Pumping Iron – The Bodybuilding Classic with Arnold Schwarzenegger

September 14, 2021

Most of us who know a little bit about bodybuilding will have seen Pumping Iron at least once. The Pumping Iron movie is probably the best-known bodybuilding movie out there.

With stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Katz, and Lou Ferrigno; this movie filled with muscle-building legends introduced bodybuilding to the outside world and inspired millions of bros to work hard, pump harder, and get that dream bod!

And that’s not all. Without this movie, Arnie maybe would’ve never had his break to fame like he did now, and then we maybe never would’ve had this new epic movie coming up – Terminator 6: Dark Fate:

Here at team CrazyBulk, we decided to write a post dedicated just to this epic movie. From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appearance to Pumping Iron quotes to the lesser-known sequel Pumping Iron 2. This one is in honor of some of the greatest men in bodybuilding history!


The Pumping Iron movie

Are you interested in bodybuilding? Are you looking for some entertainment? Then Pumping Iron is your go-to movie. It has been an absolute classic ever since it came out, and most of you will have seen it, but let’s start off with a bit of an overview of what this legendary movie is all about.

Pumping Iron movie details

Title Pumping Iron
Directed by George Butler, Robert Fiore
Release date January 18, 1977
Running time 85 minutes
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Lou Ferrigno
Franco Columbu
Mike Katz
Ken Waller
Ed Corney
Serge Nubret
Genre Docudrama
Main topic Professional bodybuilding, focussing on the 1975 IFBB Mr. Universe and the 1975 Mr. Olympia
Sequel Pumping Iron 2: The Women (1985)

The movie Pumping Iron is about the journey towards the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition; the biggest bodybuilding competition of the year. The movie follows stars like Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger Pumping Iron day in, day out, as they try to win the title.

As we follow their insane workout routines, we also get to know them on a more personal level, explaining us how they got into bodybuilding and how their lives look like. We don’t wanna spoil too much for you, but have a look at the trailer to paint the picture a bit more for ya:

You can see why it’s such an epic movie in the bodybuilding community, and especially for Arnie the influence of the movie cannot be overstated. Of course he was a famous bodybuilder, but it was this documentary that paved the way for his acting career later on.


Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career before Pumping Iron

But don’t get me wrong, Arnold’s career definitely didn’t start with Pumping Iron. Before the movie, Arnie had already won the Mr. Olympia competition five years in a row. Back then, he was the first to ever reach that many wins!

Of course, there was an even longer career leading up to those Mr. Olympia wins. In fact, Arnold started lifting weights at the insane age of 15, and managed to win the Mr. Universe title when he was only 20 years old.

While most of us are still just growing up at age 20, Arnold was already bulked up winning global competitions. Now that’s what I call a true prodigy!

Interesting facts, quotes, and Arnold’s performance


With such an impressive history, it makes sense the directors decided to make Arnie the main star of Pumping Iron (and, in a way, the main villain as well!).

Without giving away any spoilers for those among us who haven’t seen it, let’s have a closer look at the actual movie; from Arnold Schwarzenegger in Pumping Iron to some fun facts and movie quotes!


Arnold’s performance

So the most important thing to realize about the movie and Arnold’s performance in it is that it’s actually not a documentary; it’s a docudrama!

That’s right; even though most of it is true, some parts of the movie are scripted, exaggerated, and simply not true…

Of course, all the muscle and the gains and the winners and the losers: that’s all reality. But, for example, Arnold being such a massive d*ckhead is actually a bit exaggerated – although the legend does have quite the ego. But seriously though, can you blame him?!

Anyway, parts of the movie were clear setups. For example, when bodybuilders steal each other’s personal stuff to mess with each other’s focus just before going on stage.

And some of those fun quotes and great punchlines were – unfortunately – scripted. For one, this famous Pumping Iron quote is said to have been planned; but it doesn’t make it less fun if you ask me!

The story behind these scripted and staged bits is that the directors were scared the movie wouldn’t be exciting enough as just a documentary.

To try and attract a larger audience, they needed to give it a little extra. That’s why they created the storyline of Arnold being the bad guy, and Lou Ferrigno being the good guy.

Some people hate it, some people say it takes away the movie’s authenticity. If you ask me though, the legends in that movie are still the same and their accomplishments are still the same.

So what they decided to spice things up a bit with a few scripted bits, I couldn’t give a flying f*ck; doesn’t change that this movie is epic, and a bodybuilding classic!

And for all you haters out there, don’t forget that this is the movie that single-handedly brought bodybuilding and its stars to the public; not to mention it kickstarted Arnie’s career. If it wasn’t for Pumping Iron, we maybe wouldn’t have had Terminator…


Some more interesting facts

There’s more to the movie than that. Here are a few of the most interesting facts about Pumping Iron, that definitely surprised us…

    1. Originally it starred a skinny wimp

Yep, no joke. To appeal to the general public a bit more and to give the documentary a Hollywood star to attract attention, they originally wanted Bud Cort – the skinny actor from Harold and Maude – to take bodybuilding masterclasses with Schwarzenegger.

Here’s a short clip with unseen footage; crazy stuff!

  • Lou Ferrigno was actually going to be the bad guy
    After watching the movie you can’t really imagine it, but the original plan was to make Ferrigno the big bad beast who would break Arnie’s winning streak.


Once they started filming they realized Ferrigno was actually too sweet to pull it off, so they decided to make Arnold the bad guy instead.

How cute… But I get it, the guy might have played the Hulk, he’s an absolute softy; gotta love Lou!

  • Arnold and steroids
    Short answer: yes, Arnold was using steroids at the time of Pumping Iron. Years after the movie, Schwarzenegger was asked about it in an interview and he admitted to experimenting with it in the past.




  • Jackie Kennedy helped promote the movie
    A week before the big premiere of Pumping Iron they organized a press luncheon with a bunch of celebrities, to try and get some media attention for the premiere.


The biggest guest was without a doubt Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis – a.k.a. Jackie Kennedy – whose presence at the event gained a lot of media attention. A week before the premiere, this attention really helped to give the movie an extra boost!

  • Bodybuilders didn’t like the movie
    To try and test the audience, before premiering the movie, the director George Butler decided to organize a test screening for an audience of bodybuilders. Since they were the target audience, he thought he would try it out on them first, see if they liked it.


Unfortunately for Butler, when the movie was over, the crowd stayed silent at first, to then start shouting and screaming. One viewer apparently screamed “That was the worst piece of crap I’ve ever seen!” and the general consensus was clear: that movie was shit!

Luckily for Butler, the rest of the world didn’t seem to agree with that group of bodybuilders, and the movie still became a massive hit!

Pumping Iron quotes
Scripted or not, some of the quotes from the movie have become almost just as legendary as the people who said them. Here’s a few of them that still make me laugh every time I hear them.

  1. The Pump
    By FAR the most famous bit of the entire movie, and still cracks me up!
  2. The Sculptor
    Arnold giving his spot-on explanation of why bodybuilders are basically freaking artists…
  3. The Dictators
    Another great one; Arnie talking about the people he admires. No George Washington or someone like that. Nope, Arnie prefers the power of dictators.
  4. The Child
    I mentioned this one earlier on already, but it’s just such a great one, and it had to be in this list of best movie quotes!
  5. The Sister
    Last but not least: Arnold joking around about how he’ll have Lou Ferrigno’s mum make him dinner, and then he’ll go out with his sister… Too far?!

Other actors from the movie

So we talked a lot about Arnie and his role in the movie, but what about the other actors in Pumping Iron?

    • Lou Ferrigno
      This guy came up a lot already to be honest. Lou Ferrigno was the main competitor of Arnold in the movie.He is still known as one of the most impressive bodybuilders of all time, and his movie career didn’t end here either: he would go on and play The Hulk. Quite fitting for such a giant, right?


    • Mike Katz
      Mike Katz is another one of those friendly giants. Bullied as a kid, he decided to bulk up and make sure people would never bully him again.Well, I’m pretty sure nobody would dare to bully him by the time we saw him in the movie!


      Want to know more about him? Check out this article about the life of the bodybuilder Mike Katz!

    • Ken Waller
      This guy was probably best known for his curly ginger hair and freckles; an absolute fiery beast!Fun fact about Ken Waller; in the movie he steals Mike Katz’s lucky t-shirt, making him one of the top villains of the movie. In reality, this was all staged, and Katz and Waller were actually best friends!


    • Franco Columbu
      This is the Franco you hear Arnie talk about in the movie, saying “Franco’s a child”. Well, if you look at the guy, you won’t really think that no would you?!This Italian bodybuilder has actually had quite an acting career, participated in powerlifting as well, and has won Mr. Olympia twice, in 1976 and 1981!


Pumping Iron 2: The Women

After the massive success of the first movie, director Geroge Butler decided he wanted to make a sequel. This time, he would make it all about the women.

The movie – Pumping Iron II: The Women – was released in 1985 and was a documentary-style movie, just like the original. It follows female bodybuilders as they prepare for the 1983 Caesars World Cup.

The reception of the film was not as great as the original – obviously – but it still received quite some attention among bodybuilding fans.

A lot of the film was scripted again, and in this case the competition it was leading up to – the Caesars World Cup – was a contest created specifically for this movie!

With only a minor impact and popularity, the movie would never live up to the hype of the original.

Arnold’s movie career after Pumping Iron

At the time of Pumping Iron, back in 1977, Arnold was mostly famous within the bodybuilding community. Outside of that, only few people really knew who he was.

With Pumping Iron, he managed to get a lot of publicity; both for himself and for the bodybuilding sport in general. It made him famous, and it had a great impact on the rest of his career.

The years after the movie he had quite a few movie auditions and movies he played in, but his back breakthrough came in 1982 with one of the most legendary action movies to date: Conan the Barbarian!

After this, there was no stopping Arnie! Just two years later they already made a sequel, Conan the Destroyer, and during that same year he went on to play the role of all roles…

The single biggest character he would ever play was as a cyborg assassin from the future: The Terminator.

Well, what happened after this is old news, as Schwarzenegger went on to star hit movie after hit movie. Commando, The Running Man, Predator, Twins, Total Recall, Kindergarten Cop, Last Action Hero, Junior

The list goes on and on and on…

Oh, and then we haven’t even talked about Arnie’s break into politics many years later.

What … a … LEGEND!


The impact of Pumping Iron is difficult to put into figures or words. It not only introduced bodybuilding as a sport to the mainstream public, but it also catapulted the career of the most iconic bodybuilder of all time: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A man like Arnie would’ve still made it, without this movie as well, but it is interesting to think about what could’ve happened if that movie never happened, don’t you think?

What do you think; would Arnold have been just as famous without Pumping Iron? Leave a comment below and let me know!




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