The history of bodybuilding

Bodybuilding is an evolved form of what it was initially called as muscle display performance. Muscularity has taken a great leap since its inception and has found a unique career platform for men (and women). The most initial forms of bodybuilding were seen in ancient Greece where the athletes used resistance and endurance exercises to increase body strength but not for body alteration. Way back in the 11th century, Indians had excelled their strength and muscularity using primitive weight equipment made of stone. By the 16th century, bodybuilding and weight lifting events were revered and enjoyed nationwide in India.

Modern day bodybuilding is in it's advanced stage where the science and technicalities of bodybuilding have reached a new threshold. Thanks to the innovative approaches, Contemporary bodybuilders have grown stronger and bigger than their predecessors.

In the mid-19th century a revolutionary beginning of physical culture was found. People soon started to realize exercise can keep them healthy, fit and strong. Being weak was considered a sin by the religious. People started to outdo others in activities that showcased their strength and valor. People switched from primitive practices in dark dungeons to performing out in the public. While the energetic men pulled the carts and lifted the animals, the onlookers relished the view.

The father of Modern bodybuilding:

In such an era, there was the birth of “The Father of Modern bodybuilding- Eugene Sandow”. With him started the new beginning of competitive bodybuilding at amateur as well as professional levels. Eugene was the man who brought a great transition as to how weight lifting and other practices were considered. He was looked on as a role model in areas of bodybuilding as symmetry and aesthetics started gaining momentum. He started to perform in the public by displaying his muscles in different poses to entertain the crowds. In the quest of becoming the strong man he traveled town to town and reached America in the 1890s. In America he was honored with the title- The World’s strongest man. The symmetry and dense muscularity paved way for him to become first ever bodybuilder.

Sandow integrated proper diet plans and exercise as a part of weight training and achieving sculpted body of perfection. Eugene developed the first of the equipment that would be used for bodybuilding. He also worked for the magazine which was later called as Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture. His active involvement and promotion of modern bodybuilding saw a new sunshine when the first ever bodybuilding event- The Great Competition, was organized in 1901 in Royal Albert Hall, London.

The great competition/Show:

The great bodybuilding competition was conducted after a long hiatus of 3 years since it was publicized. The participants had to qualify for the event in the regional levels to make a stand in the great show. The event was organized with a total prize amount of up to 1,000 guineas (greater than $5000 at present times). The event displayed wrestling, fencing, gymnastics, athletics and bodybuilding. 60 bodybuilders who prepared anxiously for this big day over 3 years swayed the spectators and the great show started with a big bang. Eugene Sandow played a major role in judging criteria while he judged the great performances along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Charles Laws. They judged participants based on the general health, general development, balance of development, condition and tone of the tissues and skin. The winner of the great show was William L Murray who hailed from Nottingham, Great Britain. He was awarded with the cash prize and the gold Sandow, a statuette.

As an honor to Sandow, his figure is sculpted as a statuette for the bodybuilding competition, Mr. Olympia, the competition that is most revered and backed these days.

Bernarr Macfadden and other contributors of early 1990s:

In the early 1900s, Bernarr carried forward the works of Sandow and organized several bodybuilding competitions for men and women. The one event that is still remembered today is the “Most Perfectly Developed Man contest”. He wrote several bodybuilding books and also for the magazine – “Physical Culture Magazine” that remained in use for more than 50 years.

Then out came a new talent, Charles Atlas who won the- Most Perfectly Developed Man contest in the year 1921. He followed the legacy and continued to contribute to the standards of bodybuilding. One of the contributions of Charles is the mail-order course that he started, “Dynamic Tension”.

Beyond the muscle show, the public became aware of the importance to keep oneself fit and strong. Thus, by 1920, bodybuilding and exercise devices such as barbells, and dumbbells started selling like pancakes. By 1930, rampant advertisements and promotion of bodybuilding created a wave as more and more people entered into the realm of bodybuilding to make a career for themselves.

The golden age of bodybuilding: 1930 to 1970

What was merely considered a muscle show, transformed to a physical culture and in the golden age - 1930 to 1970 it turned out to be a professional career. In 1939, the Amateur Athletic Union started a yearly bodybuilding event- Mr. America. The Mr. America contest was the next leap in the evolution of bodybuilding where the participants had to portray athletic skills to complement the body they built. The first contest was held in the year 1940, and the first winner was John Grimek. His persona was unprecedented and was responsible to popularize bodybuilding a little further.

The platform of bodybuilding kept on reaching new heights with bodybuilders growing more and more impressive every year. John Grimek was followed by the giants such as Clancy Ross, and Steve Reeves. The successful bodybuilders got a new media to showcase their hard muscles. Pretty soon the bodybuilders started appearing in action movies that raised their celebrity status.

Other authoritative bodies such as the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) and the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association (NABBA) started to take shape in 1946 and 1950 respectively. Since then large number of competitions have been organized all over the world. Mr. Universe was the contest started by the NABBA in the year 1950. Mr. Olympia is a world renowned bodybuilding competition that was organized by IFBB in the year 1965.

Arnold Schwarzenegger came to fame as “Austrian Oak” in the 1960s with his victory against Dennis Tinereno in the Mr. America contest in 1967. Since then there has not been a step down for the hero of the era. Arnold went on to win the Mr. Universe contest 5 times and Mr. Olympia contest 7 times.

Mr. Olympia:

Mr. Olympia was started in the year 1965 and the first Mr. Olympia was Larry Scott. In the coming years, Sergio Oliva succeeded Scott, who bagged the Mr. Olympia title consecutively for 3 years from 1967 to 69. And then came the era of Arnold Schwarzenegger who won the Mr. Olympia contest for five years in unbroken order.

With much hyped Mr. Olympia gaining momentum, the muscular bodybuilders were recognized worldwide and were considered as the most desirable figures. This paved way to lucrative gym industry as bodybuilding became a legal sport.
Lou Ferrigno, Franco Columbo, Frank Zane, Reg Park, Samir Bannout, Roger Walker, Mike Mentzer, Roy Callender are the few names that shined in the bodybuilding history since the 1970s.

1980s saw the new hero in Lee Haney who went on to become the unbeatable Mr. Olympia consecutively for 8 times from 1984 to 1991. This massive hulk weighed 245 lbs at a height of 6 ft. he was the first person to beat the world record of Arnold and make his place in the Guinness Book of World records for 8 Mr. Olympia wins.

After 1991, Lee Haney was succeeded by Dorian Yates who won Mr. Olympia contest from 1992 to 1997 and soon retired. Then came another muscular man, Ronnie “Big Ron” Coleman who weighed enormous 270 lbs and teamed up with Lee Haney to consecutively win the Mr. Olympia title 8 times from 1998 to 2005. In an attempt to beat the world record of Lee Haney, he tried his best to grab the title in 2006. However, Coleman was defeated by Jay Cutler, a runner up since last 5 years.

The bodybuilding masters were defeated year after year by the better, stronger and bigger bodybuilders. In the 20th century, Jay Cutler won Mr. Olympia title 4 times but was defeated in the year 2011 by Phil Heath. Phil heath repeated his victory in the year 2012 and is the dominant bodybuilder of the present times.

Bodybuilding has reached the status of one of the leading sports of the present generation. The bodybuilding competitions and championships have reached top standards year after year. Not to mention, bodybuilding is still evolving…

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