Photo: Arnold and co-promoter Jim Lorimer have helped raise the standard of living in competitive bodybuilding.
QUESTION: I love bodybuilding, but is it realistic to think that I can make it my career? –Edgar R., via Facebook
ANSWER: It’s more realistic than it’s ever been. When I was winning titles like the Mr. Olympia, the cash prizes were only a few thousand dollars. But in 1970, I saw the future. That’s when I met Jim Lorimer, who promoted the Mr. World contest in Columbus, OH. It was the best-run bodybuilding show I had ever seen up to that point—the competitors were treated like the world-class athletes they were. I made a promise to Jim after that event that when I retired, I would join him in promoting bodybuilding contests and raising the roof on what was possible for our sport.
My goal with Jim was to make bodybuilding lucrative enough so that the athletes could make a living competing—just like athletes in every other pro sport. I’m proud to say that we have accomplished that. Last year, the Mr. Olympia contest paid out a total of $1 million to the competitors. My own Arnold Sports Festival awarded $130,000 to first place at our last event this past March. Finally, bodybuilders are earning money that’s commensurate with their efforts.
Apart from the prize money growing, bodybuilders are also getting sponsored by big-time supplement companies such as MusclePharm, BSN, and BPI. The sport has grown to the point where competitors who have never won its top titles can still be among its biggest stars. This is a great sign, because the worst thing I can say about bodybuilding is that it’s subjective, and sometimes athletes with exceptional bodies don’t place as high as they should. Their hard work shouldn’t be for nothing.
There are only two limits on your potential as a competitive bodybuilder. One is your drive to succeed, which is entirely up to you, and the other is your genetics, which you can’t control. If your genetics don’t allow you to compete at the level you desire, take pride in the fact that you pushed your body as far as you could. In rising to whatever level you can, you’ll no doubt learn enough about training, nutrition, competition, and the mental attitude it takes to be successful that you can become an in-demand personal trainer, nutritionist, life coach, or fitness journalist, or find your way to a dozen other careers that will keep you close to the sport you love.
Yours in Iron,