After all of the box-office successes (and failures), all of the State of the State speeches and ballot initiatives, all of the fame and fortune, it’s easy to forget that at his very core Arnold Schwarzenegger is, first and foremost, a gym rat.
Long before he ever uttered a one-liner or sparred with a hostile legislature, the five-time Mr. Universe and seven-time Mr. Olympia spent untold hours toiling away in shoebox-size gyms across the globe, pushing, pulling, and pumping iron. The aim of his efforts was to become the best bodybuilder on the planet, and it was a goal he achieved year after competitive year throughout the 1960s and ’70s.
Ever the student, Arnold continually honed his skills, applying the same rigorous discipline to his gym work as he later would to his film and political careers. Just as important, he was fearless (another common Schwarzenegger theme) in his training. While many of his bodybuilding peers were content to follow the staid dictums that had been laid out decades earlier with blind obedience, Arnold always looked for ways to up the intensity. During the early to mid-1960s, at the start of his competitive career, he followed a rudimentary training plan that had been designed for him by the elder bodybuilders at the gym in Austria where he first trained. The routine was basic and sound enough, but not the kind that would turn a small-town Austrian kid into a world-class success. As his own development surpassed that of his mentors, Arnold realized that without finding ways to increase the intensity of his workouts he’d probably end his career being known only for having won the Mr. Europe title.
Arnold began scouring Muscle Builder (the forebear to Muscle & Fitness) for ways to amp up his workouts and eventually discovered the Weider Principles—a compendium of techniques designed to increase workout intensity. By the end of the ’60s, he hit upon a formula to his liking—one that involved six days of training twice a day and featured several Weider Principles, including his favorite: supersets.
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