Is the "Arnold Split Workout" Best for Building Muscle Mass?
The Arnold Split Workout: Is it Right For You?
When you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might conjure up an image of him as The Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, or the former governor of California. But before all his Hollywood roles and political ventures, Arnold Schwarzenegger was arguably the greatest bodybuilder to ever walk the planet.
His commitment to fitness and bodybuilding made him an iconic figure. (After all, thanks to him we have the Arnold Press.) Naturally, his training regimen inspired an eponymous workout routine. The Arnold Schwarzenegger Workout Split—more simply known as the "Arnold Split."
Below, we'll dive into Schwarzenegger's bodybuilding background and how the so-called Arnold Split targets opposing (antagonistic) muscle groups in the same workout to maximize "the pump" and hypertrophy.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: From Bodybuilding to the Big Screen
Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, and fitness—specifically, his bodybuilding career—was a springboard to his acting career in the United States.
Arnold began training seriously in his mid-to-late teens and started competing in European bodybuilding competitions in the late sixties. At the spry age of 23, Schwarzenegger won his first Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe titles in 1970. (Those were the two most prestigious bodybuilding competitions at the time, and the Mr. Olympia competition remains the "Super Bowl" of bodybuilding to this day.)
He proceeded to win six more Mr. Olympia titles in a row, a record that would stand for several decades. The seven-time Mr. Olympia become a global icon after retiring from his bodybuilding career and taking to the big screen. Arnold's illustrious bodybuilding career even brought about a major physique competition named after him, the "Arnold Classic."
Needless to say, Arnold Schwarzenegger's name is virtually synonymous with bodybuilding nowadays. His workouts were as groundbreaking as they were grueling. So, let's dissect the specifics of his methodology.
What Is the Arnold Split Workout?
To say that Arnold trained hard would be an understatement. He was known for pushing himself with high-volume sets of max-effort reps, Arnold believed in thoroughly exhausting each muscle group at least twice per week. His workout sessions, whether leg training or chest training, would reportedly last 3+ hours.
Thankfully, you don't have to spend that much time in the gym to train like Arnold. Unless bodybuilding is your full-time job, odds are you only have 1-2 hours to commit to each workout, and that's still plenty.
Arnold utilized numerous advanced training techniques, such as drop sets, partial reps, and antagonistic supersets, to increase the intensity of his workouts.
Schwarzenegger's lifestyle allowed him to train multiple times per day, but we're going to adapt his routine so you can follow the Arnold split while training once per day, up to six times per week.
Here's the typical muscle group split in Arnold's training program:
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: Full Rest Day
Note: Schwarzenegger didn't focus as much on his core or building his abs as he did other parts of his body, so this training routine won't target your core as much as other workout routines might.
Training volume is also relatively high on the Arnold split; usually three to four sets per exercise, ranging from 6 to 25 reps per set.
Arnold Split Sample Workout
Below is a sample Arnold-style workout routine with preferred exercises and sets listed; many of these exercises can be performed as supersets that target opposing muscle groups. For example, you can start the chest and back workout with supersets of flat bench presses and barbell rows. By training opposing muscle groups in the same workout, you will save time and get a great pump.
The Arnold Split vs. Push-Pull-Legs: Which is Better for Building Muscle Mass?
Whether you're serious about bodybuilding or just want to switch up your lifting routine, the Arnold Split might be a perfect fit. The workouts are set up for those who can commit at least 75 to 90 minutes of their day in the gym, six days per week.
Keep in mind that the training intensity and volume will be quite high. Hence, the Arnold Split is best suited for intermediate-to-advanced bodybuilders that want to focus more on hypertrophy than strength.
Athletes, powerlifters, and beginner gym-goers will probably fare better following a Push-Pull-Legs training split, which we've outlined in our Guide to Push-Pull-Legs Workout Routine.
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