Arnold Schwarzenegger recently turned 75 years old, but with a nonstop production calendar filled with action-packed projects it’s clear he still has plenty of fight left for audiences. The former champion bodybuilder who launched franchises like Terminator and Predator keeps his massive appeal by training daily to maintain those iconic muscles.
“The way I train has changed considerably from those five-hour workout sessions when I was bodybuilding to more of a maintenance way of working out,” says Schwarzenegger. What hasn’t changed is the actor’s dedication to fitness, carving out an hour and a half for the gym or bike no matter how busy the schedule.”
We spoke with Schwarzenegger from the set of his new Netflix spy series FUBAR about his dedication to staying at the top of his game, his illustrious career as a bodybuilder and movie star, and how he still dreams of making another Conan the Barbarian film 40 years after the first launched his career in Hollywood.
Men’s Journal: How does your current fitness routine look these days and how has it evolved?
Arnold Schwarzenegger: My current fitness routine includes cycling every day for around 45 minutes to an hour. I follow that by working out with weights for half an hour. The training itself has evolved a lot from when I was competing in bodybuilding, when I needed to work out for about five hours a day. The priorities change as you get older—and so does the training, going from those five hours of hard work to more of a maintenance way of working out. The important thing is that I’ve always taken the time to do it regularly as part of my daily routine. I’ve changed the routine over the years, depending on what I’m training for. It was different when I was training for weightlifting, powerlifting, or movies. I remember for Stay Hungry, the director wanted me to lose 30 pounds—so that I was down to 210 pounds. The thing about bodybuilding and weight training is you can tailor it and sculpt your body.
Do you keep a regular eating schedule to support your training?
There are no regular days. Right now I’m doing this series FUBAR in Canada and I went to work yesterday at 11 a.m. after working until the early morning. I still managed to get up in time to get a workout in quickly before they pick me up. That means the eating schedule is off as well. You’re getting your food from the movie company when they send it. They’ll drop off a breakfast burrito at your trailer at some point, and lunch may not come until, like, 8 p.m. For dinner last night at 1 a.m. they started serving pizza, which is not something I normally have, but I was so hungry it was what I needed to do to get the calories.
How do your famous protein shakes fit into the equation?
Because of how crazy the schedule is I always have my shaker with me filled with a shake. I put some fruit juice in there with a little of my Ladder protein powder, then shake it up. I’ll drink that throughout the day. That goes all the way back for me. I started making protein drinks when I was 15. The first thing I bought with the money I earned was a big mixer—this new product that came out in Austria. I’d put milk in there, yeast, skim milk powder, and some honey. I’d mix this up and it’d taste like shit, but I’d always have my protein drinks with me, dating back to the early ’70s when I was training for five hours a day so I could compete in bodybuilding—all while working and going to community college in Santa Monica. I’d be carrying around a protein powder shake everywhere.
They weren’t that great because that’s all we had available back then. I was actually the first one who would take my protein with a glass of Austrian Schnapps, because it got the protein into the blood. And I still do that from time to time. It works with tequila as well. But I was always looking for ways to make what I was drinking better. That’s why I was interested in working with LeBron [James] to create our own protein with Ladder, available at the Vitamin Shoppe. We wanted to make something clean that has exactly what it says on the label—while keeping in mind that these products are supplements that aren’t meant to replace your normal food. Hopefully you’re taking care of the other elements as well, like eating wisely, training regularly, and sleeping well.
How does bodybuilding transcend into other aspects of life?
Bodybuilding is like a game of chess. There are millions of moves to win in chess, and the same goes for bodybuilding. There are millions of exercises, training principles, supplements, and ways to win. There are ways to lose weight, gain weight, sustain your weight, or have more energy. As a whole, bodybuilding has been one of the hugest benefits to human physical development over the last 50 years. If you think about America alone, and how many gyms have opened up in that time—somewhere around 120,000—it’s just tremendous. That doesn’t even account for all the small private gyms. I think we’ve made incredible progress since the ‘70s—back when I said that my dream was to have more gyms than supermarkets. People were laughing at me for that, and now we’re at a point where people are working out in every hotel, high school, all over. That, in addition to the development and advancements of food and supplements, has been spectacular.
Conan the Barbarian was released 40 years ago, and has become a classic. What was it like training for that project?
I had just won the Mr. Olympia competition for the seventh time in Sydney, Australia—and literally two months later we’re on set filming Conan the Barbarian. The director, John Milius, came to the competition and told me he wanted me to be “less cut” because he didn’t think it looked natural for the period. So for those two months, I changed the way I was training and my diet to become more rounded. I wanted to look like a man who’d gotten his muscles from hard work in the world and not from very specific, organized training in the gym. I made the adjustments I needed to make. Milius was very happy and I looked exactly the way he wanted. Then, when I did the sequel to Conan, the director Richard Fleischer came to me saying he still wanted me to bulk up but be more defined. So that’s what I did, and I got much more defined than I was in the first one.
Now there are rumors of another Conan the Barbarian film that would see you return to the character you’d originally brought to life. Any thoughts on that?
I think it would be good to do a Conan movie that is kind of like Unforgiven, where we come back to Conan, now old, who’s sat on his thrown for 40 years. He’s become one those kings and leaders he despised when he was young. He’s fallen into that same trap. He’s become complacent—and fat. Now he’s eating too much food and enjoying all the women around. He’s an older man who’s not worth anything. He starts to feel like his life is slipping away, being taken away from him and he has to get his life back together—this being his reluctant comeback tale. There’s a great story in there, and Milius had already written a fantastic script about that comeback. There have been other great writers and directors who’ve shown interest in putting it together, but we don’t own the rights. They say there are some talks with Netflix, and I know a lot of people there because I’m currently working with them. I think the best thing would be to get everyone in a room together so we can move forward. Out of the 40-something movies that I’ve done, there are certain characters that people want to see again. Conan is one of them.
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