Arnold Split: A Comprehensive Guide to Effective Muscle Growth

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The Arnold Split, named after the legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a time-tested workout regimen that has produced great results for many fitness enthusiasts. As a 6-day workout split, it focuses on training each major muscle group twice a week, dividing the sessions into chest and back, shoulders and arms, and legs. This approach allows for increased muscle growth and strength development, helping athletes achieve a well-proportioned and powerful physique.

I find the Arnold Split particularly useful for those looking to maximize their gym time, as it takes advantage of Arnold’s philosophy of high volume and progressive overload. The split is designed in a way that enables consistent muscle fatigue, pushing your body to adapt and grow. By following this program diligently and making adjustments according to your individual needs, you can achieve significant gains in muscle mass and overall strength.

Though initially popularized in Arnold’s own ‘Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding,’ the Arnold Split has stood the test of time and continued to prove its effectiveness in today’s fitness world. As a testament to its versatility, it can also be easily modified to cater to the needs of different fitness levels and goals. If you’re looking to switch up your workout routine and try something tried and true, consider giving the Arnold Split a shot.

Understanding the Arnold Split

The Arnold Split is a highly efficient and demanding training program that helped Arnold win prestigious bodybuilding titles such as Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe. 

Born and raised in Graz, Austria, Arnold later moved to America, where he trained in Venice Beach, California, eventually earning the nickname “Austrian Oak.” His dedication and tireless work ethic led to the development of his unique training split.

The Arnold Split is a high-volume training program characterized by its intensity, wide range of exercises, and short rest periods between sets. The primary objective of this training split is to stimulate muscle growth progressively and build a well-rounded physique. The split is organized into three different workouts:

  1. Chest and back
  2. Shoulders and arms
  3. Legs

By continually pushing himself to the limit and adhering to a rigorous training schedule, Arnold believed in continually challenging his muscles through high-volume workouts. This approach often involved training to failure, meaning pushing each set of a given exercise until it became physically impossible to complete another repetition.

Here’s an example of a week’s schedule when following the Arnold Split:

  • Day 1 (Monday): Chest and back
  • Day 2 (Tuesday): Shoulders, upper arms, and forearms
  • Day 3 (Wednesday): Quads, hamstring, calves, and lower back
  • Day 4 (Thursday): Chest and back
  • Day 5 (Friday): Shoulders, upper arms, and forearms
  • Day 6 (Saturday): Quads, hamstring, calves, and lower back
  • Day 7 (Sunday): Rest

While I recognize the effectiveness of the Arnold Split for advanced and professional bodybuilders, it may not be suitable for beginners or individuals with limited experience in weightlifting. The high volume and intensity of the program can lead to overtraining and potentially increase the risk of injury if proper techniques and precautions are not followed.

It’s a demanding and intense training program that helped shape Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legendary physique. As an advanced training method, the Arnold Split focuses on high volume workouts targeting major muscle groups at a rapid pace. For those dedicated to pursuing excellence in bodybuilding, the Arnold Split may provide the structure and challenge necessary for significant improvements in their physiques.

Exercise and Workout Breakdown

The Arnold Split is a fitness program specifically designed to target and develop various muscle groups through focused upper and lower body exercises. In this section, I’ll discuss the key exercises that make up the Arnold Split and how these exercises contribute to muscle growth and hypertrophy.

Upper Body Exercises

When focusing on the upper body, the Arnold Split incorporates exercises targeting the chest, back, arms, and shoulders. For the chest and back, you typically perform compound exercises like the barbell bench press, incline bench press, bent-over rows, and deadlifts. These exercises work on multiple muscle groups, promoting overall muscle growth.

To target your shoulders, try to include lateral raises and overhead presses in your workouts. Lastly, for your arms, perform dumbbell curls, which engage both the biceps and the forearms.

Here’s a sample upper body workout routine:

  • Chest and Back:
    • Barbell Bench Press: 6 x 30/20/12/10/8/6
    • Incline Bench Press: 6 x 15/12/10/8/6/6
    • Bent-Over Rows: 5 x 12
    • Deadlifts: 4 x 8
  • Shoulders and Arms:
    • Lateral Raises: 4 x 12
    • Overhead Press: 3 x 10
    • Dumbbell Curls: 3 x 12
Lower Body Exercises

To build your lower body muscles, including the quads, thighs, hamstrings, and calves, the Arnold Split integrates exercises such as the leg press, leg extension, lunges, and calf raises. These exercises contribute to overall lower body muscle growth and hypertrophy.

Additionally, try to include exercises targeting the abs and lower back, like the leg raises and good mornings, to maintain balance and core strength.

Here’s a brief overview of a lower body workout routine I would recommend:

  • Quads, Thighs, and Hamstrings:
    • Leg Press: 4 x 12
    • Leg Extension: 4 x 12
    • Lunges: 4 x 8 (each leg)
  • Calves:
    • Calf Raises: 4 x15
  • Abs and Lower Back:
    • Leg Raises: 3 x 15
    • Good Mornings: 3 x 10

Incorporating these exercises into the Arnold Split program will help you target all the essential muscle groups for balanced and well-shaped muscles, while also encouraging muscle growth and hypertrophy through regular and varied workouts.

Sets, Reps and Training Techniques

Volume Training

When it comes to the Arnold split, one of the key concepts is volume training. In this approach, you should focus on performing a high number of sets and reps for each muscle group. Generally, this means targeting 4-5 sets per exercise and 8-12 reps per set. By doing so, you can ensure constant tension on my muscles, leading to increased muscle growth and endurance. Arnold himself used high volume to push his body to the limit and achieve incredible results. Although training to failure is not mandatory, you might include some drop sets to increase intensity and challenge my muscles further.

Superset and Antagonistic Training

Another essential aspect of the Arnold split involves superset and antagonistic training. This is where you combine two exercises that target opposing muscle groups and perform them back-to-back without rest in between. A prime example is alternating between a chest exercise (like bench press) and a back exercise (like bent-over rows). Arnold employed supersets for two main reasons:

  1. Time efficiency: Supersets save time by allowing me to train both muscle groups simultaneously without the need for additional rest periods.
  2. Increased muscle density: Training opposing muscle groups together can lead to greater muscle activation and development.

By incorporating volume training and superset and antagonistic training, you can optimize your workout routine for more efficient and effective muscle growth, following in the footsteps of the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Nutrition and Recovery

When it comes to the Arnold split, I believe that proper nutrition and recovery are just as important as the training itself. Without a well-rounded diet and enough rest, it’s difficult to achieve the desired muscle growth.

I focus on getting ample amounts of protein in my diet to support my muscle recovery and growth. This is especially important during training, as it helps repair the muscle tissues that are torn during workouts. Foods high in protein, such as lean meats, eggs, and dairy products, are great choices for meeting daily protein requirements.

Along with protein, you can’t ignore the importance of carbohydrates and fats for energy. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, provide me with the sustained energy needed for intense workout sessions. Healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocados, or nuts, are also crucial as they help absorb essential vitamins, hormonal balance, and overall health.

Supplements can also play a role in enhancing your nutrition and reaching your goals. For example, whey protein and creatine are popular options that have been proven to support muscle growth and recovery.

Recovery between workouts is vital for me. I prioritize sleep, knowing it plays a critical role in repairing and building muscle tissue. Ideally, I strive to get 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. You should too!

Moreover, active recovery techniques, such as stretching, foam rolling, sauna, and light cardiovascular exercise, can also contribute to faster recovery and prevent injury.

Success with the Arnold split is not solely determined by the workouts themselves. Proper nutrition and recovery are equally important, ensuring that your muscles have the right fuel and sufficient rest to maximize growth.

Planning Your Split

When planning the Arnold split, it’s important to consider the workout split, training volume, training frequency, and your personal level of experience. Remember to factor in the time you need for a warm-up, stretching, and cardio or conditioning sessions.

As a beginner, I recommend understanding your own body and training capabilities before diving into the Arnold split. This workout program requires adequate rest and recovery. This is really crucial. Aiming for a 6-day workout split with one day off per week can be manageable for many intermediate and advanced lifters, but beginners may need more time to adapt to the intensity of this program.

Training volume is another aspect of the Arnold split that needs to be adjusted for your individual goals, as the ideal volume may differ between beginners, intermediates, and advanced lifters. For example, I would start with lower volume training for beginners and gradually increase the volume as my progress and experience develop.

When organizing your workouts, including antagonistic muscle group training is a key element of the Arnold split. Here is a brief overview of a 6-day split:

  • Monday: Chest/Back
  • Tuesday: Shoulders/Arms
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Thursday: Chest/Back
  • Friday: Shoulders/Arms
  • Saturday: Legs
  • Sunday: Off

Also, remember to always perform an adequate warm-up and stretching routine before each workout. This will help reduce the risk of injury and improve overall performance.

Considering your cardio or conditioning needs, you can either incorporate these sessions on your rest days or add them to the end of your weightlifting workouts. It’s important to strike a balance between the Arnold split and your personal goals for cardiovascular health and overall fitness.

As you progress through the program, it’s crucial to monitor your progress and adjust the variables such as workout intensity, volume, and exercise selection accordingly. This will ensure that you are continually pushing yourself and making effective progress in both strength and muscle development.

Planning your Arnold split requires an understanding of your individual needs and abilities. Be sure to maintain a balance between training intensity, volume, and frequency while always prioritizing proper warm-up, stretching, and recovery. With dedication and consistency, you can achieve great results with the Arnold split.

What’s next?

Check out our latest article on the deadlift alternatives.


What is the Arnold Split and how does it compare to PPL?

The Arnold Split is a 6-day workout plan, focusing on both major and minor muscle groups, that was popularized by the legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. It consists of three training sessions repeated twice for a total of six sessions in a week, with a rest day on the seventh day. In comparison, the PPL (Push-Pull-Legs) workout routine splits the muscle groups into three separate training sessions focusing on pushing, pulling, and leg exercises. Both routines promote muscle growth and strength but differ in their structure and approach. For example, Arnold’s split groups muscles by function, whereas PPL groups them based on the type of exercise.

What are the key components of the Arnold workout plan?

The key components of the Arnold workout plan include a consistent six-day workout routine, targeting both major and minor muscle groups. Each day focuses on specific muscle groups, such as chest and back or shoulders and arms. The weekly routine is structured like this: chest and back, shoulders and arms, and legs and lower back, with each session being repeated once per week. Arnold also emphasized the importance of daily abdominal workouts, which is another essential aspect of his split. You can find an example spreadsheet of the Arnold Split workout here.

Can one combine PPL with the Arnold split?

While some people might try to combine the PPL and Arnold Splits to create a new workout routine, it is important to remember that both routines are designed differently. The Arnold Split focuses more on isolation exercises and target-specific muscle groups, whereas PPL is a simpler and more balanced training approach. Combining the two might lead to overtraining and imbalance in muscle development, especially for beginners. It’s generally recommended to pick either routine and stick with it for the best results.

What is the difference between Bro split and Arnold split?

The Bro Split is a bodybuilding workout routine where each muscle group is trained only once per week, typically dividing the workouts over four to five days. In contrast, the Arnold Split is a 6-day routine that trains major and minor muscle groups twice per week. The Arnold Split has a higher frequency of workouts per muscle group, which can potentially lead to faster muscle growth and progress when compared to the Bro Split.

Is the Arnold split recommended for hypertrophy?

Yes, the Arnold Split is highly regarded for promoting muscle hypertrophy, or growth. With a higher training frequency and the inclusion of both major and minor muscle groups, this routine has been proven successful for those looking to gain muscle mass and improve their physique. According to Muscle Evo, the Arnold Split is ideal for intermediate trainees who prefer shorter, more frequent workouts and advanced lifters wanting to spur new growth.

Where can I find Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout routine resources?

The internet offers several resources and detailed guides on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout routine, including his very own website. You can also find insights, tips, and variations of the Arnold Split workout on websites such as Set for Set or Fitbod. These resources include information on exercises, workout structures, and the principles behind his innovative training approach.

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Robert is a fitness enthusiast who has been passionate about staying strong and healthy for most of his life. He loves writing about fitness topics and also manages a team of expert writers for his site, Home Athlete Zone. He has his own home gym where he works out almost every day.

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