Guest Post: Bodybuilding Routines in the 1950s!

bodybuilding diets in the 1950s

The era of 1930s to 1960s was an era of revolution in the field of bodybuilding. Legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clarence Ross and John Davis etc were at the top of their games back in 50s and 60s. But those were simple times as well. Everything was pure and people were more inclined towards eating a healthy diet and living an active lifestyle. They knew the importance of hard work and knew the golden rule of health makes wealth.

Since those times were not bounded by technology and everything was not digitalized; bodybuilding was also considered to be a sport which required intense exercise routine and great vigilance. The machines were not that advanced and people were more into doing elliptical exercises and Cardio. Later on, ZUMBA dancing and related exercises were developed along with latest technology in gym equipment.

If you are thinking of joining a gym to get some abs and straighten out your body shape; chances are that you might find it a bit challenging to pursue it if you do not follow a body building diet routine parallel to it. Since 1950s was the era when bodybuilding was at its glory days; you can take a walk down the history lane and check out what are the popular bodybuilding diets in the 1950s that you can adopt as well. Take a look!

  1. Cross Training:

In the era of 1950s; cross training was considered to be a popular form of bodybuilding. Top bodybuilders of that time used to cross train each other by showing off their bodybuilding skills by performing a variety of hardcore exercises and workouts. They used to compete with each others in wrestling and used to give valuable tips to strengthen their stamina and gain health.

  1. Routine Exercises:

During those times; the gym equipment was not that much advanced and up to date so bodybuilders used to rely on regular body exercises. Here’s a small breakdown of what their exercise routine used to be:

  • Start with warming yourself up. You can do this by lifting the small weights for 5-6 times.
  • After the warm session; move on to the next step and lift the more heavy weights at least 3-4 times.
  • Continue doing that by increasing the weights press by 5-10 pounds jump.
  • Once done; now add at least 20 pounds to the weight bar and try doing 2-3 presses.
  • Once you have reached the weight that you are unable to push or press; just lift the weight up from the rack and hold it statically until you can’t do it any longer.
  1. Dumbbells Exercises:

 Famous bodybuilder of the 50s and 60s, Bill Pearl, always used to recommend dumbbell exercises to start off with the gym regime. He used to routinely practice the dumbbells exercises including the seated dumbbell curls, the dumbbell French press and the lying dumbbells triceps extension. These exercises will not only help you gain strength but also build up your muscles.

Try following these rules of bodybuilding from the legends of 1950s and acquire your perfect body shape in less time.

Author Bio: 

Ida Jones is a mother of two little ones. She enjoys home-based workouts, cardio exercises and long runs. She loves spending her vacations outdoors with her kids around nature. She believes in clean and healthy eating. She regularly writes about fitness tips and much more at Fitness Grit.


  1. You MUST be joking. Both Arnold and Bill were using steroids. To say nothing of John Davis.

    “But those were simple times as well. Everything was pure and people were more inclined towards eating a healthy diet and living an active lifestyle”

    Steroids were around since 1936. By Arnold and Bill’s time about 95% of professional bodybuilders (according to Robert Kennedy and Rick Wayne who were contemporaries of those two) were on “gear”. Arnold has admitted he was on steroids long since and Bill Pearl owned up to it as well
    “Bodybuilding Champion Bill Pearl Uses Nilevar

    In 1958, West Coast bodybuilder and Mr. Universe champion Bill Pearl was one of the first bodybuilders to experiment with the new anabolic steroid created by Searle. Pearl did a 12-week cycle using 30 mg of Nilevar and increased his bodyweight by 25 lbs from 225 to 250 lbs.

    Bill Pearl openly admitted using anabolic steroids in preparation for the 1961 National Amateur BodybBuilders Association (NABBA) Mr. Universe contest. He revealed that steroid use was no longer an underground practice among top bodybuilders corroborating Mr. Olympia Larry Scott’s assessment of the steroid scene in bodybuilding”

    “Ziegler’s Association with Ciba Pharmaceuticals

    Ziegler conveniently worked part-time at Ciba Pharmaceuticals laboratory in Summit, New Jersey during this time. Ciba generously provided Ziegler with a supply of testosterone propionate to be used for “research purposes”.

    In 1954, Ziegler provided steroids to several weightlifters at York most notably Mr. America and Mr. Universe John Grimek. He injected Grimek, Jim Park and Yaz Kuzahara with testosterone propionate during the early days of steroid experimentation at York Barbell Club”

    1. Hey Reilly,

      Thanks so much for stopping by with such a well informed and measured post.

      You are 100% correct to mention the missing piece of the above which is of course Anabolic Steroids. Have you read any of John D. Fair’s work on the topic? I think you’d find it very interesting especially his article on Bob Hoffman, Isometric training and steroid use.

      In any case I agree that those at the top of the sport were already ‘supplementing’ in a major way. The advice contained in the post regarding training was still down to earth and practical for the average lifter – not any nonsense about two a day training sessions split every day of the week that is peddled nowadays

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