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Before he became one of the biggest box-office attractions of our times, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the name in bodybuilding--five-time Mr. Universe and seven-time Mr. Olympia. In this classic book, first published in 1977, Arnold shares the bodybuilding regime that made him a champion and offers glimpses of his personal life. 191 photographs.
I can still hear them, the voices of my friends, the lifeguards, bodybuilders, the weight lifters, booming up from the lake where they were working out in the grass and trees.
"Arnold -- come on!" cried Karl, the young doctor who had become my friend at the gym...
It was the summer I turned fifteen, a magical season for me because that year I'd discovered exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It was more than a young boy's mere pipe dream of a distant, hazy future -- confused fantasies of being a fireman, detective, sailor, test pilot, or spy. I knew I was going to be a bodybuilder. It wasn't simply that either. I would be the best bodybuilder in the world, the greatest, the best-built man.
I'm not exactly sure why I chose bodybuilding, except that I loved it. I loved it from the first moment my fingers closed around a barbell and I felt the challenge and exhilaration of hoisting the heavy steel plates above my head.
I had always been involved in sports through my father, a tall, sturdy man who was himself a champion at ice curling. We were a physical family, oriented toward training, good eating, and keeping the body fit and healthy. With my father's encouragement, I first got into organized competitive sports when I was ten. I joined a soccer team that even had uniforms and a regular three-days-a-week training schedule. I threw myself into it and played soccer passionately for almost five years.
However, by the time I was thirteen team sports no longer satisfied me. I was already off on an individual trip. I disliked it when we won a game and I didn't get personal recognition. The only time I really felt rewarded was when Iwas singled out as being best. I decided to try some individual sports. I ran, I swam, I boxed; I got into competition, throwing javelin and shot put. Although I did well with them, none of those things felt right to me. Then our coach decided that lifting weights for an hour once a week would be a good way to condition us for playing soccer.
I still remember that first visit to the bodybuilding gym. I had never seen anyone lifting weights before. Those guys were huge and brutal. I found myself walking around them, staring at muscles I couldn't even name, muscles I'd never even seen before. The weight lifters shone with sweat; they were powerful looking, Herculean. And there it was before me -- my life, the answer I'd been seeking. It clicked. It was something I suddenly just seemed to reach out and find, as if I'd been crossing a suspended bridge and finally stepped off onto solid ground.
I started lifting weights just for my legs, which was what we needed most for playing soccer. The bodybuilders noticed immediately how hard I was working out. Considering my age, fifteen, I was squatting with some pretty heavy weight. They encouraged me to go into bodybuilding. I was 6 feet tall and slender, weighing only 150 pounds; but I did have a good athletic physique and my muscles responded surprisingly fast under training. I think those guys saw that. Because of my build I'd always had it easier at sports than most boys my age. But I had it tougher than a lot of my teammates and companions because I wanted more, I demanded more of myself.
That summer the bodybuilders took me on as their protégé. They put me through a series of exercises, which we did together beside a lake near Graz, my hometown in Austria. It was a program they used simply to stay limber. We worked without weights. We did chin-ups on the branches of trees. We held each other's legs and did handstand push-ups. Leg raises, sit-ups, twists, and squats were all included in a simple routine to get our bodies tuned and ready for the gym.
It wasn't until the end of the summer that I got into real weight training. Once I started, though, it didn't take long. After two or three months with the bodybuilders, I was literally addicted. The guys I hung out with were all much older. Karl Gerstl, the doctor, was twenty-eight, Kurt Manul thirty-two, and Helmut Knaur was fifty. Each of them became a father image for me. I listened less to my own father. These weight lifters were my new heroes. I was in awe of them, of their size, of the control they had over their bodies.
I was introduced to actual weight training through a tough basic program put together by these bodybuilders. The one hour a week we had trained for soccer was no longer enough to satisfy my craving for working out. I signed up to go to the gym three times a week. I loved the feel of the cold iron and steel warming to my touch and the sounds and smells of the gym. And I still love it. There is nothing I would sooner hear than the sound of heavy steel plates ringing as they are threaded onto the bar or dropped back to the rack after a strenuous lift.
I remember the first real workout I had as vividly as if it were last night. I rode my bike to the gym, which was eight miles from the village where I lived. I used barbells, dumbbells and machines. The guys warned me that I'd get sore, but it didn't seem to be having any effect. I thought I must be beyond that. Then, after the workout, I started riding home and fell off my bike. I was so weak I couldn't make my hands hold on. I had no feeling in my legs: they were noodles. I was numb, my whole body buzzing. I pushed the bike for a while, leaning on it. Half a mile farther, I tried to ride it again, fell off again, and then just pushed it the rest of the way home. This was my first experience with weight training, and I was crazy for it.
The next morning I couldn't even lift my arm to comb my hair. Each time I tried, pain shot through every muscle in my shoulder and arm. I couldn't hold the comb. I tried to drink coffee and spilled it all over the table. I was helpless.
"What's wrong, Arnold?" my mother asked. She came over from the stove and peered at me. "What is it?" She bent down to look closer as she mopped up the spilled coffee.
"I'm just sore," I told her. "My muscles are stiff."
"Look at this boy!" she called out to my father. "Look what he's doing to himself."
My father came in, doing up his tie. He was always neat, his hair slicked back smooth, his mustache trimmed to a line. He laughed and said I'd limber up.
But my mother kept on. "Why, Arnold? Why do you want to do it to yourself?"
I couldn't be bothered with what my mother felt. Seeing new changes in my body, feeling them, turned me on. It was the first time I'd ever felt every one of my muscles. It was the first time those sensations had registered in my mind, the first time my mind knew my thighs, calves and forearms were more than just limbs. I felt the muscles in my triceps aching, and I knew why they were called triceps -- because there are three muscles in there. They were all registered in my mind, written there with sharp little jabs of pain. I learned that this pain meant progress. Each time my muscles were sore from a workout, I knew they were growing.
I could not have chosen a less popular sport. My school friends thought I was crazy. But I didn't care. My only thoughts were of going ahead, building muscles and more muscles. I had almost no time to relax and think about bodybuilding in any other terms. I remember certain people trying to put negative thoughts into my mind, trying to persuade me to slow down. But I had found the thing to which I wanted to devote my total energies and there was no stopping me. My drive was unusual, I talked differently than my friends; I was hungrier for success than anyone I knew.
I started to live for being in the gym. I had a new language -- reps, sets, forced reps, presses. I had resisted memorizing anatomy in school; now I was eager to know it. Around the gym my new friends spoke of biceps, triceps, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, obliques. I spent hours going through the American magazines
Posted October 17, 2002
When this book was first released in the late 1970s, Arnold had yet to embark on a serious movie career, with only the starring role in "Pumping Iron" under his belt, and that being a limited success at that, playing only in art cinema houses and in limited distribution. It was long before his actual starring role in "Conan" (which had been rumored for years in bodybuilding circles before it finally came to fruition in the early 1980s. So it is interesting to read of the specificity of his plans and his supreme confidence in himself and his ability to succeed at anything he chooses in this well-scribed ghostwritten autobiography published long before. Those of us who had become familiar with Arnold and his progress in the public domain knew the world was hardy prepared for this steamroller of a human being, a man for whom the normal rules simply do not seem to apply. Other famous bodybuilders had tried to use their muscles and brawn to jump-start a Hollywood career, and although several such as Steve Reeves and Gordon Scott had been major stars in action films during the 1960s, neither was able to translate what was in actuality a brief spurt of public interest in men with superior physiques into a sustaining career. Yet from the beginning there was something about Arnie that defied the rules other mortals belabored under. Using the modest investment cash gained from the sale of his small gym in Munich to start himself, Schwarzenegger bought an apartment building and soon bought more property, growing up into the booming California real estate market in a way that propelled him into the ranks of the wealthy long before he ever read a movie script. Similarly, he and bodybuilding buddy Franco Columbo started a masonry business in Santa Monica, putting their brains and brawn to active work, and raking in the resulting financial dividends, reinvesting them to make the money work as hard as they did. This was no ordinary muscleman, and indeed, no ordinary young man. As George Butler reveals in his book "Arnold Schwarzenegger: A Portrait", Arnold was more focused and driven than anyone he had ever been introduced to. Instead, what we are treated to here is the real man behind all of the miscalculations and misrepresentations of the media, a man extremely driven to succeed in America, and willing to make the sacrifices to do it. Many people have underestimated him, only to find out later that there is much more to the man than an Austrian accent and a huge bicep. If a guy with a last name like Schwarzenegger can so beguile the public to become one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s and 1990s, than perhaps we do have to recognize that America is still the land of opportunity. The latest rumblings have him interested once more in running for political office, most likely for the Governorship in California. Yet it is perhaps too soon to assume he is finished as a movie star. He is currently filming "T-3', the third of the Terminator movies, and has plans to also make a third Conan epic. If either of those is a big a success as is possible, than perhaps he will stick around for a while. And for those of you that think he is to old to look like Conan in his mid fifties, just remember, those who underestimate this guy are usually wrong. Enjoy!
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 11, 2013
I enjoyed this account about Arnold's entry, and ultimately triumph, in the sport of bodybuilding. The story travels at a fast pace and I would have preferred a more comprehensive and detailed chronicle. It does however get you to understand the mindset of Arnold the champion, and the drive that brought him success in life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 25, 2012
Posted March 13, 2010
Posted December 24, 2009
This book is a must for any health enthusiast. Don't let the title intimidate you, yes a good portion of this book is about Bodybuilding. The rest of the book walks you through the fundamentals of weight lifting. Great for beginners as well as seasoned veterans.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 26, 2013
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Posted February 5, 2010
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Posted January 28, 2009
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