If you've read this series on Muscle & Fitness or follow me on Instagram, then you know that for four weeks I challenged myself to train like the great Arnold Schwarzenegger by following his legendary "Double Split" training routine am days as Mr. Olympia. What started as a suggestion for me to try one of his workouts culminated in me finishing what I consider to be one of bodybuilding's greatest training challenges.
Before we turn to the final results, here's a quick look at what this process entailed. The competition program I followed was in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. This is what a training week like Arnold would look like.
- Monday – chest and back AM – legs PM
- Tuesday – Shoulders AM – Arms PM
- Wednesday – chest and back AM – legs PM
- Thursday – Shoulders AM – Arms PM
- Friday – chest and back AM – legs PM
- Saturday – Shoulders AM – Arms PM
In addition, I would have to train calves and abs every day. body part required less than 20 working sets per workout. Almost all were combined into supersets and trisets. Each workout lasted almost two hours. In summary, I did 48 workouts in a month that totaled almost 100 hours. I trained a total of 24 hours a week. Sunday was my only day off and I assure you I needed it.
Aside from the articles I wrote, I also texted members of Arnold's team as well as my editor for M&F to confirm that I was actually doing these workouts. I used my social media to show off the workout and results as I progressed. I haven't even shaved my beard in a month so viewers can see the before and after photos aren't fake.
The bad and ugly before the good
It wasn't enough to just go through the movements of these workouts. I had to push myself every time I exercised because as long as I was doing it, I wanted to get as much out of it as possible. Because of this, I lived with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) quite a bit. I had to take naps during the day to recover and I used different recovery strategies to prepare for the next training sessions, such as:
This challenge also made a lot of mental demands on me. t only did I do this program on my own, I did it in my unheated barn in the middle of winter. I already know the question that pops into your mind: "How cold did it get?" The coldest temp I've trained in was 24 degrees (thanks Pacterra Athletics for the gear to keep me a little warmer during this freeze held). Stuffy noses and headaches were the order of the day for a long time. The good news for me was that I never got too sick and managed to finish each workout without interrupting anything.
t letting that person push me and having to find ways to set myself up for the next workout was the biggest challenge of all. As someone who grew up with childhood domestic violence and been a victim of bullying, I have a history of depression and loss of self-confidence. Some days were harder than others for obvious reasons, but I'm writing this like this, spoiler alert: I found a way and got the job done.
All this combined with the family commitments that I was dying to miss and the several kilometers that I had to travel and you can imagine how exhausting it was. An example was after I did the third leg workout of the week and then had to drive for over an hour that evening. I stayed in the car as long as possible because I wanted to make sure I could walk without limping too much.
The good that was worth it
Well, here's what a lot of people reading this will be wondering: How did it go? I made it my goal to lose 20 pounds from start to finish. Unfortunately, I ended up catching a cold, but I still managed to lose 16 kilos on the scales. I also dropped two pant sizes. I've also gotten stronger. When I first started the program, I could only do 225 incline presses for 6 reps. I ended up pressing 255 for 6 reps and then 260 for 4 reps.
Before I started, I hadn't squatted in six months. I found other ways to train the legs instead. The first time I squatted, I didn't go over 185 pounds for 15 reps. The last leg workout four weeks later, I squatted 225 to 20. It also made me think of Ed Corney in Pumping Iron on every rep. That was the first time I had ever squatted that much weight for that many reps. I've always gotten more into powerlifting style training, so anything over 5 under a bar was cardio.
Occasionally, Arnold would share my posts on social media, and he would credit this series and program in one of his newsletters, which helped fuel the fire for the past week. After the last practice was over, I treated myself to three treats for the rest of the weekend, but that's about it. It will take me a full week to unload and recover, but overall I feel physically ok and am already planning my next training program.
Spiritually I'm ecstatic because not only have I managed to take myself to an extreme that I never thought possible before, but I've been able to inspire other people along the way by sharing the journey. My wife was the one who cemented my destiny to take on this when she told me I could do it. I hope my four week odyssey will show others that they may be capable of far more than they realize. Boundaries are mostly self-imposed, and you are capable of far more than you might think right now.
So you want to train like Arnold?
Arnold and his team are developing an app with fitness programs for all levels so that you can achieve your own personal fitness success. You could also get his book to find different routines to challenge you like I did when I bought my first copy many years ago and my second copy this year because I had worn out the binding of the first copy.
If you want to test yourself at a higher level and have the inclination and time to get involved, you can also use this version of the double split previously shared with M&F. I had a fairly well equipped home gym so I didn't have to worry about working around others or waiting for equipment. So if you try this program at a commercial gym, make the most of the environment you are in.
Although my training was primarily a solo act, behind this challenge was a team that helped me throughout the month. My personal thanks go to Arnold as well as two members of his team, Daniel and ah, who have endured many messages and seen many videos and numbers of mine. I would also like to thank Jeff Tomko and everyone at M&F for their support throughout this process. And last but not least, my family for their understanding and support during this journey.