Bigger Faster Stronger: The Mr. Olympia

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Bodybuilders, like most other professional athletes in the last four decades, have undergone an unprecedented change. Whereas the first Mr. Olympia weighed in at just over 200 lbs, the modern champion is more likely to be sixty pounds heavier and leaner as well.

While the reasons for this, at least in bodybuilding, are clear, it is still interesting to reflect upon this change. Today’s short post discusses the average weight for the overall Mr. Olympia since it’s inception and shows how and when ‘the mass monsters’ gained a foothold in the sport.

One word on the data used

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Bodybuilding, perhaps more so than other pursuits, is a sport known for its gentle massaging of the truth. Ask someone what they bench and you’ll probably be given an number 40lbs heavier than the reality.

The same holds true for weight. Bodybuilders oftentimes claim to come in heavier or lighter, making accurate assessments of their weights an exercise in futility. As such the weights shown below are averages taken from competition reports, magazines, interviews etc. To save my time and sanity averages are given for repeat champions. So instead of getting Ronnie Coleman’s exact competition weight for each year, averages across his 8 titles were given.

Also the graph shows the weight of the overall winner, not necessarily the heavyweight champion. Some years the under 200lbs. champion took the overall.

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What can we learn from this graph?

Well first that Excel is a clear struggle for me!

Aside from that two things spring to mind. First that bodybuilders have gotten significantly heavier (Well duh) but not as heavy as we may think. The 1967 Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva weighed in at over 240lbs. for his Olympia titles. 2015 Champion Phil Heath around the same. Obviously Heath was leaner but it slightly dampen claims that bodybuilding has gotten out of hand. Comparisons of Oliva (on the left) and Heath (on the right) show that bodybuilding has always been about excess, about creating seemingly unattainable physiques.

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Secondly, although many credit Dorian Yates with sprinting the age of ‘Mass Monster‘, the graph shows that Lee Haney, shown below, was the man who bucked the curve. Again just food for thought.

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Happy lifting!

4 comments

  1. Really enjoyed the article, but I’m not so sure that the Oliva / Heath photo comparison is completely fair – at least not if the idea is to compare the late ’60’s – early ’70’s versus today. The version of Oliva pictured is from 1985, his “comeback” attempt at the Mr Olympia, which would put him up against Lee Haney and the like.

      1. Bodybuilders contest weights can vary dramatically, even in the same contest.I think Dorian Yates was like 266-267 in prejudging in 97 and topped out at like 273 for the night show.Ronnie Coleman also said that in 1998 he was like 246-47 in prejudging and 251-252 in the evening.
        Anyway Sergio was like 240 lb at his biggest( early 1970s) but during his Olympia reign in late 1960s he was 220 to low 230s at most.
        Arnolds biggest was nearly 250 lb in 1972 and his lowest was 237 in 73, minus 1980 when he was clearly undersized and around 220-225.
        Zane said his biggest was 291 in 79 and lowest was about 185.
        Dorians lowest like 242 and highest 270 something.
        Colemans lowest 245 in 02 and 296 in 04.
        Jay Cutler was 254 in 09 but he had been 273 in 06.
        Haney was in the 243-248 range during his reign.
        Phil Heaths was 247 in 2011, 253 in 2013, dunno about 2012,2014,2015- he looked somehwat smaller than usual in 2015 , could have been low 240s.
        All these stats are from interviews, books, articles in various magz and i tend to believe them.Many of them were mentioned by the guys themselves in autobiographies.

  2. Fantastic, thanks so much for the corrected figures. I went by rough estimates for this article, so it’s great to have something more in depth. As you correctly point out, competitors’ weights often change quite drastically on the day of the event, making tracking the weights even trickier!

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