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Bigger and Badder

Ron Partlow
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Arnolds Rhythm

I remember watching Pumping Iron for the first time when I was 16. I’d already been training for a couple years with dreams of being a “real” bodybuilder one day. My friends and I probably watched that old VHS tape a few dozen times; it explored so many avenues. The history, motivation, instruction, psychology, and culture of bodybuilding were all there. As much as we liked the humour, story, and competition scenes, it was the hardcore training that we focused on more than anything. Watching him train and hearing him speak about the workouts was where the real gold was.

I remember putting on certain parts of the movie while I was getting ready for the gym. If it was back day, we would watch the scene of Arnold doing T-bar and seated cable rows, with those long arms reaching all the way to his toes and then pulling the handle with clean yet explosive reps, right until the handle hit him in the abs.

On chest day, we would watch the parts where he was doing flat dumbell flyes and cable crossovers. You could see his pecs opening up all the way to a full stretch and then contracting hard against the weight, bursting with striations until his hands came all the way together in front of him. Another thing we learned was that Arnold could kick ass and chew gum at the same time, so I would chew gum when I trained, too!

Leg day meant squats, because that was the only exercise where I could hear Arnold and Ed Corney counting in my head. Arnold’s voice saying, “I want to see two more. No matter what.”

Then, with only one rep left, Ed says “God damn!” and cranks out that last rep with Arnold giving him one fingertip spot.

For years after that, whenever I found myself looking down the barrel of a rep that seemed impossible, I would say “God damn!” That would always give me a boost.

Aside from all the bad-assery (and gum chewing), there was much to learn from mimicking the form Arnold used. He seemed to have a rhythm to everything, with some natural body movement in a way that helped put more stress on the muscle, not less.

For example, watch him do the concentration curls in the scene where he’s talking about sex/the pump. He curls the dumbbell up to the top with a little bit of swing, just to make it possible to curl that weight up. He pulls the biceps through the full concentric portion of the rep, then lowers it with full tension on the biceps. It’s subtle, and I’m not sure Arnold ever meant for it to be analyzed like that. Inducing a massive pump just felt good to him, and it kept a lot of tension on the target muscle. He found his style and rhythm, and it clearly worked for him. It’s also still a weapon I use in my arsenal. Some exercises simply feel better and more natural with a little body movement, plus you get to resist heavier negatives, which is a great way to overload things. Get what I’m saying?

Train like hell,
Ron Partlow

For another article about how Arnold trained, ie. Using a two-a-day routine, click here!