I’m often asked about who has influenced my ideas on training. I learned how to master the Olympic lifts from Pierre Roy, how to become brutally huge from Anthony Ditillo and how to improve soft tissue function from Dr. Mike Leahy; and two brilliant sport scientists, Dr.Schmidtbleicher from Germany and Dr. William Kraemer from the United States, started me thinking about the influence of growth hormone on fat loss . . . and the list goes on. But if you were to pin me down as to who have been the most influential people in personal training over the past quarter of a century, I would have to say – and I hope you’re sitting down when you read this – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arthur Jones and Paul Chek.
Before you jump out of your chair and shout, “WTF?” let me start by saying that I gave my selections A LOT of thought and I’m completely serious. Let’s start with Arnold.
This is a no-brainer. Arnold singlehandedly changed the way Americans – and for that matter, the world – thought about bodybuilding. Sure, today’s bodybuilders are bigger, but Arnold was the best of his era and has a charisma that has yet to be matched. As for titles, Arnold won six straight Mr. Olympia titles, took a four-year break after his sixth win to focus on making blockbuster movies, and then came back in 1980 to take on all comers in 1980 to win his Sandow trophy. Arnold also epitomizes the American dream, achieving greatness not just as a muscleman but also as a businessman, actor and politician.
One reason Arnold was able to achieve such high levels in bodybuilding and, for that matter, in so many other aspects of his life was that he looked at obstacles as challenges. For example, one of his weaknesses in his early bodybuilding career was his calves, which were literally dwarfed by his enormous upper body. Although he loved to train his massive biceps, he made calf work the number-one priority in his workouts. He even went so far as to cut off his pants at knee level to draw more attention to them when he was out in public, a stunt that motivated him to train them even harder! The result was that he transformed a weakness into a strength. Likewise, Arnold was able to overcome the stigma of a thick Austrian accent (in fact, Arnold’s voice was dubbed in his first movie, Hercules in New York) to become one of the most successful actors of all time. His 23 film appearances averaged over $70 million per movie for a total gross of over $1.6 billion. And how about the challenges he faced as an immigrant in becoming the governor of the third-largest state in the US!
In regard to training, Arnold could best be described as a “thinking man’s bodybuilder” who wasn’t afraid to experiment with a variety of training methods. He used maximal weights methods, as evidenced by a bench press of over 500 pounds and a deadlift of over 700, and high-volume training methods. He even experimented with high-intensity training methods promoted by Arthur Jones. And that leads me to my second choice.
Whereas Arnold became a master at acting and public speaking, Arthur Jones best expressed himself through his writings, which often contained bold, absolute statements and derogatory remarks about those who would dare question him. More importantly, Jones was a brilliant storyteller – and wow, did he have stories to tell!
Jones enjoyed many adventures in flying around the globe (he logged over 44,000 flight hours), and his fondness for crocodiles and African elephants inspired him to build a private 350-acre wildlife preserve in Florida. He developed two of the most successful exercise equipment lines in the world, Nautilus and MedX, which enjoyed such success that at one time Jones earned a place on the Forbes list of the 400 richest people in the world. His son, Gary Jones, showed he’d inherited some of his father’s brilliance by creating Hammer Strength Systems, the most successful plate-loaded equipment line in the world.
One of the key tenets of Arthur Jones’s training philosophy was that developing the highest levels of strength and muscular size does not require a large investment in time. He also intensely studied the influence of strength curves on developing strength and muscular bulk, and established the value of eccentric training. Famous bodybuilders who benefited from Jones’s training concepts include Mike and Ray Mentzer, who are now deceased, Casey Viator and Mr. Olympias Dorian Yates and Sergio Oliva.
Jones’s main contributions to the personal training industry are his extremely well-marketed line of exercise equipment and the opening of an impressive number of world-wide Nautilus training centers. Jones’s gyms promised a muscular body in just three 20-minute workouts a week, but that propaganda only fooled people for so long. However, there was a positive effect being that it got more people into gyms and involved in resistance training. Eventually those Nautilus centers became gyms equipped with free weights and Jones’s machines and, like the Dinosaurs, went into extinction (for example, the Energie Cardio gym chain found in the province of Quebec, are former Nautilus Plus gyms). If Arthur Jones had not been around, the gym industry would have gone in an entirely different direction.
And now finally, the most controversial selection:
Despite an education that never went beyond earning a high school diploma, Paul Chek has capitalized on his passion for lifelong learning and his love of teaching to become one of the most influential leaders in mainstream fitness. Although he certainly did not invent the Swiss ball, through his seminars and writings Chek must be acknowledged as the individual who got us to take corrective training seriously and got countless personal trainers to take an interest in peer-review research.
Think about it – a decade ago the concept of “core” and “corrective” training did not exist, and now it’s common terminology among everyone from professional strength coaches to housewives to fitness bunnies to senior citizens. Chek’s love of knowledge has led to a successful seminar and certification business that has expanded worldwide and created a loyal base of fans who are universally referred to as “Chekies.” Now you can go into any general public gym around the World without finding at least one Swiss Ball.
I first met Paul in 1994 when I visited his facility in La Jolla, California, to learn firsthand about his techniques for assessing posture and developing the abdominals, and about his comprehensive approach to dealing with all the factors associated with lower back pain. I shared many of his ideas in my first book, The Poliquin Principles.
True, there are now core and functional training certifications (and even college-level courses) that are even more extensive and science-based than the ones offered by this innovative (and often controversial) trainer and teacher – but the fact is that all of them owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Chek.
Many of you may challenge my selections, but I truly believe that if you do your own diligent research, these three men will rate high on your own list of the most influential people in the personal training industry.