How The Incredible Hulk and Arnold Schwarzenegger Inspired My Bodybuilding Journey

Featured image for EricHepperle.com blog post on Bodybuilding transformation inspired by Incredible Hulk movie and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Collage by: Eric Hepperle, 2018)
My Bodybuilding transformation inspired by Incredible Hulk movie and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Collage by: Eric Hepperle Designs, 2018 | Credit: Comic Book Daily; Mr Supplement)

In December of 2008, I was working for Hewlett-Packard (now HPE) on contract through a contracting agency called Synova. I had been a workaholic for three years — literally taking my work home with me. Now, I was trying to have a social life. I had done some online project management training earlier that summer, had just started renting a nice three-bedroom house with 10 acres of land that backed up to a creek at 220 Berlin Avenue in Traer, Iowa (at the end of a cul-du-sac), and after seeing the new Incredible Hulk movie, began thinking about getting back into shape.

Long-Awaited Incredible Hulk Movie Finally Released

Universal Pictures and Marvel Studios had released “The Incredible Hulk” movie, the one with Edward Norton, that June. I bought the movie through Amazon.com and watched it. I had already seen it in the theater when it came out. That was one of the movies I took my younger brother, Ryan to see. I used to take him to movies with me sometimes. We saw all kinds of super-hero and sci-fi movies together including Kull the Conqueror (Kevin Sorbo), The Incredible Hulk, and even one of the Twilight movies — New Moon I think — the one that introduced the werewolf, Jacob, as a love interest.

Hulk Movie Inspires My Bodybuilding Journey

The Incredible Hulk was a great movie and I wanted to add it to my collection, so I bought it the first week of December. I watched the movie over and over. Examined the cinematography work, the digital effects, and the character arc of the hero, Bruce Banner. Watching that movie inspired me to want to get better physically. I decided now was the time to start lifting weights again, and to begin body sculpting.

Dedication to Discipline and Routine

I started going to one of those 24-hour passkey member gyms — 24-Hour Fitness, I think — in Waterloo, every morning before work. I would get up around 4:30 AM, drive 15 minutes to the gym, stretch for 20 minutes, do rehab for my right knee and shoulder, then workout with weights for an hour or so until around 6:44 when I would jog for 15 minutes on an electric belt-operated treadmill. Then I would, show, dress, and immediately drink a Muscle Milk protein shake.

Transform Your Body, Win $50,000!

When MuscleTech announced their annual $50,000 Body Transformation contest I thought this could be my ticket to being able to pay all my bills without the stress of hustling, and I could finally pay to fly to a healing retreat where the could help fix my gut. I debated back and forth whether or not to enter the contest. On the one hand, I had confidence that I could make an amazing transformation in my body. But, on the other, I didn’t want to use any more laboratory-designed chemicals than necessary. I was already suffering with digestive issues and I didn’t want to exacerbate things by consuming synthetic powders.

Cheating the System with Natural Bodybuilding

I decided that I would enter the contest, but do all my bodybuilding naturally. I would consume only healthy (what I thought was healthy at the time, anyway) food, muscle milk, and some fat-burning energy drinks. I would win this contest naturally, with natural nutrition. I would not use any of the expensive MuscleTech products, but I would say I did. Now, I never cheated on tests, but I didn’t see anything wrong with cheating the system every chance I got in those days. Later on i would learn that if you have faith you don’t need to cheat the system. God will bring you everything you need.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s Autobiography Reveals Secret of Natural Bodybuilding

Well, I ended up bodybuilding for two months and had an incredible transformation in that short time. I was following Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book The Education of a Bodybuilder (1977). The first half of the book is Arnold’s autobiography telling about his history growing up under the strict hand of his police sergeant father in Graz, Austria, and how he started bodybuilding around age 14 after being involved in soccer for many years.

Young Schwarzenegger’s Struggle and Determination Inspirational

I was inspired by the hardship and struggle he endured to accomplish his goals in those early days. He found a gym ten miles away, which he would ride his bike to every day after school. A was so determined in his goal and would work his legs so intensely that he would often fall of off that bike on the way home because his calves and quads were too exhausted to pedal!

In his time, gyms were populated by homosexuals and those who were dedicated to the sport of bodybuilding. He made friends with some of the members. One became a mentor and when Arnold asked him how to start bodybuilding, he was instructed to begin with bodyweight exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats, and handstands. The second half of the book gives detailed instructions on how to perform many of these bodyweight exercises.

Dedicated to Arnold’s Example

So, I followed Arnold’s advice and did only bodyweight exercises for about two weeks. I got strong quickly because for each exercise, the whole body was involved. When you do focus or spot training the interstitial muscles which help stabilize your body often get neglected. Neglected, they begin to waste away. When you need to do complex, heavy, multi-part full-body Olympic moves like the clean and press you risk injuring yourself severely.

I was drinking one to two 20 oz bottles of Muscle Milk every day. My favorite Muscle Milk flavors were strawberry, banana, peach, and blueberry. Cinnamon Bun flavor was also pretty good. I would drink one every morning within an hour after my workout to restore protein to the body. Arnold said it was crucial that the body have protein available within a two hour window after working out, to have the maximum opportunity to rebuild muscle, thus making you stronger and bigger than before.

Finding My Work-Life Balance

“I hooked up with a girl, fell in love, and began neglecting work, working out, and everything else.”

Falling in Love proves Dangerous to my Work Ethic

As I said, I was trying to have a social life and incorporate a healthier work-life balance, so I stopped working so much overtime, and began looking for love on MySpace, the most popular social network before Facebook started letting everyone onto theirs. I hooked up with a girl, fell in love, and began neglecting work, working out, and everything else. It took six months, but I went from being well sculpted to gaining about 30 pounds of body fat.

Thirty pounds can make a huge difference in your self esteem and your health. After about 9 months I realized she wasn’t healthy for me, so I did the hard thing and broke it off. I resumed bodybuilding about a year later and was able to work most of the fat off again, but my digestive issues got worse and began to more severely hinder my ability to workout.

Difficulty achieving that level of physical health and definition lately

Thus far, I have not been able to achieve the level of physical success that I had in that brief span of time, a decade ago. For an intense two months in December of 2008 to February of 2009 I was really getting in touch with my body. I had an amazing physical transformation, made possible by my willingness to sacrifice other activities and possibilities and dedicate myself to rising early every morning, going to bed early (around 8 PM) every night (so my body could rest and repair), and working harder than I ever had, with great and necessary intensity for two hours each morning.

Looking forward to the future, looking better, and better health

In a nutshell, that is how Edward Norton and the Incredible Hulk Inspired me to transform my body, discipline my mind, and accomplish the unbelievable on a daily basis. I look forward to being able to resume a healthy, active, physical lifestyle in the near future. I just need to get my discipline and motivation back.

Have any of you experienced personal physical transformations like this? Have you had similar experiences with losing your definition and health after falling in love or had a hard time balancing working out and life? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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