Updated: May 17, 2019
Ask bodybuilding fans what Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biggest weakness was and the universal answer is calves. After all, the story how Arnold built his calves is legendary. Supposedly Arnold always had small calves and was determined to make them bigger. To motivate himself to train them harder and more frequently he cut the bottoms off his training pants so he would have to see how small they were every time he worked out. He consulted with his idol, Reg Park, and started training his calves heavy and often. Eventually, his calves became such an asset that he would start his posing routines by turning a calf towards the audience and flexing it, letting them see it in all its glory.
Early in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career his calves probably were his biggest fear. He had primarily focused on his upper body development and generally ignored his legs. After losing a close contest to Chet Yorton in the 1966 NABBA Amateur Mr. Universe one of the judges, Wag Bennett, told Arnold he had lost because Yorton had better leg development. Arnold got serious about training his legs and through hard work and dedication, turned what once was his biggest fear into one of his greatest assets. However, it is a little-known fact that Arnold’s biggest fear throughout his illustrious bodybuilding career was not his calves but his triceps.
Right now, you are probably wondering how Arnold’s biggest fear could be triceps when he had the most famous arms in the history of bodybuilding? His arms are so famous that when one thinks of Arnold Schwarzenegger the first thing that comes to mind is a double biceps pose with his triceps contributing greatly to his arms overall size. No one will debate that Arnold’s triceps had great size and contributed immensely to his bodybuilding success. Why then did Arnold rarely perform tricep poses? The speculation is that he was happy with their size but did not like their shape. We know that regardless of hard work, genetics determine the shape of each muscle in the body and it cannot be changed. This was Arnold’s conundrum.
Through the internet we have access to bodybuilding pictures that years ago would only have been seen by the photographers that took them, the magazines that published them, and those that collected them. Google “Arnold Schwarzenegger Triceps” and you will find thousands of pictures available. However, it is incredibly tough to find pictures of Arnold posing his tricep/s with them as the focal point. It is interesting to note that in his book known as the Bible of bodybuilding which contains hundreds of pictures of Arnold performing exercises and posing, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, we find no pictures of Arnold hitting a pose where the tricep is primarily displayed. A thorough search of the other bodybuilding books and pamphlets he produced also show no pictures of a strict tricep pose.
Arnold’s fear of posing the triceps can be seen in full display in the 1980 Mr. Olympia. In the movie, The Comeback, IFBB official Oscar State calls for a tricep pose during the comparison round. Mike Mentzer, Frank Zane, and Chris Dickerson fully comply with this request while Arnold directs the judges’ attention to his biceps with a variation of the “Mantis” pose. Throughout the entire 1980 Mr. Olympia Arnold refused to hit the required tricep poses and was warned about this on many occasions. However, Arnold knew the judges would be hard pressed to disqualify bodybuilding’s biggest icon because of such behavior and continued to showcase his biceps over triceps.
Arnold’s triceps were by no means his best muscle group. While they had tremendous size, they did not have the proper shape to give him an advantage by posing them. Being the intelligent bodybuilder that he was, he profiled other areas of his body while hiding what he perceived to be a weakness. As good as he was, would it have hurt him to pose his triceps? Probably not, but Arnold did everything he could to win and would not take a chance.