The History of Bodybuilding

The History of Bodybuilding

Whether we are athletic or not, the mention of the word bodybuilding rarely leaves people indifferent. Indeed, when we talk about bodybuilding, our novice mind immediately returns us to the image of a “superman” with oiled muscles ready to explode.


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bodybuilding history According to Professor of Psychology, Albert Mehrabian, Only 7% of our communication is verbal,  38% para-verbal and 55% nonverbal. Facing such a finding, we can easily understand, how our attitudes unconsciously speak for us.

More than our words or our rhetoric, a look, a gesture or posture reveal a part of our inner being. The shape of our bodies is important since it also communicates who we are and our lifestyle.

In the West, for example, curves are sign of inactivity, evoking the good eater but also a negligence of appearance. Unlike curves, the slender silhouette of women awakens desire in the male sex. And a muscular body returns meanwhile, the dynamism, modernity, masculinity, strength.

Our bodies therefore give a picture more or less rewarding of ourselves to others. But this body is not a frozen mass. Our body lives and is a source of emotions. It is the guardian of our history, our hopes, our suffering, our well being.

Therefore our mind will desire to shape that body in order to assert and emphasize our personality. Some will jump into diets or sports practice to chafe unwanted bulges. Others will make the body shine through artistic activities such as photography or sculpture in particular.

How sport highlights the body

Whether we are athletic or not, the mention of the word bodybuilding rarely leaves people indifferent. Indeed, when we talk about bodybuilding, our novice mind immediately returns us to the image of a “superman” with oiled muscles ready to explode.

This vision will appear to some, terrifying and disgusting.  For others, the development of the outsized muscles will have an unreal and inaccessible side.

But muscle development can be taken to the extreme, with the appearance of the veins apparent in anatomy illustrations where every muscle is fully drawn. The latter perception of bodybuilding evokes a certain perfection of the body. Bodybuilding in this development, reveals the often hidden and unknown parts of our anatomy.
We can only be, in spite of everything, fascinated by the result. And as we have also seen above, muscle is a symbol of virility and strength.

But beyond these feelings, do we really know much about bodybuilding?



Too often we consider bodybuilding as excessive weight training or even with a show of force. These simplifications have errors of understanding this discipline.

Bodybuilding is the development of muscle mass for aesthetic purposes. We understand then that bodybuilding combines sports training and artistic research.

It is important to also point out that  the bodybuilder must have a healthy lifestyle especially in his diet and rest of his body.


The evocation of the beauty of the body to the realization of a discipline

How did the practice of bodybuilding start?

hercules bronzeThe evocation of the body’s beauty by the harmony of muscle mass appears in ancient times with the myth of Hercules and the Greek statues.

  Hercules realized that no man could accomplish: the twelve tasks assigned by Eurystheus.. By his exploits, we find this notion often attributed to bodybuilders of “superman”, of surpassing oneself. Furthermore, representations of Hercules through sculptures, reveal to us a muscular body, with perfect lines.

The Greeks worshiped the body, particularly the half-man/half-god body. They embody this ideal beauty through their sculptures of naked bodies with visible muscles, with perfect proportions and symmetry in the torso. These sculptures are designed to force admiration.  They defined the first body aestheticism for those close to bodybuilding and the development of muscle mass and artistic research.

With this ancient culture dedicated to the aesthetics of the body, bodybuilding as we know it today, will continue to grow thanks to passionate people who carry this aesthetic in the form of sport.

Without being the founder of modern bodybuilding, the personality of Georges Hébert contributed to the birth of the discipline with his eyes focused on fitness especially for men.  This officer of the French Navy, born in 1875, discovered through his travels that men with a “primitive” lifestyle, living close to nature, have excellent physical condition and developed perfect musculature.  Following his discovery, Georges Hebert developed the “natural method” based on the practice of movements in a natural environment.

His approach influenced several leading figures of bodybuilding. Eugen Sandow, the German athlete, will particularly be considered today as the true founding father of bodybuilding.

Who does not know the name of Sandow in the field of bodybuilding?

sandowHe was the first bodybuilder to be internationally recognized for his shows. His passion for the aesthetics of the body revealed a perfect musculature that was present since his infancy.  He lived with his father in the early years of his lifetime in Italy and soon the Roman statues exerted their perfection on the boy.  At the age of 19 he began to show his strength during circus performances in several European countries. Noticed by an American promoter, Florenz Ziegfield, he participated in the great 1893 World Fair in Chicago. There, he differed from other participants that came to show their strength with superior performances lifting almost impossible weights. Indeed, during his performances, Eugen Sandow gave more importance to his postures, the development of his muscles and the general aesthetics of the body than force itself. This feature excited the public and laid one more stone in the building of the discipline known as bodybuilding.


In 1920, a treaty about bodybuilding was written by Earle Liederman.

The second most important figure in the construction of the discipline was undoubtedly Joe Weider. This Canadian bodybuilder was born in 1919. His involvement and his contribution to the democratization of bodybuilding is considerable.  Joe Weider was incredibly passionate and dedicated a fascination for the beauty of muscles at a young age. From 1936, he developed new techniques for intensifying the development of muscle mass. In 1949 he founded with his brother Ben Weider the International Federation of Bodybuilding. Also a businessman, he created several magazines about bodybuilding, including FLEX and Muscles and fitness. But his most significant contribution will be the creation of the great and international bodybuilding competition: Mister Olympia in 1965. Joe Weider is the “daddy” of many of today’s bodybuilders and specifically of the famous actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Indeed, it was Joe Weider who discovered the young Arnold in Austria. He became his mentor and coach.  Following his death in 2013, Arnold Schwarzenegger made a poignant tribute to this great man.

Democratizing itself more and more, bodybuilding competitions took place in sports halls and at Muscle Beach, especially with The first winner of Mr Olympia, Larry Scott.  This peaked in 1987, with the general public admiring bodybuilders training on the sands of Muscle Beach, built especially for this purpose.


Today, Frédéric Mompo, coach and several times world champion in this discipline, struggles to break down prejudices on bodybuilding. He wants to explain to the public how bodybuilding is primarily a lifestyle demanding impeccable cleanliness. Bodybuilders are true artists of the body.


Discovering the major bodybuilding contest

The very first bodybuilding contest (the great competition) was organized by George Sandow himself in 1901 in England. The announcement of the competition caused intense enthusiasm among students from England. The objective of this contest was to promote physical culture and enhancement of muscle mass. It stated several criteria such as symmetry, the participant’s health status, body balance, the quality of tissue … .. The eventual winner was William L. Murray.


But the real, the essential and  most prestigious bodybuilding competition is Mr. Olympia  developed by Joe Weider in 1965.  The first Mr. Olympia contest was held on September 18, 1965 in Brooklyn, New York.
Since then Mr Olympia represents the most prestigious international competition, professionalizing bodybuilding. The competition is run annually by the International Federation of Bodybuilding and fitness.

All these personalities come from different backgrounds and countries. But what joins them is this passion, this reverence for beauty of a perfect body, brushing against the unreality, a body practically defined.

Bodybuilding is the art of putting the body in a new light thanks to a choice of life demanding rigor, patience and a great moral force.

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