I tried Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 6-move dumbbell challenge — here are my results

Left image Arnold Schwarzenegger smiling to camera, right image woman performing a seated Arnold press using dumbbells in the gym
(Image credit: Instagram/ Schwarzenegger / Shutterstock)

I get weekly emails from Arnie’s Pump Club, and in my inbox this week was a little surprise — The Finish Strong Challenge. It offers those who join the opportunity to win $1,000 in exchange for just three weeks of exercise and three weekly workouts during December. 

The first workout to kick off #Arnoldschallenge is a spicy six-move dumbbell workout you can do using a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells and your body weight. The full-body burner hits your back, chest, shoulders, arms, glutes, core and leg muscles with just three supersets. 

A sucker for any fitness challenge, I took a break from my desk and gave the first workout a go. Here’s what happened to my body and how you can try it yourself, even if you don’t have weights. 

What is the six-move dumbbell workout?  

The Finish Strong Challenge kicks off right now. Arnie writes in his newsletter, “Start with today’s plan, and then be prepared for a new workout on Wednesday and another on Friday.” 

At the time of writing, the challenge kicked off on December 11. 

“The first workout is a full-body plan. It consists of three supersets with minimal rest between the exercises.” Start with the first move, then the second. Rest briefly, then repeat the superset until you’ve completed the sets and reps for those paired exercises. 

Rest for two minutes, then start the next superset and so on. Arnie has included a dumbbell and bodyweight version, so we’ve included both in case you’re short on equipment. Here they are.

Six-move dumbbell workout: full-body

Superset 1:

Superset 2:

Superset 3:

Bodyweight workout: full-body

Superset 1:

  • Push-ups 3x12 reps
  • Superman pull-ups 3x10 reps
  • Rest 2 minutes

Superset 2:

  • Bodyweight Good Morning: 3x15 reps
  • Alternating bodyweight lunges 3x12 reps per leg
  • Rest 2 minutes

Superset 3:

  • Bodyweight squat 3x8 reps
  • IYT’s 3x10 reps

I tried Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Finish Strong Challenge — here’s what happened 

The beauty of this full-body dumbbell workout is that you don’t need to be in a gym or surrounded by equipment to do it. I’ve always said that if you want to build muscle and strength, choosing free weights over gym machines will be a game-changer for you. 

Dumbbells give you a free range of motion and encourage more muscle groups to kick in while executing an exercise without the fallback of a machine to help you. Although you might be limited by your grip during dumbbell workouts, you can still shift pretty high numbers and torch every muscle group in your body. 

The first day of the Finish Strong Challenge kicked my Monday off perfectly. With several meetings, a day spent at my desk writing and two outdoor group fitness classes to teach sandwiched on either side, you could say exercise goes to the bottom of my list of priorities.

I shut my laptop and took 30 minutes to get this done. The first superset provided an upper body torcher using a typical push-pull resistance workout. The bench press hits the anterior body — your deltoids and pecs with the support of your triceps — and the row hits the posterior body — the back, rear delts and biceps.

Superset two moved me to a lower body workout consisting of two staple compound exercises that hit the big and powerful leg muscles — lunges and deadlifts. Deadlifts target your posterior chain muscles like the lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles, activating your core and hip flexors. However, the staggered stance position helps hone in on one side at a time and requires more balance and stability.

Lunges hit the lower body as a whole, and even jacking up the weights by a few pounds can pack a punch for the legs without needing a leg press or barbells. Having already flexed muscles across my body, I moved to the last superset, which consisted of the seated clean and press and goblet squat.

The goblet hold is one of my favorites and allows you to go nice and heavy with the dumbbell during squats, and the clean and press ramps up the intensity, recruiting your core muscles for stability by removing your legs from the equation. This way, you can isolate the upper body and clean up on your clean and press technique. It’s harder for most people than standing, but once you learn to clean and press, it’s an addictive way to sneak in a seated workout.

Verdict

If I had to sum this dumbbell workout up in one word, it would be this — efficient. It’s a traditional full-body hypertrophy workout using two weights and just 30 minutes of your time. If you have longer to spend on it, you could extend to 45 minutes on this strength program but try to keep rest between exercises minimal, only breaking between sets and supersets. Supersets tap into the time under tension (TUT) method, working muscles harder without rest.

There's nothing groundbreaking about any of the exercises or the workout format, but it serves as a reminder that simplicity is sometimes best. I came away feeling like I'd worked my entire body hard and whipped up a sweat without taking a big chunk of time out of my day to travel to the gym and back. And surprisingly enough, my legs were a little wobbly as I returned to my desk. 

If you're away traveling or visiting family at this time of year, a workout that can be done with a set of dumbbells or your body weight is worth a million bucks, and this is certainly one to bookmark. Bring on the rest of the challenge, Arnie.

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.