Arnold Schwarzenegger is NOT the most successful bodybuilder of all time, he is NOT the strongest bodybuilder of all time, nor is he the biggest bodybuilder, but he is unquestionably the best.
He had one of the most aesthetic physiques in history, he beat some of the biggest names in bodybuilding, and he truly transcended the sport.
When almost anyone thinks of bodybuilding, they think of Arnie, no other bodybuilder comes close.
How he created that physique is a fascinating story, and reading his autobiography should be step one for any would-be bodybuilder.
In this article we are going to look at what Arnold did to become the greatest bodybuilder of all time, and we’ll teach you how to apply those lessons to your own training program.
A History of Arnie
We’re not going to go into crazy detail about Arnold’s life here, but it’s important to at least outline why he is so important to bodybuilding.
Knowing at least a little bit about him will help you appreciate just how impressive his achievements are.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Austria in 1947. He lived in Thal, Styria (a village in Austria) until he was 19 years old.
He then joined the Austrian army but went AWOL to compete in a bodybuilding competition.
After spending time in a military prison, he travelled to America to become a professional bodybuilder.
He was signed up by Joe Weider, and started his own bricklaying business with his friend Franco Columbu (another incredibly successful bodybuilder).
While the bricklaying business was a great way to make some extra money, Arnold had come to America to win titles. He started doing this almost immediately.
He won his first Mr Olympia in 1969, and then won it again another six years in a row. He then retired from bodybuilding, he briefly came back in 1980 and won his 8th Mr Olympia title (though the win was controversial).
He was so successful in bodybuilding that he started getting film roles, to date he is the only bodybuilder to create a successful acting career out of it.
But Arnold was not satisfied with just bodybuilding and acting glory, he also harboured political ambitions. He became the Governor of California in 2003, and stayed in office until 2011.
Now that you have an idea of who Arnold is (if you didn’t already know), we can move onto how he built the body that was the driving force behind all of his successes.
Mindset for Success
If you want to be as successful as Arnie, you’ll have to have the same mindset.
This is a guy who was born an absolute nobody in Austria, and ended up the most famous bodybuilder in history.
He also became one of the most famous actors in history, and (arguably) one of the most famous politicians in a country that he wasn’t even a natural-born citizen of.
Just think about the drive that is required for that, Arnold took risks for his career, he sacrificed for his career (retiring from bodybuilding to focus on acting), and he woke up every morning looking to better himself.
Most people can manage at least one of these things, but you really need to do all three if you want to be successful.
You’ll see lots of people who have the drive to wake up every morning and train, but they don’t take the risks that Arnie did.
They don’t quit their job to focus on lifting, they don’t move countries to find a gym that suits their needs, hell most won’t even try a new training program!
We’re not saying that you have to do any of that, but you need that mindset.
Be patient, but be prepared to make changes if required. Turn up day in, day out for years. Don’t make excuses, don’t skip training, don’t avoid hard work.
When you want something, dedicate everything to achieving it, but keep one eye on the future.
Training for Success
Arnold always favoured simple exercises, “the basics” as he calls them.
Large compound lifts that work many muscles at once. So his programs would have lots of rows, presses, squats, and chin ups.
He also trained abs a lot, performing hundreds of leg raises, hanging knee raises, and crunches.
He would do quite a few sets per exercise, and would put absolutely everything into every set that he performed.
He would always be looking to maximally fatigue the muscles, performing drop sets, triple drop sets, and lots of sets to failure.
It is important to remember that Arnold has admitted to steroid use while training to be a bodybuilder (which shocked precisely 0% of people), so how he trained will not work for a non-steroid user.
If you are not taking steroids then you won’t be able to train to failure as often as he did, you won’t be able to recover from a morning session and then train in the evening too. You won’t be able to perform drop sets after each exercise. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a leaf out of his book when it comes to effort and intensity.
Nutrition for Success
It’s very difficult to give out nutrition advice on the internet, there will (hopefully) be hundreds of people reading this article, and each one will have different goals, will be starting from a different position, and will have different ages, sexes, training abilities, etc …. It’s even more difficult to give all of these different people advice based on what Arnold Schwarzenegger ate in the 1960s.
The truth is that Arnold ate a ridiculously high calorie diet during training, but then he was genetically blessed, trained twice per day, took steroids (which increase your metabolism and therefore require you to eat more), and spent almost all of his money on food. Most people will not have the same lifestyle.
But what we can do, is take bits and pieces of his diet that can apply to anyone, and use them to create some dieting rules. Here they are:
- If you are looking to build muscle you need to eat more, you can’t build muscle without being in a calorie surplus.
- Carry a protein shake with you when going to work, you’ll need to keep your protein intake very high, and this is not always possible without supplementation.
- Don’t restrict fats or carbohydrates. Fat is essential for high testosterone levels, while carbs are going to help fuel your workouts.
- Have vegetables with every meal. Arnold would have onions and tomatoes with his breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast), and salads with his lunches. He’d have vegetables with his evening meals too.
- Be consistent, you can’t be eating 3,000 calories on one day, 500 on the next, and 5,000 the day after that and expect to get good results. Have a go-to breakfast that you always eat no matter what, and plan out your lunches and evening meals for the week.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day, particularly if you are training. But don’t go overboard. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day is overkill, and you’ll spend half your day in the toilet.
- Aim for 1g of protein for every 1lb of bodyweight, this is the golden ratio that Arnold swore by. So if you’re 300lbs then you need to eat 300g of protein per day.
Supplements for Success
Arnold believed in whey protein, and often talks about how he used to drink protein powder mixed with milk during the day. He also had multivitamins, and omega 3s. Creatine is also a great shout.
Just remember that it wasn’t supplements that got Arnold where he was it was hard work and dedication. The supplements just provided that final 2%.
Hopefully these tips will help move you along the road to success, helping you to gain both strength and muscle.