Since I was a little kid in the 1990s, I’ve been a bona fide Arnold stan. For example, I’ve seen Terminator 2 well over 100 times. And it’s my opinion that Total Recall is the greatest film ever made. When my brother and I were little, we used to chase each other around repeating one-liners like, “I know now why you cry,” and, “You ah nah you — you ah me.” Now that we’re older, though, we just get a little drunk, go on YouTube and cackle to Arnold soundboards and supercuts from the 2000s.
But I’m not just an Arnold stan — here comes the transition — I’m also a guy with a bit of a waistline, whose job it is (among other things) to try different workouts to see if regular Joes like me can not only do them, but want to do them over and over again — against every fiber in our bodies.
So I was pretty damn excited when, almost a month ago and with the quarantine in mind, the Governator himself posted a full-body home workout on Reddit. Because it’s easy to forget, but in his long and storied career, Arnold hasn’t just been an actor — he’s also arguably the greatest bodybuilder of all time, having won the Mr. Olympia contest seven times, including six years in a row between 1970 and 1975. In other words, when he posts a workout online, you want to pay attention because the guy knows what he’s talking about.
The most impressive and exciting part for me, though, was that his workout wasn’t just some basic hodgepodge of exercises. Nor did it appear to be something he cobbled together in five minutes while sitting on the toilet in his mansion because his social media manager told him engagement on his posts was down. Nope, it appeared to be the work of a guy who knows what it’s like to have to get fit without cardio machines and a fully stocked weight room. A guy who, in his own words, “started my own fitness journey with chin-ups on a tree branch by a lake in Austria.” A guy who managed to win the Junior Mr. Europe bodybuilding contest at age 18, sans gym while living on base as an enlisted soldier in the Austrian Army.
In my eyes, at least, it was basically the DIY, quarantine-bodyweight-workout equivalent of Total Recall: Sometimes light, sometimes heavy but completely accessible with a little bit of everything for everyone. And, of course, I was excited to give it a try. “You don’t need a gym to be fit,” Arnold says in the post, at exactly the perfect time to see if he’s right.
As for the exercises themselves, there’s nothing groundbreaking in Arnold’s list: Push-ups, squats, calf raises and sit-ups all make an appearance. There are some exercises that might require a second look: things like a row between chairs, or bent-over twists that I did with a broomstick. But as I ran through the program, I couldn’t help but think that the workout was like Arnold’s version of a Jacques Pépin French omelet: Simple. Classic. Perfect.
Thankfully, my king was also kind enough to include different versions of the workout for different fitness levels, as well as a preface that states that the exercises are yours to break down however you please as long as you do them — and do them right. “If an exercise says 50 reps, you are doing 50 reps however you can,” he writes. “You can do 10 sets of five reps, five sets of 10 reps, two sets of 25 reps. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you finish 50 reps with perfect form. Once you complete the reps of one exercise, move on to the next exercise.”
Being someone who still works out irregularly but is getting better thanks to quarantine, I opted to switch between the beginner and intermediate levels for each exercise, depending on how I felt. I did, for example, the beginner amount of 25 reps of push-ups (and took my time with them, splitting them into five sets of five), while I bumped up a level for squats.
The whole workout takes me about 30 minutes, which is perfect, and it doesn’t make me want to die afterwards, either. Normally I’d be dubious of that fact, because I’ve always believed in “no pain, no gain,” but because of who designed the workout — a guy whose personal bench press record is an incredible 520 pounds — I’m hoping it’s just that good.
Besides, if there was ever someone to entrust your fitness to in these dark times, it shouldn’t be some influencer on Instagram who designed a quarantine HIIT workout according to some social media algorithm; it should be a man for whom getting the perfect “pump” makes him feel like he’s cumming.