Last Update  On November 20, 2011
History And Origins Of Bodybuilding

by Rusi
Have you ever wonder how it all started? Everything has a history and bodybuilding does not make an exception. However very few bodybuilders are actually familiar with the origins of the sport. It may be because bodybuilding has changed so much that the bodybuilders from 1940's don't look even close to today's pros and many young lifters have started to believe that the old-school crowd has little  to offer especially with the developed supplement and advanced nutrition researches we see today.
Of course this is not true. There is a lot to be learned from the iron ancestors and every bodybuilder should be familiar with the main history events that made the sport what it is today.

People still argue how it all started but without any doubt we were interested in physical development since the beginning of the world. I don't know what's your nationality but I'm sure you've heard a lot of myths presenting the life of powerful and strong men such as Hercules, Samson, Prince Marko...etc.  Not to mention all the Greek statues of muscular athletes and soldiers. In other words:

"People have always appreciated a muscular physique. "
The beginning

During the early 1900's a lot of Europeans left their countries and went to America for the hope of better life. After all America is the Land Of Opportunity. Right?

Of course we always have to start from the bottom and most of the available jobs for those immigrants included a tremendous amount of physical labor.  That's why the stronger men were more likely to find a job. Somewhere at this point many entrepreneurs have started to “promote” the benefits of being stronger and muscular among the immigrants. There were quite a lot of interesting slogans in the newspapers such as :

“Weakness is a crime. Don't be a criminal.”
Somewhere at this point the native population wanted to be able to break its status of weak and lazy nation. As you can guess that's when it all started. The most popular bodybuilder at this time was Eugene Sandow.

The first fitness booklet was written by Angelo Siciliano better known as Charles Atlas. His first work was dedicated to general fitness advice and didn't sell good. However it didn't take him long to find out that even boys like big muscles and started putting ads in comic books. The promise of Atlas was simple yet highly attractive to many: “You will get a body women will desire and men will envy.”, “Nobody picks on a strong man.”

Soon the first bodybuilding magazine “Strength” was started by George Jowett.  In 1932  Bob Hoffman who was one of Jowett's students founded the York Barbell Club which was also the training house of early bodybuilding legends such as John Grimek.   Hoffman also started his own magazine - Strength and Health. However Bob Hoffman was more interesting in Olympic weightlifting rather than bodybuilding. That's where another future successful businessman came on the scene - Joe Weider.

Joe Weider saw the obvious - man do like big muscles and most of them are willing to work hard to achieve similar physique. Somewhere around 1938 Weider wrote a small work dedicated to bodybuilding. The ironic thing is that he had to use his last seven dollars to launch the pamphlet without knowing that later he will have millions.
The Famous Muscle Beach
In 1940 a playground on Santa Monica oceanfront seemed to attract hundreds of men and spectators.  The small area contained a lot of weight and training equipment and is better known as Muscle Beach and also considered as bodybuilding's Renaissance. At that point there was a lot of juggling, tumbling, gymnastics and feats of strength which provided a lot of free entertainment. Also the muscle heads wanted to show that they were just as strong as they looked.
The famous Jack LaLanne was one of the original members of the Muscle Beach. He started the first bodybuilding gym on the west coast. LaLanne designed a lot of machines (including the smith machine) and personally worked with the gym members. The gym was so successful that the bodybuilder Vic Tanny decided to open a chain of gyms across the country. However the whole thing wen bankrupt in less than two years. At this point the bodybuilding and the pursuit of muscle went underground. After all it takes effort and many people hate effort - we all love fast results and easy gains but they never happen.

Around 1965 the sport of bodybuilding went underground because muscles were not longer “fashionable”. People were more interesting in “active thinking” and education.  In fact many people used to look down on bodybuilders and used them as cheap entertainment only.
Jack Lalanne back in the day
At the same time in Southern California a group young and aspiring lifters were taking bodybuilding to a whole new level. Their dedication was extreme and to this new type of gym rats the pursuit of muscle has become a number one goal. Many people labeled them as “freaks.” At the same time Joe Weider was still looking for different ways to promote his products. He used the best bodybuilders to present his supplements. One of them was Arnold  who was actually trained for quite some time by Vince Gironda.
Vince Gironda was one of the most legendary bodybuilding coaches of all time. Known for his hard to deal with personality and aggressive attitude he produced a lot of legends including the first Mr. Olympia - Larry Scott. The amazing thing about Gironda was his vast knowledge despite the fact that he never went to college. His ideas on training and nutrition were considered far ahead of his time. He was the first to bash the carbohydrate diet and to popularize low carbohydrate diets.
Vince Gironda - the Iron Guru
Another very important figure was Irvin Johnson who later changed his name to Rheo Blair. Blair was a young chemist who was the first man to experiment with different amino acids combinations. Blair was also ahead of his time. His protein formulas were made from egg, whey and milk solids while before that time most of the protein was soy based.
Irvin Johnson a.k.a Rheo Blair
Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, he continued to market his  products, publish his magazine, and train movie stars and such bodybuilding champions as Larry Scott,  Frank Zane, Don Howorth, and Gable Boudreaux. Upon Blair’s death in 1983, Scott paid tribute to  him as “the master chemist. He was so far ahead of everyone in his nutritional research, it didn’t even  sound like he was talking about the same subject.” Scott also insists that, unlike most would-be pioneers of protein, “Rheo was never very money-motivated.”

However due to mean games between Rheo and his rivals he has never received his rightful place in the history of bodybuilding.  In 1970 an advertisement of Rheo's protein entitled “The Only Protein Supplement with 20 Years of Success!” was criticized by an annotation of John Terpak, Hoffman’s general manager and successor, which read: “Who says so - I never heard of it until several years ago.”
Obviously Terpak didn't knew who actually  Irvin Johnson was and how the York Barbell Company had  copied not only Blair’s protein supplement but had even copied the name of the supplement and then denied  Blair any further ad space in Strength & Health. Fuckers.
Bodybuilding popularity gained back some of its fame when a small independent foreign film was bought by Hollywood producer Joseph E. Levine for release in the United States. Levine saw star quality in the man who played the title character. That man was Steve Reeves and the movie was "Hercules."

Reeves was considered the ideal male. Not only was he incredibly handsome, he possessed a physique which, to this day, is considered by many to be as perfect as a male body can be. "Hercules" was a huge success and it spawned dozens of imitations. Despite the short lived popularity of muscle movies, anyone who was obsessed with bodybuilding was still seen as an outsider and freak.
Steeve Reeves as Hercules
Big Biceps Always Sell Good
In 1973, the business of bodybuilding was going down again. At this point the former TV strongman by Dan Lurie began selling 110 lb weight sets to department stores and supermarkets. This attracted mostly the audience of teenagers who would take up weightlifting as a curiosity and dismissed it shortly thereafter. However the idea was quite successful. Despite the bad fame of bodybuilding Bob Hoffman started another bodybuilding magazine - MuscleMag which is to this date one of the most successful magazines on the subject.

In 1977 the popularity of bodybuilding has increased tremendously thanks to the film on bodybuilding - "Pumping Iron". The success of the movie was smashing and mostly thanks to the charismatic performance of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie presented the sport of bodybuilding as an art which requires a lot of effort comprehensive approach and discipline. That's why the popularity of bodybuilding increased a lot and more and more people were interested in muscular development.
In the meanwhile the drug involvement and influence on the sport has started to increase. John Zeigler, a doctor who worked closely with the United States Olympic team, has found a way of manipulating the testosterone molecule, making it more anabolic and less androgenic and put it into a tablet form. He saw it as a tremendous tool in the advancement of physical improvement. He called it Dianabol.
John Zeigler /the inventor of Dianabol/
The abuse of drugs is hurting the reputation of the sport to this day. The truth is that the physiques of today's bodybuilders are impossible to achieve without heavy steroids, growth hormone and insulin usage. This was turning people away from bodybuilding and continues to do so today.

To this day bodybuilding and physical training in general remains the best way to control your weight and improve your health. Of course it's also a business. And a highly successful one. There are a lot of training programs and videos made by famous movie stars, singers...etc for one single purpose - make money. 
There are also a lot of fake testimonials, photoshopped before and after photos made in order to manipulate ignorant people looking for fast gains.  However the main idea and goal of bodybuilding is still the same and continues to attract more and more people each day - Be The Best You Can Be.


The Bodybuilding Truth by Nelson Montana

The Pioneers of Protein by  Daniel T. Hall and John D. Fair
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