How To Sculpt Your Body Like Schwarzenegger

See something in the mirror you’d like to change? First dissociate “you” from “it”.  Then use this hourly, once-a-week body weight technique to get the look you want.

WHEN YOU stumble out of the shower and are bare-ass in front of that bathroom mirror, where do your eyes go to trigger that sigh of disgust?

Meaning, what part of your body would you like Rodin to chisel out from your imagination?

A long time ago when I was a kid with a barbell set in the basement of my mother’s house in Lakewood,  New Jersey, I’d read the muscle magazines.  Arnold Schwarzenegger was then in his glory and dominated the magazine covers.

I remember “The Arnold” saying something about noting a deficiency in his physique and then doing what it takes to sculpt it differently.

By the wonders of the Interwebs, I found the exact quote, which is:

You don’t really see a muscle as a part of you, in a way. You see it as a thing. You look at it as a thing and you say well this thing has to be built a little longer, the bicep has to be longer; or the tricep has to be thicker here in the elbow area. And you look at it and it doesn’t even seem to belong to you. Like a sculpture. Then after looking at it a sculptor goes in with his thing and works a little bit, and you do maybe then some extra forced reps to get this lower part out. You form it. Just like a sculpture.


The three key points in Schwarzenegger’s statement:

  1. You view the body as not-self;
  2. You dispassionately evaluate the body’s current state and what you want it to be;
  3. You go at it as would Rodin, with a sculptor’s mindset to reform the material – your body – one chisel chip at a time.
The Body as Not-Self (point #1)

Our language already informs how we see our body.  We say, “my arm” or “my face” as if it’s a possession of something other than the body itself.  In fact, no gender is assigned to our physical possession. If you get punched in the arm, you say, ithurts”.

It hurts.  Not, “she” or “he” hurts.

The body is body parts.

Yes, these parts are “yours” – “my arm”, “my leg”, but, by the convention of our language and our thinking, these things are not the essence of “us”.

So, if the body is not-self, what is?

What constitutes the “self” is the purview of philosophers and meta-physicians. As mentioned, implicit in our language is the notion that you are not your body.  That leaves on the table things such as “mind”, “consciousness” and “spirit”.

You may have a sense for what it is, but what it’s not are body parts.

And the good thing about the body not being you is that, if you choose to (if it’s useful), you can look dispassionately in that bathroom mirror and declare to the reflection,

“You are not me.”


The Clarity of Disassociation (point #2)

Disassociation can be empowering, because if the body is not you, you need not be humbled by it.  Instead, just as you might dispassionately decide that your car needs a paint job and then put into motion what needs to be done to paint the car, you can likewise decide what needs “fixing” with your body and go get it done.

It’s not “you” that needs fixing, but the “body” that you happen to own, similarly to the car.

Now, I get that this is rather simplistic.  I’m well aware of how the biochemistry of the body affects the mind.  After all, I have written articles such as, Make Love with Bittersweet Chocolate, which delves into how nuerochemicals can be activated by foods to produce feelings, such as love.

In this sense, our very thoughts and emotions can be tied to our biochemistry, which is definitely a very physical, body thing.

Nonetheless, if something in that reflection in the mirror is distasteful, try disassociating “you” from it, so that you can get enough emotional distance to methodically, dispassionately work to change it.


Rodin’s Chisel (point #3)

When a sculptor looks at a shapeless hunk of stone, he doesn’t see what you do.  He sees his vision materialized.

Yes, it’s in his mind at present, but only through his focus, through his overlay of that vision upon that lump of stone, can the masterpiece be revealed.

If the sculptor saw herself as the stone, she would be too emotionally involved to have the clarity and fortitude to shape it as envisioned.

Surely, he’s involved.  Surely, he cares about it, and if the hammer hits the chisel wrong and an unintended part of the stone gets chipped away, there is anger or sorrow – emotion!

But, that errant chip is not the sculptor himself, and so he can continue with his work without the emotional baggage weighing him down.

Rodin might look in the mirror and declare:

“Oh vision in the mirror, you are not me, but the body I wear in order to have physical expression.  I think I’ll chisel some thicker, stronger legs.”

Which takes us back to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s quote cited above.

As if Rodin himself, if Schwarzenegger saw a part of his reflection he wanted to change, he’d go to his studio – the gym – and use his chisel – weights – to make the changes.

You can to. And the next part of this post is a technique to get you started.


Your Simple Technique to Sculpt a Body Part

There’s a sure-fired way to improve the strength, conditioning and size of a body part that you desire be improved.  You don’t need equipment or a gym.  Your body weight will do.  As well as diligence and time.

Unfortunately, this technique will not do much to reduce body fat, if that’s what you see in the mirror, unless the body part under consideration is a large one, like the buttocks or thighs.

This is because working large muscles can improve metabolism and increase lean body tissue.

So, doing squats all day can over time lean out your arms, for instance, even though the primary muscles doing the work are your upper legs and glutes (butt muscle). But doing arm exercises all day will not reduce your overall percent body fat.

With that said, the simple technique is to choose about three exercises that will work out your selected body part, and then do 50% of your maximum repetitions for each exercise, as your rotate between them, doing one every hour of the day.

For instance, if you find yourself bending over to pick something off the floor rather than squatting, and the mirror suggests that your legs are too thin or too fat (the latter suggesting that your body is generally overweight), you can perform squats every hour of the day, once or, at most, twice per week.

Here’s what to do, using the squat for upper legs as an example:

1. Choose three squat exercises and rotate between them.

You can go to Youtube and search for video demonstrations.  Here’s an example of 18 different body weight squats:

Tip: Concentrate on your form and breath, tense your abdomen, thrust out your butt as if you’re about to sit, and make sure your toes are lined up (vertically) in the same plane as your knees.

2. Every hour, get up and do a set of squats.

If you can max out at 20, just do ten – you want to leave enough in the tank to do these every hour, say for eight-plus hours.

Tip: Time can get away from you, so consider making your smart phone set off an alarm every hour, or if you have a digital watch that will function this way, use that.

3. Briefly stretch your legs after each set.

Here’s a quick multiple-muscle stretch for your upper legs.  Given that the whole idea is to do these hourly sets quickly and at half your maximum effort, don’t spend more than one minute on each leg.

Tip: Stretching after the squats will help reduce soreness and increase range of motion.

4. Amp up your protein consumption throughout the day.

There’s a lot of debate about how much protein is ideal to consume.  Naturally, an important factor to consider is how much muscle break down (catabolic activity) is occurring, because we need protein to repair and build up muscle tissue.  During an all-day effort like this, shoot for one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Tip: In addition to your meals, use protein powder shakes (protein and water to minimize the calories) as a quick way to ingest adequate amounts of protein throughout the day.  My favorite protein powder is Immuneplex by ProHealth.


Your Takeaway

  • Disassociate yourself from what you don’t like about your body if this can free you from the emotional ties that bind you to it.
  • Once “free”, examine what you’d like to change, as if you’re the sculptor and the body is a big slab of granite or clay.
  • Chip away at the granite, or mold the clay till you have the body you want.
  • If there’s one body part that lags behind the others, or is particularly offensive to you, try the working it modestly every hour, one or two days per week, as described herein.
  • Use Youtube to find the exercises aimed at the body part(s) you want to re-sculpt.

This is a new adventure, so be bold and have fun!

Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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