5 Bodybuilding Traits That Made Arnold Bodybuilding’s Numero Uno

Over 40 years after the release of Pumping Iron, gym rats still covet Arnold’s seemingly timeless physique. His influence during this documentary was a crucial component in bodybuilding becoming more mainstream. Learn the 5 Bodybuilding Traits that made Arnold successful. 

Before Arnold, bodybuilding competitions were conducted in halls with 500 or fewer spectators. Now, Mr. Olympia expo receives up to 50,000 attendees, with up to 5,000 watching the show.

Bodybuilding Traits - 5 Bodybuilding Traits That Made Arnold Bodybuilding's Numero Uno
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Although Mr. Olympia isn’t aired on the CBS just yet, even Larry, your co-worker from the office, is following a bodybuilding-Esque training split, religiously counting his macros and consuming endless amounts of protein.

Bodybuilding’s increase in popularity has resulted in the Mr. Olympia prize money significantly increasing, doubling from $200k to $400k in just four years (2011 to 2015).

This is partly due to selfies and social media, with bodybuilders accumulating several millions of fans and becoming online celebrities.

The Austrian Oak undoubtedly revolutionized bodybuilding that is still in effect today. But what made him the greatest bodybuilder of all time? Especially in a generation where drugs and knowledge of training/nutrition have significantly evolved.

Here are five key ingredients that all combined to form Arnold’s successful blueprint.

Aesthetics

Arnold came from the 70’s era, where huge muscles were combined with tiny waists. Vacuums were also commonly performed on stage, which would be impossible for IFBB pros to do today (with their pregnant-looking bubble guts).

This golden era v-taper look, before the days of mass monsters, was the result of different steroids and different dosages. Back then, bodybuilders such as Arnold were thought to be using compounds such as Dianabol, Deca Durabolin, and Primobolan.

However, today’s bodybuilders are using these plus harsher compounds (such as Anadrol and trenbolone), combined with newer PED’s such as HGH.

With more mass currently being rewarded by IFBB judges (at the expense of aesthetics), high doses are often utilized today. This results in potentially: more organ/tissue growth, more inflammation of the liver, more visceral fat, and increased bloating.

In 1958 when Dianabol was first prescribed, Dr. John Ziegler (who formulated the steroid) recommended a dose of 5-15mg per day. However, this is considered a tiny dose now, with bodybuilders thought to be taking 30-50mg per day.

Genetics

Arnold had a chest big enough to hold up a planet, biceps that resembled small mountains and a waist tinier than Marilyn Monroe’s.

Some of these attributes were due to hard work, training, and dieting, while others were merely genetic.

To become one of the best bodybuilders in the world, you need to win the genetic lottery (steroids or not). Arnold’s bicep peak, for example, is purely genetic; and became his signature muscle.

Arnold also had an exceptional level of muscle mass before taking steroids. One of the biggest myths in bodybuilding is that you can take steroids and suddenly grow 22-inch arms. In reality, steroids only add a few inches or so to your arms. Thus if you’ve got 14-inch arms naturally, you may build 17-18 inch arms from several years of cycling AAS.

Arnold displayed an impressive physique, at just 18 years old, where he was widely believed to be natural. During this time in 1965, he was crowned Mr. Europe. Thus Arnold had already built a competition-winning physique naturally before reaping the anabolic effects from steroids.

Most natural gym rats, in comparison, wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near how Arnold looked before he started riding bicycles. Many steroid-users still don’t look half as good as what Arnold did – BEFORE he started juicing.

Bodybuilding Traits – Winner Mentality

Bodybuilding 1024x831 - 5 Bodybuilding Traits That Made Arnold Bodybuilding's Numero Uno
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There’s a reason why Arnold became all of the following:

  • A self-made millionaire
  • World-class bodybuilder
  • Legendary action hero
  • Governor of California.

When Arnold wants to achieve something, no matter how impossible it seems, or who may laugh at him, he works tirelessly until he accomplishes them all.

This is a mentality where failure and criticism fuel his motivation, to the extent where he became obsessed with achieving his goals (more than his competition). This mentality is often ingrained in a person from a young age, where Arnold’s initial dream was to move to California from Thal (a small Austrian village).

High levels of intrinsic motivation determine how hard a bodybuilder trains, how shredded they get when dieting, and ultimately where they place. 7 Mr. Olympia wins during his relatively short bodybuilding career demonstrates such a dominant and fierce winning mentality.

Also, Arnold retired in 1980 (age 33), which is younger than Ronnie Coleman was before he won his first Sandow trophy. Arnold’s choice to retire early was fueled by his motivation to pursue an acting career, meaning he didn’t fulfill his bodybuilding potential, missing several years of what could have been his prime. He essentially worked so hard in a short period of time, that it was still enough for people to regard him as the greatest bodybuilder of all time.

“Supplements”

Arnold has openly admitted to taking steroids in a bid to increase his muscle mass. However, in the 70’s, they were 100% legal to get from your doctor via a prescription. Such prescriptions were simple to obtain, even for bodybuilding purposes. Now they have controlled substances and illegal.

Steroids are a small, yet crucial factor, in Arnold’s success as a bodybuilder. Without steroids, he would be dwarfed by his rivals on stage. Thus they were an essential component for his 7 Sandow trophies. However, steroids alone do not create a champion (especially of Arnold’s caliber), therefore in regards to Arnold’s legacy, steroids are a relatively insignificant detail.

It is estimated that up to 4 million Americans have taken steroids, but how many of these have replicated Arnold’s mass or status in bodybuilding? None.

Hard Work

Genetics and even steroids, won’t produce amazing gains unless the person is willing to put in hard work. Arnold was known to party hard, enjoying alcohol and seen smoking after his Olympia win in Pumping Iron. However, when it came to show time, Arnold made sure that no one ever outworked him those were the bodybuilding traits that made him successful.

Arnold understood the simple rule in life: if you want to be the best, you need to work the hardest.

It was common for Arnold to train for several hours a day. This duration is deemed excessive today, where bodybuilders are quick to call such volume as ‘overtraining’. However, Arnold was proof that spending long hours in the gym was effective. He’s also stated of being sick in the gym before, reflecting the intensity of his workouts. In contrast, most men and women in gyms today are more concentrated on their Facebook news feeds than their training.

Instead of twiddling his thumbs, gazing at Instagram during his rest periods, Arnold was also ‘working’ in-between sets, where he was known to visualize his biceps as huge as mountains. Such methodologies enhanced his mind-muscle connection, maximizing his body’s muscle-building potential.

In some of his motivational talks, his response to those saying they don’t have enough time in the day to achieve their goals was to “sleep faster!”. Arnold was known to only sleep 6 hours per day.

Summary

Many factors contributed to Arnold’s success in bodybuilding. However, his psychological superiority was arguably the most critical cog, compared to blessed physiological genetics (which he also possessed) 

Five Bodybuilding Traits and factors that made Arnold the best bodybuilder of all time (in order):

  1. Winner mentality
  2. Aesthetics
  3. Genetics
  4. Hard work
  5. Supplements