Guest Post: The Incredible History of Bodybuilding Contests

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When it comes to a broad meaning of bodybuilding it concerns a process of maximizing the muscle hypertrophy by mixing various exercises into training. The modern meaning of the concept has changed significantly since the first-time bodybuilding came to be. As a sport, bodybuilding focuses on a series of athletes who are showing off their physiques to a panel of judges who then grade them based on their appearance.

While many believe that bodybuilding originated in the 20th century, this sport can actually be traced back to the 11th century India. In order to build up their health and increase stamina, men in India have been lifting stone weights called Nals. However, back in the day, no physical display of the body was present. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians also underwent weight training to improve their aesthetic beauty and refined muscular body, and bodybuilding has gone through several phases until it became the sport we know today.

Bodybuilding during ancient times

The ancient Greeks saw bodybuilding as a way of developing their body long before it became a sport. The athletes trained in the gymnasium to prepare and develop their bodies even though resistance training didn’t exist at the time. Over time, they became aware of the ideal physique concept and started engaging in a crude form of resistance training that helped them establish a sound physique. Indian culture soon followed the example of Greeks and modern resistance training came to be with the use of dumbbells and weights, helping the muscles grow stronger and bigger. In the early 1800s began the pre-competition era which lasted until the early 20th century when the public watched travelling strongmen out-lift each other as a form of a weightlifting contest.

The modern bodybuilding movement

In the 1930s bodybuilding’s pre-steroid era commenced. Balanced physiques became the focus of many people very quickly, which resulted in many gyms and training locations popping up everywhere. Posing in front of mirrors saw the light of day precisely in the 1930s and Mr. America was the first official recognition given to people who practised bodybuilding. The official bodybuilding events that we know today trace back from the very first Mr. America competition.

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The rise of Mr. Olympia

The second half of the 20th century marked the beginning of the competition era in bodybuilding. Before Joe Weider, there was not a single idea about turning bodybuilding into a competition, which would help the sport reach new levels. The ultimate contest known as Mr Olympia was founded and held for the first time on September 18th, 1965. In order to even reach this level of competition, the applicants had to go through various other competitions and participate in their final rounds. After already winning the Mr America, Mr World and Mr Universe titles, Larry Scott took the first Mr Olympia title as well. The Mr Olympia competition is still being held and some of the well-known winners include Great rivals Sergio Oliva and Arnold Schwarzenegger who is considered a predecessor of the next bodybuilding era.

Bodybuilding contest essentials

In case you’re starting with your bodybuilding career and you plan to apply to a contest, aside from following a strict diet and exercise regimen, you’ll need to prepare all the essential to bring to the contest as well. Always have some food around as well as your proteins. A few bottles of water will keep you hydrated and ready for the show. Don’t forget a sanctioning body card and customised name badges to make presenting yourself to others much easier. Make sure you have at least two pairs of posing briefs and check for format required. Posing oil, at least two or three towels and a shower oil are a must as well. To keep it strong throughout the contest, have your weights with you, and to be sure everything is clean and sanitary pack the hygiene stuff. You’ll need daily apparel too, so bring a few shirts, comfortable clothes and footwear to keep you going when you’re not competing.

New standards brought by Yates

Dorian Yates marked an entire era too, by bringing in the new standards into bodybuilding. Namely, he won six consecutive Mr Olympia titles and completely dominated during the 1990s. He was the first to set new standards in size as he weighed 250 lbs. In comparison to him, all of the other bodybuilders looked small, which is how he got the nickname The Shadow. The fact that he was incarcerated for six months before his first competition, earned him a reputation of the strongest and fittest inmate in England.

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Modern bodybuilding

Today, bodybuilding has reached its peak and the number of people pumping iron is increasing by the day. Jay Cutler and Phil Heath are some of the biggest influencers in bodybuilding with the Heath being a six-time winner of Mr Olympia title. Year in year out, new bodybuilding workout methods and types are developing. Thanks to good access to information, bodybuilders of today can easily learn from YouTube, social networks and get informed all over the Internet.

Bodybuilding has certainly come a long way since its inception. What once was purely weight training has become an impressive sport that many people grow to like more and more each year. Bodybuilders have left a true mark in history and managed to inspire many people to follow the path of working on improving their physical appearance through sport.

Author Bio:

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.

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6 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Incredible History of Bodybuilding Contests

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  1. An interesting history.

    But bodybuilding contests nowadays (and the last 30 years or so) have become drugged up ‘veiny’ freak shows, and offer little inspiration to many , I suspect.

    1. Hey Nick, glad you enjoyed it. I find nowadays that natural bodybuilding is the way to go for inspiration. They’re not as large but you get a better feel for what’s possible

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