Bodybuilding in its popular form began in earnest in the 1890s with the arrival of Mr. Eugene Sandow, on which the statue of Mr. Olympia was modeled. However, weight training as a general sporting activity was originally used as a means to conquer power and measure strength in ancient Egyptian and Greek societies. The first bodybuilding competition was organized by Sandow in London, United Kingdom on 14, September 1901 and was played a role judge. The winner of the contest was William L. Murray of Nottingham, from England. The first comprehensive bodybuilding competition in America took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City on 16, January 1904. The winner was Al Treloar.
Charles Atlas, Italian-born American bodybuilder, won such titles as the World’s Most Handsome Man and the World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man at contests staged by physical culturist Bernarr Macfadden at Madison Square Garden in 1921 and 1922, respectively. Bert Goodrich was the first AAU Mr. America in 1937. By 1940, the first modern bodybuilding event had arrived, the Mr. America, which was won by John Grimek, who also won it the following year. Grimek, unparalleled in muscular development up until that point, became the catalyst for a new direction in physical improvement. With physiques arguably more impressive than Grimek, Clancy Ross and Steve Reeves made their mark in the '40s. Ross won the Mr. America in 1945, and many believe him to have been the first modern bodybuilder. Steve Reeves came along and further popularized bodybuilding due to his movie star looks and perfectly proportioned physique. Reeves eventually became revered as the greatest bodybuilder of all time after winning the Mr. America and the Mr. Universe.
Other bodybuilders, such as Reg Park, followed Reeves' example, and became great champions. Reg Park became one of the first travelers who progressively influenced bodybuilders and people across the globe to start following his programs. Bodybuilding was truly developing at an exponential rate with the IFBB being formed by Ben Weider in 1946 and NABBA being formed in England in 1950. Joe Weider co-founded the IFBB alongside his brother Ben Weider. He was also the creator of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest. The Mr. Olympia had been won first by Larry Scott in 1965, who went on to win again in 1966. Sergio Oliva won the Mr. Olympia title in 1967, 1968 and 1969.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka The Austrian Oak, cemented his spot as the number one bodybuilder in the world by winning the Olympia for the next six years straight, and again in 1980. Schwarzenegger’s charisma, work ethic, and focused drive were captured in the Charles Gaines and George Butler’s 1974 book and 1977 film documentary, Pumping Iron.
Frank Zane won Mr. Olympia 3 times: 1977, 1978, 1979. As bodybuilding increased in popularity into the 1970s, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Dave Draper, Franco Columbu, Tom Platz and Mike Mentzer became household names. The '80s witnessed the rise of Lee Haney, who won eight Mr. Olympia titles. His physique at around 240 pounds had surpassed any other bodybuilder up until that point. Other notable bodybuilders of this period were Lee Labrada, Vince Taylor, Shawn Ray, and Rich Gaspari.
The '90s could truly be defined as the era where competitors demonstrated a leap forward in terms of muscle mass. Dorian Yates won six Mr. Olympia titles (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997) and heralded a new benchmark in mass at 265 pounds ripped. Kevin Levrone, aka The Maryland Muscle Machine, is one of the most successful professional bodybuilders of all time. Despite placing a number of times, Kevin never took first place in a Mr. Olympia competition earning him the nickname, "The Uncrowned King of Mr. Olympia". Schwarzenegger began promoting the Arnold Classic bodybuilding championships in 1989. Kenneth "Flex" Wheeler won the Arnold Classic a then-record four times and was once described by Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the greatest bodybuilders he had ever seen.
Ronnie Coleman is a 8x Mr. Olympia winner. He’s regarded as one of the greatest ever bodybuilders, earning the nickname ‘GOAT’ (Greatest Of All Time). Ronnie Coleman routinely competed at around 290 pounds, and took the competition physique beyond what was, up until 10 years ago, thought possible. Co-competitors Jay Cutler and Dexter Jackson also competed light years ahead of anything seen throughout the '80s and '90s.
Jay Cutler is a four-time Mr. Olympia winner (2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010). Dexter Jackson, ака The Blade, is an IFBB professional bodybuilder and the winner of the 2008 Mr. Olympia. Phil Heath, aka The Gift, is a seven-time Mr. Olympia champion from 2011 to 2017 - and therefor one of the most Olympia crowned bodybuilders of all time. Shawn Rhoden, aka Flexatron, caused one of the biggest upsets in bodybuilding history, defeating Phil Heath and a strong field to the 2018 Mr. Olympia title.
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