The world-famous body builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has worked hard all his life to achieve the status he has today. Born in Austria just after the end of World War II, he said his childhood was marred by a difficult relationship with his father.
As a young man, he decided to put his life in order and climbed the ladder of success to become probably the world’s best-known bodybuilder. It wasn’t an easy path and involved years of intense training and sacrifice to become Mr Universe -he achieved this seven times consecutively, from 1970 to 1975 and again in 1980.
Following his birth in the Austrian village of Thal, Styria, in 1947, Schwarzenegger said his father had “no patience for listening or understanding” and exhibited a “strong and blatant” favouritism for his older brother, Meinhard.
Arnold was always sporty as a youngster but at the age of 14, he decided to pursue a career in bodybuilding after he went to a gym for the first time. He began weight training at 15 and started competing at 17, winning Junior Mr Europe in 1965 at 18. The following year, aged 19, he won the Best Built Man of Europe, Mr Europe and the International Powerlifting Championship held in Germany.
In order to reach the peak of his career, he adopted a stringent daily routine, as it wasn’t easy becoming the person he is today. However, he didn’t let the regimented training and attention to the correct nutrition stop him from building his career.
In 1968, Schwarzenegger realised his dream of moving to the United States and by 1969, when he was only 22, his total dedication to his life as a bodybuilder began in earnest. His autobiography, “Total Recall”, describes how he shared an apartment with flatmate Franco Columbu in those days.
Every day began with Schwarzenegger getting up very early to carry out the regular mundane chores, such as making his bed military-style – a result of his compulsory National Service as a teenager in Austria – and washing the dishes. He was disciplined from the start and always tidied up and cleaned before he left home in the morning, leaving the apartment immaculate.
He and Columbu, an Italian who also went on to become a champion bodybuilder, would arrive at Gold’s Gym in California at 7am sharp each day to train hard. In order to take part in competitive bodybuilding, Schwarzenegger needed a good suntan, so he would then walk from Gold’s Gym along Ocean Front Walk to Muscle Beach and continue his training outdoors.
He would do various exercises including chin-ups, curls and presses, interspersed with jumping in the ocean to get covered in saltwater and then continue the training. He and Columbu also had to watch their diet and nutrition, eating a flow of small meals that were rich in protein during the day.
They would allow themselves to eat extra after a tough training session, including up to seven eggs in one sitting, piles of tomatoes and other vegetables, steak and fish. The era’s bodybuilding magazines advised that you must consume plenty of amino acids but they just ate all the proteins they could, including plenty of turkey and cheese.
After the morning training, Arnold would go to work, hosting seminars at local gyms, including Gold’s. He also set up in business, publishing mail order booklets about training for bodybuilders and how to pose for competitions. He described himself as “super-efficient” in fulfilling the orders himself. He worked from an impromptu office in his bedroom, after removing the doors from his closet to create an alcove with a fold-down desk and shelves.
Schwarzenegger also started a construction business with Columbu and some of the walls they built are still in existence today. Following an earthquake that cracked chimneys and walls, they found business was suddenly booming and they were able to invest in real estate with their extra earnings.
Every evening after work, it was back to the gym for further training, sometimes just for calves and abs and sometimes for extra hamstring and arm work. When Schwarzenegger was in training for Mr Olympia in 1975, he featured in the now famous film, Pumping Iron, which showed his early evening workout as being dedicated to the big muscles. He would regularly complete 25 sets of squats and 25 sets of leg extensions.
Today, he is recognised as one of the most important figures in bodybuilding, with the annual Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition recognising his legacy. His many legendary quotes have inspired bodybuilders of all generations everywhere. He famously said, “Your struggles develop your strengths,” and he firmly believes that never surrendering, despite suffering hardship, showed his true strength.
He also advised that to be successful in bodybuilding, you must “dedicate yourself 100% to your training, diet and mental approach” and described pumping iron as “the greatest feeling that I get”. He also said that when facing something that seemed insurmountable, he had learned that “we are always stronger than we know”.
Today, following a career in movies – in particular the popular “Terminator” films – and politics as Governor of California between 2003 and 2011, Schwarzenegger, now aged 70, is defying age by continuing to pump iron. He isn’t thinking of giving up weights any time soon and still displays an amazing set of muscles – including his famous ripped abs – that would put men half his age to shame.
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