I tried Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two-move bodyweight workout and I was left very impressed

Arnold’s latest challenge strengthens your legs, chest and arms while putting your endurance to the test

Fit&Well writer Harry Bullmore performing a rear-foot elevated split squat in a park
(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

As a bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger was famous for hitting the gym twice a day with sessions often lasting more than two hours. I tried one of these mammoth workouts once, and it was predictably exhausting. 

In contrast, one of the latest workouts from his daily Arnold’s Pump Club newsletter takes just 15 minutes and only uses two moves. 

"If you know how to pick the right movements, you don’t need much complexity for a great pump," Arnold’s team writes. 

Intrigued, I decided to take it for a spin and was surprised to find this time-efficient test is in some ways more challenging than Schwarzenegger's routines. 

How to do Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two-move bodyweight workout

As many repetitions as possible in 15 minutes of: 

  • Rear-foot elevated split squat x15-20 on each leg
  • Decline push-up or chest press x15-20

This is a 15-minute AMRAP workout, which stands for "as many repetitions as possible".

This format does exactly what the name suggests: It challenges you to complete as many rear-foot elevated split squats and decline push-ups as you can in a quarter of an hour. 

You’ll perform 15-20 repetitions of each exercise in turn, resting as little as possible between them. The aim is to finish as many rounds of this as possible within the 15-minute time limit (while maintaining good form, of course). 

This workout is one of a pair. The second session is another 15-minute AMRAP comprising 8-12 kickstand deadlifts and 8-12 pull-ups, inverted rows or bent-over rows. I chose to only test the first workout as it can be completed without any equipment. 

My verdict on Schwarzenegger's two-move bodyweight workout

I tested this routine on a crisp spring morning in my local park. Here's what I made of it.

1. It has something for everyone

I love AMRAP workouts like this one because they auto-regulate to suit your fitness level. You’ll get a great workout as long as you push hard enough to challenge yourself and you’ll be forced to slow down when your body tires. 

The exercises in this routine are scalable too. I did split squats and decline push-ups for the workout, using a park bench for both exercises. If you want easier variations of these moves, you can pair standard squats with push-ups, knee push-ups or wall push-ups.

Put simply, there’s a version of this workout that most people can do, and it can be done pretty much anywhere.

2. Simple doesn’t mean easy

For a simple weekly workout plan, Arnold suggests doing this workout on day one, the second workout (mentioned above) on day two, then taking a rest day before repeating the sequence. 

"Underestimate these if you want, but once you give them a try you might realize just how easy it is to challenge your body," his newsletter team warns. 

And this warning is warranted. I started doing the exercises at a fast pace but soon found myself slowing down as the reps racked up and my muscles began to tire. 

By the final few minutes the muscles in my thighs, chest and arms were on fire, and I was tackling the push-ups in clusters of three to five to make them more manageable. 

3. It’s very different to his old bodybuilding workouts, but not in a bad way

Schwarzenegger has always loved a superset—a pairing of two exercises with no rest between them, followed by a prescribed break. When I tried his two-hour Mr Olympia-winning chest and back workout it was full of them. 

Each superset took the targeted muscles close to failure—the point at which your muscles are too tired to do another rep—and after each one there were generous rest periods of two to three minutes. The workout was clearly designed for highly experienced lifters with time to train and the primary goal of gaining muscle. 

His latest two-move challenge is also a pair of exercises, but that’s where the similarities end. 

It’s designed to be accessible, efficient and effective, helping as many people as possible get their fitness fix. And I think it does that excellently.

Together the two workouts can recruit muscles in your chest, back, arms, legs and core with just four moves and a couple of dumbbells. 

For newer exercisers in particular, it will help you begin building strength and muscle across your entire body. Seasoned lifters, meanwhile, will be able to move faster to test their muscular endurance, as well as their heart and lungs. 

Need some weights for your home workouts? Our guide to the best adjustable dumbbells 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.