As a sport of aesthetics, bodybuilding can be traced back to the 11th century in India where athletes created their own dumbbells (called Nals) out of stone and wood. There is also evidence that they created the first kind of gyms around this period.
Eugen SandowThe "Early Years" of Bodybuilding is generally considered to be the period between 1880 and 1930.
Bodybuilding (the art of displaying the muscles of the physical body) did not really exist prior to the late 19th century, when it was promoted by a man from Prussia named Eugen Sandow, who is now generally referred to as "The Father of Modern Bodybuilding". He is credited as being a pioneer of the sport because he allowed an audience to enjoy viewing his physique in "muscle display performances". Although audiences thrilled seeing a well developed physique, those men simply displayed their bodies as part of strength demonstrations or wrestling matches. Sandow had a stage show built around these displays through his manager, Florenz Ziegfeld. He became so successful at it, he later created several businesses around his fame and was among the first to market products branded with his name alone. As he became more popular, he was credited with inventing and selling the first exercise equipment for the masses (machined dumbbells, spring pulleys and tension bands).
Sandow was a strong advocate of "the Grecian Ideal" (this was a standard where a mathematical "ideal" was set up and the "perfect physique" was close to the proportions of ancient Greek and Roman statues from classical times). This is how Sandow built his own physique and in the early years, men were judged by how closely they matched these "ideal" proportions.
Sandow organised the first bodybuilding contest on 14 September 1901 called the "Great Competition" and held in the Royal Albert Hall, London, UK. Judged by himself, Sir Charles Lawes, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the contest was a huge success and was sold out and hundreds of physical culture enthusiasts were turned away. The trophy presented to the winner was a bronze statue of Sandow himself sculpted by Frederick Pomeroy. The winner was William L. Murray of Nottingham, England. The most prestigious bodybuilding contest today is the Mr. Olympia, and since 1977, the winner has been presented with the same bronze statue of Sandow he himself presented to the winner at the first contest.
On 16 January, 1904, the first large-scale bodybuilding competition in America took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The winner was Al Treloar and he was declared "The Most Perfectly Developed Man in the World" and he won a $1000 cash prize, a substantial sum at that time. Two weeks later, Thomas Edison made a film of Al Treloar's posing routine. Edison also made two films of Sandow a few years before, making him the man who made the first three motion pictures featuring a bodybuilder.
In the early 20th century, Bernarr Macfadden and Charles Atlas, continued to promote bodybuilding across the world. Alois P Swoboda was an early pioneer in America and the man who Charles Atlas credited with his success in his statement: "Everything thing that I know I learned from A. P. (Alois) Swoboda".
Other important bodybuilders in the early history of bodybuilding prior to 1930 include: Earle Liederman (writer of some of the earliest bodybuilding instruction books); Seigmund Breitbart (famous Jewish bodybuilder); George Hackenschmidt; George F. Jowett, Maxick (a pioneer in the art of posing), Monte Saldo, Launceston Elliot, Sig Klein; Sgt. Alfred Moss; Joe Nordquist; Lionel Strongfort (Strongfortism); Gustav Fristensky (the Czech champion); and Alan C. Mead, who became an impressive muscle champion despite the fact that he lost both legs in the Great War.
The "Golden Age"
The period of around 1940 to 1970 is often referred to as the "Golden Age" of bodybuilding because of changes in the aesthetic for more mass, as well as muscular symmetry and definition, which characterised the "early years". This was due in large part to the advent of the Second World War, which inspired many young men to be bigger, stronger and more aggressive in their attitudes. This was accomplished by improved training techniques, better nutrition and more effective equipment. Several important publications came into being, as well, and new contests emerged as the popularity of the sport grew.
This period of bodybuilding was typified at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, California, US. Famous names in bodybuilding from this period included Steve Reeves (notable in his day for portraying Hercules and other sword-and-sandals heroes), Reg Park, John Grimek, Larry Scott, and Bill Pearl.
The rise in popularity of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) added a bodybuilding competition to their existing weightlifting contest in 1939 - and the following year this competition was named AAU Mr. America. Around the mid-1940s most bodybuilders became disgruntled with the AAU since they only allowed amateur competitors and they placed more focus on the Olympic sport of weightlifting. This caused brothers Ben and Joe Weider to form the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) - which organised their competition IFBB Mr. America, which was open to professional athletes.
In 1950, another organisation, the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association (NABBA) started their NABBA Mr. Universe contest in the UK. Another major contest, Mr. Olympia was first held in 1965 - and this is currently the most prestigious title in bodybuilding.
Near the end of the 19th century an interest in bodybuilding arose, not as a way of survival or to defend yourself, but as a celebration of the beauty of the human body. The roots of strength emerged from Europe, where professional strong men as entertainment displayed pure power by lifting big rocks, to earn money. During a later period, the same happened in America, during the period when automobiles were invented. People started moving away from farms to city, leading modern yet sedentary lives. Suddenly out of nowhere a physique superstar rose, his name was Eugene Sandow. Sandow was more of an exhibitionist for rich woman rather than a bodybuilder. However the trend of lifting weights just for the look of big muscles started.
The concept of using weights to increase strength for athletics was considered nearly cheating during the 1930s. There was a belief among athletes that using weights would make athletes muscle-bound and reduce your flexibility. However that false idea changed somewhat by the 1950s. Steve Reeves, Clarence Ross, and Reg Park being the influential ones rose in the field of muscle. However as time passed most people recognized the fact that Reg Park was far above all other bodybuilders. He dominated the field for the next 20 years.
During the 60s the aura of bodybuilding continued. Arnold Schwarzenegger the king of bodybuilding arose. In addition, some of his competitors were Frank Zane and Franco Columbu. However, the biggest threat and challenge to Arnold was the great Sergio Oliva. Arnold had once said “Sergio’s shirt would come off, he would then look you in the eye, then the mirror, exhale with an animal grunt, suddenly his lats would flare, just when you thought that this guys is huge, BOOM!, he would become even more bigger, more and more, until you began to doubt that it was a human being you were looking at.” As the 60s ended, six dominant names emerged, Dave Draper, Sergio Oliva, Bill Pearl, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, and the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The IFBB was formed during the 1970s. The International Federation of Bodybuilding was the dominant bodybuilding organization, under the guidance of its founders the Weider brothers, Ben and Joe Weider. The IFBB had more than 100 countries as members, and was one of the largest sports federations in the world. Its top title, Mr. Olympia was the recognition of the biggest most muscular man in the world. The title is comparable to winning Formula 1, like Michael Schumacher.
Bodybuilding changed a lot in the 1980s and 90s in terms of size vs. symmetry. Lee Haney broke Arnold Schwarzenegger's record of seven Olympias by winning eight. Lately bodybuilders are getting bigger and bigger and most now weigh over 250 pounds of shredded muscle, with minimum fat. These days, it is a question of symmetry, refinement, proportion and detail. Weight is increasingly irrelevant: in order to win, bodybuilders have to be lean and have detail. However amazingly due to advancement in technology, many bodybuilders at the competitive level weigh over 250 pounds and have less than 5% body fat.
All the hard work really came into recognition when bodybuilding came under the spotlight of the International Olympic Committee in 1997 thus it became officially recognized as a sport, over 100 years after the first modern Olympics.
To look like a bodybuilder one must train, eat, and rest like one. That means a lot of planning, a lot of missing favorite foods (Carbonated drinks, Cakes, and Ice creams.) Just as there is a specific technique involved in playing tennis or golf, there is training technique in bodybuilding to get the most efficient and effective means of muscular growth. It takes a lot of hard work to build a great physique, but hard work is not enough, the workout should be strategically planned.
Initially contests were for men only, but the NABBA added Miss Universe in 1965 and Ms. Olympia was started in 1980.