Do you think you have been working out for a long time? Have you heard of Jim Arrington from Venice, California? For the past 74 years, he’s been lifting in Venice, California.
“I was 15 years old. I did not have any weights at home, but my father had a few of steel balls weighing three pounds each … and I began training with them,” he recounts. In the following 70 years, Arrington has trained at Gold’s Gym and set one of his own bodybuilding records: Guinness named him the world’s oldest living competitive bodybuilder in 2018.
What keeps Jim in the gym for so long? “I did ‘23 and Me,’ and I discovered that I have Neanderthal DNA at 60 percent,” says the retiree. “And now there are more people in the pool, which is up to the 70th percentile, and I’m even higher,” he adds with a chuckle.
Although Arrington’s genes have made him one of the most genetically gifted strength athletes on record, it takes more than Cro-Magnon DNA to keep competing for this long. He took a break from his weekly workout to talk about how he got his start in the gym, some of the greats’ advice, and some lessons for younger guys.
What’s working for you at 89? What is your training regimen like today?
“I split my routine into three parts. On Monday, I’d slice the body down into three sections: for example, legs. Then on Wednesday, I’d include the middle torso, including the chest, abs, and lower and middle back. On Friday, I’ll work with my arms and shoulders.”
“On Fridays, I would conduct pulley reverse flies. For the front delt, I’d do a pulley front raise next. Then I work out on a lateral raise machine. After that, I perform two distinct curl exercises: a pulley curl and a preacher curl. Then it’s time for the dip machine followed by the pulley triceps.”
“I do a 20-rep warmup set, usually with the same weight. Then I’d go heavier with a set of 10, 8, and then 6 reps at the same poundage with a short rest period around 30 seconds.”
What’s the best strategy you’ve ever employed to gain muscle and strength? What should guys do as they go through their lifetimes of lifting?
“After my first year of college, I was content with all the poundages I used, with the exception of squats. I was only able to squat five reps using 220 pounds. So as a result, I decided to specialize. And so, in order to specialize, what I did was quit doing all other training and I would train five days per week on a squats. “
“I’d start with five reps and then go back down to the original weight of 220 for the last set. That was it. Then for the following day, I would add 2.5 pounds every workout for a total of five workouts. That’s 12.5 pounds each week in total. And I didn’t exercise on Saturdays or Sundays. I had ended up reaching 300 pounds pretty fast. When I got back to college, it was approximately a couple weeks after all of that, I was telling everyone what I did. I had the weight in my bedroom, and they carried it up to 300 pounds. And I performed five reps in my street clothes, which was simple. Then I pushed myself further and got up to 15. “I believe I’ve made my point,” I said at that time, and placed the bar back on the rack.”