A New take on Arnold’s ‘Golden Six’ routine…A bodyweight version

There is nobody who has done more for bringing fitness and the physical culture out of the shadows and into the mainstream than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He is also one of the all-time greats in professional bodybuilding, with 7 Mr. Olympia titles. Even if bodybuilding is not your thing, and you just want to be fit, healthy, lean and muscular, listening to Arnold is a good idea.

In fact, 78 peer-reviewed studies* have confirmed some of the principles he wrote about in Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, a book widely regarded as the definitive text on bodybuilding.

Anyway, I’m not here to tell you that you need to listen to Arnold (you know you should), I’m here to tell you about one of his classic programs and how you can adapt it, so that you can do it at home, using only bodyweight exercises.

If you’re looking for a killer training program and want to burn fat, build muscle, get strong and look great, go here

 Arnold’s Golden Six Routine:

It’s a classic full-body routine Arnold used at the outset of his bodybuilding career, he attributes it to most of his muscular development.It’s a really simple, old-school routine, using only 6 compound exercises that will work your entire body. It’s done 3x per week and consists of:

  1. Barbell Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
  2. Wide grip bench press – 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Pull-ups – 3 sets of max amount
  4. Behind-the-neck overheard press – 4 sets of 10 reps
  5. Barbell curls – 3 sets of 10 reps
  6. Bent-knee sit ups – 3 sets of max amount.

It’s a great routine and if you do it hard and give it your all, you’ll realize fantastic results. 

There are 2 problems I’ve found with it though:

 A) You have to belong to a gym to do it

 B) It’s quite difficult to do in a busy gym

Either the bench or squat rack is occupied when you need it, and it can get time consuming having to load and unload the bar all the time as you move between exercises – killing your momentum and nullifying some of the aerobic effects you might be getting from the workout. 

Below is world champion powerlifter, Timo Majuri performing the classic routine (with leg presses substituted for squats)

Arnold’s Golden six, using only bodyweight exercises:

Given some of the constraints I mentioned above, I decided to figure out a way to replicate the routine, but with bodyweight exercises, so that I could do it either at home, or at the gym when it’s too busy to do the original routine.

You’ll still do it 3x per week and it consists of:

  1. Pistol squats – 4 sets of 10 reps per leg*
  2. Dips or a difficult variant of a push-up that you can only do 10-12 reps of – 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Pull-ups – 3 sets of max amount (Go here for more info on how to nail pull-ups)
  4. Hand-stand push-ups – 4 sets of 10 reps*
  5. Close grip chin-ups, focusing on using your biceps* – 3 sets of 10 reps
  6. Bent-Knee sit-ups – 3 sets of max amount

‘* If you cannot do pistol squats use a TRX strap or door-frame for support. If you cannot do 10 reps in a row, break up the 10 reps into multiple sets, for example sets of 5, 3,2 to get to 10 in total.

For the hand-stand push ups, do pike push-ups (see video) if you cannot do handstand push ups yet. Break the 10 reps up into multiple sets if need be.

For the close grip chin-ups, use an underhand grip and try to modify the angle of your body slightly to put the focus onto your biceps. If you cannot do 10 reps because of fatigue from the Pull-ups, attempt negative reps. You could also do curls on TRX straps instead of the chin-ups if you’d like and have access to them.

Try to rest only 1 minute between sets and move through the workout quickly so as to keep the aerobic effect of the workout high.

I’ve put together a video below showing you the whole bodyweight version…

If you liked this workout, then be sure to get our FREE, 4-week, “Prison-Style” training program here


Article by: Bryan Hamann.

Bryan is a personal trainer, certified bootcamp instructor, Ironman Triathlete and author of THE PRISON WORKOUT.

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