Decoding the Schwarzenegger Split: Blueprint of a Bodybuilding Routine

Decoding the Schwarzenegger Split: Blueprint of a Bodybuilding Routine

The Schwarzenegger Split is a bodybuilding routine that Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized during the height of his bodybuilding career. This high-volume, high-frequency training split is designed to target each muscle group multiple times a week, facilitating intense muscle stimulation and growth. This article examines the structure of the Schwarzenegger Split and offers guidance on how to incorporate it into modern training, including variations for different fitness levels.

The Structure of the Schwarzenegger Split

The classic Schwarzenegger Split involves training six days a week, focusing on two major muscle groups per session. Each muscle group is worked three times a week, which is significantly more frequent than many modern hypertrophy programs. The split typically looks like this:

  • Day 1 and 4: Chest and Back
  • Day 2 and 5: Shoulders and Arms
  • Day 3 and 6: Legs and Lower Back
  • Day 7: Rest

Each workout includes a combination of compound movements for overall strength and mass, along with isolation exercises to shape and define muscles. Volume is high, with Arnold often performing five or more sets of each exercise and hitting around 20 sets per muscle group.

How to Implement It in Modern Training

The Schwarzenegger Split can be a powerful tool in a bodybuilder’s arsenal but should be approached with caution due to its intensity. Here’s how to implement it:

  • Start Slowly: If you’re not used to high-volume training, gradually increase your workload over several weeks.
  • Prioritize Recovery: Due to the intense nature of the split, ensure you’re getting enough sleep, nutrition, and hydration.
  • Listen to Your Body: Overtraining can lead to injury. If you’re feeling unusually tired or sore, take an extra rest day.

Variations and Modifications for Different Levels

Beginners: Start with a three-day split, targeting each major muscle group once a week. Focus on form and learning the exercises rather than the volume of work.

  • Monday: Chest and Back
  • Wednesday: Shoulders and Arms
  • Friday: Legs and Lower Back

Intermediate: Increase to a four-day split with moderate volume, adding an extra day for weaker body parts.

  • Monday: Chest and Back
  • Tuesday: Legs and Abs
  • Thursday: Shoulders and Arms
  • Friday or Saturday: Weak Points Focus and Lower Back

Advanced: Follow a split closer to Arnold’s original routine, but consider reducing the number of sets if you’re not recovering adequately.


  • Volume Adjustment: Reduce the number of sets per exercise if you’re not recovering quickly enough.
  • Exercise Selection: Swap out some of Arnold’s exercises for modern movements that may be more effective or safer.
  • Intensity Techniques: Incorporate advanced techniques like drop sets or supersets to increase intensity without increasing volume.


The Schwarzenegger Split is a rigorous and demanding routine that can yield impressive results for those who can sustain the intensity and volume. By adjusting the volume, frequency, and exercise selection, bodybuilders of all levels can utilize aspects of Arnold’s iconic routine to optimize their training. Remember, the key to success with this split is as much about the recovery as it is about the workouts themselves. Adapt the blueprint to fit your individual needs, and always prioritize movement quality over weight quantity.

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