I tried Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two-move, one-kettlebell workout and it was surprisingly effective in just five minutes

Want a fun, efficient workout? Arnie’s got you covered

Fit&Well fitness writer Harry Bullmore copleting Arnold Schwarzenegger's kettlebell challenge
(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

Anybody who’s ever dipped their toe into the world of strength training knows the name Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

The Terminator star is synonymous with heavy weights and huge muscles, but more recently his training message has changed in favor of accessibility. 

His daily Arnold’s Pump Club newsletter now shares tips, tricks, and workouts to help people of all fitness levels build strength and boost their health. 

One of these workouts caught my eye: The Sparhawk. It’s taken from legendary strength coach Dan John, and you only need one weight (or a water bottle) to give it a try. 

There are just two moves, it doesn't take long and the difficulty can be scaled up or down to suit anyone, so I dragged my trusty kettlebell to a nearby park and gave it a try. 

How to do The Sparhawk workout

Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and perform eight goblet squats, with the weight held in both hands tight to your chest. Then, without putting the weight down, transfer it to your left hand and perform a 60ft suitcase carry (hold the weight with one hand by your side, stand tall and walk as if it were a suitcase). 

Once you’ve finished this carry, move the kettlebell back to your chest for seven more goblet squats, followed immediately by a right-handed 60ft suitcase carry. 

Continue to knock one rep off the number of goblet squats you do each round until you reach zero, completing a 60ft suitcase carry between all sets and alternating the hand you hold the kettlebell in each time. The idea of the workout is to complete the entire thing without taking a break or putting the weight down, testing your legs, grip and core.

If you don’t have a lot of space, Schwarzenegger’s team says you can pace around your home instead. And if you don’t have any weights, try using a filled water jug or backpack.  

My takeaways from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Sparhawk challenge

I love exercise, and as a fitness writer, I want to help as many people as possible feel the same—while getting an effective workout, of course. That’s why my favorite thing about The Sparhawk is how fun it is; the fresh format is an enjoyable alternative to the usual prescription of sets, reps, and rests. 

It’s accessible and effective too. You can do it anywhere (I hauled my kettlebell to a nearby park, which was a workout in itself) and use lighter or heavier weights to adjust the difficulty. It also forces you to keep hold of the kettlebell throughout the workout, stopping you from taking breaks and providing an extra test for your muscles.

And challenge leads to change when it comes to strength training workouts. By working harder than you’re used to, you’re telling your body that it needs to adapt and become stronger to meet new demands.  

Using a 24kg kettlebell, I found my forearms were fired up by the last couple of rounds, and I struggled to finish the workout without having to put the weight down. 

The suitcase carries tested my grip, shoulders, and core. Holding the weight on one side meant I was constantly being pulled off balance, so my mid-body muscles needed to work overtime to maintain my posture. I also don’t work on my grip particularly often, so this element of the workout posed a serious challenge for me. 

The one body part that didn’t feel too fatigued was my legs, and I was able to use the goblet squats as a welcome break from the grip-testing carries. But this might not be the case for everyone. 

To remedy this, I could double the number of squat reps next time I tackle this challenge. And rest assured, given how much I enjoyed it and the fact I need to work on my grip, there will definitely be a "next time".

Need some help choosing some weights? Our guide to the best kettlebells can help

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.