In case you missed the introductory article for this series, I’m one of the writers for Muscle & Fitness, and with Week 1 of “The Arnold Challenge” completed, here’s whats been happening.
This challenge calls for me to train for one month in a very similar fashion as seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger did during his reign as the No. 1 bodybuilder on the planet.
For those of you who don’t follow bodybuilding, that calls for two, two-hour workouts a day, six days a week that will include every major muscle group being trained three times in that week. Yes, that is a lot of volume with not much time for recovery. Marathons may be run in less time than it takes to complete a lower-body workout.
As of the day I write this, I’m in the middle of the second week, and the first nine days of training have all had their share of unique challenges and highlights. And yes, the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) has been intense.
The good news for me, though, is that I’m seeing results already. After one week and training the entire body three times in these two-hour workouts, I’ve already dropped eight pounds on the scale, and there are certain lifts in which I’m getting stronger. One example is on the incline bench press. The first time I did this workout, I barely lifted 225 pounds for my final set. Now I’m finishing with 235. I can also flat press 125s for reps, even after several sets. As of now, that’s gonna be dumbbell max, considering 125 is the heaviest set I have at the moment. I wonder what a pair of 150s would feel like toward the end of this program.
Before beginning this, I hadn’t been squatting a whole lot in recent months. I train legs, but turned my focus more on goblet squats, leg presses, even some trap bar work. So, it took me some time to get reacquainted with getting back under a bar. By the third time I trained legs, I felt much more comfortable squatting again—even with the intense agony my legs felt afterward. I still need to get stronger with that lift, but I’m pretty confident that’s coming.
Adjustments Made After Week 1 of The Arnold Challenge
While I’ve been able to make the time to take these workouts on without cutting corners, there are factors that I need to work with and around in order to make them happen. Because I’m training at home, I don’t have items such as a full cable station, hack squat machine, or any of the isolateral machines that you find in many gyms. So, I’m doing dumbbell work or using heavier bands whenever possible. As long as it’s a comparable challenge, I’m going with it.
Also, like many of you, I have a family. My wife and youngest son are being supportive for this venture, but I still want and need to be the best husband and dad I have to be. Some days are tougher than others, but when I ask them if I’m ignoring them or not doing enough, they have continued supporting me.
Then, there’s my nine-to-five job. Actually I’m blessed to be working from home, but I do have commitments that need to be kept, which means the work days start earlier than normal and could go on till late at night. But the work gets done. So, to make up for the four hours of training, I’ve been getting up early to take care of those commitments. Some days, I go to bed a little later as well. The upside to that is I can take a power nap here and there when needed without having to worry about being reported to human resources. And I’ve needed the quick down time on more than one occasion.
Last but not least is during the training itself. When Arnold was training for his world championships, he was doing so alongside fellow bodybuilding legends such as Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ed Corney, and others who graced the weight room at the original Gold’s Gym in Venice, California. It was also summer.
Conditioning for the Cold Weather
Right now, as my dog continues barking at the passing cars, I’m training in a barn with the high temperature hovering around 35 degrees. That’s been about the average lately for your typical West Virginia winter. It’s tough at times to complete supersets when all you want to do is layer up in as many hoodies, hats, and gloves as possible.
Because of the chilly conditions, sometimes it’s tough to get myself up for every workout because I don’t have that voice to push me or that partner to encourage me to get those last two or three reps that Arnold preached is what makes a champion. Fortunately, a few friends have put up with numerous texts in between sets and been pushing me on because they want to see this finished now that I am this far into it. That is important when you’re in the middle of your second round doing over 30 sets of thighs.
Speaking of that, I have typically been training with more of a high intensity training style, so on the high end, I may be doing a little over 30 true work sets a week. I also am typically done after an hour at the most. There are over 30 individual sets on calves alone in one workout on this program. So, you can imagine the amount of work I’m doing with the other body parts. The volume was quite a shock to me after Week 1 of the Arnold Challenge.
When it comes to the calf training specifically, I don’t have the most optimal equipment for it so I made the most out of my barbells and dumbbells. Also, after doing several supersets for quads and hamstrings, it can be quite easy to skip calves training—or at least a few sets—and call it a day. Trying to concentrate on turning my toes the right way and getting quality contractions can be a mental challenge—especially when I can walk about 200 feet away and grab dinner at any time.
However, the whole purpose of this is to do the program as close to exact as possible. So, when that third set of the fourth exercise is done, cutting sets out or moving on to the next movement isn’t an option—especially now that there are people around the world that are intrigued by this. I can’t speak on this if I don’t do it properly. So, I execute and convince myself that the effort will be worth it. And of course, I really do have that faith, or I wouldn’t have started this to begin with.
One Week Down, Three to Go
This is a rosy picture that may be getting painted, but I should be clear about this. The workouts are intense, challenging, time-consuming, and my percussive gun has been working a lot of overtime to help me recover. I also know this isn’t going to be the smoothest road, either. There may be a serious cold front in my area that restricts me from training, something life related could happen that forces me to make adjustments, and I know that there will be days that the weights feel heavier than others.
But now that I am on this road, I’m finishing the journey, and I hope you’ll join me by following along on my Instagram @rocklockridge, where I’ll share occasional pics, videos, and commentary.