Body Building – The History Of An Amazing Sport

By today’s standards, the man who first popularized the art of body building as we know it today was nothing special. He wouldn’t win too many bodybuilding contests these days nor would he particularly stand out among the muscle men of today’s bodybuilding world. However, 100 years ago things were significantly different.

The concept of bodybuilding has been around for a long time. There are written records dating back to the ancient Greeks about the popularity of fit, toned physiques. Indeed, when we think of ancient civilizations like the Greeks, we often associate them with the same type of sculptured physiques seen in today’s bodybuilding world. But back then it was predominantly done to improve their prowess at whatever their chosen sport was. It wasn’t an art form in itself like it is today.

India Adopts The Ideal Physique Concept And Probably Heads Bodybuilding Down A New Path

As the centuries passed, that ancient Greek idea of the ‘ideal physique’ took hold in other civilizations and eventually arrived in India. This was significant because it was in 11th century India that many of the modern bodybuilding weight training methods we take for granted today have their origins. For instance, it was in India that the first dumbbells were created. Made from stone in varying sizes and weights, these Nals were used in weight training programs specifically aimed at building muscle size and strength. By the 1700’s, weight training had become a widespread and hugely popular pastime in India. The aim though was still not physical displays of strength and muscle as per modern bodybuilding but rather health and fitness benefits.

Those Magnificent Strongmen

In the late 1800’s, a new type of weight training captured the imagination of the public. This weight training did have public entertainment as its end goal. This was the era of the professional strongman; powerful men who pitted themselves against each other in public displays of brute strength. These strongmen though were vastly different to the honed, fit weightlifters that meticulously focused on building up muscle strength and physique for its health benefits. Most strongmen weren’t visibly fit, toned men at all although they clearly had plenty of muscle strength. Rather, protruding stomachs and bulky fat limbs were more the order of the day. Rivalry between them was more about who was stronger rather than who had the best, most powerful looking body.

The Guy Who Really Started It All

That is, until a German strongman by the name of Friedrich Muller happened upon the scene! Friedrich, who adopted the name Eugen Sandow, was to bridge the gap between fit honed muscle man and super strong strongman. Possessed of great strength as befits the champion strongman he was, Eugene was also just as interested in what his body actually looked like. And went to great lengths to develop a physique that he could put on display during his ‘The Strongest Man In The World” performances. These muscle-displaying performances, where he flexed his muscles in various artful poses, captured the imagination of the public like never before and turned him into something of a super star. The first famous bodybuilder, subsequently dubbed the Father of Modern Bodybuilding, had arrived!

Eugene decided to cash in on his popularity and launched a series of initiatives that were to propel the concept of bodybuilding as an art form in its own right as distinct from weight lifting. He is credited with organizing and running the world’s first major bodybuilding competition and publishing the industry’s first official magazine. He developed modern bodybuilding machines and equipment and became an icon for a fledgling health and fitness industry looking for a hero that walked the talk. And Eugene certainly did that!

Over the ensuing decades, bodybuilding went ahead in leaps and bounds. It broke free from its association with weight lifting to become a fitness concept in its own right. Competitions like Mr America, Mr Universe and Mr Olympia sprang up; the winners (Steve Reeves, Arnold S etc) often became icons and household names. Athletic unions like the IFBB and NABBA, which solely catered for the sport of bodybuilding, were created.

Pumping Iron – The Film That Launched Bodybuilding Into Super-Stardom

Even so, when Pumping Iron, the film that launched a national bodybuilding craze hit the silver screen in 1977, the image and popularity of bodybuilding took another massive leap into mainstream consciousness. It cemented the super star status of many of the bodybuilders featured in it and propelled some of them into new heights of fame as actors. Pumping Iron certainly changed the image of bodybuilding forever!

If you’d like to read more about bodybuilding, Pumping Iron and the super star status it conferred upon some of its stars, you’ll find articles about Mike Katz, the doctor, actor and bodybuilder Franco Columbu, Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno and plenty more.


Serge Nubret Fulfills His Destiny in Pumping Iron

When the movie Pumping Iron begins, the stage full of extraordinarily well developed men looks the same in many ways. The sculpted figures, the amazing bulges and the stylistic way they strike a pose gives the impression that there is nothing there behind those muscles.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The tremendous discipline that it took for those bodybuilders to reach the top bodybuilding competition that was the setting for […]

Serge Nubret Fulfills His Destiny in Pumping Iron

Pumping Iron Alum Frank Zane Brains Plus Brawn

Pumping Iron Alum Frank Zane – Brains Plus Brawn

If you are like most people, when you see a bunch of bodybuilders, it is easy to think they have a lot of muscle but very little above the neckline in the way of intelligence.  But when the movie, Pumping Iron came out and the sport of bodybuilding exploded on the national scene, the men who were the “stars” of that movie were the best the sport had to offer. […]


How Pumping Iron Changed Bodybuilding Forever

Some years ago, there were two characters on the popular comedy show, Saturday Night Live, that made good natured fun of the sport of bodybuilding.  The characters had a bodybuilding show called “Pumping up with Hans and Franz”.  The two talented comedians who performed the skit were Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey and the skits were so popular that they became one of the most imitated routines in the show’s […]

How Pumping Iron Changed Bodybuilding Forever

Ed Corney - Perhaps the Best Poser in Pumping Iron

Ed Corney – Perhaps the Best “Poser” in Pumping Iron

In modern day language that the young people use, to be a “poser” is a bad thing.  But in the world of bodybuilding, to be a great poser meant you knew well how to put your well toned body on display and that meant winning a lot of competitions. When the movie, Pumping Iron erupted on the American culture, some of the best talents in bodybuilding were on display.  And of all […]


Albert Beckles – The Vegetarian Bodybuilder of Pumping Iron

When you think of athletes like long distance runners and bodybuilders, the image of that athlete consuming huge amounts of protein before a competition in the form of meat is a stereotype the public holds. Albert Beckles knew what real success was in bodybuilding and he did it all while living the life of a vegetarian. But that didn’t stop him for realizing some of the highest achievements in the field of bodybuilding […]

Albert Beckles - The Vegetarian Bodybuilder of Pumping Iron

George Butler - The Man Who Made Pumping Iron Come To Life

George Butler – The Man Who Made Pumping Iron Come to Life

In 1977, a movie called Pumping Iron exploded into the public consciousness and turned the sport of bodybuilding into something that everybody was aware of.  Pumping Iron also transformed several bodybuilders into international superstars including Arnold Schwarzenegger and the man who went on be become the name we most associate with The Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno. But it was the man behind the camera, George Butler who made Pumping Iron […]


Franco Columbu – Doctor, Actor and Bodybuilder

Franco Columbu was born in Sardinia, Italy in 1941.  He immigrated to the United States in 1969, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1987. Columbu has earned numerous bodybuilding titles, including Mr. Olympia, Mr. International, Mr. World, Mr. Universe, Mr. Europe, and Mr. Italy, despite his slight stature, usually reported as 5 foot 5 inches, well under that of most bodybuilders. During the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition in Pretoria, South Africa, he was one of […]

Franco Columbu - Doctor, Actor and Bodybuilder

The Camera Loves Paul Grant in Pumping Iron

The Camera Loves Paul Grant in Pumping Iron

The world of bodybuilding represents a relatively small niche even in the sports universe.  But that doesn’t mean that as athletes bodybuilders were not as devoted to their sport and single minded in their desire to succeed as any baseball, football or basketball player.  That dedication to excellence can be seen in the small number of bodybuilders who were able to get media exposure in the breakthrough bodybuilding film, Pumping […]


Mike Mentzer – The Philosopher Muscle Man of Pumping Iron

The movie Pumping Iron put on display the finest of the sport of bodybuilding.  When you watch those phenomenal athletes on the screen, they seem to blend together.  But each athlete who reached that final plateau of bodybuilding to compete to be Mr. Universe was and is a very unique individual with a story to tell. Pumping Iron introduced us to the very recognizable bodybuilders who went on to become […]

Mike Mentzer - The Philosopher Muscle Man of Pumping Iron

Mike Katz - A Pumping Iron Star with a Big Chest and a Big Heart

Mike Katz – A Pumping Iron Star with a Big Chest and a Big Heart

The movie Pumping Iron made the careers of a number of body builders.  The most notable household names that became huge stars from the Pumping Iron movie are the previous governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the man who went on be become the name we most associate with The Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno. Next to Ferrigno, probably the one body builder who was well known for having the biggest chest in this field […]