Movie Muscles and The Body Politic
As Arnold’s film career took off in the late 1970s, his training shifted to suit whatever role he had to embody. As he told Men’s Fitness in 2012, “When I did Stay Hungry, [director] Bob Rafelson made me lose 30 pounds. So two-thirds of my training was cardio and one-third was weight training.” In contrast, when Arnold made Conan The Barbarian, “they wanted me to look like a powerful guy who had gotten his body through fighting and hard work. I had to be big and strong but not as defined, so I did heavier weight training.”
In general, throughout Arnold’s prime filmmaking years, he used lighter training loads and incorporated more circuit work, sometimes doing a set each of up to six exercises in a row without rest. The intense pace kept his heart rate up, allowing him to burn more calories and stay lean while keeping every muscle group pumped. It also allowed him to accomplish workouts in well under an hour, which made his travel and shooting schedules more manageable.
Arnold was renowned for having a massive trailer delivered to the sets of his movies, so that he could train between shooting scenes. He even allowed his co-stars to work out in it, including ex-wrestler (and fellow future governor) Jesse Ventura, which he used while making Predator in the Mexican jungle.
In 1997, Arnold underwent open heart surgery to repair a defective valve, and doctors cautioned him to reduce the intensity of his training going forward. In 2003, he needed shoulder surgery after an accident on the set of Terminator 3—the shoulder was operated on again in 2012.
As governor of California from 2003–2011, Arnold relied more on cardio, for heart health and to burn off fat. Though age and injuries have tempered his weight training in recent years, as his latest movies and paparazzi photos show, he’s still in incredible shape—and shockingly muscular for a man of 72 years. He still performs many of his own stunts, and commits to performing some physical activity daily, like riding his bike.
“My dream now is to live forever,” he told us. “But I doubt it.” Then he let out a big laugh.