He cleaned up the invasion of the machines, he’s working on cleaning up the environment, and now, Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to clean up the protein market.
Get ready for a protein supplement that’s personalized to your nutritional needs and fitness goals. On Tuesday morning, Schwarzenegger launched his first supplement company, Ladder, and it’s a company with plenty of star power. Joining the Terminator at the helm are LeBron James, Lindsey Vonn, and Cindy Crawford.
Ladder aims to change how you view food supplements. It hits the crowded protein market with a direct-to-consumer model that skips the middle man (sorry, GNC) and a promise to personalize your nutrition. “The idea is not to overwhelm people with these huge cans of protein, stuff they didn’t know what to do with, how many scoops to put in,” the 71-year-old bodybuilding icon tells Men’s Health.
You don’t buy a giant tub of protein from Ladder. Instead, you head to the company website and fill out a questionnaire. Ladder then ships you packages of protein tuned to your specific needs and body type.
It’s an idea that Schwarzenegger got a few years ago from James, whom he’s known for 20 years. After struggling through the 2014 NBA Finals, James decided to start developing his own food supplements—supplements designed for his body chemistry and made from ingredients he could trust. When he mentioned that to Schwarzenegger, the action hero was instantly intrigued.
“He explained to me that the whole idea behind it was that he cannot afford to be tested and not pass a drug test,” Schwarzenegger said. “I found that fascinating, because that was always my complaint about the (protein) products, that they don’t know what is in this. You know that, ‘OK, this is protein or this is whey protein or this is milk protein or this is egg protein. You know that, but you don’t know exactly what is in it.”
That idea also appealed to Vonn, a world-class skier who, much like LeBron, can’t afford to fail a test. Crawford, who has plenty of experience marketing products, joined soon after. “It was kind of organic,” says Schwarzenegger. “There was no deadline. We never even thought about, you know, starting a company, until awhile back. And so here we are.”
In a FaceTime interview with Men’s Health, the seven-time Mr. Olympia discussed his new protein venture, his current training regimen, and his thoughts on the functional fitness trend:
MH: How does Ladder work differently than other proteins and supplements?
ARNOLD: I want to be the world champion in powerlifting, I want to be the world champion in bodybuilding. Both guys would take different food supplements than the guy who just wants to stay in shape and feel good about himself. So the people start by pulling out this kind of quiz or questionnaire and fill it out. So the guy, let’s say, who’s 30 years old and is working two hours a day and weighs 180 pounds, he may get a different package than a guy that’s the same weight, same age, but his goal is different.
MH: Fitness goals change over time. How have your fitness goals changed?
ARNOLD: Squatting and all those kind of like heavy leg exercises, I can’t do anymore. My knees are shot. I have to protect my knees because I want to go skiing. I do mostly bicycling, so that’s why I want to bicycle all over the world. When I travel, I get around in the bicycle. When I go shopping or something, I go on the bicycle, because then you can exercise in the legs and you see the town in a totally different way.
MH: How do you train these days?
ARNOLD: The machines that you have today, I wish that I could have used them in addition to what I did, because they’re really amazing (what has happened with the gym equipment business). A guy like myself who had shoulder surgery, hip surgery, knee surgery—they can always find an exercise around the injury that I could do. So I cannot do dumbbell lateral raises anymore, but I can go and find the machine that does exactly the same thing and I have no pain.
MH: How different are today’s gyms from the gyms you once trained in?
ARNOLD: I started in the weightlifting club and I feel that this was like a big big plus—that they had us do deadlifts; that they had upright rowing heavy for weightlifting; that we had to compete in weightlifting; and we had to use the free weights, bench press, incline press. There was another incline press—there was a rack that you could just lift off the top and go clean the weight first, fall back on an incline bench and then do your incline and then figure out how to get it down again. What it did was it made you whole body work — traps and arms and everything.
MH: That sounds a lot like the functional fitness trend. How do you feel about functional fitness and CrossFit?
ARNOLD: When you pull up the weight for a clean—I mean your calves, your hips have to be in the right place your, thighs have to work, your lower back has to work, your delts have to work, your coordination. I’m a big believer in starting out with free weight and eventually helping people to reshape their body by using some of the machines. Both of my sons when they go to the gym—all three of them have [interest] to do free weight exercises. And then and in addition, they do some machines. I think a good well-equipped gymnasium would have both, will have everything available you know for CrossFit and for all of those kind of things.
MH: Will any of that get us the massive biceps that once defined your physique? Give us a super-secret exercise that helped push your arms over the edge.
ARNOLD: In the dumbbell curls we always turned the wrist, always starting out this way (palms turned toward the torso), and then turn the wrist. Someone down in the gym — a guy who was studying medicine—was insisting that the biceps needs the twist, and it needs the twist. I got so fanatic about this twist of the wrist that I loaded up the inside of an adjustable dumbbell with more weight, two-and-a-half to five pounds more than was on the other side). When I curled it up and turned it, it was more resistant to twisting. I’ve never seen anyone really concentrate on that that much.
MH: What’s it like training your son Patrick? Does he chase action-hero biceps like dad?
ARNOLD: My sons train themselves and sometimes they train with other trainers. I’m really proud of them. Patrick, he works out every day, but he doesn’t want to get too big because of the acting, because he’s being sought after now for romantic roles, not action roles. But eventually, when he gets to be like 30, 35, he will go get bigger and then do more action movies. But I love seeing them work out and being into it. It’s a great feeling.
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