach helps me maintain fitness while ensuring I do not exacerbate any existing health issues. My workout sessions are designed to be efficient, targeting multiple muscle groups with about 25-30 working sets in roughly half an hour, minimizing rest between sets to maintain intensity safely.

Nutritional Approach and Supplementation

Diet Principles During Competitive Years

During my competitive years, my diet was primarily high in protein, focusing on foods like steak, chicken, eggs, and dairy, all rich in essential amino acids necessary for muscle building. I adhered to a simple rule of consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, which was crucial for muscle repair and growth. My meals were structured around not just what I wanted to eat but on meeting these protein needs, which were instrumental in building the muscle mass that defined my bodybuilding career.

Adaptations in Dietary Habits Over Time

As I aged, I recognized the importance of adapting my diet to maintain health and longevity. This included reducing meat consumption and incorporating more plant-based foods, a transition influenced by both health and environmental considerations. By the age of 86, my diet had shifted significantly towards plant-forward choices, focusing on nutrient-dense foods to support overall well-being while still including some animal products.

Supplementation Strategies

Throughout my bodybuilding career, supplementation played a crucial role in enhancing my nutritional intake and training performance. I regularly used protein supplements like whey and casein to meet my daily protein requirements and support muscle recovery. Additionally, I incorporated creatine for strength and muscle mass, BCAAs for muscle metabolism, and other supplements like multivitamins and fish oil to fill dietary gaps and support overall health.


Throughout this exploration of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s storied bodybuilding career, we’ve witnessed the evolution of a workout regimen that has not only etched his name in history but also provided a blueprint for aspiring bodybuilders. From his early days where raw determination met disciplined training, to the peak of his career where the arnold split defined muscular development, and into the adaptation of his routines to honor the wisdom of aging, Arnold’s approach to bodybuilding is a testament to the importance of evolving one’s fitness philosophy over a lifetime. His nutritional strategies, transitioning from high-protein to more plant-forward diets, alongside strategic supplementation, underscore his holistic view on health and fitness.

The significance of Arnold’s contribution to bodybuilding transcends the trophies and the titles. It lies in his ability to inspire countless individuals to embrace the discipline, the innovation, and the adaptability required to achieve one’s physical aspirations. As we reflect on the lessons gleaned from Arnold’s journey, it’s clear that the essence of his legacy is not just in the muscle and the might, but in the mindset—a relentless pursuit of excellence, adaptation to change, and a commitment to health. For those looking to forge their path in the realm of fitness, the Arnold split remains a powerful starting point, but the true takeaway is the ethos of continuous improvement and personal growth.


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