Easily, the most well-known bodybuilder of all time is Arnold. I don’t even have to say his last name (Schwarzenegger), and you know exactly who I am talking about. He won six Mr. Olympia competitions in a row, retired for 5 years, and then came back to win another. He also became one of the highest paid actors of all time and won himself the executive authority of the state as Governor of California. To say the guy is an overachiever is a massive understatement.
When he competed as a bodybuilder, he was known for his massive proportions. The size of his muscles and the overall look of his body ushered in a new era for bodybuilding, as he pushed competitors to try to match him. He was the first “mass monster” of bodybuilding.
When I was a skinny kid in the 90’s, Arnold was at his peak of fame. I loved the movies he starred in, from Predator to Kindergarten Cop. Naturally, he was my biggest inspiration when I first started working out. My first muscle building book was “Arnolds Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding.” I had the original black and white version. As someone who was naturally painfully skinny, and as someone who LOVED Arnold movies, I thumbed through that book almost daily. I memorized the exercises, workouts, and all of Arnold’s advice. I believed that with time, effort, and consistency, I would gain as much muscle as Arnold had.
I was obviously naive. I remember the first time I realized that no matter what I did, I probably would not look like Arnold. It was about two years into consistent weight training when one of my friends asked if they could workout with me. Mark was a neighborhood friend who I would hang out with after school. He was about my height but was naturally “built.” He wasn’t naturally skinny like I was. He wanted me to train and teach him. He was technically my first client.
Our first workout quickly became a competition. We were teenage boys with new high levels of testosterone and underdeveloped brains, so this was to be expected. As I structured our workout and tried lifting as much as I could, I was surprised to see that Mark was barely behind me. Here I was with 2 full and consistent years of weight training under my belt and this kid was ALMOST as strong as I was. None the less, I was pleased because I still “won.” It was the last time I would out-lift Mark.
He continued joining my workouts, and his strength gains seemed superhuman when compared to mine. He not only passed me, but he progressed so fast that I thought he was on steroids. He gained muscle like it was his job, while I struggled and scraped and fought for every single half a pound of gain. “Something was up,” I thought. Then I realized exactly what was up.
One day after our workout, Mark’s parents came by to visit. His dad was a monster of muscle!! His mom was even more impressive!! “Are your parents’ bodybuilders,” I asked Mark. He laughed. “No way man, my dad played football in college but now he just works on his computer. My mom was a track athlete in college but now she’s a teacher. Sometimes they go hiking but that’s about it.” That was my first lesson in genetics. Mark was an EASYGAINER while I was a HARGAINER. His body naturally wanted to build strength and muscle, while mine wanted to stay skinny. I realized that genetics play a huge role in how much muscle we can gain and how fast we gain it.
You might think that this discouraged me from working out ever again. It didn’t. Not even close. After I realized just how much genetics can affect our ability to build muscle, I also realized that it didn’t matter to me. I was born with my genetics and I cannot change them. It was better for me to focus on what I can change instead. I learned about workout programming, diet and supplements. I became an expert on muscle building for the naturally skinny hardgainer types, like myself. I made it my career and I was good at it.
Arnold put in a tremendous amount of work and effort into building his physique which led to his dominance in the sport of bodybuilding, but make no mistake, he was NOT a hardgainer or a naturally skinny guy. Like all high-level bodybuilders or strength athletes, Arnold possessed AMAZING muscle building genes.
Although 99.999% of you who are reading this article do not have the rare muscle building genes of Arnold, you can still greatly improve your physique. Many of you can look and perform impressively when compared to the average inactive person, lift weights and train for YOU. Regardless of your genetic blueprint, you can improve upon it and reach your own potential, and you should. Wasted potential is on you. Skinny or not, if you apply the right training programming, diet and lifestyle, you WILL shock yourself with just how much muscle and strength you can gain.