Welcome to Arnold's Pump Club, Arnie tells me as I open his 15-minute workouts for the first time. Of course, I’m referring to Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose 15-minute workouts recently launched to the world.
Arnie's new workout offerings promise "short workouts, big changes," and considering he's a bodybuilding legend who honed his famous chiseled physique over decades, I believe him.
He’s never shied away from sharing his workouts and inspiration with the wider fitness community, and this latest offering doesn't disappoint.
“A consistent routine can deliver impressive results, even if the sessions are short,” he says about his range of 15-minute workouts. “Completing a short training routine every day will get you better results than doing monster workouts once a month. It’s why we share 15-minute workouts each week in our daily newsletter, The Pump Club.”
Schwarzenegger’s goal is to eliminate excuses and, as he readily admits, ‘get you hooked.’ Like the workout I tried below, the exercise programs are suitable for beginners and advanced exercisers. There are also ways to scale, rep guidelines, and instructions on how to do each program. I decided to grab one of the best yoga mats and try it out.
What are the Arnold’s Pump Club 15-minute Workouts?
I’m no stranger to Arnie. Recently, I did 50 Arnold presses every day for a week to torch my shoulders like the man whose name is on the exercise label, but I hadn’t tried this round of workouts.
Schwarzenegger shared five home programs that can be done in 15 minutes or less using body weight or weights. According to his team, the plans will help you build muscle and burn fat, remove aches and pains, and improve cardiovascular health.
If you have equipment like barbells, kettlebells, or the best adjustable dumbbells, you’re welcome to use them. But don’t think you’re getting off lightly if you don’t because the bodyweight workouts are just as spicy.
Ominous titles include “The Countdown,” “The Cardio Fix,” and “The Hardest Minute,” so there’s something for everyone, from strength training advocates to cardio kings and queens. I decided to tackle "The Countdown," which works on a descending scale of reps.
The Countdown 15-minute workout
This bodyweight workout is designed to build muscle, burn fat, and strengthen your heart without heading to the gym. Two exercises — push-ups and lunges — are performed back-to-back with as little rest as possible. Focus on quality reps rather than hammering them out as quickly as possible, but set a timer to test how quickly you can complete it.
The ability scale recommends beginners start at five reps, intermediates at 10, and 15 for advanced. Perform your starting number of reps for push-ups and lunges back-to-back, then drop down by one rep each round and repeat.
For example, an advanced workout would look like this:
- 15 push-ups + 15 lunges per leg
- 14 push-ups + 14 lunges per leg
- 13 push-ups + 13 lunges per leg
- And so on.
Alternate between the exercises each round until you hit one rep per move.
I did Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Countdown bodyweight workout — here’s what happened
Here we go.
1. Ouch, my shoulders
I’ve spent years building up a bank of quality push-up reps over the years, and it’s an exercise I pride myself on. But despite pretty solid upper-body strength, 120 push-ups is an upper-body torcher, regardless of your ability.
I started with a full range of motion (no knees) for the first few rounds, then adapted by completing over half the reps per round without knees and using eccentric push-ups with knees for any remaining reps whenever form slipped.
Eccentric push-ups help build upper-body strength by increasing the time spent lowering to the floor (the eccentric phase), usually for a count of 3-5 seconds, then pushing explosively during the concentric phase. Using your knees helps keep form tight so you can focus on those quality reps. Still perfecting them? This trick will help you master a push-up.
My chest and arms were shaking like crazy by the last few reps.
2. I liked the workout split
I like that your lower body gets a rest while your upper body works, and vice versa. It makes for a quality full-body workout that targets multiple muscle groups, including your pectoral muscles, shoulders, triceps, core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Once you’ve fatigued one part of your body, you can move to the next, giving the other half of your body time to recover before the next round.
3. It's easy to lose form
For beginners, Arnie recommends using your knees during push-ups or placing your hands on a bench or chair to elevate your chest higher than your legs. For lunges, try gripping a stable surface for extra support.
Timing the workout should help you track progress as you get fitter and (hopefully) faster. But try not to compromise your form just to finish the reps. As your body begins to fatigue, you might notice your form slipping. I took small breaks when I needed them. After all, I wanted to work my muscles hard, increase my heart rate, and keep the intensity high, but without a sore lower back.
4. I added weights
I struggle to activate my glutes properly during lunges, so I switched to Bulgarian split squats for reps 10 and under per leg using my sofa, and added a kettlebell in a goblet grip (here’s how to hold a kettlebell properly).
That got my legs firing up and delivered the lower-body burn I was searching for. 120 reps per leg later, I was cooked as I wobbled over to the shower.
This workout is no joke. My entire body felt satisfyingly worked afterward, despite only doing two exercises. I particularly felt it in my shoulders and quads. I should’ve known Arnie wouldn’t go light on reps or effort, and only using two moves for high reps tests full-body muscle endurance and builds a stronger, more efficient engine.
You could do this quick at-home workout three to four times per week, and as the team recommends, take a day off between each. They add, ‘The beauty of this plan is you can substitute an endless number of exercises. Choose one upper body movement and one lower body movement, mix and match, and watch your body transform.’