Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now




The Legends of Bodybuilding

Posted on August 28, 2013 by Daniel Lofthouse
Steve Reeves (far left) helped elevate interest in bodybuilding.

Steve Reeves (far left) helped elevate interest in bodybuilding.

The roots of bodybuilding can be traced back as far as ancient Greece. But in those ancient times, it was not so much a tool for personal body modification as it was a method of training for sports that the ancient Greeks participated in. Since then of course, many have chosen bodybuilding as a means of attempting to achieve some sort of aesthetic muscular perfection. Some of these fitness mad individuals have now become household names.

Steve Reeves

In the late 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood heart throb Steve Reeves was largely responsible for bringing bodybuilding into the public consciousness in a big way. Prior to Reeves, bodybuilding was a relatively unknown sport and it was through Reeves’ series of movie roles that bodybuilding first gained recognition and interest from the general public. Considered by many now to be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of his era, Reeves won the 1947 Mr. America, the 1948 Mr. World and the 1950 Mr. Universe, putting him amongst the most prolific bodybuilders of his generation.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Undoubtedly the most famous of all professional bodybuilders, Arnold Schwarzenegger burst onto the international bodybuilding scene in 1966, known then as “The Austrian Oak”. At the age of only 23, Schwarzenegger became the youngest ever man to win the Mr. Olympia contest in 1970, a title he would hold for six consecutive years. On the brink of retirement from bodybuilding, Schwarzenegger was convinced by filmmakers George Butler and Robert Fiore to compete in Mr. Olympia one more time, an event which was captured in their documentary Pumping Iron. The film drew interest from Hollywood, and catapulted Schwarzenegger into international stardom.

Lee Haney

Lee Haney arrived on the bodybuilding scene in the 1980s, and subsequently broke Arnold Schwarzenegger’s previous record by winning the Mr. Olympia contest eight times running, between 1984 and 1991. At his peak, Haney weighted a massive 245 pounds and optimized everything we now associate with the perfect contemporary bodybuilding physique: proportion, symmetry and conditioning.

Ronnie Coleman was Mr. Olympia eight times during his career.

Ronnie Coleman was Mr. Olympia eight times during his career.

Ronnie “Big Ron” Coleman

Bodybuilders continued to get larger and larger into the 1990s, with Dorian Yates dominating the international bodybuilding scene for most of the decade. And just when it was thought that bodybuilders couldn’t get any bigger, Ronnie Coleman proved everybody wrong. Weighing in at an unprecedented 297 pounds, Coleman equaled Haney’s record of eight Mr. Olympia titles, which he received between 1998 and 2005.


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