Bodybuilding Legends – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger: a name that is recognised in every nation on the globe. This is the man who’s singularly had the biggest impact on bodybuilding making it appealing to the mainstream. Colourful and charismatic, he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest success stories of modern times, he’s next in our series of Bodybuilding Legends

Arnold’s introduction to weight training began in his homeland of Austria. At the age of 14, he realised that he wanted to get strong and muscular. It wasn’t long until he became hooked on lifting iron and his body responded well to it. Right from the start, he had a vision that he would win Mr Universe. With idols like Reg Park, Steve Reeves and Bill Pearl, Arnold was heading in the right direction to become a bodybuilding legend.

Arnold’s magnificent physique and high levels of determination earned him a string of bodybuilding titles in the 1960’s and 70’s. He won the famous Mr Universe title multiple times and was the youngest man in bodybuilding history to win it. Even more impressive, Arnold was the youngest ever Mr. Olympia winner at the tender age of 23. He won seven Olympia titles in all (a record which has been beaten only by Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney). The classic documentary film “Pumping Iron”, an enduring cult favourite amongst bodybuilders, follows the build-up to the 1975 Mr. Olympia. Arnold had an electric presence on the stage and often had the crowds hollering for more.

The ‘Austrian Oak’, which he was also known as in bodybuilding circles, had a body which all bodybuilders aspired to. His chest and bicep development is still considered to be among the best ever. The muscle mass on his shoulders and lats added a great deal of width to his phenomenal physique. His calves, once a weak spot, became one of his stronger body parts after he trained them with British bodybuilding legend Reg Park.

It would be difficult to find a champion who hasn’t paid their dues on the basics such as squats, bench presses and deadlifts and Arnold was no exception. Heavy weights, high volume and high frequency training was the way Arnold liked it. He favoured hard work on the basics and knew this was the best way to make progress. At his peak, he would train twice a day, six days a week. His unique dumbbell shoulder exercise, aptly called the Arnold press, packed muscle onto his deltoids and it’s now a popular exercise in gyms everywhere.

Supersetting two opposing body parts was a favourite approach of Arnold’s and he loved the pump gained from doing this. He believed in ‘shocking’ your muscles to promote lots of muscular growth and keep the muscles “guessing”. One of the gruelling drop set techniques he enjoyed using was the “1-10 method”. He started with a heavy weight for one rep, stripped weight off the bar, performed two reps, and continued this procedure all the way to ten reps; challenging even for the best conditioned bodybuilders. It’s a good thing he had training partners like Franco Columbu to push him through these tough and intense sessions.

As we’ve seen with many muscle men in the past, venturing into acting seems to be a natural progression. Arnold has played a selection of heroes and villains in his 48-year film acting career. He takes his acting as seriously as his bodybuilding and immerses himself into the roles. Unquestionably, two of the greatest films he starred in were “The Terminator” and its sensational sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”. Arnold convincingly played an emotionless killing machine in these memorable, high tension classics.

His belief in leaving no stone unturned led him to explore other avenues. His life experience and positive attitude prepared him well for the role of Governor of California in which he served two terms (2003-2011). He has supported many charities and has been involved in the Special Olympics for several years. As busy as his life is, he’s still had time to be a committed dad.

The present day Arnold is just as active and motivated as the Arnold of the past. He hasn’t forgotten his bodybuilding roots and organises the hugely successful Arnold Sports Festival annually. He still regularly lifts weights and he’s in fantastic shape for a man in his 70’s. For many, Arnold will forever be the greatest bodybuilder who’s ever lived. Has Arnold inspired or influenced you in some way? Or…is Ronnie Coleman an overall better Mr Olympia? Let us know below, on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (Bitten by the iron bug? Then check out these articles by our in-house weightlifting expert Alan Riseborough!)

Alan Riseborough

Alan is a strength and physique enthusiast and has 28 years' of training experience behind him. He has competed in powerlifting, arm wrestling, bodybuilding and grip strength competitions. He also includes rigorous bodyweight, sprinting and kettlebell training regularly in his routines. He believes in the transformative power of the squat which is (believe it or not) his favourite exercise!

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