What You Think is What You Get
by Arnold Schwarzenegger
When it comes to bodybuilding, the mind is almost as important as the body. The champion bodybuilders we have known have been so motivated that they practically willed their muscles to grow. But the mind is important for another reason. To succeed in bodybuilding or in any other sport, you need to learn to think. You have to understand what you’re doing. You have to master training techniques. You have to go beyond the basic principles of bodybuilding and find out what really works for you. You must develop your own instincts just as you develop your muscles and learn to listen to them. Sure, you have to train hard, but it won’t do that much good unless you also train smart.
Of course, that all comes with time. In the beginning, every bodybuilder should stick pretty much to the basics. When you are starting, you can’t train according to “how you feel” because you have no idea what correct training feels like. That makes experience. The trick is to master the correct training techniques, get used to how working out this way feels, and then you can begin to rely on “feel” or “instinct” to guide you.
Like other bodybuilders, we started out doing the basic exercises. Over time, experimenting in our own workouts, thinking about what we were doing. We found that we could do many sets for chest or for lats, train these muscles with as much intensity as possible, but we still didn’t get as good a result as when we supersetted the back and chest – combined a pulling movement with a pressing movement. But this same technique does not necessarily apply to every muscle, nor will every bodybuilder get the same good results training like this that we did. You must learn all of the relevant techniques, and then study how each technique affects you as an individual. This is the true art of bodybuilding.
The first step in this process is to understand exactly what you are doing in the gym, and to learn to interpret the feelings you experience from day to day as you go through your training routine. Remember, if you contemplate ever becoming a competitive bodybuilder, your opponents will probably know just as much about technique as you. What will make the difference is the degree to which you have been able to utilize your own instincts and feelings.
No matter how advanced a bodybuilder gets, there are still questions that arise, which is another reason you have to use your mind – to analyze what you’re doing and evaluate your progress. Even a Mr. Olympia can find himself unhappy with his progress in the gym and begin to experiment with various training principles to find something that works better. This is all the more reason to learn as much as possible about different principles and ways of training, so you will understand what alternatives are available to you.