This is one of the books Arnold published before he became a household name. Although, considering he’d racked up an unheard-of six Mr Olympia wins by 1977, that isn’t true if we’re talking about a household of bodybuilding fans.

It ticks all the boxes. Semi-literate but inspiring monologues about following your dreams, advice on picking up girls, pictures of the Austrian Oak lifting weights and posing on stage, scientifically questionable training advice, and so on.

The Education of a Bodybuilder starts off with Arnold’s life story, which (at that point in time) meant going from being a teen in Barely-on-the-Map Austria to the world’s most successful bodybuilder. He talks about his motivation for getting into bodybuilding, how he reacted to success and failure, and even some pretty blunt tirades against Catholicism. It’s remarkable that this book wasn’t used against him in his political career.

Sometimes it’s sanitary enough to be untrustworthy (his dad was never anything more than a police chief! Don’t ask questions!), although there’s some fun details about how a gay gym owner put the moves on him. Good to see that muscle schmoes were as common in the 70s as they are today.

But that’s the good half the book. The second half is a generic “How to get big muscles fast” manual that’s way worse than just reading random articles on the internet. In one part, he says that if you weigh 150 pounds, doing a push-up is as good as bench pressing a 150 pound barbell. Earlier in the book he talks about an exercise called “the Arnold Press” and says he’ll explain what it is later in the book. The Arnold Press is never mentioned again. In another section he emphasizes that you must do calf-raises with a lot of weight, but in the accompanying picture he’s doing calf-raises with a meager four plates.

Otherwise, it suffers from vagueness. He talks constantly about “tuning” and “tightening up” your body. What does that mean? Bigger muscles? Less fat? He talks about the power of the mind and how to have the will of a champion, and while that’s useful, I think new bodybuilders would be helped more by an explanation of macronutrient ratios and correct posture and form. Needless to say, all of his training advice must be viewed in light of the fact that he’s a steroid user with really good genetics.

You can find used copies of this for thirty bucks. Read the bio. Do whatever you want with the training advice.

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