Many people look up to professional bodybuilders and use them for inspiration and motivation.
Let’s go beyond simply looking at their workouts and see what makes them tick. What is the one thing we can learn from each of these 10 bodybuilding greats?
One thing I would like to point out before we get into what we can learn from these bodybuilding greats is the fact that these guys are genetically gifted. Some bodybuilders had zero obvious genetics towards bodybuilding but their gifts were quickly revealed once they started to train.
Whether you are looking to compete in bodybuilding or you are just looking for inspiration to get to the next level of your journey, we all can learn something from these inspirational bodybuilding greats.
Never Give Up
Kenneth “Flex” Wheeler is known for his flexibility including being able to do a complete split which is where his nickname came from.
Growing up in poverty, abused as a child, and having suicidal tendencies, Flex grew into what Arnold Schwarzenegger considers one of the greatest bodybuilders he has ever seen.
In 1994 Flex was involved in a near-fatal car accident that could have left him paralyzed. In 1999 later found out he had a form of kidney disease and retired from competitive bodybuilding in 2000 and continued to compete until 2002.
Ronnie Coleman mentions how Flex Wheeler was the best bodybuilder he had ever competed against.
Long Story Short: Never give up on your ambitions.
Use Form That Works For You
With the internet spawning “professionals” that have nothing better to do than to tell someone their form is shit, Jay Cutler says to find what works best for you.
The four-time Mr. Olympia mentions that just because your form looks sloppy or different, you could be getting the best muscle contractions possible.
Take Home Lesson: Textbook form works best most of the time, but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box sometimes to see what works best.
“The person with the biggest dreams is more powerful than the person with all of the answers”
Above is one of my favorite quotes from Kai Greene. Kai was doomed from the start and had been set up to fail since the beginning.
Fatherless and his mother giving him up at an early age, Greene grew up with a lot of hopelessness and anger. During his teenage years, Kai got his hands on a bodybuilding magazine and opened his eyes to what would become the pursuit to be the best bodybuilder ever.
Greene consistently talks in almost every video about the power of your mind and if you can see it and believe it, it can happen.
Take Home Lesson: It doesn’t matter, your past or current situation, if you believe in something enough and take action.
Don’t Change What Is Working
With a record breaking 26 wins in his IFBB pro career, Ronnie Coleman is a believer in not changing what is working.
Throughout his 17 competitive years, Ronnie’s training split remained virtually unchanged. Many other lifters tried to convince Coleman to switch things up and try new methods, but he saw no reason to do so.
Message From Ronnie: Quit changing workout routines to chase the “new shiny object.” Most lifters never stick to any routine and never realize if you are making substantial progress or not.
Stimulate Your Muscles, Don’t Kill Them
Lee Haney is in his mid-50s and is in less pain and has fewer injuries than most bros in your gym.
Lee Haney’s catchphrase has always been “stimulate, don’t annihilate” which he lived every day he trained.
Haney has been adamant that bodybuilders shouldn’t train like powerlifters and has always been concerned with having a strong mind-muscle connection and creating the best muscle contractions possible.
Take Home Lesson: Quality contractions over pure weight. If you work on mindfully contracting your muscles properly, you don’t need to lift massive amounts of pain and injury-inducing weight.
Quality Over Quantity
Back in the day, the only way to train was high volume, high frequency. It was normal to hear someone like Arnold training each body part 3 times per week and 15 or more working sets per body part.
Following the wisdom from Mike Mentzer and other bodybuilders who preached a training style that emphasizes on recovery, Dorian would train 4 times per week and only hitting each muscle with a handful of exercises.
Take Home Lesson: While you don’t have to exactly copy the way someone trains, you can use their knowledge to train differently than the mainstream and make some great progress.
Proportion And Symmetry Make Your Physique
Zane is a three-time Mr. Olympia and his physique sparked a movement from mass to aesthetics in the bodybuilding industry.
Frank was notorious for using light weights for his aesthetic and symmetrical physique. Joe Weider urged him to use heavier weights and that helped him find the size necessary to be successful at the Olympia.
Take Home Lesson: Zane is one of only 3 men who beat Arnold Schwarzenegger and he was also one of the very few to win being under 200 pounds. Spend mindful time and effort into creating an aesthetic and symmetrical physique.
Put Your Ego Aside And Grow
After cresting 40 years, Dexter seemed to be winding down an awesome bodybuilding career. With 3 Mr. Olympia titles and 3 Arnold Classic titles, Dexter seemed to know exactly what to do for success.
Dexter set his ego aside and hired George Farah as his nutrition coach and moved out to Venice Beach to train under Charles Glass. Since Dexter knew he hadn’t been doing what he’s supposed to in the kitchen or gym, he hired people to help him remedy this.
If Dexter had been stubborn and ego-driven, he has admitted to retiring years earlier than he did.
Take Home Lesson: Set your ego aside and do what’s best for your success.
Lift Heavy As Hell
Franco, a longtime friend of Arnold, competed in the first World’s Strongest Man competition and placed 5th overall. Not only did he weigh much less than his opponents but he came from a bodybuilding background.
Franco was forced to drop out of the competition due to an extremely bad injury he incurred after competing in the “refrigerator race.” This race was a downhill race where you had a refrigerator strapped to your back. Franco stumbled and dislocated his leg all while on national television.
After that, Franco came back and won the 1980 Mr. Olympia.
Take Home Lesson: Franco was considered one of the world’s strongest men and also was an award-winning bodybuilder. Unlike Zane, Franco was an advocate for lifting heavy as hell.
Do Whatever It Takes To Win
You didn’t think I would write an article about some of the bodybuilding greats and not have Arnold in it? Shame on you.
Arnold dreamed about moving to the US since he was 10 years old and saw bodybuilding as a way to do so. At the age of 21 with poor English skills, he trained at Gold’s Gym in Venice under Joe Weider.
Arnold wrote an autobiography and weight-training guide in 1977 called Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder and became a huge success.
Arnold has changed the sport of bodybuilding for good and thanks to his tenacity he’s given us all a sport, venues, and plenty of motivational pictures to get any meathead pumped up.
Take Home Lesson: Have a dream and do whatever it takes to get you there.