Bodybuilding, in one form or another, has been practiced since the time of the ancient Greeks. In modern times, bodybuilding grew out of the sport of power lifting. In the last 1890’s, enthusiasts interests began changing with some choosing to use exercise to beautify the body beyond the scope of competing for strength. In 1901, the Father of Modern Bodybuilding Eugen Sandow staged the first bodybuilding competition, called “The Greatest Show.” In the years since, bodybuilding has grown in epic proportions, with numerous sanctioning bodies staging competitions and title, in different classes and involving men and women.
The following is a timeline of the History of Bodybuilding.
1900 - 1909
The beginning of bodybuilding in mainstream society. Beginning with Eugen Sandow’s “Great Contest” staged in 1901 and Bernarr Macfadden’s large scale events held at Madison Square Garden in 1904, bodybuilding began its transition from demonstrations of feats of strength to the art of physical beauty.
1910 - 1919
Bodybuilding began to become even more mainstream, as society began to look at physical fitness and beauty as more than just a novelty. The fat-bellied strongman was quickly out of vogue, with the leaner, more muscular look taking precedence.
1920 - 1929
Bodybuilding becomes part of a new lifestyle of society in general as weights and other exercise equipment becomes available. And for those who didn’t feel the need the use of weights, Charles Atlas, the new face of bodybuilding, became an entrepreneur, offering his dynamic tension course to 97 lbs. weaklings everywhere.
1930 - 1939
The sport gained more traction as competitions gained more notoriety. Bert Goodrich was awarded the title “America’s Finest Physique.” Later, in 1939, the American Athletic Union sponsored a competition, won by Roland Essmaker, which would become known as the Mr. America contest.
1940 - 1949
Joe Weider began publishing a bodybuilding magazine entitled “Your Physique” which also featured weight sets and equipment that he sold through his mail order company, helping to expand access to equipment and nutritional supplements. A few years later, he joined his brother Ben in launching what would become known as the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness.
1950 - 1959
Bodybuilding became a big part of the nationwide health and fitness movement as enthusiasts began clamoring to workout in venues such as Muscle Beach and at home viewing exercise proponents such as Jack Lalane who brought fitness to the television screen. The Mr. Universe contest became the pinnacle for achievement within the sport.
1960 - 1969
The IFBB launched the Mr. Olympia contest which would soon eclipse all other competitions. With Larry Scott as its first champion, the Mr. Olympia exploded in popularity with the ascendance of the “The Myth”, Sergio Oliva, the winner of three consecutive titles.
1970 - 1979
This was the greatest era of bodybuilding competition as Arnold Schwarzenegger battled Lou Ferrigno, Serge Nubret, Franco Columbu and Frank Zane to become the most popular bodybuilder in history.
1980 - 1989
After a controversial victory by Schwarzenegger, Lee Haney would come to dominate the sport and would win eight straight Mr. Olympia championships. Women were getting into the game as well, emerging in fitness competitions. The Ms. Olympia competition was created with Rachel McLish and Corinna Everson dominated their wing of the sport.
1990 - 1999
Dorian Yates revolutionized the sport, adding mass the had not been seen before. Soon, judging at competitions began favoring mass over symmetry, aesthetics, and proportion, prompting many to refer to the period as the “Growth Hormone era.” The Arnold Sports Classic gains in popularity and emerges as the second most prestigious events for bodybuilding and fitness competitions.
2000 - 2009
Ronnie Coleman finishes the last of his eight consecutive Mr. Olympia victories and is followed by Jay Cutler who won four times. Iris Kyle dominates the Ms. Olympia field, winning nine overall titles, but event organizers introduce rules to force female competitors to decrease their mass and to emphasize overall physical beauty.
2010 - 2019
In response to the backlash over the “Mass Monster” dominance and in an attempt to jump start general interest in the Mr. Olympia event, new divisions were introduced, including Ms. Olympia, Open Olympia, 212 Olympia Showdown, Fitness Olympia, Figure Olympia, Bikini Olympia, Women’s Physique Showdown, and Men’s Physique Showdown contests.