In case you missed the introductory article for this series, I am a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness and after completing week 1 of The Arnold Challenge, here's what happened.
This challenge requires me to train for a month in a very similar fashion to what seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger did during his tenure as the #1 bodybuilder on the planet.
For those of you who don't follow bodybuilding, this requires two, two-hour workouts a day, six days a week, training each major muscle group three times that week. Yes, that's a lot of volume with little recovery time. Marathons can be run in less time than a lower body workout.
As of this writing, I'm well into week two, and the first nine days of training have all had their share of unique challenges and highlights. And yes, the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) was intense.
However, the good news for me is that I'm already seeing results. After a week of doing these 2 hour workouts 3 times all over the body, I've already lost 8 pounds on the scale and there are certain exercises that make me stronger. An example is the incline bench press. When I first did this workout, I barely lifted 225 pounds for my last set. w I finish at 235. I can also flatten 125s for reps, even after multiple sets. As of now, that's the dumbbell max considering 125 is the heaviest set I have right now. I wonder how a pair of 150s would feel towards the end of this program.
Before I started doing this, I hadn't squatted much in the past few months. I train legs, but focus more on cup squats, leg presses, and even some trapeze work. So it took me some time to get used to getting under a bar again. The third time I did leg training, I felt a lot more comfortable squatting again - even with the intense agony I felt afterwards. I still need to get stronger with this lift but I'm pretty confident that will come.
Adjustments made after week 1 of the Arnold Challenge
While I was able to take the time to do these workouts without compromising, there are factors I need to work with to make them happen. Since I train at home, I don't have equipment like a full cable station, hack squat machine, or any of the isolated machines you find at many gyms. So I work with dumbbells or use heavier bands whenever possible. As long as it's a comparable challenge, I'll take part.
Also, like many of you, I have a family. My wife and youngest son support this endeavor, but I still want and need to be the best husband and father I need to be. Some days are tougher than others, but when I ask them if I'm ignoring them or not doing enough, they have continued to support me.
Then there's my nine-to-five job. I'm actually blessed to be able to work from home, but I have commitments that need to be met, which means work days can start earlier than normal and last late into the night. But the work gets done. To make up for the four hours of training, I got up early to take care of those commitments. Some days I go to bed a little later. The good thing is that I can take a nap here and there if needed without worrying about being reported to HR. And I've needed the fast downtime more than once.
t least during the workout itself. When Arnold trained for his world championships, he did so alongside other bodybuilding legends such as Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ed Corney and others who graced the weight room at the original Gold's Gym in Venice, California. It was summer too.
Conditioning for the cold weather
Right now, while my dog is barking at the passing cars, I'm exercising in a barn with a high temperature of about 35 degrees. That's about average for a typical West Virginia winter lately. It's sometimes difficult to complete supersets when you just want to don as many hoodies, hats, and gloves as possible.
Because of the cool conditions, it's sometimes difficult to get myself up for each workout because I don't have the voice to push me or that partner to encourage me to get that last two or three reps that Arnold preached about was one champion. Luckily a few friends endured numerous texts between sentences and kept pushing me because they want to see this finished now that I'm this far into it. This is important when you're in the middle of your second round and doing 30+ sets of thighs.
Speaking of which, I've typically trained with a more high-intensity training style, so at the high end I'm doing maybe a little over 30 true working sets a week. I'm usually done within an hour at most. There are over 30 separate sets of calves alone in a workout in this program. So you can imagine how much work I do with the other body parts. The volume came as quite a shock to me after week 1 of the Arnold Challenge.
As far as calf training goes, I don't have the best equipment for it, so I made the best of my barbells and dumbbells. Also, after several supersets for quads and hamstrings, it can be pretty easy to skip the calf workout -- or at least a few sets -- and call it a day. Trying to focus on twirling my toes properly and getting a quality contraction can be mentally challenging — especially when I can walk about 200 feet away and have dinner whenever I want.
However, the whole purpose of this is to run the program as accurately as possible. So when the third set of the fourth exercise is done, stopping the set or moving on to the next movement is not an option - especially now that there are people all over the world who are fascinated by it. I can't talk about it if I don't do it right. So I implement it and convince myself that the effort is worth it. And of course I really do have that belief, otherwise I wouldn't have started it.
A week down, three to go
This is a rosy picture that may be being painted, but I should be clear on that. The workouts are intense, challenging, time consuming and my punching gun has been working a lot of overtime to help me recover. I also know this won't be the smoothest path. There may be a severe cold front in my area that will limit my training, there could be something life related that forces me to make adjustments, and I know there will be days when the weights feel heavier than others .
But now that I'm on this journey I'm finishing the journey and I hope you will join me by following my @rocklockridge Instagram profile where I occasionally share pictures, videos and comments.