By Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS ProSource
The Wit and Wisdom of Bodybuilding's Master Motivator, Arnold Schwarzenegger
I remember being ten-years-old, wearing sunglasses, and carrying a sawed-off shotgun (it was a tree branch) over my right shoulder--intimidating all the squirrels in my back yard. As I stood tall--chest proud and three inch biceps flexed--I boomed, in my best Austrian accent, "I'll be back!" It was time for my snack.
Two years later I picked up my first muscle magazine and watched Pumping Iron for the first time. The days of harassing backyard squirrels with sticks ended--I acquired an instant iron addiction, and I've been quoting Arnold ever since.
Truthfully, we've all been quoting Arnold--through speech and through action. Without Arnold, the iron culture wouldn't be what it is today. We all lift, and I have a job, because of him. But Arnold gave us more than the image of an enviable physique. His words provided direction for a healthful lifestyle.
Below are five famous Arnold quotes followed by commentary on how to use his words to live a better life.
"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength."
Spoiler alert: you're going to fail. It might be during a deadlift attempt, or it could be in business. Either way, at some point something will go wrong and you'll falter. But that's ok because failure tells us two things--you're trying hard enough and that you're going to learn.
Progress is made through risk--and risks frequently lead to hardships. But hardships take many forms--a lack luster social life or a lack of sleep. Seeing the hardships through--sticking to your guns--is what builds strength. It's the discipline to face something difficult and push through it that leads to true progress.
Failure's most important lesson is the realization that you aren't one; that is, if you don't surrender the struggle. Each time you fall short of success but decide to keep coming back you get stronger. Surrender is strength's only enemy. If you never give up you get stronger every day.
"The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent."
This quote relates well to the last one; if you don't believe in yourself, and see yourself as successful, you'll never overcome the hardships. It will be too easy to fold the cards.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, seeing yourself as successful, and promoting the mindset before you've attained success, truthfully encourages success. Science documents the phenomenon.
Consider the case of foul-shooting basketball players. In a visualization study, one group of hoops shooters practiced shooting foul shots while the other group only visualized a successful foul shot. The group that visualized success performed just as well as those that only shot foul shots. Envisioning the successful shot activated the same pathways as an actual prosperous foul shot.
Your mind is your most powerful tool. Fill it with positive thoughts and images. See yourself as a success and chances are you'll become one.
"The worst thing I can be is the same as everybody else. I hate that."
Body envy permeates weight training and bodybuilding. While it drives lifters to make positive health and physique changes, it also limits them. The ‘keeping up with the Jones' mentality devastates true training growth.
Each person's biochemistry is distinct--no one is composed exactly like anyone else, making it impossible to look like anyone else. Focus on attaining someone else's appearance and you'll be paid in kind with disappointment.
You only have one shot to build the body and the life that you want--one that is wholly yours. Draw inspiration from great people--Arnold, for example--but focus on building the best version of you.
"Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body."
At times life is reduced to a series of constraints--freedom takes shape as the dangling carrot in front of our faces. As suppressed energy builds, it festers into ulcers, heart disease and impotence. For the sake of your stomach, ticker, and your sex life--you've got to expend the energy. I've found nothing better for that than a heavy deadlift set.
When life kicks you in the pants the iron, our omnipresent benefactor, will be there waiting for you to vent. Find solace in a whirl of sweat, testosterone and blurred vision.
Condition the body, relieve the spirit.
"Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life."
There's a pencil-necked, narrow-shouldered creature known in gym-speak as a newbie. This meek being meanders through the weight-room, occasionally curling fifteen-pound dumbbells in the squat rack and delaying your squat work out. It's easy to dismiss him as a nuisance--but the iron brethren need disciples, and he needs encouragement. I won't speak for you, but I know I've been there. Take him under your wing, put a bar on his back and show him the way.
Call yourself a teacher and inspire future iron addicts. Your life will be better for the effort.
With words and actions, Arnold blazed a trail that we've all walked down. But the trail has no end--it's a path of continual progress. The five above quotes are trail markers that keep us on the straight-and-narrow to a better body and a better life.