Thoughts on Triggering the Growth Mechanism

Hi Ellington,
I came across this quote from Arnold recently:

“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what”

Personally I disagree with most of it. From my understanding exercise beyond a certain point of momentary effort (i.e. intensity) AND over and above an individuals existing abilities can trigger growth and increased thickness of muscle fibres through a variety of factors. These include micro damage to the existing muscle fibres and release of a number of hormones (including some as yet unidentified - e.g. Evitagen). Sufficient nutrition, rest and water allow that growth to manifest itself. This increased muscle thickness remains “live” on the body providing it is needed and supported. The last few reps are indeed painful and most people do lack the ability to go there. HOWEVER - your emerging evidence is suggesting that the growth mechanisms are better triggered by working just short of this point. The implication from Arnold’s statement is that anyone can be a champion provided they are prepared to train hard enough. Arnold had great and engaging rhetoric but his use of PEDs CANNOT be understated or denied.

I wondered what your thoughts were as Arnold was and still is so influential in exercise - in different ways probably as influential as Jones.

I don’t think Arnold got where he did because he could push further through these pain barriers etc, he got where he was by having superior one in a million genetics and great drug receptors. Pushing through these pain barriers is the easy part. If that’s all it took many more of us would be huge . In fact I think too many of us have pushed ourselves too far beyond our recovery abilities and stunted our growth.


Totally agree with you!

Arnold is approximately 100x more influential than Arthur Jones in exercise. The vast majority of people don’t even know who Jones was. There are entire generations who began lifting because of Arnold.

This can be said of any pro, untested bodybuilder. I know people in here admit Mentzer and Viator used them, but it seems to only be initially mentioned about other bodybuilders to detract from their points of view.

There’s not a champion bodybuilder that didn’t push themselves to the brink. They all have superior genetics, they all took drugs, and what set the best apart was the intensity of their training, quite often. Also, training short of failure to stimulate muscle growth is not a new idea - it’s just a new idea in HIT.

Again - if they all have one in a million genetics and they all have great drug receptors, why can’t it be that on a level playing ground, the hardest worker or the toughest guy comes out on top?


All of the pro bodybuilders in Arnold’s era trained the same…outside of a few HITers. They all took the same drugs too, worked/dedicated hard enough, and there were no secrets.

Arnold had the most ‘pleasing’ genetics in my view. His height, proportions, aesthetics, and long muscle bellies especially in his chest, back and biceps…just gave him a very pleasing look above the others. These are just aspects in his DNA that ultimately separated him from the other guys.

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Quoted for emphasis. Because a like wasn’t enough.


Fair enough. I don’t mean to downplay his genetics, but I won’t downplay his hard work or dedication either. He was also a big shit talker and got in opponents heads to put them off their game, which is a legitimate strategy in all sports.

Also, there was favoritism, for sure. But Arnold knows what he’s talking about with lifting.

== Scott==
But they all don’t have one in a million genetics and great drug receptors. The likes of Arnold and Sergio have superior genetics than 99% of the rest of US. All the dedication to working through the pain barriers won’t over come that.

Arnold was definitely the top 3 bodybuilding champions of all time

But what made him popular in the masses was the movies…if it wasn’t for the movies he would be just like the other champions

Great poser too with such smoothness and agility. Really shows in Pumping Iron.

Only four guys won 7 or more Mr. O titles. So I wouldn’t say he would have been just like the other champions minus movies (and Gov of California for that matter). Those four guys completely dominated their competition during their time. And Arnold would have won many more titles had it not been for going into movies. There wasn’t much to challenge him in the 80s in my opinion. And he would have beaten Haney - drugs were getting stronger too in the 80s so Arnold would have been even bigger!

The average person does not know who Haney or Coleman are

The movies made Arnold popular to the average population, no different than Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, if it’s wasn’t for Hollywood the average would not know them

However, they were very influential in their discipline as Arnold was in his discipline

Would anyone know who Ferrigno was if it wasn’t for the Hulk…and Lou was not even close to Arnold as champion

Same with Steve Reeves…Hollywood made him popular

Agreed, Hollywood made his name, but I’m saying he stood out against many other champions regardless.


It was probably Arnold’s genetic superiority and abundant steroid use that got him onto the Hollywood A list, married into the Kennedy family and elected Governor. Guy has no talent whatsoever and can barely deadlift his own bodyweight.

I’m surprised these tired old arguments persist. Ask yourself the question, did Jordan, Woods, Ronaldo, Federer, et al, rely on genetics for their success? And drugs. Is it really drugs x genetics = Arnold? Naive at best, ignorant, bitter and envious at worst.


The drug and genetics argument is one thing - using it as an excuse to discredit a champion’s viewpoint, talent, and hard work is another. Arnold isn’t the only one who’s gotten that treatment in here. Lee Haney was another one, if I remember correctly. He didn’t have to work hard because of steroids, apparently. Somehow it never seems to come up with the bodybuilders who agree with those people, and none of those bodybuilders are champions.


He was in some very good movies (Total Recall, Terminator I and II, and Predator were his best in my opinion) and certainly has a unique charisma even if he was not a Robert De Niro or Marlon Brando.

My argument is that Arnold got where he is because he worked out harder than the rest of us. There’s a million guys who have worked past the pain barrier like he did yet they didn’t get huge. Arnold is the result of the best of all of the factors that came his way , great genetics , great drug receptors great workout effort and everything else. I get tired of this idea that most of us don’t workout hard enough and that is why we aren’t champions. Many of us do work out as hard as Arnold did but we don’t have all the other advantages that he had to capitalize on.


As are all top level bodybuilders. All of them. Bar none. Including the ones that you happen to like and have similar lifting philosophies to yourself.

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I don’t think that’s how you should be taking it. I think his idea is that when you put the best of the best in a room, they’ll be separated by who can eek out those last reps. When a pro athlete in any sport talks about hard work, they’re talking about it setting themselves apart from the rest of the pro athletes. Normal people can’t just become pro athletes, or pro bodybuilders. It’s possible that they “all worked just as hard”, but it’s very unlikely.

Disagree. That may be how you see it, but working as hard would require the day-in, day-out, years-on-end effort, and it’s hard to quantify that for a lot of people. He trained the way that a lot of people in this forum claimed will burn you out, for countless sessions. I think a lot of people think they work out really hard, but it’s a lot more rare than we think.