I prefer Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new fitness app to Peloton – here’s why

 TechRadar fitness writer Harry Bullmore following a workout in the gym from Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Pump app.
TechRadar fitness writer Harry Bullmore following a workout in the gym from Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Pump app.

My iPhone beeps. I slide the screen and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face stares back at me.  But this isn’t my dream interview; the fake phone call is part of the intro sequence for his new fitness app.

“The Pump” is the bodybuilder-turned-movie-star, turned-politician’s next big project; a new contender for the best fitness app, designed to share his considerable training expertise with the masses. And as both a strength training fan and long-time Arnie-admirer, I’m excited to give it a go.

I’m not usually the type for classic fitness apps like Peloton—quick HIIT workouts and the like seldom serve my goals of building muscle, growing stronger and developing an enviable engine. I’m more likely to use my Notes app as a training log, instead of a dedicated app focused around tracking strength training. But can Schwarzenegger change my mind?

The Pump app: at a glance

  • What is it? The Pump is a fitness app from Arnold Schwarzenegger and his team. On it, you’ll find a series of workout plans to follow, as well as blog posts, Q&A opportunities with Arnold, and even a goal-setting section for life both in and out of the gym.

  • Who is it for? In Arnold’s (marketing team’s) words, this app is for “anyone with access to a phone”. In mine, it’s for anyone interested in strength training, with plans to suit beginner, intermediate and advanced lifters. There are also bodyweight, dumbbell-only and gym-based plans available.

  • How much does it cost? The Pump app is available via a monthly $9.99 subscription, or you can pay $99.99 for a full year. There is also a seven-day free trial for newcomers.

The Pump app: why try it?

I’ve tried a lot of workout apps in my time as a fitness writer. The first thing I noticed about The Pump is that it’s not trying to go toe-to-toe with big hitters like Peloton, Apple Fitness+ and Chris Hemsworth’s Centr app.

These rivals boast a plethora of plans and workouts to choose from. But when I signed up to The Pump, I was asked to provide my training goal (get shredded or get big), available equipment (bodyweight or gym) and experience level (beginner, intermediate or advanced). Then I was served a solitary 90-day, three days per week program to follow: ”The Foundation: Advanced Muscle Gain”.

You need to complete the workouts in order to unlock the next one, and there’s a one workout a day limit to keep you from overtraining. In every session, you’re asked to input the amount of weight you lift and the number of reps you complete for each exercise, then certain moves are repeated later down the line so you can build on your performance from previous weeks.

This is progressive overload in action—the principle behind any successful muscle-building training plan, and something that’s missing if you’re just selecting random workouts from the thousands on offer from another fitness app’s stable of videos.

Screenshots from Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Pump app
Screenshots from Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Pump app

A few other workout plans are unlocked once you complete the initial 90-day program—among them, Schwarzenegger’s current training schedule and “The Classic Arnold Throwback”, which is a six-day split reminiscent of his Mr Olympia-winning routines. However, by limiting your choice, The Pump aims to keep you consistent for continued results.

That’s why I personally prefer this app to others like Peloton, and it’s also why I feel The Pump would better-serve the strength and muscle-based goals of intermediate-to-advanced lifters.

Another element of this app I like is the focus on community. Peloton users will tell you this isn’t unique, with the platform’s live classes curating impressively authentic camaraderie through shoutouts, leaderboards and strategy to serve you up content it knows will keep you coming back. Arnold’s team again does things differently.

There are educational yet colloquial blog posts, comments sections for members and the opportunity to participate in Q&As—submit questions via the comments section, and roughly once a fortnight Schwarzenegger will answer a selection in a blog post. And if there’s one thing that’s going to keep a lifting fan motivated, it’s personalized advice or a pat on the back from the Austrian Oak.

What happened when I tried Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout from The Pump

The (very enjoyable) Arnold Netflix documentary claims that, as a beginner lifter, Schwarzenegger gained a staggering 15.2kg (33.5lb) in just 12 months. The Austrian village of Thal where he grew up didn’t have high-tech fitness equipment; simple barbells, dumbbells and bodyweight moves dominated.

This reinforces my view that bodybuilding staples are staples for a reason: they’re effective. And when I tackled my first workout on The Pump app, I found a routine that was chock-full of them.

I started proceedings with pyramid sets—a favorite training technique in bodybuilding’s golden age—of the barbell bench press, T-bar row and barbell back squat.

Pyramid sets involve lowering the number of reps and raising the weight you use with each set of an exercise. In the case of the bench press here, I tackled sets of 15, 12, eight and six reps, while adding plates to the bar after each round. This approach encouraged me to lift heavier loads than I might have otherwise, providing the challenging stimulus needed for strength gains and muscle growth.

Screenshots from Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Pump app
Screenshots from Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Pump app

By the time this first phase of the session was finished, I had already completed a full-body workout of sorts, hitting every major muscle group with a compound push, pull and leg exercise. Next came three rounds of a superset containing dumbbell flys and chin-ups, followed by a few straight sets of cable crunches and leg extensions to finish. All in all, it took me about 60 minutes.

I’ve found an hour is the sweet spot for a strength training session; long enough to deliver a comprehensive full-body workout without being such a slog that I’d need to wake up super early to fit it in before work. This isn’t something I can say for Arnold’s twice-a-day, two-hour routines of old; I tried it once and barely lived to tell the tale.

As you might expect from a Schwarzenegger routine, there was an enjoyable “pump” in the aftermath, inflating my muscles, ego and spirit simultaneously. But because the session was kept to roughly 60 minutes, I didn’t feel ruined for the rest of the day. Lightly aching? Yes, but ready to go again for my next workout in two days’ time.

Would I use Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Pump app again?

Arnold’s team says this app is for “anyone with a phone”, but I can’t help but feel the target market is a little more niche than that. I’d instead say it’s aimed at existing fans of Arnie with an interest (old, new, or burgeoning) in lifting weights. Fortunately for him and his vast appeal, that still casts a very wide net.

What I saw of the app was old-school bodybuilding at its best, so if you’re in the market to build muscle and become stronger, I would definitely recommend it. I was buoyed by the community aspect, and the blog posts were genuinely interesting, providing training and nutritional resources to help users hit their fitness goals.

As someone who likes to keep their gym sessions a largely tech-free oasis (I’ve been known to take a pen and paper into the gym to record my results), the app was a fairly innocuous addition to my training arsenal. It only took a couple of seconds to type in my weights and reps for each set, and the rest timer was a handy addition for helping me stick to the task at hand. That’s why, if I was to use any of the mainstream fitness apps, it would be this one.

The only reason I won’t be subscribing to The Pump long-term is because I have wider training goals. My regular training is tailored to preparing me for CrossFit and functional fitness competitions, where I need to develop my athleticism, cardiovascular capacity, gymnastic skill and Olympic lifting technique alongside my ever-stubborn muscles.

For this, I’ve found the best platforms for training are apps like Fitr and Beyond The Whiteboard, which offer third-party programming companies the option to share specific training plans to fit your needs. A little like TrainingPeaks for functional fitness.

But rest assured, The Pump, next time I’m on the hunt for some pure bodybuilding fun, I’ll be back.

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