How Clubber Lang Used Schwarzenegger's Rules of Success to Defeat Rocky Balboa

TAGS: Heavyweight Championship, break the rules, Eye of the Tiger, Clubber Lang, Rocky Balboa, rate of perceived exertion, fail, RPE, vision, Beast Reality, erik eggers, trust, passion

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Dear Reader,

Please heed this disclaimer. I may have inadvertently written an old man article. If you are young and unfamiliar with the magnificent Clubber Lang, I offer a sincere apology. A quick Google search before reading should remedy an unfortunate situation.

Special thanks to Mr. T. Although he was not a direct contributor to this article, without him, much of this piece would not have been possible.

Best,

Erik

***

After I completed the set, I sat in the middle of my garage gym and thought back to Rocky III and the impetuous Clubber Lang, one of the supreme fighters of the modern era. Whenever boxing aficionados argue over the greatest heavyweight of all time, they unfailingly mention Tyson, Ali, and Rocky Marciano. I find myself interjecting—don’t forget about Clubber Lang and his unorthodox sweeping hooks.

This article is best read while listening to Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger (or if you are under 30, Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band).

I live alone. I train alone. I’ll win the title alone.

—Clubber Lang

***

I was performing seated military presses off the pins—training to keep my sanity rather than preparing for a competition. I completed the sixth rep and let the bar freefall onto the rod-in-pipe safety pins of the Collegiate Power Rack, inches away from my face. The set had been a grinder, probably an RPE1 of 9 (I had hoped it would be a 7 or an 8).

I slowly ambled out of the power rack and over to my reverse hyper, which, during this session, functioned as a makeshift table for my notes and programming. I placed a check mark in the pencil-sketched box next to the last set to indicate I had completed it, and I grimly noted there was one remaining set yet to perform. The prescribed weight was the same as the grinder I had just finished.

Geez. I am a glutton for punishment.

Based on how the last set felt, I was setting myself up for failure. I knew I would have to dig deep, so as my breathing returned to normal, while wrapping my wrists for that final set, I plowed into my bag of tricks for that last push.

“Alexa; play Eye of the Tiger,” I yelled.

Every worth-their-salt strength athlete in his or her mid-to-late 40s knows that Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, the theme song for Rocky III, is good for a five-to-10 percent improvement in a given lift—and that the percentages hold true from novice to pro (regardless of your CNS conditioning level). Some younger lifters, particularly those under 30, may argue that Cafferty’s Hearts on Fire confers the best performance advantage. To that argument, I need only to remind them that Eye of the Tiger is the only song banned by the International Olympic Committee for the performance-enhancing benefit it gives American athletes.

I jumped back into the power rack and gripped the Texas Power Bar, inhaled deeply, and began to force it toward the ceiling enthusiastically. After I completed the necessary repetitions, I sat in the middle of my garage gym and thought long and hard about Rocky III, Eye of the Tiger, and the impetuous Clubber Lang.

As I settled into my post-training prayer—Arnold (Schwarzenegger), thank you for granting me the strength to complete this workout, the serenity to accept the repetitions I cannot complete, the courage to make the repetitions I can, and the wisdom to know the difference—it hit me; the inarguable link between Schwarzenegger’s Rules of Success and Clubber Lang’s methodical rise to the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Below is the article I should have written in the early 1980s when Lang was at the top of his game. But better late than never. 

Trust Yourself  | Find Your Passion 

Who do you want to be? It’s permissible, and advisable in specific instances, to solicit the advice of others. But remember to develop a vision of what you want to become based on what makes you happy, regardless of the opinions and advice of others.

Whether you are an athlete, a student, or a professional, to attain any degree of success, you need to have a vision of what you want to become. You have to decide what you want to be before seeking the path to success. Once you have a clear vision, you can assemble the steps to reach your goal.

Having goals and a plan to reach them is paramount to achieving overall success, no matter how you define success. The plan is a critical component—the short-term goals along the passageway to reach the long-term goal. It all starts with the vision.

Read Keys to Revisiting and Achieving Goals.

Clubber Lang’s Application:

In watching Clubber operate, was there ever any doubt he had a clear vision of what he wanted to become? Clubber Lang evidenced trust in his vision to become Boxing’s Heavyweight Champion. Confident in his abilities, in some of his early bouts, he even allowed his opponent to hit him, only to come back with a vengeance. He devised a plan and, when given the opportunity, he executed the plan.

The little man don't wanna come to me. Then I'll come to you people to lay out the truth. I am ranked Number One. ONE! That means I'm the best! But this bum been taking the easy matches, fighting other bums. I'm telling you and everybody here, I'll fight him anywhere, anytime, for nothing.

—Clubber Lang

Break the Rules | Ignore the Naysayers 

During the commencement speech Schwarzenegger offered at the University of Southern California, he said, “Don’t listen to their rules. Listen to your own rules.” He encouraged the graduates to think outside of the box and never to allow anyone to tell them that they could not do something.

The world is full of naysayers willing to advise that you cannot do something. Never listen to that advice. Schwarzenegger suggested that whenever someone told him something couldn’t be done, in his mind, he would hear that it could be done!

Clubber Lang’s Application:

In his bouts, Clubber frequently displayed a near disdain for the rules. He used every advantage available to him. When he defeated Rocky to win the Heavyweight Championship, Clubber was seen using pure physicality to bully Rocky around the ring. His style was unorthodox—replete with massively wide hooks. On several occasions, he would prevent an opponent from circling away by physically grabbing him and slamming him into the corner of the ring (an illegal move).

I want Balboa! I want Balboa! You hear that, Old Man? You tell Balboa to come here! Nobody can beat me! You tell him what I said! And he's NEXT! I'm gonna kill him! Nobody can stop me! You tell Balboa that! I'M COMING AFTER HIM! YOU TELL HIM!

—Clubber Lang 

Don't Be Afraid to Fail

Having a willingness to fail is not necessarily difficult to understand conceptually; however, it can be challenging to handle mentally and emotionally. Schwarzenegger mentioned he was willing to fail at every goal he ever attempted to achieve. He didn't allow the fear of failure to paralyze him. Schwarzenegger knew that abandoning any concern of failure would enable him to push himself indeed. In discussing the rules of success, he came full circle and tied in belief in oneself and in one's vision as the foundations that bolster the courage to keep pushing toward your goals.

Clubber Lang’s Application: 

Although the rematch didn't go as planned, in granting Balboa the nearly immediate bout, once again, Lang displayed the courage that powered him to the heavyweight championship. His utter contempt of failure and his staunch belief in his talents were on display throughout each match.

No, I don't hate Balboa. I pity the fool, and I will destroy any man who tries to take what I got!

—Clubber Lang

I reject the challenge, 'cause Balboa is no challenge, but I'll be happy to beat up on him some more.

—Clubber Lang

Work Your Ass Off

No pain, no gain. Perhaps this is the tenant with which EliteFTS’ readers are best acquainted. In powerlifting and other difficult pursuits, if you want to excel, there is no other way to do so than with hard work. Leave no stone unturned when working toward your goals. Schwarzenegger mentioned one of his favorite quotes from Mohammad Ali, one of his great heroes, when a reporter asked him how many sit-ups he did during a workout—"I don’t know,” Ali said. “I don’t start counting until it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that’s when I start counting, because that’s when it really counts.”

Remember that if you are not working to capacity, your competition may be outworking you—they are getting smarter, and ultimately, they will win. If you fail to reach a goal because you didn’t work hard enough, it will haunt you for the rest of your life.

Clubber Lang’s Application: 

If you view the opening montage of Rocky III, it becomes clear that while one fighter is enjoying the spoils of his successes, the antagonist, Clubber Lang, has the Eye of the Tiger, and is working his ass off to dethrone Rocky.

Clubber clearly worked harder than Rocky with a no-pain-no-gain mentality—sparring, running, completing incline board sit-ups, completing pull-ups (with hands wrapped), and pounding on the heavy bag.

If you carefully contrasted the amount of work each fighter performed to ready himself for the fight, Lang’s victory should not have been a surprise.

What did you say, Paper Champion? I'll beat you like a dog, a dog, you fool!

—Clubber Lang

***

Schwarzenegger’s rules of success apply to a myriad of endeavors. If you develop your personal vision, devise a plan to reach the top in all of your efforts, and decide to work hard to execute the plan, you can become an unstoppable goal-achieving force, much like the indomitable Clubber Lang.

1—Rate of Perceived Exertion | a scale used to measure the intensity of an exercise. The scale runs 0-10, with 10 being the most difficult/challenging end of the spectrum.

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