This Arnold Schwarzenegger workout builds full-body strength in just four moves

Man performing an upper body workout using two dumbbells front facing camera
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

For those of you who are short on time this week, consider supersetting exercises instead. If you’re unsure how to do it, we plucked Arnold Schwarzenegger’s four-move 50-minute full-body workout to share straight from Arnie’s Pump Club.

A superset means performing two exercises back to back, with little to no rest between them. Not only does the weightlifting technique save time, but it also packs on workout intensity by working the muscles harder for longer. 

You can use a barbell, a set of kettlebells, or the best adjustable dumbbells to do this four-move full-body workout. Expect to hit major muscle groups, including your chest, back, shoulders, arms, core, and legs, build strength all over and develop muscle as part of a regular exercise regime. Moreover, there are bodyweight options thrown in to sweeten the deal and shorter variations if you’re short on time.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s four-move “cluster” superset full-body workout 

Professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger posing at the top of his form in October 1976

(Image credit: Bill Mitchell/Getty)

The team at Arnie’s Pump Club ‘like to throw in a little wrinkle to help make you stronger,’ apparently, and this time it’s using cluster sets. That means you’ll do multiple supersets of two exercises within one cluster. Formatting your workout like this allows you to lift heavier weights because of the sets and reps layout. 

Push exercises — take the bench press — primarily work the muscles along the front of your body, like the pectoral muscles, anterior deltoids (the fronts of the shoulders), and triceps. Pulling exercises — for example, a barbell row — activate the posterior chain, like the lats, rear deltoids,  trapezius, rhomboids, and biceps. 

Push-pull superset combos are a popular way to pack chest and back exercises into one compact upper-body workout without defaulting to the “bro split” of separating muscle groups by day during the week. 

Cluster 1: Upper-body 

Arnie’s team recommends a weight that you can lift for 4-5 reps for a push exercise and 6-8 reps for a pulling move. That means lifting heavy so that you fatigue by the last rep, encouraging muscles to adapt and grow over time.

  • Set 1: 2 reps of push + 4 reps of pull (no rest)
  • Set 2: 1 rep of push + 2 reps of pull (no rest)
  • Set 3: 3 reps of push + 6 reps of pull (rest 3 min)

Repeat for a total of 2-3 rounds.

You can choose any push or pull exercise. If you’re feeling stuck for ideas, check out these core 5 dumbbell exercises to develop muscle mass, strength, and power and these core 5 barbell exercises for beginners and pick two from there. Two moves are all it takes to increase your heart rate, torch multiple muscle groups, and strengthen muscles all over.

Cluster 2: Lower-body

Choose a lower-body push exercise and lower-body hinge move, like squats and deadlifts. Learn squats and how to deadlift here if you’re unsure. Otherwise, pick some of the 10 best hamstring exercises for building stronger legs.

This time, Arnie’s team asks you to pick a weight range you can lift for 6-8 reps on the lower-body push and 12-15 reps for your hinge.

  • Set 1: 4 reps of push + 8 reps of hinge (no rest)
  • Set 2: 3 reps of push + 6 reps of hinge (no rest)
  • Set 3: 5 reps of push + 10 reps of hinge (rest 3 min)

Aim for 2-3 rounds.

You could perform one cluster as a standalone upper or lower body workout, which should take around 20-25 minutes. Or, perform both clusters back-to-back for a full-body strength training program that targets the upper and lower body muscles and should take 40-50 minutes to complete. 

Try to factor in a warm-up specific to your chosen weights rather than bulldozing in at a heavy weight. That might mean doing a few sets of each exercise incrementally, adding weight to each set. 

If your home gym equipment setup doesn’t include heavy weights, you could try a bodyweight workout instead. I did Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2-move 360-rep bodyweight workout — here’s what happened (spoiler, it’s a scorcher). Alternatively, swap the exercises above for bodyweight exercises that alternate upper and lower body, for example, push-ups and squats or supermans and lunges.

Of course, you’ll need to increase the exercise intensity somehow — by adding more reps. You’ll also accumulate more reps than in a typical resistance training program. 

Here are some targets you should try to aim and hit:

  • Set 1: 7 reps upper body exercise + 7 reps lower body exercise
  • Set 2: 6 reps upper body exercise + 6 reps lower body exercise
  • Set 3: 8 reps upper body exercise + 8 reps lower body exercise (rest 3 minutes)

Repeat 2-3 times, and if you want to add another cluster, choose two new exercises.  

Woman doing a seated Arnold press

(Image credit: Getty images)

Verdict

I’m a fan of Arnie’s Pump Club because he mixes up training styles to keep things interesting. Training consistently yields the best results but can also feel repetitive if you don’t know how to vary your routine without losing progress. 

Using this cluster superset system, you’ll torch and strengthen muscles everywhere, and it’s accessible for all fitness abilities and gym setups, using just four moves and less than an hour of your day. Even better, you can choose the exercises you like most, but ensure you pack plenty of weight (or reps) to challenge your muscles through resistance (bodyweight or otherwise).

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified 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.