Schwarzenegger Arnold I947 Noted body builder actor and politician

Decoding The Mindset Of Muscle

Unchain Your Monster Mindset

Get Instant Access

S chwarzenegger's scope of influence extends outside the obsessive muscle-building sport in which he made his initial mark. He is also a successful entrepreneur, actor, and politician. His lifestyle and discipline has made him the model of fitness enthusiasts for over thirty years (1979). Unlike the strongmen of earlier years who epitomized health through exercise, Schwarzenegger has become an ideal of the modern perception of masculinity, one of those individuals that have, "advance billing as leaders, dominators, controllers—in short, masters of the universe" (Klein 1993: 9).

In the past, masculinity, as defined by exercise, was not as much a symbol of success as it was a symbol of health. For most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the ideal masculine male was defined in terms of his strength and fitness, rather than his size. For example, for most of the early twentieth century, Charles Atlas was the ideal male form. Unlike the past characterizations of masculinity associated with exercise and health as embodied by men such as Atlas, modern males exercise to achieve the stature and dominance that they believe is associated with masculinity today. Historian

Alan Klein claims that bodybuilding "exploits grandiosity" of the male body for the purpose of "compensation; the bodily fortress protected the vulnerability inside." He asserts that this internal vulnerability stems from insecurity and that "the powerful arms and chests are a bodybuilder's way of working out a range of personal issues" and believes that a man measures his success in life through the development of his body (Klein 1993: 3). He argues, in addition, that bragging about the size of grants won or the numbers of publications one has is the same thing, in this respect [measuring success/masculinity], as showcasing a massive chest or arms with a skintight T-shirt. It matters not how a man resolves this issue, but resolve it he must by coming to terms with societal notions of masculinity that best suit him.

Therefore, men will attempt to adhere to a symbolically representative form of a masculine body in order to form a dialogue as they seek a sense of masculinity. This form to which men attempt to conform is often the traditional view of masculinity that associates heavily muscled men with, among other "manly" traits: virility, attractiveness, and prowess. Critics argue that men, and bodybuilders in particular, find it necessary to become "stacked" with muscles in order to assert their masculinity and ultimately be successful in all areas of life, particularly in roles of leadership that traditionally were only considered positions for men (Klein 1993: 9).

Arnold Schwarzenegger represents this modern "over-compensating" masculinity, and, indeed, began his successful career through earning notoriety as a weight-training fanatic. It may be difficult to imagine it now, but Schwarzenegger began as a "sickly child" who improved his health by playing soccer. When he reached the age of fifteen, however, Schwarzenegger began studying physiology and developing training routines designed to maximize his workout results. In his autobiography, he explains,

It was the summer I turned fifteen, a magical season for me because that year I'd discovered exactly what I wanted to do with my life. ... 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.

(Schwarzenegger and Hall 1977: 13)

His goals were initially met with skepticism and concern in his family. Schwarzenegger was raised in a Roman Catholic household and was "reared under strict paternal discipline" (Anon. 2000). His father favored nutrition and athletics and instilled these values in his family. Yet, despite the fact that he lived in a "physical family," as Schwarzenegger's workouts became more intense, his parents became concerned that he was overexerting himself. In his autobiography, he recollects "my father was baffled by my eagerness." In particular, he notes a conversation between his parents when his father said, "I think we better go to the doctor with this one, he's sick in the head." Schwarzenegger explains that his family was "genuinely worried about me" because they "felt I wasn't normal." Admitting that they were right, he points out that his desire and drive to achieve bodybuilding fame were not normal but that they, nonetheless, propelled him to the success that he enjoys today (Schwarzenegger and Hall 1977: 19).

In 1965, Schwarzenegger enlisted in the Austrian Army and "continued his strenuous training regimen" (Anon. 2005). That same year, he won Mr. Europe Junior, his first bodybuilding competition (Schwarzenegger and Hall 1977: 37). Years later Schwarzenegger would admit that "a career in the Army was my last choice"; instead, he wanted to leave Austria and "get to America" (Schwarzenegger and Hall 1977: 33-4). Nevertheless, he admits that joining the army helped him on his way to bodybuilding success. "Many people regret having to serve in the Army," he writes, "But it was not a waste of time for me. When I came out I weighed 225 pounds. I'd gone from 200 to 225 pounds. Up to that time, this was the biggest change I'd ever made in a single year" (Schwarzenegger and Hall 1977: 39).

Continuing his hard work, in 1966 Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Europe title and began preparing for the Mr. Universe competition (Schwarzenegger and Hall 1977: 45-7 and 51). In 1967, Schwarzenegger reached his ultimate goal when he won the Mr. Universe title as the youngest champion in the history of the event; he was just nineteen years old. In his autobiography, Schwarzenegger recalled his feelings at hearing his name called as the victor and the appeal of fame that would drive him throughout his career: "I looked out at the audience. They were screaming, flashbulbs were going off, I was caught up in the strange, unreal splendor of it. I thought, This is what you have been training for, this moment" (Schwarzenegger and Hall 1977: 77-8).

Over the next decade, Schwarzenegger went on to win thirteen more professional bodybuilding titles and appeared in the documentary Pumping Iron (1977), directed by George Butler and Robert Fiore and based on the book of the same name. The film "follows world-class body-builders preparing for competition, depicts bodybuilding as an artistic endeavor, bringing audiences into the gym where 'sculpting' takes place and Schwarzenegger is the main figure" (Anon. 2005).

After leaving the army, Schwarzenegger worked at a health and bodybuilding club for some time, where he truly established his legacy in the bodybuilding community. He spent most of his time at the gym developing "many of the innovative training techniques that were to win him wide respect and emulation among bodybuilders." This included his trademark split-routine "in which the upper and lower parts of the body are trained in two separate sessions" (Anon. 1979).

In addition to his success and influence in the gym and


bodybuilding culture, Schwarzenegger was successful at many other endeavors as well. While training for competitions in California, he earned a bachelors degree in business administration. Schwarzenegger "used his initial popularity as a sportsman to start businesses including real estate, gyms, and diet products" (Anon. 2000). He also engaged in many different business initiatives including mail-order training courses in bodybuilding and physical fitness and food supplements and other products endorsements (Anon. 1979). His influence on the pop-culture aspect of fitness has increased the popularity of protein bars and GNC shops among amateur fitness enthusiasts of our day.

The next phase of Schwarzenegger's rising business career included film stardom, which he reached in the 1980s. At the dawn of his career, Schwarzenegger was most suited playing himself on the big screen (Anon. 2000). Like the book, the film Pumping Iron appealed to audiences and helped to introduce Schwarzenegger to the film business (Anon. 1979). The film itself would have been only moderately intriguing had it not been for the charismatic and Greek-god-like image of Schwarzenegger. His charm and humor was a great balance to his imposing physique, which served to humanize him. Capitalizing on his unbelievably muscular body, Schwarzenegger became a movie star after appearing in Conan the Barbarian (1982) and in his most recognizable role as the murderous cyborg in the Terminator (1984).

Later in his career, Schwarzenegger's notoriety in physical fitness earned him political success as well. In 1990, he was named by George H.W. Bush to chair the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Schwarzenegger traveled throughout the U.S.A., in an effort to instill new values in America's youth. He has been quoted as saying that the lack of physical fitness among young people is "America's secret tragedy," and that schools and parents should take a greater initiative in getting children to exercise regularly (Anon. 2005).

Recently, Schwarzenegger took his life and career to yet another level, after being elected Governor of the State of California in a historic recall election. He has used his position of power as a bodybuilder, businessman, actor, and politician to launch numerous health initiatives and programs in this new position. As Governor, he partnered with the California Endowment, a foundation that seeks to increase healthy choices at the community level, to launch the Get Healthy California: Governors Summit on Health, Nutrition, and Obesity. This meeting brought together business leaders, educators, public-health experts, and government officials to work toward essential reforms for combatting obesity in the state (Belshe 2006).

Throughout his entire life, Schwarzenegger has used his powerful influence to promote physical fitness and health. He has coauthored many books on bodybuilding, fitness, and health, even writing on more specialized topics like children's fitness and women's body-shaping. Schwarzenegger appears to be the ideal example of modern-day masculinity. Through his incredibly muscular physique, he not only gained fame, fortune, and power in the bodybuilding world but in many other areas of life as well. However, there are a number of critics, Klein included, who do not believe that "stacking" will bring ALL men success. Rather than trust that all bodybuilders will be as successful in all their endeavors as Schwarzenegger, Klein argues that society would likely be better to "recognize those hypercompetitive, mondo-macho, self-centered tendencies that often inform our masculinity, recognize them for their imprisoning properties," that is their push for conformity to restrictive notions of masculinity, and "recast them or reject them" (Klein 1993: 8). With such an overemphasis on exercising for success and dominance, many men, unlike Schwarzenegger, lose sight of proper reasons for exercise, such as increased strength and health. As a result, unfortunately more and more men, particularly bodybuilders, are turning to unhealthy methods, such as injecting themselves with steroids, to achieve bigger bodies that they believe will bring them success. Hopefully, a time will come when masculinity through exercise is again associated primarily with health, rather than success, so that such unhealthy practices to gain body mass at any cost cease, and exercise is again used to improve well-being.

SLG/Caroline A. Bugg See also Atlas; Hormones Used in Dieting; Men; Trall

References and Further Reading

Anon. (1979) "Schwarzenegger, Arnold," Current Biography Yearbook, H.W. Wilson Company. Available online at <http:// hww/shared/shared_mainjhtml?_requestid=ii526> (accessed June 25, 2007).


Anon. (2000) "Schwarzenegger, Arnold," in Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast (eds), St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, five vols, Detroit, Mich.: St. James Press.

Anon. (2005) "Schwarzenegger, Arnold," Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. LIX, Detroit, Mich.: Thompson Gale.

Belshe, Kim (2006) "Health. Office of the Governor: State of California." Available online at <http://> (accessed February 3, 2007).

Klein, Alan M. (1993) Little Big Men: Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Schwarzenegger, Arnold and Hall, Douglas Kent (1977) Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder, New York: Fireside, Simon & Schuster.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Body Building Naturally

Body Building Naturally

Get Real About Being Lean, Mean and Muscular! Are You A Hard Gainer? Are you sick of weight gain programs that don't work? Stop Being Bullied by the Diet and Fitness Industry Fight Back With... Body Building Naturally Throw away those diet pills! Steroids don't cut it! Investigate one of the top rated muscle building programs on the Internet.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment