Bodybuilding changed my life, but it was Pumping Iron that put me on the map. It was 1975, and I was competing against Arnold for the title of Mr. Olympia for the second year in a row. He was my idol at the time and 5 years my senior. He was Mr. Olympia and a bodybuilding champ. I was the hungry kid from Brooklyn that still trained in the neighborhood basement. Here are the top 10 things I learned from living and looking back on the days of 'Pumping Iron.’
KEEP YOUR MIND CLEAN AND CLEAR
Pumping Iron was an experience unlike any other. For the most part, it was real, but with any film there was still some storytelling to be done. Some considered my role to be the sulking underdog. Although it was played up in the movie, that was a lot of who I was at the time. I was constantly arguing with my father Matty. Our dynamic was stressful and left me angry most of the time. It caused me to doubt my own instincts, losing the focused I needed going into competition. You can't accomplish anything great if your mind is not focused on the task. If you are worrying about your health, your loved ones, or your opponent, then you're not focused. Make sure your relationships and your life are in order when taking on a challenge. It will make all the difference when it’s game time.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
I don't believe I trained as hard as I could have for the 1975 Mr. Olympia. I know there was more I could have done. It's not a good feeling to believe that. Don't make the same mistake. I know I never did again. Give everything you do 110%.
HAVE A PLAN B
Tanning matters. While Arnold and the guys trained in the California sun, I was training in a Brooklyn basement. I tried to get a tan right before the competition and couldn't. I felt like a rookie next to them. Psychologically, I believe it set me back. Without a tan - the right one for you - the judges may miss the details of your physique you've been working so hard to build. Have a plan A, B, and C for the important things in your life.
LEARN TO USE WHAT YOU'VE GOT
If you've got the muscle, it's in the bag, right? Wrong. You've got to learn how to pose. If you don't know how to pose, you can't show others what you've got. It's like owning a fast car and not knowing how to drive. Arnold and Franco were big on practicing their posing. I didn't realize how much more they worked on it than me until the pre-judging.
UNDERSTAND THE TOOLS OF YOUR TRADE
Every builder needs cardio, but cardio was not part of my routine when I trained for the 1975 Mr. Olympia. I didn't think I needed it. So many builders, myself included, thought that calories burned were calories burned. At a basic level, this may be true. But when it comes to health, performance, and strength, nothing can be further from the truth. Builders need cardio for fat loss, to give their muscles a break from heavy weights, and for general cardiovascular fitness. I learned the hard way that training is a full body job.
WE ALL WANT THE SAME THINGS
Pumping Iron showed the world that we are all just people. Builders are not just meatheads with one thing on our minds, but complex people with complex dreams. In the same way, it made me realize that I wasn't alone. The same challenges, fears, and goals that drove me were driving an entire generation of men and women. It was educational, inspiring, and comforting.
YOU CAN "TRAIN" FOR ANYTHING
There is a special nature to the way a documentary film is produced. A lot like a reality show, the cameras are always on. Because they deal with real life, they need to capture all the boring stuff in order to get that great moment of drama. Over the course of the production, I got used to having cameras in my face. So much so that I finally forgot they were there - eventually relaxing enough to be myself. One of those moments was the scene where I'm peeling the tangerine. Pumping Iron helped me prepare for my future roles by getting me used to the camera, but it also taught me that I could "train" for anything I wanted to accomplish with enough time, dedication, and focus.
EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED
During the 1975 shows, I truly learned to diet properly. I think dieting is a much harder science to tackle than the actual building of muscle. It changes with your body composition, mood, method of training, etc. You need to really know yourself to begin to tackle a proper diet that's going to transform your body.
EVENTUALLY EVERYTHING GOES MAINSTREAM
I look at something like the incredible popularity of CrossFit and I can't believe how far fitness has come these past few decades. When I got started, building was thought of as a fringe sport for men who were born looking like superheroes. Through education, time, and exposure, others now see bodybuilding as a science, a sport, and a legitimate part of the fitness world. To see that happen has been amazing.
SOMETIMES YOU JUST GET LUCKY
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