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What Is Fitness?
Physical fitness involves the development of all of the body's physical capabilities.
For example, when exercise physiologists tested weightlifters and bodybuilders about twenty years ago they found these men had tremendous strength and muscular development, but that most of them lacked the endurance that comes from cardiovascular training. Their muscles were in great shape, but not their heart and lungs.
Lifting weights, it was then decided, leads to an unbalanced physical development. But then it occurred to somebody that that kind of a standard should work both ways. If you test a long-distance runner, you will generally find he has enormous capacity for endurance but, unless he has done some kind of resistance training, he will tend to lack strength, especially in the upper body. He is also unbalanced.
But things have changed a lot since that time. It is now difficult to find a weightlifter or bodybuilder who doesn't do some kind of aerobic training, and many endurance athletes -- particularly swimmers -- include a lot of strength-training in their workouts. And it is working: the totally fit athlete is not only healthier, but he has an edge over his competitors as well.
I have always followed this principle in my own training. Having been a competitive swimmer and soccer player before I became a bodybuilder, I knew what being in shape really means. So I always included a lot of, running and stretching movements in my workouts along with progressive-resistance weight training.
Total fitness, as I see it, has three components:
(1) Aerobic conditioning. Aerobic activity is anything that uses up a lot of oxygen. Oxygen is delivered to the muscles by the cardiovascular system -- the lungs, heart and circulation of the blood. This system is developed by continuous, high-repetition exercise such as running, swimming, jumping rope, riding a bicycle, etc.
(2) Flexibility. Muscles, tendons and ligaments tend to shorten over a period of time, which limits our range of motion and renders us more liable to injury when sudden stresses are placed on these structures. But we can counteract this tendency by stretching exercises and physical programs such as yoga.
(3) Muscular Conditioning. There is only one way to develop and strengthen the muscles: resistance training. When you contract the muscles against resistance, they adapt to this level of effort. The best and most efficient way of doing this is through weight training.
Beyond this, once we have the body in shape, we have to learn to use it. This is where sports and athletic activities come in. But we cannot fully enjoy the act of physical play if we haven't developed the basic physical systems with which we have been endowed.
Nutrition and diet are also essential. It makes no sense to make demands on the body if you haven't given it the nutrients it needs to function properly. Therefore an important part of this program involves learning how and what to eat to maximize health and energy.
But of all these areas the one which is most often misunderstood -- and which in many ways incorporates the widest range of benefits -- is weight training. And the reason that progressive-resistance weight training is so valuable to building and maintaining health and strength become obvious once you take a look at the nature of the muscle that makes up the human body.
The Nature of Muscle
There are three kinds of muscle in the body, each with its own characteristics.
(1) Smooth muscle is found in the walls of internal or visceral organs such as blood vessels and intestines.
(2) Cardiac muscle is the tissue that makes up the heart, and it can be strengthened by cardiovascular, high-repetition exercise.
(3) Skeletal muscle is the system of long muscles that control the movement of the body. It is this kind of muscle, under voluntary control, that weight training is designed to strengthen and condition.
Muscle has one simple function -- it contracts. Nothing else. That is why our bodies are designed with opposing muscles or sets of muscles. When you extend or move a part of the body in one direction, it takes the contraction of an opposing muscle to bring it back.
We have muscles because of gravity. Our planet's gravitational field holds us prisoner, and the purpose of muscle is to overcome this basic force. If we lived on a larger planet with a stronger gravitational field, we would have larger muscles. If evolution had prepared us for life on the moon with its one-sixth earth gravity, our muscular structure would be correspondingly lighter.
Muscle is highly adaptive. It changes according to the demands put upon it. For example, a friend of mine broke his leg skiing and was confined to a hospital bed for several weeks. When the cast finally came off, I could hardly believe how thin and weak the injured leg had become. Kept immobile by the cast, the muscles had shrunk noticeably.
The same sort of thing happened to our astronauts who spent so much time in Skylab. I was discussing physical fitness with some NASA officials recently and they told me that these men practically had to learn to walk all over again after returning from long periods of weightlessness in space. Outside the earth's normal gravitational field, their muscles had become maladapted for moving around the planet.
When you lift a weight, or work against some other sort of resistance, you are, in effect, creating an artificial gravitational field. When I was training to win my Mr. Olympia titles and was lifting enormous weights every day in the gym, it was as if I were living on a giant planet like Jupiter instead of the earth. As a result, my body was forced to adapt to this extra effort and my muscles became stronger and more massive.
Since I train these days as much for flexibility, coordination and endurance as for strength, my physique has changed. But by going back to my former hard training for six months or so, I could build myself back up from 215 to my solid 240-pound competition weight. Other people may not be able to make gains like this -- a lot of it is genetic -- but the basic principle is the same: use a muscle and it gets bigger and stronger; fail to subject it to sufficient stress and it will get weaker and smaller.
Muscle Size and Strength
The shrinking of a muscle due to underuse is called atrophy. The increase in size of muscle when it is subjected to greater amounts of stress is called hypertrophy.
Muscle tissue itself is composed of bundles of fibers. These fibers are really tiny, and they are wrapped together and bound in a sheath of tissue for strength. We are each given a certain number of these fibers at birth, and we can't increase them through diet, exercise, or any other means. But we can do a lot to alter their size and strength.
Strength is a matter of several factors:
(1) The number of fibers in a muscle.
(2) The number of fibers that participate in any given muscular contraction.
(3) The strength and thickness of the individual fibers.
When you attempt to contract a muscle, you are actually only using a percentage of the fibers that are theoretically available to you. You use only the number that you need to use.
If you keep trying to work against heavier and heavier amounts of resistance, the body adapts by causing more and more of the muscle fibers to engage in the contraction. This takes some time, and there is obviously a physiological limit to this process. But it remains true that the way you get stronger through resistance training is by forcing the muscles to call on increased numbers of muscle fibers to do the work you are asking of them.
In this way, the body is not like a machine. If you connect a 10-horsepower motor to a 12-horsepower load, it will burn out. But if you demand a 12-horsepower effort from a 10-horsepower body, it becomes a 12-horsepower body.
Other things happen to the muscles when you train and condition them. The fibers become enlarged, the sheath covering the muscles gets tougher and the body creates more capillaries to carry more blood to the area.
Exercises like calisthenics, running or swimming are the fixed-resistance kind. That is, no matter how long you do them, you are always contracting the muscles against the same amount of resistance. You may learn to do the movements for longer periods of time, which means your endurance has improved, but you will not get any stronger no matter how many repetitions you do.
To keep getting stronger, you have to keep increasing the resistance so that the muscles must continue to adapt. This is called progressive-resistance training. This is the principle that is used in weight training and bodybuilding.
Progressive-resistance training is a great equalizer. It never gets easy. You may be lifting 10 pounds and I may be lifting 100 pounds, but as long as we are both working at the limit of our strength, we are essentially doing an equal amount of work. All that counts is that we are forcing the muscle to work hard enough to make it adapt.
What Is Bodybuilding?
Although bodybuilders lift weights in order to achieve their physical goals, bodybuilding is not an activity in which the absolute amount of weight you can lift is important. The aim of bodybuilding is to use a sufficient amount of weight for each exercise to cause the adaptive changes in the body that result in the creation of an ideal blend of mass, muscularity, symmetry and proportion.
Weightlifters train with weights, too, but they are only interested in learning to lift as much weight as possible, and then only for the few particular lifts that are involved in competition.
It was long thought that bodybuilders weren't really all that strong, that the mass they developed in the gym was somehow not "real" muscle. This is simply not true. Strength is a necessary by-product of the development of mass and the success of bodybuilders in recent strongman competitions proves it.
But the use of weights in progressive-resistance training is a common denominator among bodybuilders, weightlifers, athletes training for certain sports, individuals with injuries trying to rehabilitate their bodies, and all those millions who are now training for health and fitness.
Weight training, in its most general sense, just means doing some movement or activity using added weight to increase the difficulty. This would include putting weights on your ankles before you run, or swinging a lead-filled bat before your turn at the plate, but usually we restrict the meaning to contracting your muscles in certain, prescribed exercises against the resistance of dumbbells, barbells or resistance exercise machines.
Bodybuilders actually have more in common with the man training for fitness than with competition weightlifters. After all, both are more interested in physical self-improvement than in breaking lifting records.
But there is a large difference in degree. It is as if bodybuilders were Formula I racing cars, and the average man a reliable sports-sedan. Both want a certain degree of performance, but on two distinct levels. The technology that comes out of Grand Prix racing eventually filters down to the family car, and, in the same way, the discoveries made by serious bodybuilders in the gym can be adapted and made use of by those who are using weights to stay trim and healthy.
You may personally have no desire to train for hours a day to become a Mr. America, but exercise physiologists have shown us how much alike in their physical needs are the athlete and the non-athlete. If you apply the techniques that work for champions, only at a level of intensity that suits your own purposes, you will be able to share in the same process that creates, shapes and firms the human body, melts away unwanted fat, and builds a strong, dependable cardiovascular system.
Weight Training -- What to Expect
Most men don't really know what to expect from weight training. For instance, it is common in gyms to find some skinny guy just starting training who assures everybody, "I want to get into better condition, but I don't want to get too big." But, the thing is, getting really big is tremendously difficult if not impossible for most people. It takes some eight to twelve years of intense, determined, mind-boggling work to produce a Mr. Olympia physique, and that's only if you have the right genetic potential in the first place. After all, you wouldn't expect necessarily to be able to run a sub-four-minute mile just by practicing a lot. You have to have the talent for it.
But that doesn't mean there is no benefit from weight training for the average man. Quite the contrary. For all but a few there is a definite increase in strength and muscular size along with an improvement in shape and contour of the muscles. The body gets firmer as muscle fibers become more dense and fat is burned off. The body becomes strong, hard and lean instead of weak, soft and fat.
Some people will change a lot, and others somewhat less. But even seemingly small changes can make a dramatic change in your physique. An inch or two extra around the chest coupled with a loss of a couple of inches around the middle will completely transform how you look. You can never step outside your natural somatotype -- the actual structure of your body as determined by your genes -- but you can accomplish a great deal within those limits.
It is difficult to increase muscle mass by more than 5 pounds a year. If you have already had extra mass at one time, it is a lot easier to get it back than it is to create it in the first place. A really talented athlete might be able to build 10 pounds of muscle mass a year, but that is a lot.
However, if 5 pounds a year doesn't sound like much, think of it this way: 5 pounds a year is 25 pounds in 5 years. That means a 150-pound man could expect to weigh 175 pounds five years from now with hard training and without gaining any fat.
But, remember, even if you don't really want to get any bigger, all you are doing is increasing your strength to its natural optimum and letting the muscles assume whatever mass is natural to them. A certain amount of mass comes with the territory. The chances of its getting out of hand are pretty remote. And there are a lot of bodybuilders who were never able to develop themselves quite enough who can testify to that!
Meanwhile, as your body improves a psychological benefit comes along with it. You feel better because your training gives you more energy. You feel better about yourself as well, and have greater self-confidence. This affects how you act, and how people treat you. You look better, which makes you feel better. And when you feel better, you naturally end up looking better. It's kind of a non-vicious circle, and it works.
On the Other Hand...
In my experience, only a handful of people out of any group get interested enough in training to want to go into it more seriously. However, you might be one of that handful. If you are -- and you may be and just not know it yet -- let me assure you that the exercise programs outlined in this book are fundamental to bodybuilding as well as weight training for conditioning, and that nothing you learn here will be wasted.
In another section, for those who are interested, I will deal in more detail with the differences between conditioning workouts and competition-oriented bodybuilding training. Actually, you might be surprised at how little difference there really is. We are looking basically at a difference of degree, levels of intensity and a reordering of priorities.
But as the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, no matter what you are training for or how far you intend to go, building and shaping your body starts with that first time you pick up a dumbbell or barbell and demand of your muscles that they adapt to working against greater resistance than they are accustomed to.
The Uniqueness of Weight Training
If I seem to be saying that of all the types of exercise and physical fitness systems weight training is the best, it's because I think it is.
Resistance training is the only way to build up the body, and progressive resistance training is the only way to insure that this progress continues. It is highly efficient, since you end up doing the most you can during any workout, and thus get the maximum benefit in the least possible time.
It is totally individualized training, since your own development acts as a feedback system to regulate the pace of your training. If you get 5 pounds stronger, you add that much weight. If you progress 10 pounds' worth, that's how much resistance you add to keep your muscles working to their utmost.
Weight training can also be used to promote flexibility. Throughout the program I will be stressing that movements should be done using the widest range of motion possible. At full contraction, you are stretching the opposing muscle group and at full extension you are stretching the muscles that are being trained in the exercise. Combining stretching with strength training is the key to developing a really strong, supple body possessing the most aesthetic lines possible.
Finally, weight training can promote cardiovascular fitness. Obviously, if you lift a heavy weight one or two times, you hardly accelerate your body's need for oxygen, and so the heart and lungs don't get a workout. However, if you lift a weight 8 to 10 times, then go on and lift another the same number of times, then another and so on -- after a few minutes of this continuous training, you will begin to demand a great deal from your cardiovascular system. In this way -- and this is the kind of exercise program I have designed for you -- you combine aerobic training with your strength and flexibility training.
Three-in-one training, that's what you get when you really know how to use weights. And there isn't another training system that can make the same boast.
Weight Training for Health
"About the turn of the century," my friend Dr. Lawrence Golding of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas tells me, "physical educators were telling us that exercise is good for health. But then somebody asked the question, 'Why?' And nobody could really prove why. So they set out to demonstrate this idea that seemed so obvious. That was the birth of what we now know as exercise physiology and sports medicine."
Since then a lot has been learned about exercise and its effects on the body, and I am impressed with the degree that training is important in combating some of the most common physical problems and complaints that plague our population:
(1) Low back pain. There are a number of possible causes of back problems -- Evolution, which hasn't quite caught up in this area, has given us a back more appropriate to creatures going on all fours -- but one of the most common is simply the lack of tone in the back muscles. When the muscles in this area are strong, conditioned and flexible, they do a much better job of supporting the vertebrae and keeping them in their proper place and thus eliminating a number of low back complications.
(2) Headaches. Some headaches, perhaps a great proportion, are due to stress. Tension accumulates in the neck and shoulders, blood vessels are constricted. Eventually, pain results. In quite a number of cases, the physical release of exercise can help to alleviate this build-up of stress and do a lot to prevent tension-related headaches.
(3) Heart disease. There are a number of forms of heart disease, and many seem to be genetically induced or related to other variables difficult to control. But there is a lot of evidence that exercise, with its effect on the heart and circulatory system, can lower the risk of cardiac problems.
(4) Pulled muscles. There is nothing more annoying than reaching up to the top shelf in the kitchen, or going out to the back yard to throw a ball around, and suddenly finding yourself suffering the pain of a strain, sprain or muscle pull. Many of these injuries, however minor, come about simply because the body has been allowed to degenerate somewhat from lack of use. When you are in better condition, when the muscles are firm and strong, the joints, ligaments and tendons flexible, there is much less chance that you will incur this type of injury.
(5) Insomnia. Of the many possible causes of insomnia, one, I believe, is living the kind of life where you build up tension through mental effort all day long, but get no physical release through a comparable effort of the body. Man was not meant to just sit around and think and worry. Exercise has a definite effect on the human psychology and can often help solve or reduce a number of mind-related problems.
(6) Obesity. It is almost always true that fat people exercise less than thin ones do. Exercise not only burns up more calories in the body, but it seems to have some sort of effect on the appetite-regulation mechanism, an effect that has been observed but never explained. But the simple fact is that exercise is very helpful in controlling weight.
Weight Training and High Blood Pressure
Many people have reservations about training with weights because they have been told it causes high blood pressure. A look at human physiology should be enough to disprove this once and for all.
To start with, just what is "blood pressure?" The human circulatory system consists of a pump (the heart) forcing fluid through a series of pipes (arteries and veins). It takes pressure to make this fluid flow, just as it does to make water flow out of the tap in your kitchen. Our blood pressure is a measure of this pressure.
The heart is a pulsating pump, so we have two blood pressures -- the systolic when it is pumping, and the diastolic when it is not. Whenever you exercise, your heart beats faster and the pressure goes up. If it doesn't you are in trouble. The terminal blood pressure of a top athlete might be 230/110, but his heart and arteries are in condition to take this pressure. If you have been leading a sedentary life and you go out and suddenly try to shovel three feet of snow off your driveway, when your blood pressure suddenly shoots up it could be disastrous.
But exercise and conditioning keep the heart and arteries in shape to deal with the increased pressure. The heavier pulsations of blood shooting through the arteries during exercise actually massage their walls and keep them flexible -- helping to prevent hardening of the arteries.
If you already have high blood pressure, obviously you don't want to put sudden strains on the system. Your doctor will no doubt prescribe some mild, rhythmic exercise as part of your therapy. In that case, stressful weight training would not be a good idea.
But in the absence of such symptoms, moderate amounts of weight training, geared progressively to your level of conditioning, will result in only the normal elevation of pressure that comes with any athletic endeavor.
And you get a fringe benefit. Since exercise strengthens the heart and increases its pumping efficiency, as well as keeping the arteries flexible, you will generally find that the conditioned body has a lower blood pressure at rest than the out-of-shape body.
Weight Training and Rehabilitation
Paradoxically, although weight training is designed to put heavy stresses on the muscles of the body, it is being used increasingly to rebuild and rehabilitate injuries.
There are several reasons for this.
(1) With weight training, the precise amount of resistance put on each part of the body can be carefully regulated. Thus a recovering joint or limb can be exercised to promote strength and flexibility without putting any more stress on the area than it can take.
(2) With weight training, stress can be directed at precise and specific areas of the body. Thus you can work around an injury and train strong areas hard, weak areas lightly.
(3) Weight training allows for the development of individually tailored programs. Injuries to the knee, the elbow or a severe muscle tear all require different therapies, and there are such a variety of possible weight training movements that an orthopedist or physiotherapist has plenty to choose from in those cases where resistance training is indicated as a part of the therapy.r
Weight Training -- the Time Machine
There is one aspect of weight training that is only just coming to be recognized -- its effect on the aging process.
The longer we live, the more gravity pulls on our bodies, causing the spine to compress and the muscles to sag. We burn fewer calories as we get older, so we tend to put on fat, and this puts more of a strain on the system. Older people are generally more sedentary than younger ones, and this results in poor cardiovascular conditioning and muscular atrophy.
But a lot of what we think of as "aging" has nothing to do with age itself -- it is merely deterioration. When we say somebody "looks" thirty, forty, or fifty, we are merely saying that this person looks the way we expect somebody of that age to look. But if you take a look at some older bodybuilders, you will not find any double chins, sagging jowls and pectorals or spreading paunch. Those who have kept up their training -- like Bill Pearl or Ed Corney, for example -- simply don't fit any of our preconceptions. It is difficult for anyone to judge just how old they are.
Weight training slows or even reverses some of the most insidious effects of age. And it is better at this than any other form of exercise. I had a physical recently and my doctor was amazed at my condition. He told me that I was in as good or better health than I was ten years ago. And all because I have kept up my training.
Judging on the basis of blood pressure, cholesterol level, flexibility and heart rate, I have actually gotten physiologically younger during the past ten years instead of older. And this is a direct result of the kind of training and diet that I am advocating in this book.
Age is bound to catch up with all of us sooner or later. But later is better. No need to invite it in before its time. So when people ask me if they are too old to train, I tell them, "No. You're too old not to!"
The older you are, the more important it is for you to work at being physically fit. But it is also true that the older you are, the more amazed you will be at what a total fitness program, including weight training, can do for you, your life, your looks, your health and your personal relationships.
Winning at Life
Now we know you must develop both your mind and body, that it is truly unhealthy to ignore either one.
It is an outdated cliche to think in categories of "athlete" and "non-athlete" as if these were two different species, one from Mars, the other Venus.
Everything we do throughout our lives has a physical component. We are physical creatures, and life demands that we put our bodies to use -- breathing, standing, sitting, lying down, walking, running, lifting, carrying, making love, fighting, singing, throwing, climbing and so on.
Once you realize that life is an athletic event, it follows that you can train for it, just as Bruce Jenner trained for the Olympics or I trained to become a six-time Mr. Olympia winner. You may not train like a competition athlete, but you will need to develop the fitness, strength and conditioning that it takes for you to excel at your own personal event -- in this case, your life.
Our bodies and our minds are totally interrelated and interdependent. In sports, a running back who tires in the fourth quarter is taken from the game. A fighter too tired to answer the bell for the tenth round loses the bout. But in the event of life, you don't get another chance next Sunday afternoon and you can't sign for a rematch. Once you get taken out of this game, that's it, brother. No second chances. And if that's not a reason to stay in shape, I don't know what is!
No Cynics Need Apply
Still, it is very difficult sometimes to convince people of the necessity for exercising to stay fit. We are able to take our bodies so much for granted because they are so well designed. We can often abuse them for decades before we see the inevitable signs of deterioration. Using the car analogy again, a man who owns a high-performance Ferrari knows he has to take very good care of it or it will not run properly. It has to be taken out and run at high speeds or the plugs foul and carbon builds up on the pistons. The Chevrolet owner, on the other hand, can generally afford to think about maintenance only from time to time, because his machine has been designed for greater durability.
Well, the human body has the performance capability of a Ferrari, and the durability of the Chevy. Although we need to put ourselves through the human equivalent of an all-out lap at Le Mans from time to time, we can also idle along for thirty years before we starting having serious maintenance problems. No machine was ever designed to compare with this combination of performance and durability.
The Art of Motivation
Getting in shape, building and conditioning your body for strength and health, is no great problem if you know the proper techniques -- and you will find those techniques outlined in this book.
The real problem is applying what you know, getting yourself to practice what I am preaching, so to speak. Because I can tell you that you ought to get yourself into shape, your doctor can advise you that it is good for your health and your wife or girl friend can hint that she would be more turned on if you shaped up a bit -- but none of this is going to make the slightest difference until you, yourself, decide that this is really what you want to do.
The first step is simply believing it is possible. A lot of people never achieve this. They are so used to themselves as they have been, looking and feeling a certain way, that they cannot imagine any dramatic change. "Hey, I'm a naturally skinny (fat) type," they say. "It's in my genes. My whole family is like this. There's nothing I can do about it."
To a certain degree, this is correct. None of us can step outside the boundaries of our genetic inheritance. But within those limits there is a tremendous amount we can do to manipulate our physical systems, gain muscle and lose fat, and realize the full genetic potential that nature has given to us.
You can't make yourself taller or alter your basic skeletal structure, but you can firm and shape the body, fill out skinny areas, shape muscles and create the kind of firm, healthy body you would really rather have.
But to keep yourself motivated, you are going to have to train the mind along with the body. Using your mind and your imagination properly you can keep the body training intensely throughout your workouts.
One technique to help you with this is called "visualization." It is the art of picturing in your mind the results you would like to see happen, and using these images to focus all your energies on attaining your goals.
A psychologist friend of mine has told me that one reason he believes I was so successful was my ability at visualization. "Arnold," he said, "in your imagination you always saw yourself as the champion, the victor. The others imagined how terrible it would be to lose and their fears kept them from doing their best. But with your positive attitude, you always had the confidence it took to win."
I understood the concept of visualization long before I had ever heard the word. From the first day of my training, I realized that my competition understood exercise, diet and nutrition, and that the way people really differed was mentally and psychologically. What counts is really believing in yourself and what you want, and I became a master of this. When you hear about ideas like "Inner Tennis" or "Inner Skiing," this is what they are talking about. And the same techniques can be applied to your weight training.
You can do this, too. Look in the mirror and take stock of what you see. Be honest and admit your faults, but, at the same time, imagine what you would look like if those faults were corrected. Picture yourself with a deeper chest, broader shoulders and a smaller, tighter waistline.
Once you know what your goals are, your training efforts make more sense. After all, you wouldn't get on a train or plane without knowing its destination -- and you shouldn't do this with your workouts, either. Keep that image of the future firmly in mind, and your imagination will help you to make it a reality.
Exercise and the Spirit
Exercise and conditioning have a profound effect on the mind and spirit as well as on the body. Modern life puts all of us under a tremendous amount of stress which engages our "fight or flee" emergency nervous system, floods our bodies with adrenaline -- but gives us no outlet for all that pent-up energy.
A caveman faced with a saber-tooth tiger or a woolly mammoth would hardly be expected to smile politely and swallow his anger, but that is what most of us have to do when aroused by stressful situations in our business and social lives.
Nature simply won't allow us to suffer that kind of abuse without paying some kind of penalty. Nature just hasn't gotten around to recognizing the Industrial Revolution, self-cleaning ovens, the internal combustion engine or the desk job. Biologically, we are still cavemen, equipped to survive by using both body and mind. We need to engage in a full range of physical activities, just as our bodies need a full range of foods for adequate nutrition.
Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body. We all know how stress can contribute to such physical ailments as ulcers, high blood pressure and hypertension. But it is also becoming clear that a lot of human problems from auto accidents to divorces, and many common emotional problems like depression, are made much worse by the build-up of stress accompanied by too little physical activity.
The New Consensus
Ten years ago, if I had made some of these claims, I might have gotten an argument. But not any more. Actuarial figures gathered by insurance companies bear out the benefits of physical conditioning to health, mood and lifespan. And the major corporations are beginning to catch on, too. Some organizations, like Warner Communications in New York, are opening up sophisticated gyms and training facilities for their employees. In fact, there are over 50 businesses in New York City alone which have similar programs, and more catching on all the time all across the country.
A business often spends as much on training good executives and other personnel as it does on building factories and offices, and this kind of investment calls for protection. When an employee breaks down or gets sick, it can hurt the business financially just as badly as a breakdown in the factory or on the assembly line. It has been shown that an employee who is fit and healthy works better, more efficiently, with less time off the job due to sickness and less chance that his employer will lose his services prematurely due to problems like heart disease and stroke.
Physical fitness is a form of preventive maintenance. I know I could never survive my own schedule without devoting time to staying fit. And I am not alone in this, either. Almost all the really effective executives and businessmen that I know have also come to this realization. No longer is it solely the province of the young and the professional to have superb bodies and be superbly fit.
Physical fitness is not a panacea. It won't, by itself, do away with anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual dysfunction and all the rest of the common physical and emotional problems of modern society.
But an ill-used body will ultimately result in the failure of both body and spirit, and, in this sense, physical fitness is the mental health of the body. We live in a culture that has taken away the need to use physical strength for day-to-day survival, so it is up to us to create new systems of living that provide the level of fitness that the body requires.
For one thing, there is simply the joy of being able to use your body to get the pleasures of strenuous play. What a difference between being able to play a game of touch football, go sailing or skiing and really have a good time -- and being soft, flabby and cut off from your natural abilities. I've seen people siring around the pool or on the beach who are obviously out of place and ill at ease simply because they have let their bodies and physical capabilities degenerate. I know how unhappy I would be if this happened to me, and I can't believe that other people are all that different.
This is where a program of physical training such as the one in this book comes in. Weight training, aerobic conditioning and flexibility are the bottomline demands of any fitness system. Try it, and I know you will get the results that you really want.
Good luck, and good training!
First Things First
There is nothing like the enthusiasm we all feel when we get into new beginnings -- a new job, relationship, or even a new health and fitness program. Therapists call this the "honeymoon period," and it's just common sense to realize that this initial enthusiasm doesn't last.
I can't tell you the number of times I've seen newcomers come into the gym and attack every piece of equipment in sight as if they were training for the Olympics -- only to end up painfully sore and discouraged.
But that isn't going to happen to you. I can show you how to develop your body, increase your strength and improve your energy level, and then it is up to you to pace yourself in a realistic manner.
Are you 20, 30 or over 40? Have you been active and athletic in the last few years, or pretty much sedentary? Maybe you have some long-term physical ailment like a trick knee or a bad back. All of these things have to be taken into consideration as you begin my exercise program.
Just as in the story of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the fitness race, too. So remember you are only training yourself. You have nobody else to please. Be honest, set yourself realistic goals and training schedules, and you'll find the results worth all the effort.
Begin with a Check-up
Consult your doctor before beginning any new kind of strenuous physical activity. Not only can your doctor advise you on any special adjustments you might have to make in following a fitness program, but he can periodically monitor your progress, giving you additional positive feedback to keep your motivation level high.
Definition of Terms
You can't build up your body with words, but it helps communication if you can understand the special terminology of weight training and bodybuilding. You'll find a complete glossary at the end of this book, but here are a few basic terms to help you get started:
A Repetition ("rep" for short) is one complete exercise movement, from starting position, through the full range of movement, then back to the beginning.
A Set is a group of repetitions. The number is arbitrary. It could be one, or 100. Programs designed to produce cardiovascular fitness generally use high-repetition sets, while those that aim for strength use fewer repetitions.
A Superset is a set of one exercise followed by a set of another with zero rest in between.
A Circuit is a prescribed group of exercises. Circuit training involves going through this group one after another without stopping to rest between exercises.
Weight training is done with weights. Actually, anything that provides adequate resistance can be used for training purposes, but weights are simple, efficient and convenient to use. The two basic forms in use today are flee weights, and exercise machines.
Free weights include:
The Barbell, a long bar with weights at either end, designed to be used by both hands at once.
The Dumbbell, a short bar with weights at either end, intended for use by one hand at a time.
Exercise machines are mechanical devices that allow you to contract your muscles against resistance. These can include everything from the simple push-pull devices you can carry in a suitcase, to weight-and-pulley set-ups, to the complex and highly engineered training devices manufactured by such companies as Nautilus and Universal.
In this program, we will rely primarily on flee weights, using some mechanical help only for specialized purposes. Later on, as you become a more experienced weight-trainer, you will have the option of employing other devices if you wish.
Muscles and Body Parts
Bodybuilders have found over the years that it is useful to think of the muscles and muscle groups in the body as falling into certain basic categories. The five basic categories are:
with calves & abdominals considered separately -- for reasons I will explain later on in the program.
There are more than 600 muscles in the body, so grouping them together this way provides a convenient way of dealing with them. However, it is a good idea to know the names of certain of the most important muscles so that when I talk about "biceps," "deltoids" or "trapezius" you will know which ones I mean. The names of the more significant muscles and muscle groups are shown in the accompanying illustration.
Weight training routines are designed so that each body part receives adequate attention. But, more than that, it is frequently necessary to use a variety of different exercises for one muscle or muscle group to bring out all the planes, shape and contour of the body, so planning a really good routine can be a challenging, demanding and technical discipline.
As your body changes, you will want to be able to keep careful track of differences of fat, muscle and strength. Keeping track provides a very useful form of positive feedback, as well as letting you know if any problems are developing. There are several ways of going about this:
* The Scale. Body weight is made up of several factors.
(1) The fixed weight of the body, including the skeleton, internal organs and vital fluids such as blood.
(2) The weight of fat.
(3) The weight of muscle.
The first factor can't be varied to any great degree by diet and exercise, but the others can. However, while the scale may accurately record your body weight at any one time, it says nothing about body composition.
The average man in this country has about 15% relative body fat. A good athlete can have as little as 2%-3%. With an intense program of weight training, individuals can gain from 5 to 15 pounds of muscle weight a year. Losing 5 pounds of fat while gaining 5 pounds of muscle can change your body radically. The scale will not be able to measure this change. You will see it and feel it.
Then there is "water weight." Contrary to what many people believe, the free water in your system gets flushed out within a relatively short time of its ingestion. But water is retained in other ways. For instance, whenever the body stores a gram of glycogen (carbohydrate energy) it binds three grams of water in the process. Furthermore, when the body metabolizes a gram of fat, more than a gram of water accumulates as a byproduct of this process and it takes a while for this water to leave the system.
Considering all of these variables, it becomes obvious that simply knowing how much you weigh doesn't really tell you enough about what is happening to the body. The scale has to be used judiciously, and I recommend two simple rules:
(1) Don't weigh yourself too often. You can't get an accurate picture of real changes in body weight on a day-to-day basis. So weigh yourself no more often than once a week.
(2) Don't rely on the scale alone. Use it in conjunction with the tapemeasure, the mirror and before-and-after photos.
* The Tape Measure. Measuring various parts of the body can tell you things about its composition and development that the scale alone cannot. Therefore, as you begin this program, measure yourself and note down the results for the following areas:
This will give you a good basis of comparison for following your progress.
However, just as with the scale, don't take comparison measurements too often. The only place where the tape measure is likely to show changes week-to-week is around the waistline. You can lose fat around the middle faster than you can gain muscle size, although that result will follow soon enough.
Actually, very small changes in muscle mass can have highly dramatic results in the way you look. A gain of two inches around the chest coupled with a loss of another two around the waist can give your body a totally different appearance. People begin to notice these changes very quickly, and no other sport or system of physical training makes such a difference in how you look so quickly. So when it comes to assessing just how well you are doing in your training, it is often a better idea to rely on the mirror instead of the tape measure.
* The Mirror. The mirror has a number of different uses for bodybuilders and weight trainers (see next chapter), but its basic purpose is to tell you how you look. Studying yourself in a full-length mirror can be misleading if you let your imagination take the place of honest evaluation. Unlike visualization, all you want from a mirror is so see things the way they are, here and now. Use the mirror to gauge your progress, to see where you have made gains, and to pinpoint areas that are in need of more work.
* Before-and-After Photos. We all have a way of failing to notice small gradual changes, but photographs can quickly remind us just how great the overall change has been.
Have some photos taken of yourself in a bathing suit from the front, rear and sides. Then put them away for a while, along with a record of your weight and measurements at the time the photos were taken.
When you think you've made some progress, repeat the process, and compare the "before" photos with the "after." You may be very surprised at the differences that become apparent when you study the two sets of pictures.
Continue to do this. The photographs will not only help you evaluate the results of your training during each of the intervals, but will also create a permanent history of the changes in your body as a result of your weight training program. You will probably discover you are smiling a lot more.
Belly Up To The Barbell
To start with you will need a barbell and dumbbell set. This consists of a long bar, two shorter ones, and a number of weight plates that fit interchangeably on any of the bars. You can find a basic set with 50 kilos or 110 pounds of weights in almost any sporting goods store for as little as forty dollars. Some of these sets have plastic plates filled with sand, others are made of iron. Either kind is suitable. Plastic has the advantage that it won't scratch or mar a floor.
There are only two necessities in choosing a weight set:
(1) The weights must be interchangeable. Progressive resistance training demands that you be able to add weight to the bar as you get stronger. Solid dumbbells, to which weight cannot be added, won't allow you to take advantage of the adaptation of muscle to progressively greater stress. If you do get solid dumbbells, you will need an entire set -- and that gets expensive.
(2) The set must include 2 1/2-pound plates. Some sets come with no plates smaller than 5 pounds. Since you add weight by putting a plate on either end of the bar, this means that the smallest addition you could make would be 10 pounds, and this is just too much of a jump for most people in many of the exercises. 2 1/2-pound plates allow for more convenient 5-pound weight adjustments.
In addition to the weights, you are going to need an exercise bench. The basic bench looks a lot like a piano bench, but is padded to allow for comfort during physical movement. However, without a somewhat more sophisticated bench, certain basic exercises cannot be done in the home. So I recommend that you purchase a bench with a rack that allows you to do Bench Presses, and an attachment under which you hook your legs to do Leg Extensions and Leg Curls.
These benches can be very expensive but can also be had for less than a hundred dollars. Just be sure yours is sturdy enough to stand up to your needs.
Another basic piece of equipment is the chinning bar. Without using fairly complex exercise machines, the chinning bar is one of the only ways of developing certain areas of the back. Adjustable bars that fit into most doorways are also available at most sporting goods stores.
I also recommend that you get a slant board to help you do Sit-ups for firming up the waistline and abdominal muscles. But be careful to try out whatever board you purchase before you take it home. Some of them are very flimsy. There is a lot of difference between having a 105-pound woman use a device and subjecting it to the forces generated by an active 190-pound man.
You may also run across a device that slides under a door and provides support for your feet when you do Sit-ups. These are good because they are small enough to take with you when you travel, so you can continue to train your abdominal muscles even when you are staying in a hotel.
What Not to Use
There are a lot of manufacturers trying to cash in on the national craze for exercise and fitness with devices and springs and levers and chrome doodads that are supposed to help you get in shape. For anyone really serious about training, these things are a waste of money.
Exercise, any kind of exercise, is generally better than no exercise at all. Walking is better for you than sitting in front of a television set and playing a sport is better for your health than just being a spectator.
But pulling, pushing or twisting some kind of mechanical contraption is no substitute for a well thought-out, carefully designed system of physical fitness.
A complete weight-training program allows you to work the whole body, not just a few muscles or muscle groups. Fooling around with some "miracle device" does not.
Later on, when we talk about Improvisational Exercise, I will recommend some substitutes for weight training to be used when weights are not available. But when it comes to getting the full benefits of progressive-resistance training, there is nothing like the real thing.
The Home Gym
There are some good "home gyms" on the market, some much more expensive than others, for those who want to train at home with more sophisticated equipment than just some free weights and a bench. A complete Universal machine can easily run into the thousands of dollars, although there are some less complicated but useful devices that cost less than $600.00.
For most people who want to go beyond the limitations of home training with simple equipment, I would recommend joining a gym or health club. However, if you can handle the expense, having good sophisticated equipment available to you at home is a very convenient and pleasant way to train.
The mirror is a valuable tool for anyone taking up weight training.
1. It helps concentration. A big part of weight training is getting the nervous system to fire off as many muscle fibers as possible, Concentration is a major factor in making this happen. Using the mirror to focus attention is indispensible to the serious weight trainer.
2. It helps technique. When you train with weights, you don't just throw them around. There is a definite technique involved which allows you to work each muscle the way you want and prevents any undue stress on the body from lack of control over the weight. Watching yourself in the mirror lets you correct any deviations from proper technique -- just as it does in a discipline like ballet.
3. It provides feedback. The name of the game, after all, is to change the body. Part of that change is recognized by feel; the rest is visual. If looking in the mirror and seeing a new curve in the biceps, a fullness in the chest, keeps you dedicated and working hard, then that's fine. Success breeds success. It's the same in weight training as in any other area of life.
Where to Train
If you have access to a gym you can train there, following this program, right from day one. But if you don't and you want to train at home, all you need is the basic equipment and enough room so you don't put the end of a barbell through the front of your television set.
Enough room is important. You may need more than you think. Even if you have enough clearance to work with the weights, if it feels as though you may not and you are continuely distracted by the possibility of banging into something, this can seriously interfere with your concentration. You might try training in the living room, bedroom or den, out in the garage or even the back yard, wherever you find it most convenient.
A few other things you might want include a certain degree of privacy -- family members parading through the room can also break your concentration -- enough light to see well, and a good amount of air circulation.
When to Eat
When our mothers told us not to go in the water right after eating, what they meant (whether they knew it or not) was that digestion takes blood, and so does heavy exercise. Therefore, in order to have enough blood available to feed your muscles, you want to avoid doing any strenuous exercise while your stomach is full.
Protein and fat take a long time to digest, so you might want to wait quite a while after eating a steak before you train. Salads and vegetables take less time to pass through the stomach, so you needn't wait as long. Fruit digests very quickly, and the fructose (sugar) it contains converts easily to glucose to provide energy for exercise, so you can eat moderate amounts of fruit just before and even during your workout.
Do It to Music
I am often asked in my seminars, "Does it help to have music in the background when you train?" The answer is simply that it helps if you think it helps. If you like training to music, then go ahead and do it. But use common sense: you will hardly be able to keep your energy level up listening to Strauss waltzes. Pick something that adds to your workout, not something that puts you to sleep.
When to Train
Picking a time to train that fits conveniently into your daffy schedule is important. I like to get up and go to the gym or run by 6:30 in the morning. By nine or ten I have trained, showered, eaten breakfast and am ready to face the day's business.
But some people can hardly bring themselves to shave first thing in the morning, much less do a workout. If that's the case then, you might find it better to train after you get home from work and before dinner. It wouldn't hurt to skip that cocktail, either.
I meet a number of men who have access to gyms during their lunch hour and prefer to do their training then, and skip eating. Again, that's a matter of personal choice and circumstances.ar
There is a special form of training called the "Split System" that involves training part of your body in the morning and additional body parts later in the day. This is useful for those who don't really have one long period to devote to training but still want to get in a full workout. I describe how to train with the Split System later on in the advanced exercise section.
A lot of things can happen to interfere with a scheduled workout. When that happens there is no use in getting upset about it. The trick is to do something every day, even if it only involves taking a walk or doing some sit-ups and calisthenics. For those times when you are away from home and can't follow your regular weight-training routine, I have included some substitute exercises that I use later on in the "Improvisational Training" section of this book.
The longest journey begins with the first step. This is as true with weight training as anything else. The only way to get started is to start, but this involves making changes in your life.
Making these changes can be difficult. We are used to living our lives in familiar, convenient patterns and it's tough to change. Beyond that, friends, family and co-workers often do not understand what it is you are trying to do, and getting their cooperation can be difficult.
Everyone is out to steal your time, and you have to be selfish about your training. From morning to night, other people make demands on your attention, and you just have to resist letting them take that 45 minutes you need for training. Sometimes they may even be resentful or jealous because you are doing something they cannot. But once they get used to the "new you," if they really care about you, they will accept it, and even forget that things were ever any different.
So get your equipment, find a place and the time to train, and get going. Jump right in -- believe me, the water's fine!
Copyright © 1981 by Arnold Schwarzenegger