Notepod #22: “Arnold”

I finished reading the biography portion of  “Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder” and wanted to share some thoughts about the book.

Some quotes I mentioned in the podcast. First this one about visualizing the lift and how if you don’t think you can do it, you definitely won’t be able to do it.

There’s no two ways about it, because they’ve done all the training, their bodies are ready; now it’s only the mind. The mind must carry through. If a man stands there and thinks for one-tenth of a second, “Maybe I can’t lift it,” it’s gone. He will not make the lift.

Then there’s this quote about being backstage before the competition, hearing 1960s bro science flying around as fast as possible. Overwhelming—and even more so since he wasn’t fluent in English.

Backstage before the contest I heard endless theories. Some guys were talking about taking saunas before competition as a way of wringing the last bit of water out of their systems. Some were claiming that tensing and flexing helped promote great definition and vascularity. I kept hearing new things right and left. I understood only enough English to get it in snatches, which made it even more confusing.

Have a vision for the future

It can be a very specific vision. In fact, it can be a very specific person. For Arnold, it was Reg Park.

From then on in my mid-teens, I kept my batteries charged with the adventure movies of Steve Reeves, Mark Forrest, Brad Harris, Gordon Mitchell, and Reg Park. I admired Reg Park more than the others. He was rugged, everything I thought a man should be. I recall seeing him for the first time on the screen.

The hedonic treadmill of biceps

Arnold mentions a few metrics in the book. The two that stick out: 250 lbs and 20-inch arms. He tried packing mass on and had 250 lbs in mind early on. Then the arm size was important. (He also points out that triceps are half the battle here.)

Bodybuilders were becoming better and better. I’d seen the sport improve by leaps and bounds in the few years since I’d begun training. In 1962 Joe Abender, the Mr. Universe winner of that year, had 181/2-inch arms. The same with Tommy Samsone in 1963. But now the 19-inch arm wasn’t even big enough to get you in the top five. I’d come in second with 20-inch arms.

I mentioned this Khe Hy tweet

The 4-minute mile (for weightlifting)

Throughout the book, Arnold mentions the importance of mindset in many different ways. One way is just in knowing something is possible at all.

Proof of my point is that for years weight lifters could not lift more than 500 pounds. Nobody could. They did 4991/2 but never 500. The reason was this supposedly insurmountable mental barrier that had existed for years. They stood in front of the weight thinking, “No one has ever lifted 500 pounds. Why should I be the one?” Then in 1970 Alexiev of Russia lifted 501 pounds. He broke the barrier. A month after that, three or four guys lifted 500 pounds.

Something incredible about Arnold’s story is that, while he envisioned a lot of these things, there probably weren’t many models for foreigners coming into Hollywood and becoming the biggest movie stars.

The original influencer

To spend time in America, and California specifically, he needed a bit of support. For his first extended stay, he traded a bit of influence for a roof and transportation.

My part of the agreement was to make available to Weider information about how I trained. He agreed to provide an apartment, a car, and to pay me a weekly salary in exchange for my information and being able to use photographs of me in his magazine.

This playbook is available more widely today, in fitness and beyond. Build up an audience, get sponsored to represent and recommend products, sell some information in books or courses.

Look good feel good play good (but for non game days, make sure you can move)

Not much feels better than heading to the gym in a brand new color-coordinated workout outfit.

Or maybe just sweats and a cotton shirt are fine.

If you start worrying about how your clothes look while you’re in training, then you’re already training for the wrong reason.

(Also, he’d drop the sweats and go with shorts to always reveal the weakness in his calves until he eliminates it.)

And a link to that Bill Burr bit about how ridiculous Arnold’s life is