Arnold Gives us the bodybuilders education.
After reading this book this is one word you can use to describe Arnold Schwarzenegger on his path to success.
A few more words to describe the man who brought bodybuilding out of the shadows and into the spotlight: cold, calculating, determined, gritty.
From his humble upbringings in the small Austrian town of Thal to super-stardom in the United States, Arnold kept his focus on the prize, showing us all that you can achieve anything you set your mind to if you are willing to sacrifice everything else to get it.
“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.” (p. 13)
Arnold didn’t let anything get in his way to the top, not women, not the Austrian military, not the disapproval of his parents, and damn sure not the naysayers who said he was crazy for picking the obscure and little known sport of bodybuilding.
It was this laser-like focus that helped catapult Arnold Schwarzenegger into worldwide super-stardom, and forged the way for one of the biggest badasses to rule the bodybuilding stage, the silver screen, and even run a public office.
Small Town Beginnings
Arnold’s story starts in a small town of Thal in Austria, where he grew up playing team sports such as soccer.
He hated the team aspect of sports: “I disliked when we won a game and I didn’t get personal recognition” (p.14), but it was through these team sports where he was eventually introduced to weightlifting, which he immediately fell in love with: “I started to live for being in the gym. I had a new language – reps, sets, forced reps, presses” (p.17).
By the end of his teenage years he had more size than many that were twice his age, and he started winning amateur bodybuilding contests left and right.
After an obligation to go into the military, to which he got kicked out for deserting to go to a bodybuilding contest (among other things, like crashing a tank into a wall, which is actually not in this book, but his biography), he started competing in bodybuilding contests around Europe and winning with ease, including Graz and Munich, and London.
After catching the attention of some of the top bodybuilding brass, He realized his lifelong dream of moving to southern California.
Once he got to America, Arnold really came into his own. After getting involved with some shady characters, he was taken in by the bodybuilding mogul Joe Weider, becoming the crown jewel of the highly profitable Weider empire.
The book also chronicles how he met his lifelong friend Franco Columbo (“When I first met him, he seemed about as far from a Mr. Universe candidate as possible.” [p. 87]), whom he trained with in Munich and had Joe Weider bring over to compete and train with Arnold in America.
He goes into gory detail about the bodybuilding contests, and he pulls no punches.
The contests are often described with outrageous and hilarious narrative, including rivalries with Dennis Tinnerino (“I take one look at Dennis Tinnerino and I wasn’t all that impressed.” p.74), Sergio Oliva (“I had beat almost everybody in the world-except this black guy, Sergio Oliva.” p. 97), and his idol, Reg Park (“It would be good for my ego and for publicity to compete against Reg, to destroy my idol and win.” p. 103).
When you read the book you feel like he willed himself to win, and this is why he was so successful, he just had the winners mindset, and the cockiness to match.
The book ends after his retirement from bodybuilding competition and with his introduction to acting, a film titled “Stay Hungry”. The book was published in 1977, before he was to have massive success in movies and in his personal life, so it is not a complete biography of his life.
Started From The Bottom
You really have to hand it to Arnold, the man knew what he wanted and went after it with an almost stupid amount of determination.
While reading this book, you can’t help but tell yourself that you can do anything you want in life if you work your ass off for it, and this book is truly inspiring.
After the meat of the book, Arnold offers his advice on several bodybuilding subjects, such as nutrition, workout routines, contest advice, etc. this is information you can disregard if you aren’t looking to become a pro bodybuilder, but if you are, also be sure to check out The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, as well.
I really liked the book, it was a nice little read, and this book can really motivate and inspire you.
If you’re looking for the next literary masterpiece, look elsewhere, because that’s not goal of this book. If you’re looking for a motivational piece from a man who set his sights on something and then accomplished it tenfold, this is a good, easy read.
Arnold offers up some hilarious stories and advice (even if he meant to not joke about something, the way he describes things can be unintentionally quite comical), and he has no apologies about his ego and his yearning for greatness, and the relationships that suffered because of it.
Arnold certainly was cocky (or had a ton of confidence), determined, and persistent, and as these are the keys to success, it was this cocktail of ambition that drove the man to the top.
Another good bonus about this book is that there are tons of good pictures of Arnold in his prime, and in his daily life, and it really is interesting to see his progression from when he was a normal looking kid to when he was knocking down Mr. Olympia titles on autopilot.
If you’re looking for something deeper and more complete about Arnold’s life, check out Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. It’s pretty much the same deal as this book, but goes on past his retirement from bodybuilding up until the 2010’s.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone involved in fitness, bodybuilding, health, and even the average Joe who just wants to be motivated by the American dream exemplified.
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Stay hungry, my friends.
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