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July 31, 2013: Iron Fitness Santa Monica, CA
Arnold Schwarzenegger is curling, which is something he’s done with great regularity for the past 50 years or so; something that comes as instinctively to him at this point as sinking a birdie putt does to Tiger Woods and swaggering does to Mick Jagger. To be precise, Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing preacher curls on a plate-loaded Hammer Strength unit, and he’s liking how they feel.
“This is good. You know why? Because it’s actual weights. You don’t stick a pin in a stack—you put real plates on it to load it. That makes a big difference.”
With every rep the cephalic vein—the one that runs longitudinally down the center line of the biceps—on each of his arms expands a little more, as smaller ones on his forearms form a tree root relief. What’s happening to Arnold’s arms is called, in bodybuilding parlance, “the pump,” and if you know anything about the man doing the preacher curls, you know his thoughts on it—or at least the ones he wanted the world to hear in the 1977 docudrama Pumping Iron.
“I was able to get the big biceps because I always curled with my wrists straight. You see what I’m doing? Sergio [Oliva, three-time Mr. Olympia] would curl the wrists up as he lifted the weight. That’s why he had massive forearms, but average biceps. You have to keep your wrists straight.”
These aren’t the arms of a man who turned 66 a day ago, and if they’re not quite the arms of a 26-year-old Arnold, they’re far more muscular than those of most any other 26-year-old. Yet, as opposed to four decades ago, when Arnold was regularly getting his pump on en route to seven Mr. Olympia and five Mr. Universe titles, this workout is more a skirmish than an all-out war with the weights. Still, it’s a wholly impressive sight. This is 66! you think to yourself.
With his subject in full-on pump mode, Muscle & Fitness photographer Dustin Snipes is snapping away from Arnold’s left side, surrounded by soft box lights and umbrellas that are positioned and repositioned by attentive assistants who react to his direction with rehearsed efficiency. Dustin has been prepped for this—Arnold’s first real training shoot for a publication in more than three decades—and he knows to catch the inside of Arnold’s right biceps in action. He’s aware that it has the sharper peak when flexed than his left.
If you look at older shots of Arnold you can see it—not that the left is smaller. It may even be fuller than the right one. Yet whenever he cranked up into his signature single-arm biceps pose, it was the right arm Arnold held aloft, to display that Matterhornian peak2 of his. Sure, it’s real picayune stuf to most, but Arnold fanboys notice this kind of thing, and if there’s any magazine that caters to Arnold fanboys, it’s Muscle & Fitness.
“Are we ready now? Okay, let’s do this.”
Arnold moves fast. From poor immigrant to champion bodybuilder to real estate mogul to movie star to governor, and back to movie star, Arnold has lived more lives within the span of his own than Forrest Gump—and they’re all cooler, to boot. Forrest simply shook hands with a president. Arnold befriended several and was the subject of a proposed Constitutional change so that he could run for the offi ce himself. It’s easy to imagine that Arnold sees the rest of us moving through our own lives the way a hummingbird does—as if we’re in slo-mo. So after he’s when arnold sat down at the hammer strength curl machine, it didn’t take more than a few reps before the surface veins of his legendary guns began to stretch their dermal confines. completed a set of curls, and he sees the lights being adjusted, the umbrellas repositioned, the aperture changed, and a few photos shot, he springs into action. It’s time to move.
“Why don’t you shoot it from the other side? You’ve got all that light coming in.”
Indeed, the back wall of Iron Fitness features a roll-down garage door, which, when opened fully on a sunny summer’s day like today, allows for a good portion of the gym f oor to be bathed in a golden glow that casts soft shadows and creates sharp glints in sweat. Screw the peak of the right biceps. Arnold says to shoot from the other side, so you move to the other side.
Catlike, Dustin darts behind Arnold as he calls to one of his assistants to bring a light for the new setup.
“You don’t need lights. It’s perfect as it is. artie Zeller didn’t need any lights at all.”
July 31, 1973: Gold’s Gym, Venice, CA
Arnold Schwarzenegger is curling, which is something he’s done with great regularity for the past 10 years or so; something that comes as instinctively to him at this point as sinking birdie putts does to Jack Nicklaus and swaggering does to Mick Jagger. To be precise, Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing seated incline curls, and he’s liking how they feel. It’s a little more than f ve weeks out from the 1973 IFBB Mr. Olympia competition, which is returning to New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music after a two-year tour of Europe. Having won the title the past three years, Arnold is the favorite to take home the $1,000 first-place check, but not by much.
Last year he barely eked out a win over Sergio Oliva, his most formidable rival—a man who had a three-win streak of his own going until Arnold ended it with his frst Olympia victory, in 1970. Sergio sat out 1971, allowing a 246-pound Austrian Oak4 to defend his title unopposed in Paris. Yet last year, perhaps thinking Sergio would pull a 1971 and not show up, Arnold was a little less than his typically impeccable self, and an all-time best Sergio, which is to say monstrous, came a hair’s breadth from unseating the young Austrian. Some would have given the 1972 title to Sergio. Even Arnold himself wasn’t positive whether it was his physique or his superior showmanship and strategizing that won the day for him.
So, with the prospect of facing the mighty Cuban once again (despite his plans, Sergio would be barred from competing in the 1973 Mr. O, due to his having competed in a rival organization the prior year), not to mention the amazingly aesthetic Serge Nubret5 and the powerfully compact Franco Columbu6, Arnold is leaving nothing to chance. His workouts are as brutally, bone-achingly, sweat-drippingly intense as they’ve ever been, and Artie Zeller is there to capture them.
The New York-born Zeller was a bodybuilder of some renown in the 1950s, often appearing as a model in Joe Weider’s magazines. In the ’60s he succumbed to the lure of Southern California, where he went to work for Joe, on the other side of the lens. Artie became Joe’s go-to guy, and Joe had him shooting all of the day’s biggest bodybuilding stars—on the beach and in the gym. Just no studio shots. That’s because, as a self-taught photographer, Artie wasn’t expert at the intricacies of lights. So, Joe left the studio work to guys like Russ Warner, Jimmy Caruso, and Bob Gardner.
Yet, because of his limitations, Artie learned how to get the most out of ambient lighting, becoming the sweatbox Dorothea Lange, in which he took tranche de vie black-and-whites that would capture a very special time in bodybuilding history for posterity. His beach shots would become covers and advertisements in Muscle Builder (the forebear to Muscle & Fitness) and Joe’s nowdefunct Mr. America. What he shot in the original Gold’s Venice8 ranks as among the most iconic bodybuilding photography of all time, inspiring millions of guys the world over to pick up weights in the hopes that they, too, might one day be the subject of one of his shoots.
As Arnold reps out his seated incline curls with a pair of 50-pound dumbbells, Artie instinctively crouches a couple of feet back and to the right of his subject with his back to the gym’s front entrance, which features two sets of six-foot-tall windows facing west, toward the Pacifc Ocean. He quickly snaps of a series of photos, capturing the greatest bodybuilder of his era—maybe ever—at his peak, doing what he does better than anyone else. And with these windows at his back, and the skylights above, the results are picture perfect. Artie Zeller didn’t need any lights at all.
July 31, 2013: Iron Gym, Santa Monica, CA
Arnold Schwarzenegger is wearing calfhigh blue-and-black, yellow-toed Argyle socks—the kind worn by men of infuence who understand the statement such a sartorial fourish makes. That is, when one peeks out from under the neatly hemmed cuf of a fnely tailored pair of slacks. When worn sans shoes—as they are today—and paired with a T-shirt and shorts in a Santa Monica gym during a workout, the statement is more Go ahead: Ask me if I care. The socks stay—Dustin simply crops his subject at the waist, the better to focus on those still-regal arms.
With the crushing pressure of running the country’s most populous state three years in the rearview, Arnold has apparently found (a little) more time to take care of those arms—and the body—that has so richly taken care of him, which has the shoot’s crew smiling in approval, if not a bit of relief. “He’s back,” someone notes.
Of course, there was some small concern that the Arnold who would arrive at the shoot might be the Arnold from The Photo9. You know the one: He’s on a beach, in a bathing suit, bearing little physical resemblance to the Mr. Olympia winner/action hero icon who makes everyone look like girly men in comparison.
For whatever reason, that paparazzi shot, greedily snapped shortly after Arnold paid the price for years of athletic supremacy on an operating room table, served as a public point of reference for the man’s physique since it was taken more than a decade ago. But that’s not the Arnold of today.
“That’s a good shot right there. That’s the cover shot. See? We did it again!”
Today’s Arnold is leaner, more muscular, and more… Arnold. Today’s Arnold stands tall in front of a seamless white backdrop set up in a corner of Iron Fitness, looking far more Terminator than Governator. He confdently folds his arms, chest upraised, an assured smile creasing his weathered face, and he looks fantastic. Dustin fres of a handful of shots, one of which graces this cover.
Arnold Schwarzenegger steps of the seamless to look at them on Dustin’s MacBook, and he sees what we see—that he looks as good on-screen as he does in person. And then—just then— it hits you. This is 66!