“Fitness is for everyone.” These may not be words you associate with the inimitable Arnold Schwarzenegger (after all, he surely isn’t “everyone”) but it’s an approach to health and wellness that he has long championed.
A few years ago, Schwarzenegger revealed that he ditched weights from his workouts to accommodate what his body needs. More recently, he’s focused on sharing accessible workout routines in his daily newsletter.
I tried his two-move bodyweight leg workout a few months ago, so when I noticed he had designed a new accessible three-move dumbbell workout to build muscle and improve grip strength, I knew I had to give it a try.
Interest piqued, I dropped my phone, pulled on my workout gear, and grabbed my adjustable dumbbells. Come on then Arnold, let’s see what you got.
How to do Arnold Schwarzenegger’s three-move workout
Complete the first circuit (20-30 farmer’s carry steps and 10-30 push-ups), resting as little as possible between them. Once you’re done, rest for two minutes and repeat the round four times.
Then, repeat this format for the second circuit (20-30 farmer’s carry steps and 10-30 squats). Schwarzenegger also recommends going as hard as you can for farmer’s transports to test your grip.
Farmer’s Carry: 20-30 paces
“If you don’t have weights, you can fill two backpacks or bags with books, hold one in each hand, and perform carry-ons,” advises Arnold. “All you need to do is make sure the bags are heavy and hard to grip.”
Pushups: 10-30 reps
Learning how to do a push-up correctly forms a key part of most exercise routines. This bodyweight move works your entire body and helps strengthen your core without weights.
Farmer’s Carry: 20-30 paces
Bodyweight Squats: 10-30 reps
The bodyweight squat is a classic exercise; engages your core and lower body for an effective workout.
Dumbbells test your endurance
First things first: Expect your grip to be tested. This is the main focus of the routine and it nails the brief.
I picked up my Bowflex SelectTech 552i Adjustable Dumbbells and (per Arnold’s advice) cranked them up to their highest weight setting. By the second circuit, my forearms were rock solid and my grip began to slip during the last few steps of the farmer’s drag.
While you can build muscle with light weights, this move relies on a heavy load to challenge your muscles, so try to lift close to your max rather than going too light and finding it a breeze.
Pushups are harder than you think
Pushups look easy, but they can quickly become challenging if you do enough of them, and so it was here. I managed up to 30 reps for the first two rounds of the first circuit, but I knew my limits and adjusted my goal.
I didn’t want to ruin my form, so in the third round I dropped to 25, before finishing the first circuit with 22 reps. If you’ve ever compared weights and reps for building muscle, you know this won’t hurt your results.
You want each set to feel more challenging than the last while encouraging your muscles to grow. If you find the full push-up too much at any point, you can change the intensity by dropping to your knees or placing your hands on a raised surface.
Three moves was more than enough!
I haven’t touched squats yet—I’ve managed to do 30 reps per set (thanks, CrossFit Workouts), so I’d probably add a dumbbell goblet squat if I did it again to make it more challenging.
Although it’s only three moves, the routine took about 30 minutes, which was more than enough time to get my muscles working, heart pounding, and sweat dripping. I did it outside in the midday sun, but it was the intensity that did it.
Schwarzenegger says the main goal is to build strength, and he certainly did, with farmer’s carries straining my grip and push-ups providing a pump in my chest, shoulders and triceps that Arnold himself could to be proud.
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