I tried Arnold Schwarzenegger's two-move workout, and it challenged my legs without weights
This short bodyweight session builds strength and boosts your metabolism in less than 10 minutes
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If there's one celebrity synonymous with the gym, it's Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, the muscle-bound bodybuilder turned Hollywood star recently released a workout challenge that foregoes heavy weights and exercise machines entirely. In fact, it doesn't require any equipment at all.
Intrigued, I signed up to his newsletter (The Pump Daily (opens in new tab)) and quickly received an email containing details of the workout. Given Schwarzenegger's formidable physique, I was surprised by just how accessible it was, so resolved to take it for a spin myself.
Named The Countdown, the session sees you tackle two bodyweight exercises: push-ups and lunges. To give it a go, follow the The Pump Daily's instructions below, or scroll down to see how I got on.
The Pump Daily's The Countdown workout
- Start a timer.
- Begin the workout by performing 15 push-ups.
- Then, resting as little as possible, perform 15 lunges.
- For your next round, repeat this pairing but perform one less repetition of each exercise. So, you will complete 14 push-ups and 14 lunges.
- Continue removing one repetition from both exercises after each round until you count down to one repetition of each.
- Once you pass this point, you've completed the workout. Stop the timer and take a note of your score.
Schwarzenegger says starting at 15 repetitions is the advanced version of the workout, designed for people who have been training for five years or more.
For the intermediate version (aimed at people with two years of consistent training under their belt) he advises beginning with 10 repetitions of each exercise, and if you're a beginner, Schwarzenegger suggests starting with sets of five.
He also recognises that learning how to do a push-up (opens in new tab) can take time, so he says you can make this exercise easier if needed by lowering your knees or placing your hands on a raised surface like a chair.
I really liked how accessible Schwarzenegger made this simple session. But, as the legend says in his newsletter, "don't confuse simple with easy".
As a fitness writer, it comes with the territory that I try to keep myself in fairly good shape. Health is, of course, a major motivator to do this, but my main reason for donning my trainers on a daily basis is that I love the feeling I get from moving my body.
Whether I'm cycling around my neighborhood, hiking up mountains, lifting weights, trying to master gymnastic movements or racking up the miles on my rowing machine, I like to think I can tackle most activities. Yet, Schwarzenegger's session was far more challenging than I imagined.
Foolhardy as ever, I opted for the advanced version of the workout and was able to crank through the first 15 push-ups and lunges without too much trouble.
"Great," I thought. "That's the largest and, by extension, hardest sets out of the way." How wrong I was. By the time I'd reached the sets of nine, I was feeling the full effects of 65 push-ups and lunges, and I was only just over halfway through.
As two of the key muscles used in these movements, my quads and chest soon began to feel the burn, with the fronts of my shoulders and triceps also starting to feel fatigued.
But, knowing I was against the clock, I pressed on, trying to transition quickly between the exercises without much rest. This, in itself, is a challenge.
By keeping breaks to a minimum, I soon found my heart rate rising and my breaths becoming increasingly heavy—signs that this workout was serving up a cardio hit, as well as testing my muscular endurance.
In the end, I was able to finish in 6min 4sec, taking a well-earned sit down and a swig of water to mark the end of the session.
While it is undoubtedly different to his hours-long workouts of old, Schwarzenegger's reason for sharing this session is simple: to "cut through the noise and make sense of the world of fitness, nutrition, and wellness". This, he hopes, will help more people develop healthy habits.
I was a big fan of how he created a session that can be completed by anyone, with scalable elements to suit all fitness levels. The fact it's short and you don't need any equipment to give it a go are welcome bonuses too, as I was able to give it a quick go in my living room during my lunch break.
Yet, in spite of its stripped back nature, it was still able to offer a fun challenge that worked my heart, lungs and muscles in one fell swoop. Going against the clock also adds a competitive element, and means you can go back to the session at a later date to try and better your score.
So, if you're after a quick workout challenge, I definitely recommend taking on The Countdown. Just don't expect an easy ride! This session works several body areas, but consider adding this time-efficient 10-minute core workout (opens in new tab) to your routine too.
Harry Bullmore is a fitness writer covering everything from reviews to features for LiveScience, T3, TechRadar, Fit&Well and more. So, whether you’re looking for a new fitness tracker or wondering how to shave seconds off your 5K PB, chances are he’s written something to help you improve your training.
When not writing, he’s most likely to be found experimenting with a wide variety of training methods in his home gym or trying to exhaust his ever-energetic puppy.
Prior to joining Future, Harry wrote health and fitness product reviews for publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Before this, he spent three years as a news reporter with work in more than 70 national and regional newspapers.
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