Classic Arnold – On a Mission to Re-Shape Future of Bodybuilding

And to Bring Back Classic Posing




So in response to the question, what is his overview of modern-day bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger replied, “I am somewhat disappointed in the direction that bodybuilding is now going. Even for the big contests like the Arnold Classic and the Mr. Olympia, people are walking away disappointed. It’s all a matter of presentation. Like a painting, it can be presented in a dim light or a bright one. We have some great physiques, and then you see other guys running around and you say, ‘Wait a minute, they have 24-inch necks and distended bellies, walk with their hands straight out to the side, and their legs are so big they can’t really walk properly.’ The whole drug issue is a major problem. We know we can bust everyone out there, but no one wants to— we just look away.”

So when did the seven-time Mr. Olympia utter those words? Was it part of his outburst at the 2015 Arnold Classic Sunday Morning Seminar last March 8 as he was interviewed by our own Bob Cicherillo, that swept like a verbal tsunami around the bodybuilding world?

How about this quote: “What are we going to do about these guys with the big bellies? The judges have to start marking these guys down. A distended stomach onstage is an oxymoron. How can a bodybuilder have a big stomach? It’s the one body part you’re supposed to make smaller, not larger.”

Back in the day when Arnold posed there was no cupping of the hand to the ear and the crowd were always right behind him.

Again, is that an excerpt from that 2015 tirade?

For both quotes, the answer is no. The first quote is from a May 1997 interview I conducted with him, and the second is from a February 2005 conversation. (As regards the latter quote, he said it as he sat opposite me on his private jet as we flew from Santa Monica to Sacramento, for me to spend a day following him around as he completed his then Governor of California duties. What can I tell you? If you’ve experienced it, flaunt it, baby, flaunt it. And not all bodybuilding interviews are conducted in a sweaty locker room.)

Anyway, the point of those two quotes is to illustrate that our subject did not wake up that morning of March 8, 2015 and ponder, shall I talk to Bob Chick about his “Guys and Dolls” threads, or maybe just for the hell of it, have a pop at modern bodybuilders? For decades now, he has cast a critical eye on the way physiques have evolved and grown— especially the way they have grown.


You see, for a certain generation (of which I am one, being just two years younger than Mrs. Schwarzenegger’s little boy) and for Arnold especially, the thought of a bodybuilder having a distended stomach and a physique that looks slung together just for the sake of size, and damn the aesthetics, is the antithesis of what they should aspire too.

Arnold’s idol and inspiration was Reg Park who in the ‘50s and ‘60s carried a bit more muscle than his contemporaries but still had a flat midsection capable of hitting a vacuum pose. Blimey, check out those “come from behind” lats in this 1965 shot, and that’s British great the late Bill Hemsworth on the right.

Listen to Arnold talk about the physiques that ignited his bodybuilding spark back in 1962. “From the beginning, I would study the magazines and look at pictures of Steve Reeves, Reg Park and Jack Delinger at the Mr. Universe contest. They looked so terrific with broad shoulders, flat waists and proportionate muscles, and I wanted to look like them. I would visualize my face on their bodies, and saw myself posing up there with the [traditional] black curtain and the NABBA Universe (the predominant contest of the time) sign in the background. Around me would be 100 bodybuilders, but the crowd would be screaming my name. I was in the spotlight, in my glory. That’s where my joy for training came from. Every rep I did took me a step closer to realizing that goal of being at the center of attention at the Universe contest.

“When I saw Reg on the cover of a magazine that summer and learned his story— how he went from world’s best bodybuilder to movie star as Hercules— my instant goal was to become another Reg Park. I had no idea, at that point, how to do it. But I was absolutely convinced that this was going to happen. I knew, ‘This is what I want to do!’ I identified so much, visualized his physique so much, that I could actually see myself standing in Reg’s body.”

Now, to be honest, Reg was one of the more heavily developed bodybuilders of that ‘50/’60s era, but he still had that V-taper and a flat waist and could hit the vacuum pose. In those days, creating an image of a bodybuilder with a protruding gut could only be accomplished if you took one into a crazy hall of mirrors. In fact, I think the first time any of us saw a top-class bodybuilder with a midsection bump was Ms. Olympia runner-up Bev Francis, when she became pregnant in 1993.”

After forty years Arnold still owns the side chest pose – best ever.

When Arnold first appeared at the 1966 NABBA Universe as a 230-pound, 19-year-old with 20” arms he was a sensation, even though he finished second to Chet Yorton. In fact, the young Arnold had still not fully signed on to the symmetrical ideal. He will tell you: “When I lost to Frank Zane at the 1968 IFBB Mr. Universe, I could not understand how this scroungy little bugger could beat me. [At 190 pounds, Zane was about 45 pounds lighter than Arnold.] Only later on when I learned about quality, about the importance of proportions, about having great abs and calves, did I understand why experienced judges picked Frank as the winner. He won fairly, but on the day of the contest I could not see it, and being in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from my home, I was devastated, totally.”


Given the preceding paragraphs, it should come as no surprise that Arnold voiced his modern bodybuilding criticisms so vehemently last year at his Sunday-morning seminar.

Here’s a sample of what he said

• Too many guys look like a bottle, and the judges need to start favoring more aesthetic and narrow-waisted bodybuilders.

• If we start rewarding the beautiful physiques, then everyone will start training to have a beautiful body.

• Look at the old days when Steve Reeves won. If you saw him at the beach, you’d say to yourself, “I would love to have this guy’s body, look how beautiful this man looks.” But that’s not what we can say about these guys who win the competitions today.

• So many of those guys have their stomachs sticking out … it used to be that you should have a V-shaped body, now it’s like, I dunno, a bottle-shaped body or something like that.

• It’s a weird thing that’s happening onstage, that no one can pull in their stomach anymore for a long period of time and stand onstage with a vacuum, shoulders out and can look athletic … it doesn’t look right anymore.

The overall lesson here is: Arnold Schwarzenegger may be one of Hollywood’s most bankable assets, one of the best-known faces on the planet, been governor of the largest state in the United States, but he has been a bodybuilder much longer than he lived through those other careers. Guess what, folks— he’s still a bodybuilder at heart; in psyche, if not in oiled-down posing trunk guise. And that’s a fact, a classical fact.

At the end of a workout the Golden Era Gold’s Gym gang would check out each other’s posing: That’s how important it was. Here Arnold, on left, and Belgian champ, Serge Jacobs, Dave Draper and legendary cameraman Artie Zeller give Frank Zane the once-over.


Back in the ‘60s, ‘70s days bodybuilders practiced their poses – the ones that made them look good – much more for their individual posing segment rather than any random mandatories. In fact formal mandatories didn’t surface until Ben Weider’s right hand man, Oscar State, came up with the original seven in the late ‘70s. The eighth, most muscular, was introduced in the 2000s. For that earlier era bodybuilding really was the posing round, it was what the bodybuilders trained for. It was important to guys like Arnold and his contemporaries.

In 2009, the IFBB Pro League decided to let competitors go ahead and pose, but it wouldn’t be scored anymore. Last month, after a meeting with IFBB Pro League Chairman Jim Manion, Arnold announced that the scoring of posing rounds would be resurrected for the six Arnold Classics scheduled globally this year.

Arnold stated: “We’re trying it out as a test at the six Arnold Classics. If it works really well, we’ll go and include it in all the professional contests around the world. Our sport is becoming more and more popular. I feel very strongly that the posing has not progressed at all in bodybuilding. Some bodybuilders have a really great posing routine, but 80 percent of them suck, to be honest with you. And we have to train them, so they can hold a pose for more than three seconds. They have fantastic physiques and then they hit a shot and start shaking: it’s unprofessional. You train for years to develop a great body, and then you end up at the Arnold Classic or the Olympia shaking. Listen to me, There is no more shaking!”

So bodybuilding’s number one icon is against onstage “shaking” but he’s sure shaking things up offstage.


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