Arnold Schwarzenegger Shared How Powerlifting Improved His Bodybuilding

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Arnold Schwarzenegger kicked off his birthday this morning by reflecting on some of his fondest bodybuilding memories. In his monthly newsletter, he looked back on his days working out with Italian bodybuilder Franco Columbo, and revealed his career max bench press: 525 pounds.

“In those days, that was a big lift,” he says. (Respectfully, that ain’t too shabby today, either.) He says that he also competed in powerlifting competitions along with his more notable bodybuilding career, and that he won ” international powerlifting championships.”

Schwarzenegger then breaks down what a typical heavy day looked like in his prime. “I loved mixing in powerlifting with bodybuilding one day a week,” he says, still talking about the bench press. “I warmed up with 135, then 225, then 275, then 315, 375, then 405, then 455, then 495.” That would help him determine how much weight he could do for 3 reps—more or less 455 pounds, depending on the day.

“I would do 5-8 sets of 3 reps. It was a way to get my body used to lifting very heavy. And then I would take off the weight so it was only 315 and do as many reps as I could, and then I was finished with my bench press,” he says.

Naturally, this leads the Austrian Oak to a deeper lesson: If you’re just starting out, set big goals and work on a sustainable plan to hit them.

“What you learn is simple: failure is not losing, failure is part of growing. Before I lifted 500 pounds, do you know what I did? I failed to lift 500 pounds, not once, not twice, but tons of times.” That’s one of the best things the gym can teach you, he adds.

“Failure is not an end—it’s a means to an end.”

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