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Bodybuilding has a remarkable history. Bodybuilding was carried out even in the ancient Greek and later Roman empires.
The contemporary Bodybuilding techniques were credited by a German named Eugene Sandow in the middle of 19th century. Eugene Sandow is now generally referred to as "The Father of Modern Bodybuilding". He is credited as being a pioneer of the sport because he allowed audience to enjoy viewing his physique in "muscle display performances". Although audience were thrilled to see 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. Sandow became so successful at flexing and posing his physique. He later created several businesses around his fame and was among the first to market products branded with his name alone. He was credited with inventing and selling the first exercise equipment for the masses (machined dumbbells, spring pulleys and tension bands) and even his image was sold by the thousands in "cabinet cards" and other prints.
Sandow began his performance with feats of strength and adapted various poses that showed off his body, much like modern day bodybuilders do. In 1899 he went to England and opened his first "Physical Culture Studio" at London. He was a good business person as well - selling products by mail and publishing his own magazine. He ended up with a chain of 20 studios throughout England. The first bodybuilding competition was organized by Sandow as well. It was held on September 14, 1901 and was called the "Great Competition". Staged at the Royal Albert Hall, it was a complete sold out, attracted hundreds of spectators and caused an immense traffic jam. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the 3 judges.
Sandow's counterpart in North America was Bernarr Macfadden. Frail and sickly as a child, Macfadden had built health and strength by working outdoors as a young teenager. At the age of 25, he was selling exercise equipment. He was an early crusader for women's physical fitness. In 1900, he began publishing a magazine called "Women's Physical Development", which was soon renamed "Beauty and Health". At a time when most experts thought that most exercise was basically bad for women, Macfadden espoused relatively strenuous exercise for both sexes and all ages.
In the 1970s, bodybuilding had major publicity thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the 1977 film Pumping Iron. The National Physique Committee (NPC) was formed in 1981 by Jim Manion, who had just stepped down as chairman of the AAU Physique Committee. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the decline of AAU sponsored bodybuilding contests. In 1999, the AAU voted to discontinue its bodybuilding events.
In the early 2000s, the IFBB was attempting to make bodybuilding an Olympic sport. It obtained full IOC membership in 2000 and was attempting to get approved as a demonstration event at the Olympics which would hopefully lead to it being added as a full contest. This did not happen. Olympic recognition for bodybuilding remains controversial since many argue that bodybuilding is not a sport.
In 2003, Joe Weider sold Weider Publications to AMI, which owns The National Enquirer. Ben Weider is still the president of the IFBB. In 2004, contest promoter Wayne DeMilia broke ranks with the IFBB and AMI took over the promotion of the Mr. Olympia contest.
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