Category: Biographies

Bodybuilding’s First Champion: William Murray

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While many credit Eugen Sandow as the father of modern day bodybuilding, very little is said about William, ‘Billy’, Murray, the world’s first recognisable bodybuilding champion. Today’s post will look at the interaction between Sandow, the unofficial father of bodybuilding and Murray, its first official king.

So who was William Murray? How did he win? And why has his place in bodybuilding history been largely forgotten?

The (Somewhat Complete) History of the Deadlift!

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Having previously looked at the history of the squat, bench press and even the smith machine, it seemed about time that we did a history of the deadlift. We’ve been putting this one off for quite a while, even looking at the Romanian Deadlift en lieu of the actual thing.

The stumbling block in approaching the history of the deadlift is the amount of smoke and mirrors surrounding one of the most popular exercises in the Iron Game. Someone writes something in a training book or blog and suddenly it becomes part of the popular lore. Actual research is a lot harder to come by. Nevertheless, it’s clear that deadlifts and variations on the deadlift have been around since time began. Man and woman kind has seemingly always displayed an insatiable desire to pick heavy things up from the ground.

For the sake of my sanity and timekeeping however, we’ll begin in with the eighteenth-century when a variation of the deadlift, of heavy lifting, briefly took England by storm.

Peter McGough, ‘The Mike Menzter Story’, Flex Magazine, September (2001).

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In a career that spanned four decades, Mike Mentzer, who passed away on June 12, 2001 was one of bodybuilding’s most prominent, inspirational and controversial figures. In order to flesh out the unique life, times and psyche of this complicated star, we’re reprinting (beginning on the next page) a feature on Mentzer from the February 1995 issue of FLEX. Although the article was first published six years ago, we think it still provides insight into what drove this future Bodybuilding Hall of Fame inductee.

When this feature first appeared, Mike was writing regularly for FLEX, but he later moved on to work for Muscular Development. In the last two years of his life, he contributed to Ironman. His theories and writings continue to be a source for debate, and his books and articles remain popular (see http://www.mikementzer.com).

The First Mr. Olympia

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It all began in April 1965 in a Joe Weider magazine…

Sick and tired of conversations about who was the greatest bodybuilder, Weider had decided to create a competition pitting champions from around the World against each other. In the same year that the iconic Gold’s Gym opened, Weider’s ‘Mr. Olympia’ would see A Mr. Universe, Mr. World and Mr. America pose, flex and tense in front of thousands of fans to determine the best that Bodybuilding had to offer.

Why create a new tournament?

Robert Paris, ‘Defining the Iron Age’, Ironage.us (c. 2003)

fitness-2255626_1280For those of us whose bodybuilding heroes are from the IronAge, finding our place in the land of modern bodybuilding has been tough. We feel out of place. Our heroes and our IronAge ideals often seem incompatible with the world of bodybuilding. As we struggle to reconcile bodybuilding’s past with its changes, it is our own bodybuilding lifestyle that appears to suffer. I have met far too many whom, having lost interest in competitive bodybuilding and with no heroes to push them along, have lagged in their training. We fans are not alone in this struggle.

Many past champions and industry officials have become critical of the changes in bodybuilding’s focus. Cries of too many drugs, near-deaths and too much emphasis on sex can be heard from most of our heroes.

Guest Post: “Weight Training Women Stay in Shape Without Getting Muscle-Bound,” Jet Magazine, 1 September (1977)

63296414_1652529141558590_7644931320321146880_n.jpgFor a long time, men have dominated the sport of weight lifting. But tucked away at a YMCA in the small Midwestern town of Canton, Ohio, some 150 women are pumping iron, straining and twisting their feminine physiques, trying to smooth those flabby curves.

They bench-press, lift barbells, dumbbells, do chin-ups, situps, leg extensions and numerous other body exercises until their bodies ache with pain.

And all for what?

For some it’s just to stay in shape, but for about 20 others it’s a competitive sport and a rapidly developing one at that.

Wrestling and Weightlifting: The WWF and Fitness in the 1980s

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I’ll admit it, although born in the early 1990s, I was a Hulkamaniac. Aside from growing up during the WWF attitude era, where individuals like Triple H, The Rock, Mark Henry and Stone Cold were living embodiments of strength, I regularly went through back catalogues of old wrestling shows. There I’d see Jimmy Superfly Snuka’s iconic finishes, Jimmy Hart’s unmatched smack talk and everything weird and wonderful that wrestling offered from the 1980s onwards. I, like many others, was enthralled by the athleticism of the wrestlers. I suspect that my initial interest in training came from my love of wrestling where the heels and the babyfaces sported muscular bodies in equal measure. In that vein, today’s post examines the WWF’s crossovers into health and fitness in the 1980s.

The Harmful Squats Myth: Dr. Karl Klein and the Back Squat

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Image Source.

When I began lifting in my teens, the coaches and older men in the gym floor seemed like fountains of indisputable knowledge. Don’t bring the bar all the way down to your chest on the bench press. Stability work on Bosu Balls worked your core and brought muscle gain. Drink a protein shake within 30 minutes of your workout or your anabolic window will shut. The most sacred of their dictates revolved around the back squat.

When learning how to squat we were told two simple things. Never go below parallel and under no circumstances should the knees track over the toes. These rules were so infallible that none of us dared to cross them. Even when we realised their advice on other lifts had been misguided to say the least, we adhered to their squat advice. It wasn’t until I changed gyms that I realised squatting with a full range of motion, even letting those knees slip over my toes, wasn’t going to kill my knees.

Where had this idea about the squat come from? Whenever we asked we were told about vague scientific studies that ‘everyone knew about’. It wasn’t until I dug into the history of the back squat for a recent article on Barbend that I became reacquainted with this subject.

Our goal today is simple. Who first promoted the idea that squatting below depth was harmful and how did this theory become so prevalent? Our story today revolves around Dr. Karl Klein and his followers.