Weighing 226 pounds in 1982 (left) and 254 pounds in 1991.
I want to pack on size quickly. How soon can I expect to see results?
It depends on your body and genetics, how you train, and how you eat. It also depends on how you define results and what your expectations are.
All that aside, what it comes down to is this: You can’t rush it. Building a great physique takes time—years, not months. It takes hard work and dedication, both in the gym and in the kitchen. It’s fine to set short-term goals, but don’t be in a hurry. Trying to rush things will not give you the results you want; patience and persistence will. And I have the experience to prove it.
When I won my first NPC Nationals, I weighed 226 pounds. When I won my first Mr. Olympia, I weighed 243 pounds. That was from 1982 to ’84. We’re talking about 17 pounds in two years.
In 1991, I retired from bodybuilding at a weight of 254 pounds for my last Mr. Olympia. So it took me seven years to gain 11 more pounds. But that was intentional, because keeping the taper of the waist was important to me. I also wanted to maintain a good vacuum pose.
Eleven pounds may not sound like much, but it was a quality 11 pounds. The goal for me, and for guys like Frank Zane and Robby Robinson, was for growth needed to be quality growth. And it took time for my physique to mature. I never wanted to get bigger at the expense of losing the lines that made my physique beautiful.
In my early days of competing, I looked up to guys like Reg Park and Lou Ferrigno (in addition to Frank and Robby). You look at Reg playing Hercules and Lou playing the Incredible Hulk; they looked athletic. They had taper and balance, and it drew the population to want to look like that.
Diet is obviously important, but the training system you follow is a huge part of it too. I came up in the sport with a six-days-on, one-day-off split. Then I went to a three-days-on, one-day-off split, and that was the routine I settled into. It was a great balance of developing quality muscle size with the perfect recovery time.
My training system may not work exactly the same for you, but that goes back to patience and persistence. Take the time to find out what style of training works best for you to achieve the physique results you want. This is something that can’t be rushed. If you keep working hard and paying attention to your body, the results will come. How soon? That’s hard to say, but you’ll be satisfied with the result. I promise.