Bodybuilding: a walk through history

Bodybuilding is now hugely popular around the world. From enthusiastic amateurs to seasoned pro’s, people across the globe train hard to achieve muscular, toned physiques.

As well as exercising and lifting weights, individuals can take advantage of a range of supplements to help give their efforts in the gym a boost. Specialist suppliers like Monster Supplements offer a host of products, ranging from protein powders to fat burners.

But where exactly did our love of bodybuilding come from, and how long has it existed? To find out, we’ve taken a brief walk through history.

Ancient Greek origins

The origins of this discipline can be traced back as far as ancient Greece. There, men worked out in gymnasiums to tone up and develop their strength. One of the most well known athletes at the time was Milo of Croton. A wrestling champion, he was renowned for his extraordinary strength. According to legend, he trained by carrying a calf on his back every day from its birth until it became a fully grown ox.

Meanwhile, the ‘Grecian ideal’ of the male physique is something that many modern bodybuilders still aspire to.

11th century India

In the 11th century, people in India began using primitive versions of what we would now call dumbbell weights. Carved from stone, they were used to increase strength and size. By the 16th century, weightlifting had become a popular pastime in this part of the world.

Eugene Sandow

However, it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that bodybuilding started to garner interest in Europe. Then, travelling strongmen started entertaining crowds with impressive feats of strength, like pulling and lifting huge weights.

Meanwhile, towards the end of the century, the Prussian Eugene Sandow arrived on the scene. Often referred to as the father of modern bodybuilding, he would wear little more than gladiator sandals and a fig leaf while he was on stage and his sculpted body was admired by audiences across the continent. He even found fame in America and became one of the first early modern celebrities.

Eventually, he went on to patent his own dumbbells, publish a monthly fitness magazine and set up an Institute of Physical Culture.

1900s to the present day

Another influential figure in the discipline was Bernarr Macfadden. He began to organise bodybuilding competitions for both men and women. By the late 1930s, contests to find the best physique were common and in 1939, the Amateur Athletic Union created the Mr America competition.

Since then, the world of bodybuilding has seen the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dorian Yates, Ronnie ‘Big Ron’ Coleman and Jay Cutler. Those at the top of the sport can now earn big money and enjoy global fame.

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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