Arnold Schwarzenegger is the youngest man ever to be named Mr. Universe.
An Austrian-born American, Schwarzenegger is the most famous bodybuilder in history. His journey from Austrian meathead to Hollywood legend is one of the all-time top American success stories.
Schwarzenegger won more than 20 international bodybuilding titles between 1965 and 1980. He was named Mr. Olympia – the most prestigious event in bodybuilding — seven times, including six in a row from 1970 to 1975. Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Olympia record stood for over a decade until Lee Harvey won his eighth career title in 1991. Fascinated by the physiques of the bodybuilding icons he saw on the big screen while growing up in Austria — Steve Reeves, Reg Park and Johnny Weissmuller — Schwarzenegger was obsessed with developing lean muscle mass. He trained four to six hours daily, and dreamt of moving to the U.S, believing bodybuilding was the ticket that would get him there.
Arnold is the most important figure in bodybuilding history. He became the face of the sport while competing, then remained involved by writing books and monthly magazine columns while also presiding over bodybuilding contests. By generating a new international audience for bodybuilding, Schwarzenegger morphed into a sports icon.
Born July 30, 1947, in Thai, Austria – a small village bordering the Styrian capital city of Graz – Arnold Alois is the younger of two sons born to Gustav and Aurelia Schwarzenegger. His father was the local police chief who, in 1938, had voluntarily joined the Nazi party and served in World War II. He was discharged in 1943 after contracting malaria. Gustav was 15 years older than Aurelia, and ran a strict Roman-Catholic household. “Back then in Austria it was a very different world,” Arnold recalled. “If we did something bad or we disobeyed our parents, the rod was not spared.”
The family attended Mass every Sunday, and Gustav was abusive, often beating his son with a belt. The German-Austrian mentality was to break the individual – to get him to conform. But young Arnold refused to relent. “I told myself, ‘This is not going to be for much longer,” he said years later, “because I’m going to move out of here. I want to be rich. I want to be somebody.”
Gustav had a preference for his elder son, Meinhard, over Arnold. His “strong and blatant” favoritism stemmed from Gustav’s unfounded suspicion that Arnold was not his biological child. Money was tight. One of the highlights of Schwarzenegger’s youth was when the family bought a refrigerator. As a boy, he played several sports, then picked up his first barbell in 1960, when his soccer team was working out at a local gym. At 14, he chose bodybuilding over soccer and started an intensive training program with former Mr. Austria, Kurt Marnul, at a gym in Graz.
Arnold was so dedicated as a youngster that he broke into the gym on weekends [when it was closed] to train. “It would make me sick to miss a workout,” said Schwarzenegger. “I knew I couldn’t look myself in the mirror the next morning if I didn’t do it.” At 15, Schwarzenegger studied psychology to learn more about the power of the mind over the body. He entered his first bodybuilding event at 17, finishing runner-up at a contest in Graz.
During Schwarzenegger’s early years in bodybuilding, he also competed in weightlifting contests. At 6’1”, 260 pounds [his weight when competing in bodybuilding events was 235], Arnold could bench press 520, squat 545 and deadlift 710 pounds. He won two weightlifting titles in 1964 and ’65, and won powerlifting championships in 1966 and ’68. In 1967, he lifted a 560-pound stone between his legs while standing on two footrests to claim the Munich stone-lifting contest.
Schwarzenegger served in the Austrian Army in 1965 to fulfill the one-year service commitment required of all Austrian males at the time. He went AWOL during basic training to take part in the Junior Mr. Europe contest, which he won. Upon his return, he spent the night in military prison. “Participating in the competition meant so much to me,” Schwarzenegger later said, “that I didn’t carefully think through the consequences.”
In 1966, the 19-year-old Schwarzenegger moved to London, where he trained under his boyhood idol, Reg Park. Two years later, he earned a Mr. International title. In September 1968, he moved to the U.S. Speaking little English, he landed in Los Angeles, where he trained at Gold’s Gym on Venice Beach under Joe Weider. The work paid off, as in 1970 Arnold became the youngest-ever Mr. Universe, at 23 [his record still stands]. Constantly seeking to better himself, Schwarzenegger took English classes at Santa Monica Community College and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, by correspondence.
Between 1967 and 1970, Schwarzenegger won five Mr. Universe titles, including a win over Park in 1970. In 1975, he agreed to allow himself to be filmed during the 100 days leading up the Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia competitions. The result — Pumping Iron — is a docudrama that elevated global awareness of the sport while making the chiseled Austrian a household name.
After winning his sixth straight Mr. Olympia title in 1975, Arnold retired to pursue a career as an actor. While training for his role in Conan five years later, he got into such superb shape that he decided he wanted to win Mr. Olympia one last time. Schwarzenegger kept his plan a secret. He was hired to provide network TV color commentary for the 1980 contest, and announced at the last minute that while he was there he would compete. After winning Mr. Olympia for a record seventh time, Schwarzenegger retired from competition for good.
Schwarzenegger’s brother, Meinhard, died in a car crash in May 1971. He was driving drunk and died instantly. His father Gustav died of a stroke in December 1972. Arnold did not attend either funeral. His former girlfriend, Barbara Baker, recalled that Schwarzenegger informed her of his father’s death without emotion and that he never spoke of his brother. In Pumping Iron, Schwarzenegger claims he missed the services because he was training.
An actor, filmmaker, businessman, investor, author, philanthropist, and activist, Mr. Schwarzenegger served two terms as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 to 2011. His films have grossed over $ 3 billion worldwide, and he will appear in a Terminator movie this summer.