“It’s simple, if it jiggles, it’s fat.” If there is one person who has defied the odds and made a name for himself while simultaneously becoming the embodiment of perfection, it is Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, if you haven’t heard the name “Schwarzenegger” before, it’s highly likely that you’ve been living under a rock for the last 40 years as the seven-time Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion proved his talents beyond weight training as an A-list Hollywood action star and as the former Governor of California. While most people would be lucky enough to accomplish one of those great feats, the 69-year-old Schwarzenegger has managed to do them all.
Coming from exceptionally humble beginnings in Styria, Austria, Schwarzenegger was raised in the small village of Thal where, despite the scenery being picturesque, the opportunities to find fortune and success were greatly lacking. Knowing he would eventually leave Thal for a brighter future, Schwarzenegger ignored his father’s hopes of following him into the police force and, instead, pursued a career in bodybuilding after picking up his first barbell at 13 years old. By the time he was 15, he was already training under the direction of Dan Farmer and took his passion to the next level by studying psychology to better understand how to use his mind to control his body. “The mind is the limit,” Schwarzenegger said. “As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it as long as you really believe it 100 percent.”
Schwarzenegger competed in his first bodybuilding tournament at 17 years old but faced an even greater challenge on his 18th birthday when he was forced to serve one year in the Austrian Army, a requirement of all 18-year-old Austrian males. Refusing to give up on his passion, Schwarzenegger went AWOL during basic training to compete in the Junior Mr. Europe bodybuilding competition, which he won. As punishment for going AWOL, he was placed in military prison for one week but not even that could dampen the sweet taste of his latest victory. “Participating in the competition meant so much to me that I didn’t carefully think through the consequences,” Schwarzenegger later admitted.
Completing his service in the Army by 1966, Schwarzenegger continued to make a name for himself in the bodybuilding circuit with a second-place finish at the Graz bodybuilding competition at the Steirer Hof Hotel. Although the title added to his recognition, he knew that his greatest dream of traveling to America would only come true if he won the Mr. Universe competition. Setting out to do exactly that, he traveled to London and competed in the NABBA Mr. Universe competition of 1966 only to lose the title to Chester Yorton whose muscular definition was far better than the 19-year-old Schwarzenegger’s. However, not all hope was lost.
Charles “Wag” Bennett, a judge at the competition, recognized Schwarzenegger’s potential and told him as much just as he offered to be his coach. Since the young bodybuilder barely had enough money to feed himself, Bennett invited him to live with his family in England where Schwarzenegger was one step closer to seeing his dreams of America come true. Exchanging his native German for English, his speech wasn’t the only improvement as he built up incredible strength in his legs and achieved even greater muscular definition.
By 1967, Schwarzenegger’s hard work finally paid off when he became the youngest Mr. Universe in history at only 20 years old. But, he didn’t stop there! Over the next three years, he attended business school in Munich and spent the rest of his time working and training four to six hours each day at the local gym, ultimately securing the Mr. Universe title in 1968, 1969 and 1970. By then, his dreams had skyrocketed as he told his English coach, Roger C. Field, “I’m now going to become the greatest actor!” Little did either of them know at the time that Schwarzenegger would do exactly that as he set his sights on Hollywood.
Relocating to Los Angeles, California in 1968, Schwarzenegger trained at Gold’s Gym under the direction of Joe Wilder while frequently training with legendary wrestlers like Billy Graham and Ric Drasin. By 1970, he won his first Mr. Olympia title at 23 years old and went on to win the title seven more times as he built a jaw-dropping repertoire of stats including a 710-pound deadlift, 520-pound bench press, 545-pound squat, 298-pound clean and jerk, 243-pound snatch, and a 264-pound clean and press. Of course, none of this was without speculation that the Austrian had turned to anabolic steroids to enhance his performance, which were legal at the time. “Steroids were helpful to me in maintaining muscle size while on a strict diet in preparation for a contest,” Schwarzenegger admitted in 1977. “I did not use them for muscle growth, but rather for muscle maintenance when cutting up.”
His steroid use certainly didn’t harm his reputation on the bodybuilding circuit and, instead, boosted his popularity as he set his sights on the silver screen in the early 1980s. Determined to live up to his promise to become the greatest actor, Schwarzenegger starred in Conan the Barbarian in 1982 and was instantly praised as a box office success. Two years later, director James Cameron cast him as the killer cyborg in The Terminator, which led to an entire franchise of films. Before long, he was a household name in Hollywood with hits like Twins, Total Recall and True Lies.
The Austrian Oak went on to tackle the political arena in the new millennium and was named the 38th Governor of California in 2003. Holding office until 2011, he has since returned to the spotlight after President-elect Donald Trump named him the new host of The New Celebrity Apprentice, proving that there isn’t much the 69-year-old Governator can’t and won’t do.