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Pumping Iron

From Academic Kids

Pumping Iron (1977) is a documentary film, about the run-up to the 1975 Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition. The film focuses on Arnold Schwarzenegger and his competitors Lou Ferrigno and Franco Columbu. The documentary was co-directed by Robert Fiore and George Butler. It was based on a book written by Charles Gaines.

Pumping Iron is considered the all-time classic bodybuilding movie, documenting what is commonly referred to as "The Golden Age" of bodybuilding, a time when mass and size mattered less, and symmetry and definition of the body ruled. The documentary follows the two main Body Building Competitions, the Mr. Universe (for amateurs) and the Mr. Olympia (for professionals), in Pretoria, South Africa. Though the documentary focuses on Schwarzenegger, many notable bodybuilders make appearances, including Ferrigno, Columbu, Mike Mentzer, Robby Robinson, Mike Katz, Albert Beckles, Ken Waller, Frank Zane, Ed Couney and Serge Nubret, all talented champions in their own rights.

The first part of the documentary features the Mr. Universe contenders and begins with a profile of Mike Katz who is intending to win the Mr. Universe. Competing against Katz is Ken Waller. The two are stark contrasts of each other: where Katz is humble and unassuming, Waller is arrogant and dirty (he deliberately hides Katz's belongings at the Mr. Universe to break his focus before going on stage). After a pose-down Waller, due to his superior definition and proportions, eventually wins the Mr. Universe with Katz coming a distant 4th place. It should be noted that Katz is considered by some to have the greatest chest of all time, measuring at one point a huge 60 inches (152 cm), a feat only equalled by Lou Ferrigno.

The second part of the film follows the Olympia contenders, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno and Franco Columbu. Ferrigno, a steel worker, is trained by his father in a small downtown gym. Ferrigno is humble and trains hard, whereas Arnold trains in the luxurious Gold's Gym, flanked by women as he perform his calf raises. Franco and Arnold both train together in the gym outside, where spectators are able to watch, contrasting the conditions Ferrigno is training under. Franco Columbu is also documented in a memorable scene when he blows air into a hot water bottle until it explodes.

Prior to the Olympia competition the documentary also reveals Schwarzenegger's lesser-known deceptive behaviour and practices when it comes to his fellow competitors. During his competitive years Arnold was known to use many tricks in his favour when it came to the competitions. One such example was when he was competing against the legendary Sergio Olivia for an Olympia title. Schwarzenegger whilst on stage made the comment that he was tired of posing and that the two should exit the stage. Olivia agreed; however, Arnold had no intention of going anywhere, and Olivia walked off stage to many boos and hisses from fans who thought it arrogant not to stay on stage. In Pumping Iron Arnold comments that if his competitors are indeed better than him that he will get a room with them the night prior to the competition and simply talk them into losing.

The documentary then takes off to Pretoria, South Africa, to the build-up to the competition. The competitors all take part in the Pre-Judging rounds. The under 200-pounds class is judged first, and Franco Columbu is declared the winner. The next to be judged are the three finalists from the over 200-pounds class, Lou Ferrigno, Arnold, and Serge Nubret. Arnold is declared the winner and must go for a pose-down with Franco Columbu for the overall Olympia title. Arnold for the 6th time is crowned Mr. Olympia; after his win he announces his retirement from competition. The documentary ends with all who took part leaving for the airport on a bus.

Pumping Iron was the world's first introduction to Arnold Schwarzenegger and was a contributing factor in popularizing body building. Franco Columbu would go on to win the Olympia after Arnold and eventually became a practising doctor. Lou Ferrigno also went on to much success: though he never won the Olympia title, he found success in television, starring as the title character in the TV series The Incredible Hulk.

A sequel to the film was made some years later, entitled Pumping Iron II: The Women. As the name suggests, it focused on female bodybuilders.

Interesting quotes

Lou Ferrigno is performing a heavy shoulder press and is clearly overloaded:

Ferrigno: "Arnold! Arnold! Arnold! Arnold! Arnold!"

Arnold walks up to the counter of Gold's Gym:

Arnold "Can I sign up? I want to start gaining some muscles."

Franco Columbu, talking about his transition from Italy to America:

Columbu "...somebody says 'Go to Hell' when they get upset, there they say 'Go to California!"

Ferrigno and his trainer father have just finished an intense session:

Ferrigno's Father: "Remember if you're trainin' hard, he may trainin' ... twice as hard"

Arnold comparing the "pump" of lifting to sex:

Arnold: "The greatest feeling you can get in a gym or the most satifying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. ''Let's say you train your biceps, blood is rushing in to your muscles and that's what we call the pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling like your skin is going to explode any minute and its really tight and its like someone is blowing air into your muscle and it just blows up and it feels different, it feels fantastic. Its as satifying to me as cumming is, you know, as in having sex with a woman and cumming. So can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like getting the feeling of cumming in the gym, I'm getting the feeling of cumming at home, I'm getting the feeling of cumming backstage when I pump up when I pose out in front of 5000 people I get the same feeling, so I am cumming day and night. Its terrific, right? So I am in heaven."'


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