When Did Bodybuilding Start? History of Bodybuilding

  • By: jacob foxx
  • Date: July 13, 2023
When Did Bodybuilding Start?

Bodybuilding has been around for centuries, but it truly became a popular fitness trend over the last century.

Since then, people from all walks of life have embraced it as a way to reach their goals and push for physical greatness.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced bodybuilder, understanding the history of bodybuilding can help you gain insight into this fascinating pastime and provide valuable context for your own journey in sculpting your physique.

In this blog post, we’ll explore when bodybuilding began and how its popularity surged throughout the years so let’s begin our exploration by taking a look at when it all started!

Early Beginnings of Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding dates back to ancient Greece. Athletic pursuits focused on physique, so warriors and Olympic athletes had muscular bodies. This led to weightlifting exercises for strength and agility. In the late 19th century, competitive bodybuilding emerged as a sport. The first event was held in 1901, which encouraged participation worldwide.

Early bodybuilding was a way to improve health and fitness, but it soon became a serious pursuit. The International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) was founded in 1946, and this allowed for organized competitions. Bodybuilding gained more popularity thanks to action movies featuring buff heroes.

Women’s bodybuilding started gaining traction in the early 1970s. They found their place in sports society and gained admiration for their physical strength. Nowadays, there is more diversity with the Classic Physique division featuring classical lines and athletic movement.

Eugen Sandow is seen as the father of modern-day bodybuilding. He started with basic training in confined spaces and eventually became respected internationally. His legacy has inspired new athletes into this passionate sport.

Bodybuilding in Ancient Times

Body Sculpting during Early Civilizations

Body sculpting, the ancient form of bodybuilding, has been practiced throughout the centuries. The earliest recorded instance of body sculpting dates back to Egypt around 5,000 years ago, where workers built massive limestone structures while practicing weightlifting. The Greeks developed their version of body sculpting, focusing on physical training and athletic competition. The Romans took body sculpting to a new level, emphasizing muscularity and fitness while incorporating diet and exercise.

Ancient body sculpting was not just about creating a beautiful physique; it was also about demonstrating power and vigor. The Greeks understood the link between physical strength and military success, and their concept of body sculpting was an essential part of their society. Romans used body sculpture as a way to display their status in society and to portray themselves as virtuous citizens.

Interestingly, 19th-century muscle men were inspired by ancient forms of body sculpting. They looked to the strong, muscular bodies of the Greeks and Romans as their inspiration. Today, body sculpting continues to be a popular form of physical activity, with competitions and training programs across the globe.

Looks like the Greeks and Romans were the OG gains gurus, hitting up the gymnasium for the ultimate #FitGoals.

Greek and Roman Gymnasiums

Greek and Roman gymnasiums were places for men to exercise, learn and enjoy cultural activities. Not just bodybuilding, but also philosophy and politics. The architecture of these gyms showed their cultural values.

They had statues of godsbathsdressing rooms and courtyards for sports like wrestling and boxing. Spacious halls contained pits for pankration work-outs and porticos with rooms on each side for philosopher lectures or debates.

Young boys began training in their teenage years, monitored by a pedagogue. This person was responsible for their health and education. The gyms taught values like discipline, mental strength and courage.

Although it may seem old-fashioned, these old ways of physical conditioning still influence modern athletics today. In our sedentary society, we can look to our ancestors for the importance of staying healthy through exercise.

Indian Wrestling- Pehlwani

Pehlwani, an ancient Indian practice, involved intense physical training and wrestling. People of all ages and social classes would practice this traditional sport. It was more than a game — it was a way of life for the wrestlers. They followed strict diets and disciplined routines to keep fit. The aim was to pin your opponent’s shoulders on the ground, while staying balanced. Matches often lasted long, as it involved grappling techniques.

Unique to Pehlwani is the use of mud pits, instead of mats. This tradition is still alive in many parts of India. The pits are slippery, making it hard to gain control over the opponent.

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To perform well in Pehlwani, one must focus on strength training, cardio, technique practice with other wrestlers and diet discipline. Benefits include improved physical fitness, psychological well-being, self-discipline, increased stamina, flexibility, and confidence.

Modern Bodybuilding

Modern Muscle Building: The Evolution of Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding began as a competition of strength and athleticism in ancient times, but modern bodybuilding as we know it emerged in the 20th century. Modern muscle building is a sport that aims to develop and showcase the physique’s aesthetic qualities while maintaining balance and proportion. The use of nutrition, supplements, training, and genetics have all contributed to the evolution of bodybuilding, as we see it today.

The competitive nature of modern bodybuilding became more popular in the 1960s and continues to grow in popularity. Professional bodybuilders regularly participate in international competitions to showcase their strength and muscle development to win awards and recognition. Given its continued growth, modern bodybuilding has become a very marketable and lucrative sport with global interest.

In the quest to achieve their goals, some bodybuilders have gone to extraordinary lengths, risking their health with the use of performance-enhancing drugs and other dangerous practices. However, there is a growing movement towards natural bodybuilding, where athletes refrain from such artificial enhancements and focus on achieving their desired body through natural means like nutrition and training.

The story of modern bodybuilding is one of passion and dedication. It has given birth to legends such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took the sport to new heights. With the continued evolution of the sport, modern bodybuilding promises even greater achievements in the future.

Eugen Sandow may have been the father of modern bodybuilding, but his abs were probably the real MVP.

Eugen Sandow and the Birth of Modern Bodybuilding

Eugen Sandow was a pioneering figure in the field of bodybuilding. He embodied strength and power through his physique and captivated audiences in London’s music halls and theatres.

Unlike earlier forms of weightlifting, Sandow focused on aesthetic appeal and muscular symmetry instead of sheer size or brute power. He introduced new equipment such as pulleys and weights to aid in muscle isolation and stimulation.

In 1901, Sandow hosted the first modern bodybuilding competition – ‘The Great Competition’. It featured individuals displaying their physiques through poses and movements, with winners decided based on aesthetics.

Sandow trained celebrities such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and promoted healthy habits like exercise and nutrition. His legacy paved the way for future developments in bodybuilding, influencing athletes who sought both strength and beauty.

His influence extended beyond bodybuilding; he inspired advancements in athletic apparel such as tight-fitting clothing that accentuated muscle definition. These innovations shaped contemporary culture’s perception of health and wellness ideals – merging athleticism with style.

Important Milestones in Modern Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding has been shaped by major events over time. Here are some that stand out:

1940s-1950sSteve Reeves and Reg Park popularized bodybuilding in America.
1965The first Mr. Olympia competition was in Brooklyn.
1977-1984Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fame made bodybuilding popular.
1998The first Women’s Bodybuilding World Championship was in Prague.
2000sSocial media opened up the sport.

Bodybuilding has grown to be more than just a hobby. It’s about personal style and expression. Did you know that women weren’t allowed to compete until the late ’70s? The first Ms. Olympia was in 1980!

1930s – Mr. America and Mr. Universe Competitions

The 1930s marked the dawn of the Mr. America and Mr. Universe Competitions. These competitions gave professional bodybuilders a platform to display their muscular prowess worldwide. This event’s fame grew with the decades, influencing many into a bodybuilding career, resulting in modern-day bodybuilding.

Originally, weightlifting techniques were implemented. Building mass and strength were prioritized over muscle groups. But, eventually, competitors leaned towards specialized training and nutrition.

Another factor to consider was the competitors’ bone structure. Judging criteria included symmetry and proportionality, adding complexity to the contests.

Pro Tip: Get the best workout results by combining strength training with movements that focus on specific muscle groups. Additionally, remember to refuel your muscles with an adequate amount of macro and micronutrients.

1960s – The Golden Age of Bodybuilding

In the 1960s, bodybuilding flourished. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno rose to fame, inspiring millions to pursue physical excellence.

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Competitions became more organized, with standardized scoring and increased focus on muscularity and symmetry. This showed the sport was becoming accepted.

Other factors also shaped the bodybuilding landscape. Cultural and technological advancements all contributed to modern bodybuilding’s success.

Men’s Health Magazine said, “Getting bigger than your competition is what modern-day bodybuilding is about – not just looking good on the beach.”

1970s to Now – Evolution of Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding has changed drastically since the 1970s. Each decade brought new methods, supplements and diets to improve it. Nowadays, the focus is on muscle symmetry, size and definition. Competitions have grown to include men and women, bikini contests and physique shows.

In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized mass building workouts. Lifting heavier weights became the norm. Now, bodybuilders are more focused on looking good. Diet and supplement use are important. Plus, mental health gets attention.

Many athletes share stories of depression and anxietyKai Greene, a bodybuilder, has spoken about his struggles with failure.

Bodybuilding has gone from strength training to an aesthetic pursuit. It focuses on healthy living, including mental wellbeing.


Bodybuilding’s come a long way! As it rises in popularity, bodybuilders search for new ways to innovate. The sport’s future looks bright with more creativity, diversity, and inclusivity. People from all walks of life want to boost their wellbeing.

Social media platforms make bodybuilding more accessible than ever. Everyone with an internet connection can learn about training, nutrition, and supplements from expert coaches. Upcoming athletes can gain knowledge from anywhere in the world.

Technology helps disabled people join competitions globally. 3D printing technology creates custom prosthetics at lower costs. Designs replicate bodybuilding exercises.

Bodybuilding dates back to 800BC in ancient Greece. Athletes trained for strength competitions with natural equipment like stones and bulls. Modern-day weightlifting started in Britain in the late 19th century. People performed weight challenges with handheld objects like kettlebells.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did bodybuilding start?

Bodybuilding can be traced back to ancient Greece, where athletes engaged in weightlifting to improve their physical prowess. However, modern bodybuilding as we know it today emerged in the late 19th century.

Who is considered the father of modern bodybuilding?

Eugen Sandow is widely considered the father of modern bodybuilding. He was a turn-of-the-century strongman and bodybuilder who popularized bodybuilding through his performances and publications.

When did bodybuilding become a competitive sport?

Bodybuilding competitions began in the 1920s and 1930s, with the Mr. America contest being the first major competition in 1939. The Mr. Olympia contest, which has become the premier bodybuilding competition in the world, was first held in 1965.

How has bodybuilding evolved over the years?

Bodybuilding has evolved significantly over the years, with shifts in training techniques, diet approaches, and overall trends in physique ideals. The sport has grown in popularity and spread to countries across the globe, with various divisions and categories for competitors of all levels.

What are some notable bodybuilding milestones?

Some notable milestones in bodybuilding include the introduction of anabolic steroids in the 1950s, the emergence of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a dominant force in the 1970s, and the establishment of the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) in the 1990s.

I'm Jacob Foxx, a proud native of the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois. I was enamored with the expansive Star Trek universe and its promise of cutting-edge technology and space travel from a young age. This early fascination with science fiction sparked my imagination and laid the foundation for my writing career. Alongside my love for the cosmos, I developed a passion for fitness in my formative years.

This dual interest in the world of tomorrow and the pursuit of physical health has greatly informed my writing, allowing me to explore themes of human potential and the future of our species. As an author, I strive to blend these passions into compelling narratives that inspire readers to dream and to push their own boundaries.

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