The History of BodyBuilding

Bodybuilding started out as part of an ancient Greek fitness program. These Greek athletes were the first to participate in organized training sessions, within closed buildings or areas, known as the gymnasium, which roughly translates to ‘Naked Place.’ Resistance Training (also referred to as Weight Training or Strength Training) was not a part of their curriculum, and they focused extensively on physical fitness and building stamina.

So, it all started in Greece, but as time went on it evolved all over the world into what we know as modern bodybuilding today. If you’re a fitness and bodybuilding enthusiast like me, keep reading. Below are some fun facts that I have gathered which are sure to explain the history of bodybuilding more and intrigue you.


Bodybuilding entered a new era during the 11th Century in India, where primitive weights were carved out of wood and stone and used as a dumbbell. This is where we see the introduction of specific tools or equipment made for bodybuilders.

By the 16th Century, weight lifting was a common pastime enjoyed by Indian royalty and commoners, alike.

Moving into the early 19th Century, we see that people were increasingly becoming health conscious, and began to organize strength training and fitness regime programs. These programs gained prominence around the world and their popularity continued to rise. This period of time is usually referred to, as the “Beginning of Modern Day Bodybuilding”.

History of Bodybuilding



Born as Friedrich Muller in Prussia, 1867, I doubt that anyone knew he would become the fitness role model he is today. It was through Sandow’s initiative that the world’s first bodybuilding competition was hosted in England, in 1891, followed by the inclusion of two weight lifting events in the modern Olympic Games, in 1896.

Unfortunately, Eugene Sandow died from a stroke in 1925, aged 58 years. However, his legacy continues to live strong, in the hearts and minds of the global bodybuilding communities.

You can find his image immortalized in the form of statuettes, simply named ‘Sandow.’ These statues are presented to the athlete who wins the title of Mr. Olympia, the world’s most prestigious competition in bodybuilding.


In the world of bodybuilding publications, the early 1900’s were dominated by Bernarr MacFadden who famously considered weakness to be a “crime”. He was responsible for creating numerous articles on bodybuilding and provided the world a huge number of fitness/health tips. It was his work which jumpstarted the creation of modern-day fitness magazines. He started Physical Culture Magazine, which was published for more than five decades.


Skipping forward a few decades, we see Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane and Franco Columbo have emerged and are gaining popularity. Arnold’s had his first chance of being crowned Mr. Olympia, in 1969. He was, however, beaten by Sergio Oliva. However, Arnold returned next year, as a 23 year old bodybuilder, and was crowned Mr. Olympia.


Arnold Schwarzenegger was expected to be a “guest star”, at Mr. Olympia 1980, along with Reg Park. However, Arnold shocked us all when he entered the competition as a contender. He waited till the last minute to enter and actually ended up winning the competition.

That final victory was the last time that Mr. Austrian Oak participated in this prestigious event.

Lee Haney was the next ‘superstar’, to emerge from bodybuilding, during 1980s.

He toppled Arnold’s record, by being crowned Mr. Olympia, eight times in a row, from 1984 – 1991. Despite this seemingly dramatic fall for Arnold, he didn’t give up on himself. Arnold became a promoter for the bodybuilding community and in the 90’s produced numerous successful films. This started a trend of well-built action heroes such as Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone.


Starting in the early 2000’s, bodybuilding is seen as a sport dominated by Ronnie Coleman, who had tied with Haney by winning eight Mr. Olympia titles, from 1998 to 2005. However, he lost that streak when coming back to defend his title in 2006 and being defeated by Jay Cutler, shattering hopes of creating a new World Record. You can’t help but feel happy for Jay Cutler though.

He was consecutively second place until winning in 2006 for the first time. So, alive today is the dream of someone winning more than eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles. Until that day… I hope you enjoyed our fun take on the History of Bodybuilding.

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