ARMIN HAMMERS HIS CHEST

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You can spit at the wind, but you sure enough can’t change it. Try as it might, life’s tumblesault of impediments could not stay Armin Scholz’s rendezvous with glory. For that, he can thank his parents — steadfast in what they knew were their son’s best interests and opposed to communist East Germany’s plans for his talents — and his own sanguine instinct for destiny.

On January 31, 1976, Armin Scholz was born on the dark side of the Berlin Wall, in Leipzig, East Germany, and from that moment on, his physical gifts were a subject of scrutiny by a government that salivated at his prospects. Scholz’s long, strong limbs made him a natural for swimming, and by age seven, he’d already excelled at that sport. He explains the process: “In East Germany, all kinds of sports were organized by the state. We practiced three times a week — one of the practices was an overall athletic workout — and on weekends, we had competitions. At age 12, the ‘talent scouting’ had to be finished, and the selected talents were put together in a ‘school of physical education,’ where the state furthered the talents in their individual sports.”

Scholz’s major swimming championships notwithstanding, his parents insisted that enough was enough. Their son had a brain, and they wanted it developed in conjunction with his body in a regular high school, not in the state’s swimming farm. He also had an untapped talent that first had to be awakened by the fateful experiences of a life beyond the political pale.

High school liberated Scholz from the communist system’s highpressure specialization for him as a swimmer, and he began exploring a new world of athletics that included tennis, track and field, gymnastics and canoeing, but, proficient though he was in every sport, none yet spoke to his soul. “In the summer of 1989,” he smiles, “that all changed.”

With 13-yearold Armin in tow, the Scholz family headed off for a vacation in Bulgaria. The picture might be mocked by the sun-bronzed beach brats of Southern California, but though board shorts and neon jams lose their glitter in the drizzle of an East European beach, the dreams of a kid coming to realize his potential do not. “On the way, we stopped in Budapest, Hungary,” Scholz says. “There, we went to the movies and I saw, for the first time in my life, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Twins. I did not understand one word, since I could not speak Hungarian, but that didn’t matter. What they were saying did not interest me in the least; I was too impressed and excited by those muscles. Nothing was even remotely as interesting as Arnold’s huge arms.”

When Scholz returned home, he headed not for the nearest swimming pool or tennis court, but for a gym where he “could get muscles.” Alas, with the Iron Curtain still in place, muscle plants remained the province of statesanctioned pros. “There was no way a 13-yearold could get in, no matter how hard I tried,” Scholz explains, but burned into his brain were Schwarzenegger’s muscles.

“I couldn’t stop seeing them,” he says, “so I started working out at home with a 4-kilogram [8.8-pound] dumbbell and pushups.”

After the Berlin Wall fell in late ’89 and Soviet influence waned, Scholz made the most of it, body and mind. He joined a gym, and, at 17, won his first of four Saxonia Championships. At 19, he took his first of two German Championships — in 1995 he won the under-80-kilo (176-pound) class, and in 2002 the under- 90-kilo (198-pound) class — while also studying sports science at the University of Leipzig.

Now, at 6'1", 275 pounds, and with several pro contests — including the 2006 San Francisco Pro, where he finished eighth — under his belt, the 30-year-old is a poster boy for the benedictions of battle. The necessity to conquer life never compromised his drive to celebrate it. His bodybuilding philosophy is marshaled with an analytical control not evident in the ego-driven training of others his age.“I never use extremely heavy weights,” he emphasizes. “I’ve tried them many times, but at the end of those workouts, I cannot honestly tell myself, I’ve trained that muscle enough. At all times, my goal is to have a really good feeling in the muscle and a deep burning pain at the end of every set.”

To achieve that, he does whatever it takes. If it means using everything available — free weights, machines, cables, as well as experimenting with myriad movements, until his body, like an ultrasensitive, high-tech lab instrument, signals that he has it right — then so be it.

This approach is of special concern when it comes to chest, which he prioritizes by training twice a week, unlike other large bodyparts, which he trains once a week. “It’s very difficult in a chest workout to get a strong sensation where it’s supposed to be because the shoulders try to do all the work,” he says. “You have to really concentrate — not on removing your mind from your shoulders and arms, but thinking about them all the more, in terms of consciously keeping them out of the movement and, instead, placing all responsibility on your pectoralis muscles.

“Because so much thinking is involved, I perform my chest repetitions very slowly with a light weight, using the full range of movement,” Scholz continues. “Only with this technique can I get a really strong pain in my chest.”

A favorite piece of equipment in the quest for this burn is the Cybex incline press. Watching Scholz perform this movement is an exhibition of one machine using another. His rep pace seems interminable, and he flexes his pecs with a powerful, isolating, anvil-hard squeeze at both the maximum contraction and maximum extension of every repetition. Each stroke is so exact that its length is within a micron of the range of motion of another, all the way up, hands close, then all the way down, deep and wide. Muscle fibers are tense and pump drum-tight until the pain brings surrender and they vibrate to a stop.

Flat dumbbell flyes — even with 100-pound weights — are controlled with the same precision, both arms moving through identical, agonizingly slow arcs: close at the top, not touching for a rest but squeezing the pecs hard for a second or two, then keeping those muscles tight as he lowers the massive weights, arms locked into position all the way, like twin derrick booms. With a slight pause at the bottom for another hard flexing of pecs, his chest heaves like some angry thing, and the dumbbells reverse themselves and begin their rise.

No chest workout is predetermined by the previous session of self-abuse. He may choose three exercises or as many as five, whatever it takes to reach what he calls “enough.” Sets, too, are contingent: three to five for each exercise, 10-15 reps per set, all in a mélange of motivations that involve physical art, animal brutality, personal effort and the aesthetic insult of muscular monstrosity. “Proportion and structure are extremely important,” Scholz admits, “but a huge, full, eye-popping chest is absolutely essential, particularly in the context of the total physique. If your chest is flat, you’ll appear skinny from every direction, regardless of how big your other bodyparts are.”

Balance, though, is not Scholz’s sole pursuit. “I want to make every one of my muscle groups the biggest in the world, but I also don’t think it’s wrong to have some ‘special’ bodypart,” he says. “For example, Dorian Yates’ back, Kevin Levrone’s shoulders or Arnold’s chest and arms. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like a body with stupidly big arms and no shoulders or legs. On the other hand, if you don’t have a ‘special’ bodypart, you will look nice . . . but a bit boring.”

ARMIN SHOLZ'S
CHEST WORKOUT
EXERCISES SETS REPS
Bench presses 3-4 10-15
Cybex incline presses 3-4 10-15
Flat Dumbbell flyes 3-4 10-15
Seated Cable Crossovers 3-4 10-15
ARMIN SHOLZ'S
TRAINING SPLIT
Monday Quads and calves
Tuesday Chest, triceps and abs
Wednesday Back and biceps
Thursday Shoulders and abs
friday Hamstring and Calves
Saturday Chest and abs
Sunday Off

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