Many would say bodybuilding is an interesting and dangerous sport… and they’re right. Since it was introduced, it’s been all about weight lifting, and growing your body exponentially past your opponent a decade ago. And well, in this discussion we’ll talk about the shady sport and why it’s not what it used to be (at least to some eyes).

First, Understand the History

Eugen Sandow

Bodybuilding was initially invented in the late 19th century and was encouraged and advanced by Eugen Sandow who’s considered the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding.” Unlike many now, the sport of bodybuilding then was certainly less about posing and physique. Bodybuilders such as Sandow would participate in strongman competitions, from lifting animals to proving other incredible feats of strength by moving large carts and weights.

Bodybuilding didn’t become popular until around the 1950s and 60s where strength, health, and fitness came into play in the news, magazines, and training for the sport of bodybuilding. Many new products such as bulking and cutting supplements and protein consumables were also on the rise at that time. In 1946, the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) was founded by Joe and Ben Weider. Other well-known competitions included the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), Mr. Universe, and Mr. Olympia, which was started in 1965 by the IFBB. New competitions include the Arnold Sports Festival or known as the Arnold Classic, created by the IFBB. Many would see this as a great challenge, but to many bodybuilders such as Mike Katz, all competitions leading up to Mr. Olympia are for amateur bodybuilders.

During the early times of bodybuilding, some of the most successful competitors were Reg Park, Leroy Colbert, Clarence Ross, and Bill Pearl. Many of those bodybuilders like Reg Park were most noticeable and others came to popularity from television and cinema.

Aside from bodybuilders themselves, there were notable locations for the presence of these competitors at gyms such as Gold’s Gym, which was brought in the mid-60s. Other popular spots such as Venice Beach in California is known to many as the “Home of Bodybuilding” since 1963. Bodybuilders including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Ed Corney, Lou Ferrigno, and Frank Zane. Their most noticeable appearances were through films such as Pumping Iron, one of the most iconic films during Arnold’s youth and is known today as the “Golden Age of Bodybuilding.”

Pumping Iron, 1977

The Era of Arnold

While Arnold Schwarzenegger accomplished many things in his life from being a movie star to the governor of California, he actually started his journey to fame from bodybuilding, after beginning weight lifting at 15, and winning his first Mr. Universe competition at 20. Arnold will go down as one of if not the best bodybuilders to ever compete.

The “Golden Age of Bodybuilding” took large notice around the 70s with competitors like Arnold, Frank Zane, Ken Waller, Serge Nubret, Lou Ferrigno, Robby Robinson, Franco Columbu, Danny Padilla, Sergio Olivia, and certainly many more. Bodybuilding was known then for muscularity, proportion, and clarity, which were all key factors taken place in the pre-judging of competitions. Bodybuilding at that time did not have as much excessive use of anabolic steroids or synthetic, so as time rose, so did the demand for such enhancements.

80s and Anabolics

In the 70s, the use of additional growth hormones and synthetics was present. It wasn’t until the 80s where anabolic steroids really surged and bodybuilding started to take a turn for the worse from judging even proportion and elegant physique, to overall proportion and size. It’s seen to be led to the unusual sizes for new-age competitors, and the development of horrible leading health issues like HGH gut.

90s and the New Era

With new technology, more enhancements, and without Arnold and other past champions to take the spot of Mr. Olympia anymore, new records were to be made from the “Golden Era.” Dorian Yates was the new Arnold in the sense that he redefined the sport and won 6 consecutive Mr. Olympia titles. This was due to his own physique and talent that met from natural to unnatural. Competitors would then go to extreme practices to defeat Yates in his success. This changed the sport yet again for the worse.

Dorian Yates DY Nutrition

With all the competition to become bigger and better, the mass era began during the 90s, Dorian Yates being a large factor to the name, but Ronnie Coleman being much larger. Coleman succeeded Yates in 1998 and did so with much larger proportions, more extreme workouts, more enhancements, and definitely more yelling. Coleman won 26 titles in his career, 8 being Mr. Olympia. He held the record for most titles at an IFBB professional until Dexter Jackson broke it with 29 titles.

A lost cause

It’s a sad and silent truth that bodybuilding is fading out into darkenss. What was a sport that promoted more athleticism and beautiful proportion has turned into a sport for the largest size of muscles. Competitors like Kai Greene, Shawn Rhoden, Phil Heath, Jay Cutler, and many other successful modern-day bodybuilders have altered the sport to the point of no return. Calum Von Moger, one of the greatest physiques in the world and two time Mr. Universe champion was one of the last hopes for bodybuilding, however with little publicity compared to the rest, it’s hard to tell whether he’ll have any influence on the future of bodybuilding. But should we ask ourselves, is it really something worth saving?

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