This book is a classic. That's another word for "old", and when you read the training & nutritional advice you'll see what I mean. It's a split in two sections - the first describing his upbringing, and the second giving advice on how to get huge.
The first part of the book is most disturbing. In my opinion, anyone who gets so obsessed in such young age should take a minute to consider what life is all about. Granted, Arnold personifies the word "winner", with an outstanding drive and hunger for success. However, he also makes no secret of his willingness sacrificing everything - and I do mean everything - in order to become Number One.
Personally, I feel split between respect for his winning attitude, and deep disturbance by the total lack of balance in his personal life. There is definitely something to be learned here - on both sides. The most astonishing thing about him is his use of positive thinking - how he becomes a winner before even walking onstage, simply by using his mind to go beyond the competition. As the book hardly deals with anything but his training and competing (that was all he did, except have sex, drink beer, and dodge his parents) there's really not much to add in this section.
The funny part begins when he's giving advice to beginners in the second section. You can clearly tell two things:
- This is written by someone who uses considerable amounts of drugs.
- This person is definitely not a beginner himself.
For example, he happily advocates 2 hours of training in the morning, and another 2 hours at night. Every day. No rest days. And that's when he's keeping the training volume DOWN! Now, tell me a single natural athlete who could get away with this schedule without overtraining?
Another example is that he recommends pre-training - for beginners who haven't even set their foot in the gym yet (and is in really lousy shape) - to "warm up" by doing some simple exercises at home. Like, for example, doing 50 dips between two chairs. I'm sure many 40-year old men with beer guts can jump off the couch and blast away a nice 50 smooth reps. Heck, why not let the wife sit on his shoulders while doing it, so there's a bit of a challenge involved??
There's a generous amount of b/w photographs as well, and with few exceptions they display a form which would make any chiropractor's skin crawl. Or rub their hands, depending on what kind of people they are.
Suggestion: Don't fire your PT in favor of imitating Arnold's form.
Apart from the usual nonsense about "training the lower abs" (which is impossible, since it's all one, single muscle), he also suggests wearing lots of clothes when trying to shed fat (sweating it out, which doesn't work), do leg-pulls to burn the fat off the lower abs (spot-burning of fat doesn't work anywhere on the body), and lastly he mentions tanning as a good way to burn off fat from right under the skin (Yeah, right!).
An important note to make is that Arnold must be one of the most genetically blessed bodybuilders who ever lived. Why? Well, if you consider the timeline for his incredible gains - regardless of the amount of drugs he took - his growth goes beyond comprehension. This is all nice and dandy - he did it and got away with it, apparently - but if a beginner reads this book and expects that kind of progress ... Boy, you're up for the disappointment of your life!
On the nutritional side of things, Arnold suggests an interesting menu that isn't all that bad. Except for that a modern version would probably contain much less fat and more high-quality protein. The main thing that strikes me, which I believe is partly cultural, is the place of alcohol in his diet. He describes rather astonishing drinking-fests on a weekly basis, and suggests making bets for a mug of beer or a bottle of wine as a good way to trigger yourself and your training partner.
This book should be viewed as a motivational and inspirational book - as in: "See what CAN be done!", not "Wow, this is how I want to live!". Study the parts about focusing your mental power. Learn to master your mind. This is where the man is the indisputable Champ.
Forget about the training advice. Like most old training books, it's loaded with back-killers, myths, and various claims that were commonly accepted then but we know is bogus today. This doesn't mean Arnold, or anyone else from these days, are STUPID - it's just proof that we need to keep up to date with scientific developments as well as common sense.
Lastly, it has certain historical value as Arnold was one of the pioneers who made the sport what it is today.
On a scale from 1-10, I give this book a ...
I didn't favor this book, Arnold - The Education of a Bodybuilder too well, as far as training and nutritional advice goes. This next book is a considerably more recent topic: Blood'n'Guts by Dorian Yates, 6-time Mr.Olympia (also recently retired).
This book, as opposed to Arnold, is more focused on the actual workout regime than Dorian's personal life. Still, you can read a lot between the lines. Like Arnold, "humbleness" and "modesty" are not the best words to describe Dorian. But then again, he's The Champ, and that's all there's to it - He can get away with it, because he earned it (as opposed some wannabes with inflated egos that you might read about in the bodybuilder mags).
Naturally, a part of the book covers the winning attitude, the confidence, and the focus that is required - and acquired - through his astonishing career. He was a winner before even walking onstage, so once there it was only a matter of procedure until he could take the Sandow home. Sounds similar to Arnold?
Of course it does - the similarity in mindset is striking. And with running the risk of being repetitive since last week, this is what you should really focus on. If you've got the right attitude, the technical part regarding training and nutrition will come naturally - if you've got the technique right but lack the determination and focus, you'll never reach your full potential.
Dorian's background is a lot less polished and established than Arnold's. He was a typical street punk, a tattooed skinhead that got in trouble with the law and ended up in a youth correction facility. Once there he discovered that he had talent and made a choice - he'd get out of his current life and build a better one along with his body. While Arnold started out as a young teen, Dorian didn't get serious about the gym until he was 21 - then while working a tough job as an industrial cleaner. Not exactly your cute silver-spoon-in-mouth story.
On a personal note, I think Dorian's accomplishment is even more admirable than Arnold's - he not only became a true champion, Number One, he also did it against all odds, and in a conscious effort to make something of his life. And he did so while having a balanced life, as a responsible father and husband.
But like I said, the main focus of the book is on the training and nutrition rather than giving out details about his life. Dorian bases his training philosophy on the very opposite of Arnold's volume training. While Arnold would happily train legs three times a week (!), Dorian was more inclined to listen to Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty principles. These principles are based on making the most of as little as possible - train just hard enough to trigger a growth-response from the muscle, and then get the heck out of the gym so that you have energy left for optimal recuperation.
For one thing, this approach makes MUCH, MUCH more sense to natural athletes - as well as non-naturals, which I believe Dorian proved quite well through his 6 consecutive Mr.Olympia titles (in an age where the competition is about 10 times stiffer than it was in the 70's).
Right there, Blood'n'Guts has a clear advantage - it advocates actual, realistic training advice!
In addition, most of the movements described and pictured, are actually executed in a fairly correct manner. You won't see any crazy bent-over-broomstick-twists or leg-curls-with-back-curled-like-a-cheese-puff, that is sure to put extreme pressure on the spine. The training advice given is down-to-earth, easy to follow for beginners, and scaling smoothly to more advanced trainers. Everybody has something to learn from this book, apart from the mental aspects. The suggested training splits are sensible and not likely to make a natural athlete overtrained.
The same high-quality advice goes for the nutritional side of things. Granted, the menus isn't what I would suggest to the letter, but with a little tweaking and personal preferences it lays the foundation of a good nutritional schedule. Eat plenty, rest plenty, and train only as much as you have to is a known key for success - and Dorian puts it all together in a simple, comprehensive strategy.
This is a damn good book, for both beginners and more advanced trainers. Most of the training advice is sound, correctly executed, and easy to grasp. Even though there's not much about the man himself, you can read a lot between the lines - and Dorian is clearly one of the greatest men to have ever set foot on a bodybuilding stage. With both feet firmly planted on the ground, he went ahead and kicked the rest of the cool, trendy pros butts into next week by sheer determination. He was smart enough to recognize the winning strategies, and uncomplicated enough to stick to a course of action without fluttering around.
Now tell me anyone who doesn't have anything to learn from this guy?
On a scale from 1-10, I give this book a ...