10 Lessons Learned From Watching “Pumping Iron”


anorld posing at mr olympia

Every now and then there are certain movies that are considered classics. “Pumping Iron” is one good example of this. Every person into fitness training should set aside 90 minutes and dive into the golden era bodybuilding.

You don’t need to be an actual bodybuilder to really enjoy it.

Finally after years of training I got around watching it. Well overdue some might say and it probably is. I really enjoyed it. The movies is really good at building the atmosphere of the golden days and establishing the fine line between friendship and competitiveness. I will not be turning this into a review of the movie. Rather I’d like to talk about the lessons one can take from the movie. The best thing we can do is to learn from the best. So here we go.

1. Have a Vision

Arnold side chest pose in pumping iron movie


If you’ve been following Arnold for a while you would definitely have heard this one. He talks about it very often.

To reach a certain destination or to accomplish a goal you need to have a clearly defined vision. Otherwise you will be just drifting away. Without a proper vision about what you want in life you will be lost. Things will be happening to you as opposed to you making things happen. Think about it. This is relevant to everything not just working out, you need to have a destination if you want to actually get somewhere.

Have a clear vision and be the captain of your ship. Otherwise somebody else will be.

2. Have the Right Mindset

The mindset of a champion. What exactly seperates the good from the best? Well this alone is worth an entire article if not even a book. And there are books about that.

If you really desire to be a winner you will realize with time what it takes. You start realizing that you need to develop a hard caprice. This hard caprice will help you leave outside everything that doesn’t get you closer to achieving your goals. Separating what is beneficial for you is vital in order to maintain a better focus on your fitness goals.

3. The Pump

I’m sure even people that have never seen the movie knew I was going to mention the pump. Almost every Arnold fan has seen the part where he talks about the pump. And if you haven’t be warned dear friend it is, lets call it, a very awkward part of the movie.

Arnold talks about the pump and how it is one of the most important things when making the muscles grow. But he takes the time to explain how it makes one feel. As he said he tried to make the explanation as relatable as possible.

I’m sure a few of you are already having a slight smile on their faces. But the important thing is that you cannot just push through the pain on a constant basis you need something that makes you feel good that sparkles your enthusiasm to achieve. At the same time it focuses on something else that I like to talk about often. Namely, listening to the body. Listen to your body and what it tells you. It is hard to learn that but it is well worth it.

4. Do Whatever It Takes

Arnold best physique chest


Watching “Pumping Iron” this is something that hit me really hard. I already know it, I mean who doesn’t. But the thing is that oftentimes we think we work hard until we meet with somebody that is working even harder. Then you say to yourself, “How is this even possible?” But it is.

It is all interlinked. Having a goal, having a vision, and the passion to be, to achieve, and the eagerness to leave something behind – a legacy. When you find what brings up all these emotions in you only then will you be working your ass off. If you are not utilizing your full potential – then somebody else will.

5. Competition Is Not Only in the Gym

Although in bodybuilding it is all about the best physique the competition is always on multiple levels. Such is the case in every aspect of our lives.

Take both examples of Mike Katz and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mike lost to Ken Waller who decided to hide his t-shirt as a way mess with his mind a little bit before the competition. Then later in the movie we saw a brief moment of Arnold having breakfast with Lui Ferigno and his family. They all were on this breakfast table for the same reason. To explore the other competitor and mess with their mind.

You see competition is not just about skill or who is better looking. It is about psychology too. Ignoring this means you have a weak point and somebody will use it.

Arnold talks about it. He is not scared because he knows the value of the mind games.

Being the best of the best is not always about meaningless pleasantries. It doesn’t work like that and if you cannot do it you will not be on the top.  Which reminds of the Kai Greene and Phil Heath back in the days. But this is another story.

6. Be Careful with Advices

When at the gym it is very easy to listen to the biggest guy there. He is big so he must know his shit right? There is this scene where Arnold talks about advices. What I liked was his honesty about it. He says that when somebody comes to you for advice it is not that hard to give them the wrong advice.

On the flip side of the coin are the people that don’t know anything but still enjoy giving advice. It was some years ago that one guy approached me at the gym telling me how I should be doing my biceps curls. I didn’t even ask for advice. Years later he was still looking the same while this was not the case for me.

It is not always easy to distinguish the good from the bad advice.

7. Stay Positive No Matter What

Again this was another very honest part of the movie where Arnold talks about the importance of staying positive. He was telling the story of how he was always smiling during all those hard workout sessions. Why? Because he was happy, he was happy that those hard reps and training sessions were taking him one step closer to what he wants.

8. Get Rid of Negativity

Negativity is like a virus. It spreads and sometimes it is very hard to control as it gets a part of every part of your life. People that are suffering form OCD probably know what I mean. Arnold talks about it at great length. Covering some really personal family events where he had to say ‘no’ even though that probably hurt his mother.

It makes you think really. But you need to make sure you stop the negative thoughts from entering your mind. Otherwise they stay there they absorb the good thoughts and ideas and they distract you. And losing the focus is the last thing you want. Stress is a major factor when it comes to achieving better fitness goals. Oftentimes overlooked part of our lives but something I try to focus on a lot.

9. Always Try to Improve

Ballet training for better posing routine - Arnold


Even when you are the best; stay hungry for more; don’t ever be satisfied. Once you are satisfied you start to let your guard down. Your motivation starts to wither.

A really great scene was where Arnold was talking about his physique and how he worked constantly on improving every little detail and muscle until it was perfect; until there wasn’t anything else to improve. But he didn’t stop there. Then he worked on his posing and even thought he’s been doing it constantly and it is perfect down to the point he still tries to find something he can improve. And this is what separates him form the rest; the constant hunger to be better.

10. Don’t Forget to Have Good Time

Probably one of the things everybody can feel after watching “Pumping Iron”. They were all fierce competitors. But when it comes down to it they were good friends too. They enjoyed every training session. Take for example Arnold and Franco. They have been training partners and good friends for a long time.

It is not just the destination that is important but the journey to there too. And what good is being the best if you have no friends and nobody to spend some good time with.

Miro Ste

Hi fitness enthusiasts, my name is Miro, and I am the person behind everphysique.com. Here I share my tips and trick about how to achieve the best physique possible. I focus primarily on old school bodybuilding methods that have been tried and tested. With a huge focus on calisthenics and street workout.

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