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Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder

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Five-time Mr. Universe, seven-time Mr. Olympia, and Mr. World, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the name in bodybuilding. Here is his classic bestselling autobiography, which explains how the “Austrian Oak” came to the sport of bodybuilding and aspired to be the star he has become.

I still remember that first visit to the bodybuilding gym. I had never seen anyone lifting weights before. Those guys were huge and brutal….The weight lifters shone with sweat; they were powerful looking, Herculean. And there it was before me—my life, the answer I'd been seeking. It clicked. It was something I suddenly just seemed to reach out and find, as if I'd been crossing a suspended bridge and finally stepped off onto solid ground.

Arnold shares his fitness and training secrets—demonstrating with a comprehensive step-by-step program and dietary hints how to use bodybuilding for better health. His program includes a special four-day regimen of specific exercises to develop individual muscle groups—each exercise illustrated with photos of Arnold in action.

For fans and would-be bodybuilders, this is Arnold in his own words.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1977

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About the author

Arnold Schwarzenegger

102 books505 followers
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American bodybuilder, actor, businessman and politician, and served as the 38th Governor of the state of California.

Arnold gained worldwide fame as a Hollywood action film icon. Schwarzenegger was nicknamed "The Austrian Oak" and "The Styrian Oak" in his bodybuilding days, "Arnold Strong" and "Arnie" during his acting career, and more recently "The Governator" (A portmanteau word of Governor and Terminator, one of his film roles).

As a Republican, he was first elected on October 7, 2003, in a special recall election to replace then-Governor Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger was sworn in on November 17, 2003, to serve the remainder of Davis's term. Schwarzenegger was then re-elected on November 7, 2006, in California's 2006 gubernatorial election, to serve a full term as governor, defeating Democrat Phil Angelides, who was California State Treasurer at the time. Schwarzenegger was sworn in for a second term on January 5, 2007. In May 2004 and 2007, he was named as one of the Time 100 people who help shape the world.

Schwarzenegger was married to Maria Shriver and has four children.

Schwarzenegger's autobiography, Total Recall, was released in October 2012. He devotes one chapter called "The Secret" to his extramarital affair. The majority of his book is about his successes in the three major chapters in his life: bodybuilder, actor, and Governor of California.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 149 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick.
129 reviews3 followers
March 22, 2011
Re-reading this one (1981 edition), just for kicks. Always enjoyed the stories of Arnold's rise to fame. I don't subscribe to a lot of the training methods laid out here, but reading this as a kid was hugely inspirational.

It strikes me that people who are wholly consumed with becoming the best suffer a trade-off, just as we lesser known characters do. The single-minded drive that nearly always accompanies people who reach a level of success similar to Arnold's gives them opportunities and experiences we can only imagine, but also sends them off alone into the night, unable to really connect in some way.

It was great fun to read this book again, probably for the third or fourth time (the pictures and exercise segment have been perused hundreds of times, of course). In the edition I read, at least, it was refreshing to hear the unvarnished, rough-around-the-edges versions of some of Arnold's early striving. It is hard not to admire the guy. He decided what he would do, and it seemed impossible, but he did it anyway. There's a lot to be said for that.

I think that, for more purposes and most people, a training program that requires fewer hours in the gym and uses less volume would probably work better, but you can't argue with the body that Arnie built with these methods. He has a lot of advice about freehand exercises and general fitness that are still fairly sound today, and could be used to good effect. One thing I like is that he recommends that beginners use freehand exercises for an interval before jumping into weight training. It's a damn good idea, if people would do it, but they're too impatient in most cases. If you're into lifting weights, this is pretty much a must-read.
Profile Image for Henry Barry.
Author 1 book15 followers
January 9, 2015
Published in 1977, during the peak of his bodybuilding career, this book reminds us why Arnold is THE MAN. The book is in two main sections: the story of his rise to prominence, and a bodybuilding guide. He came from a small village in Austria, and against the urgings of his entire family and friends, turned into a champion bodybuilder from sheer willpower. Yes, you may claim that he took steroids, etc, but if you applied the effort to anything in life that he put into building his body, you'd be the best in the world too. Arnold trained 6 days a week, usually 4-6 hours per day. He worked his butt off, day in and day out. His mantra is "stay hungry". He was never satisfied with the life he had, and always sought more. The bodybuilding section of the book is also very well done and worth reading. It doesn't waste time coddling you, like a lot of modern fitness texts. He preaches 5 sets of 10-15 on most exercises, 30-60 second rest periods, and a lot of work. You could skip most of the current fitness stuff and just read this, because after all, who doesn't want to look like Arnold.
Profile Image for Yakov Pyatnitskov.
89 reviews11 followers
September 22, 2019
I was born in the 1990 and didn't know much about Arnold Schwarzenegger other than he was huge, he starred in the movies and became the Governor. I never asked myself HOW he build that body and the book explains exactly that.

To me the most valuable aspect of the book was Arnold's hunger for victory. The man knew he was going to win and went all for it. This spirit comes through the book as a red thread and it is contagious. Setting goals and following through is something we all either heard or done but his goals were more ambitious than most peoples' and his persistence in reaching them deserves respect.

I'm not sure I like him as a person and I appreciated his honesty about himself in the book. Arnold seemed too emotionally distant and too calculating to be considered a nice guy but it is probably irrelevant as his mental attitude is something every person would be good to pick up. Set a goal - break it down - adjust the plan if needed - persist – that's all you need to get the juices of life but how many of us will actually try until we get it? The man did it with bodybuilding, with movies and politics and it is admirable.

After finishing the book I went to the gym and my workout was totally different because I never paid attention to the mental side of it, to talking to the bar, feeling your muscles, imagining your results. His coverage of mental aspects of bodybuilding is as invaluable (maybe more given the time since the publication) as training plans.

It is written in an easy conversational language that makes you feel like he is talking to you. That book was a very pleasant surprise and I was so hooked that want to read his Total Recall to see how he got into the movies and politics.
Profile Image for Kai.
19 reviews
August 25, 2016
The first half of this book is a little mind-boggling. Imagine having the raw physical talent to be the biggest, baddest bodybuilder mofo in the world. Now that would be satisfying! Read it for the pictures on the inset ;)
Profile Image for Murat.
10 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2017
Tek kelimeyle fenomen, hayat hikayesi için okumanızı tavsiye ederim.
Profile Image for Griffin.
180 reviews1 follower
April 22, 2021
First half of the book Arnold writes an autobiography of his entry into bodybuilding and achieving the success he’s had in it. Very interesting read and very fascinating look into the mindset required to become a champion in the field. It was also interest to note too how Arnold would be the first to agree with you if you say he’s single minded, has a bit of an ego or something along those lines, because to him having that ultimate control of his mind that he would always succeed helped him control his body to get the output he needed to win.

The second half includes a lot of helpful exercises and routines to build yourself up. Like taking notes from the master, it’s definitely going to be the part you come back to the most as you develop your personal training. Interesting seeing the focus he puts on form, diet, rest, stretching and notes on muscle biology rather than just a “lift as heavy as you can” approach. Shows the care he went into developing his program and helping you to succeed if you stay focused and don’t try to jump to the big superset program first which he actively discourages.

Great resource for first time gym goers, at home fitness enthusiasts or already developed body builders who want a few tips from the master.
Profile Image for Eryk.
2 reviews
March 7, 2018
The first part of the book is Arnold explaining his rise in the profession, how he started, what difficulties he went through. Negative feedback from his parents, friends, no body believed in him but he kept going. In the book you can see a lot of old Arnold pictures through the story, when he works out, or win any competition, or any other important to Arnold memories. I found this book really motivating and interesting because Arnold gives out allot of his athlete hints and information that I find useful. I think that people should read this book just so they can see why people should never give up. I did enjoy reading this book a lot and I would suggest to everyone to read this book because it will help down the road in life with about everything.
Profile Image for Kelvin.
2 reviews
March 26, 2018
The Education Of a Bodybuilder. The book was great very inspirational. The book shows awesome images of Arnold and his journey to becoming Mr.olympia. He teaches you about the sport and how muscle movements can effect that specific area when lifting. This book gave me motivation when i was tired, down and felt like giving up. Arnold telling me his struggles and success stories motivated me because they made me realize and think "If Arnold can do it i can too". I highly recommend this book to everyone who needs a little motivation in life and for anyone trying to understand fitness and bodybuilding.
8 reviews
September 2, 2013
This Summer was the first time I ever made a promise to myself to stay in shape- to start working out. My father, overjoyed at this prospect, bought me this book at the recommendation of one of his friends at his gym. His friend said that reading this book when he was younger was what got him into his healthier lifestyle. Intrigued, I started reading it one night, and when I did, I couldn't put it down.

You might not know it, looking at him, but Ahnold is a very, very good writer. His memoirs were very interesting; I was kept constantly wondering what made him choose to do that which he did. But the main reason I liked this book so much is the advice Schwarzenegger had for aspiring worker-outers. From food to eat to daily routines, this book has improved the quality of my life. Thanks, Arnold!
Profile Image for Jay Cresva.
97 reviews19 followers
July 29, 2016
The book is much shorter than his recent autobiography, but it's about the best parts of being Arnold. The difference between both biographies is that in this one- quotes like
For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.

will be found and be immortalized. He talks about girls- how he saw them as objects until meeting that one girl, also how he (very) partly lifted for teh girls..it was an extra incentive for him.
He also talks a lot about the role of the mind in lifting. There were sets of pictures I've never seen before, and his home gym construction/ workout with chairs was a surprise to see.
Anyone looking to read about Arnold in his prime should read this book.
Profile Image for Sunday.
Author 1 book2 followers
March 21, 2013
The first half of the book is about Arnold's life and how he left his home in Austria to pursue a career in bodybuilding. The second half of the book is all about training methods and techniques so definitely a good read for anyone into bodybuilding.
Profile Image for Zach.
28 reviews4 followers
February 21, 2013
This book has changed me. I've gained so much more motivation, realised so many new things and had my knowledge confirmed.

This book is now my bible.
20 reviews
July 3, 2023
I read this book in the bus on the way to the gym, and on the way back. Reading it was like a mental warm up, before we even get to the physical – “get your blood flowing.” Overall, this book reoriented my mindset about training, answering questions which I have wondered but never bothered to research, or giving new insights after which you can never look at an exercise the same again.

This review will list some of the memorable tips that helped me.
(1) You should be done with your workouts within an hour and a half, 90 minutes. If you are unable to do this, that means you have been resting for too long. I rest for too long, like 2 minutes, what I now have to do is lower the weight and shorten the rest time to 45 seconds between sets. Previously, I convinced myself that it was okay to rest for long with my false aspiration of powerlifting. The most important now is the pump, to get the blood flowing.
(2) No distractions in the gym. Leave everything behind – have a full session of pure Concentration, like you’re trying to be in the realm of Platonic forms. Then, you must have the purity of form. If the form and technique is right, the weight and strength will follow.
(3) Mind should control the muscles. Arnold mentioned that by thinking about it, you should be able to send blood to certain muscles. This is a stage I still have to reach. Another tip was for breathing, you should exhale when you are facing resistance. For example, exhale when you’re pushing the bar off your chest during Bench Press.
(4) Even though I look lean under a shirt or a hoodie, I realized I’m fat. “If it jiggles, it’s fat.” The ideal is that veins should show, so that there is a minimal separation between muscle and skin. I’m at a point where I can’t even assess my physique due to the overbearing amount of fat covering it. I have a lot of work to do. I must train calves, forearms, and neck. Arnold gave me the reassurance that they’re supposed to be tough muscles to grow. If you’re not willing to put in the work, just give up already lol.
(5) The best time to train is early morning, because that’s when you have full energy, plus you don’t have to stress about it for the rest of the day. Otherwise, you can procrastinate and could be full of excuses if you train near the evening.
(6) The importance of stretching. I previously thought bodybuilders were opposed to that, and Arnold addressed the problem of muscles becoming so stiff they’re not functional anymore. Swimming, he recommended, is good as a post-workout.
(7) Eat cashews between meals to control hunger. You have to be hungry for training, and control your hunger for food.
(8) “Almost anything difficult, any challenge, takes time, patience and hard work.” Kill the idea of a short-cut, and an easy way out. Sooner, the better.
(9) He stresses greatly the importance of a training partner – to push you when you’re feeling down. Who makes a good candidate for me?
Profile Image for Wyatt Daily.
14 reviews2 followers
July 22, 2017
This is not the type of book that needs to be read cover-to-cover, but definitely deserves a permanent place on the bedside podium. Written in 1977, the same year the documentary Pumping Iron came out, this book has Arnold's voice in all its confidence, self-delusion, and arrogance at the height of his body building career. This makes it a quaint period-specific text, considering it was written well before Conan the Barbarian, Predator, Terminator or the Governator were present in the public consciousness.

Arnold's unwavering drive clearly predestines his continued success outside of bodybuilding. Like The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, this book tells a great story from a first person perspective, but doesn't get close to the breath of the character himself. It's essential message makes the greater story even more compelling.

Arnold haters will not like this book. That's ok, he doesn't care and neither do I. The second half of the book is a bonafide workout manual featuring exercises Arnold specially developed. The first half is part inspirational story, part self-help intervention. I found a 1st edition without a dust jacket in a neighborhood book-swap, the previous owner's bookmark still tucked into the back with exercise sets written on it.

I keep this book around because for all his shortcomings and questionable actions, I'm still inspired by Schwarzenegger's personal story. Have been since I was a kid. When I crack it open it's like having a workout partner yelling in my ear, telling me to get serious, be the best, and quit making excuses. For instance: "I knew I was destined for great things. People will say that kind of thinking is totally immodest. I agree. Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way - I hope it never will." These are great things everyone needs to hear regularly, and I like hearing them from one of my heroes.
Profile Image for Paul.
22 reviews
September 7, 2023
I was never very athletic growing up, but as I've gotten older I've come to have a better appreciation for the mind-body connection and the necessity of physical fitness.

Body-building is special because it is one of those domains where bullshit doesn't fly. People have all kinds of excuses for not being in good shape. In the world of young men who want to be big and strong, those excuses are ones like, "I'm a hard-gainer. I'm doing everything right but I'm just not getting results." But these are lies, and at the end of the day, your body shows the score. If your body isn't what you want it to be, it's because you're doing something wrong. You're not working out enough, or you're not eating enough.

In many domains, we get away with telling lies. At work, at school, in our relationships. "I'm going to change." "I thought it was due next week." "I did everything to earn that promotion." Sometimes the lies so subtle we don't even know that they are lies. "I'm good at my job." "I'm doing this because I want to do it." "What I'm doing is good for the world." With body-building, you are forced to come to terms with your own reality. You stand naked in front of the mirror, and you see what you have really accomplished.

When it comes to Arnold, it's not the muscles I admire so much as this no-nonsense pragmatism. He tells in this memoir how building his body helped build his mind. And the fact that he has found extraordinary success not only in body-building but in two other vastly different domains as well, entertainment and politics, demonstrates that this mindset has been his real asset.

Work hard, be honest with yourself, and get in the arena. Lay the bricks, build the foundation, put in the time, and offer yourself up for criticism. This is the philosophy that has propelled Arnold to success.
Profile Image for Wes Martin.
226 reviews3 followers
July 6, 2021
I really just picked this up on a whim while visiting family in Tennessee. I’ve long been fascinated by Arnold, and in high school I thought bodybuilding was the coolest thing ever (although at that time it was well after Arnold and dominated by the likes of Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler), so I thought I’d give this a shot. I didn’t expect much, but instantly found myself sucked in and fully immersed in the insanity that is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold is bat shit crazy. I’m starting to come to grips with the fact that the leaders in any field are at least a little, and more than likely, a lot crazy. There’s a special level of single mindedness, obsession, and even paranoia that requires the time, effort, and intensity needed to dominate a field. Arnold is the poster boy for all of that, and I found his passion energizing and magnetic.

The weight training section didn’t click as well for me, even though it was highly amusing. Much of what Arnold (albeit several decades ago), espouses is antiquated at best and harmful at worst. I know the muscle head reading this will point me to the pictures in the book and say “results, bro, results”, and while I’ll always tip my hat to Arnold’s work ethic, I would also say that when he was doing two-hour squatting sessions in the woods while also drinking beer he was (a) super young, (b) perhaps the most genetically gifted person of all time, and (c) chalked full of steroids and God knows what else.

Anyways, if you’re on the fence, I would definitely give you a thumbs up to dive in head first. If nothing else, it’s a trippy good time.
Profile Image for Leonardo  Gulyas.
8 reviews18 followers
April 1, 2018

One of those books that everybody should read. Arnold split this book in two topics, his atletic carrer on bodybuilding, how he managed to achive everything that he has achieved, and how discipline and mental power over the body made him keep growing until he became the best in the world.

The following chapters focus more on the importance of exercises in anybody lives, being an Athlete or not, how to execute them, and how to study and grow your muscles towards your lifestyle.


Um livro excelente que todos deveriam ler. Arnold divide o livros em duas partes, na primeira contando sua carreira no fisiculturismo, como conseguiu ganhar todos os prêmios que ganhou e como sua rotina de treinos era executada. O primeiro capítulo trata mais de sua extrema disciplina e como o controle da mente sobre o seu corpo permitiu-o tornar-se o melhor do mundo.

Nos capítulos seguintes Arnold introduz o esporte para leigos, explicando como o fisiculturismo é benéfico seja você atleta ou não, e como executá-los através de rotinas e imagens ilustradas por ele mesmo, focando também no desenvolvimento muscular pra cada tipo de atividade e estilos de vida.
4 reviews
March 1, 2018
The Education of a Bodybuilder is a great book by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It mixes his past and the goals he started with, with what he learned to help him achieve his goals and eventually make new ones. It goes into detail about all the things to learn about Arnold’s life.

In this book, Arnold talks about his childhood and when he first started lifting. He talks about the older role models the guys he looked up to and how they helped him get into lifting. He said he loved it right away. The book talks about his journey from going from lifting to starting to do competitive bodybuilding. It talks about what his goal were and you learn alot about his determination and drive to achieve his goals which were to beat all of the bodybuilders in America and become a moviestar in America.

I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys lifting or wants to learn more about bodybuilding. Anyone interested in Arnold’s life would enjoy this book also. If you want to learn a few of Arnold’s tricks to achieving his goals, you would want to read this book.
Profile Image for Andres Rodriguez.
Author 3 books27 followers
August 29, 2017

That's what I felt when I first read this book. It really made me appreciate the hard work that Arnold dedicated and put into becoming such an amazing body building athlete. How he was inspired, how he continued to try and achieve his goals, how he was humbled by American body builders, and the story of him driving himself to be better, bigger, stronger. This book really helped me to form that passion I have when I'm in the gym, and old gym with iron weights and concrete walls not the new dating scene hot spot gyms colored cutely in purples and yellows.

This is what it took to be the best. You have to know your weaknesses, you have to embrace your strengths and continue to work your hardest on your flaws. You only give up if you fail but if you want, you can be a foreigner, you can be young, you can be second place, and you can continue to break down walls to be the best.
Profile Image for Mark Hillick.
225 reviews5 followers
August 20, 2023
Enjoyable read of Arnold’s path to success as a bodybuilder. In the book, Schwarzenegger shares his challenges such as:

- growing up with parents who weren’t supportive of his move into bodybuilding or his desire to move to the US
- being looked on as strange for his love of lifting weights
- living away from home with little to no money
- training to fix his weaknesses, both physical and mentally while also recognising he needed to become a nicer person

and his successes in bodybuilding, where he explains his determination and the power of being mentally strong.

In the second half of the book, Schwarzenegger goes into detail (the why, the how etc) of his training program with recommendations for everyone from novices to experts if they want to get in better shape.

Note: This is one of his earlier books, and prior to him becoming a movie star (I read the 2005 edition, originally published in 1977).
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tim.
148 reviews1 follower
November 1, 2018
"Strength and confidence, plus a firsthand knowledge of the rewards of hard work and persistence, can help you attain a new and better life." This book was written shortly after Arnold stopped competing in the 70s. It's an early bio of his time in high school through winning his many competitions. It mostly focuses on his training and the lessons learned. It also details a workout and eating plan for someone brand new to strength training. Perhaps the most important part of this book though is his emphasis on the importance of a positive mental attitude, work ethic, vision, and goal setting. It's the key to his - and any athlete's - success, but it goes far beyond the field of sports into every person's daily life.
19 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2017
Somewhat similar to the other book by Arnold (Modern Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding). This book reads more like a self-help and biography book where you get brief glimpses of Arnold's life after he decided he wanted to be a bodybuilder, his motivations and attitude towards the sport and life, and his setbacks.

A key takeaway from this book is his consistent emphasis on proper form when executing exercises.

Sadly, as with the encyclopedia, this book does not include in-depth detail of nutrition and diet. After Chapter 4 he suggests some program outlines for interested newbies to follow. Good introduction book for beginners and amateurs.
Profile Image for Nishit Chauhan.
42 reviews
July 4, 2018
The tale behind the man himself!
If you've heard about Arnold Schwarzenegger (who hasn't?), this is where we find out how it all began for him.

The book is divided into two sections, the first half follows his journey in becoming a boy from a small town in Austria to Mr. Universe.

In the second part, Arnold describes how every muscle is to be developed followed by a detailed workout plan for beginners and veterans alike.

If anyone's interested in bodybuilding must read this book at least once.
Those who are not interested in the sport can also get something out of this book in the form of motivation and learn the value of working hard.
Profile Image for Dan.
34 reviews1 follower
January 7, 2019
I didn't even mean to start this book for awhile, but thumbing through a few pages led me straight into it.

The first half is memoir... Arnold is still a young man (pre Movie Star days) when he writes this book. He's honest with who he was, is and what he wants. Not a perfect man as we would see in later years, but there is that up front honesty.

The second half gave some fitness tips that are still usable 40 years after the book was written.

I recommend this for any aspiring athlete who is transitioning from couch potato. It's inspirational and has a lot of good points in it... including mindset. There's a good chance I'll revisit this book periodically.
Profile Image for Teemu Suoranta.
89 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2019
The Education of a Bodybuilder has two parts: a biography of Arnold's bodybuilding career and later exercise and nutriton. If you have read the later published full biography Total Recall, the biography part has some details that Total Recall is missing. If you are not into bodybuilding, it is probably not worth while.

The exercise part lays great foundation for weight training. There are some details for example in nutrition that are seen differently nowadays so you should look into other sources as well.

It's a must read for Arnold fans and would also recommend it for anybody starting weight training.
Profile Image for Bryan Jenks.
51 reviews42 followers
February 23, 2023
It’s an older book so giving it some grace, there are a lot of dated personal opinions in the book and some that are downright sexist. Granted that the material was from a different time it was a somewhat entertaining read but from someone involved in the fitness industry there is a lot of bad nutrition and other health advice in this book that is very dated according to current research but many basics would also still be helpful to those starting a fitness journey such as the emphasis on a calisthenics foundation before beginning progressive resistance training with weights.
Profile Image for Jordan Hutchison.
51 reviews2 followers
March 7, 2020
This was what you'd expect it to be. A story about Arnold's rise through life. You'll learn a lot about his struggles and past. Through his experience you'll learn more about facing fears, bravery, and overcoming difficulties. If you're interested in starting to lift weights he also offers quite a bit of lifting routine advice in the second half of the book and some basic information about proper nutrition.
3 reviews
May 28, 2017
Absolutely loved reading this book, not just from an athletes perspective either, Arnold has truly conquered the American Dream. Some of it was luck, but most is attention to detail and hard work. All of which he outlines in this book that he wrote just before transitioning from bodybuilding to acting.
91 reviews3 followers
September 7, 2019
This book really resonates with my situation. I can sum it up as: no matter what you achieve, your family will tell you that it's worthless when you don't go along their suggestions.
Another part of the book consists a training, out of which I tried two days and it's really working. It's super intense even with small weights.
Profile Image for Zac Ames.
14 reviews
October 4, 2019
Inspiring account and look inside the pre-film/ bodybuilding career of Arnold. An entertaining read into his mindset of success and a great starting point for anyone interested in weight training. The nutritional advice is a bit dated (reading the 1982 edition here, advocates a milk heavy diet in his example eating plan), but a lot of his advice on routines is still solid today.
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