Category: Biographies

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1903 and the birth of American Bodybuilding

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After three years of pumping up, slimming down and posing, Britain, and the world was treated to the first ever bodybuilding competition in 1901. Hosted by the legendary Eugen Sandow, the ‘Great Competition’ as it was known claimed to have found the most perfect specimens alive. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t long before other nations, notably America, began to hold their own bodybuilding shows.

Within two years of Sandow’s ‘Great Competition’, the US was hosting its own bodybuilding show. Today we tell their story.

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Tracing the Mass Monster in Bodybuilding

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Are bodybuilders becoming too large?

It’s a simple question but one loaded with controversy. Today most Internet forums are filled with heated arguments about whether the ‘mass monsters’ of today are helping or hurting the sport.

Rather than continue the common narrative that the 1990s and the Dorian Yates era was the dawn of the ‘Mass Monsters’, today’s post argues that bodybuilders and their forerunners have always taken their physiques to the extremes of their time. In other words, bodybuilders regardless of the decade, have always displayed bodies well beyond the reach of the common man.The bodybuilders of today who stand tall and wide are rather than damaging the sport, continuing the tradition of freakish bodily appearances.

After all, Bodybuilding has always judged physiques based on the best combination of size, shape, symmetry and conditioning. With this framework in mind, let’s examine the freaks of bodybuilding past.

Sandow, the Original Mass Monster EugenSandowTrue

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Come one come all to the WBF Show!

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In the first instalment we looked at the controversial beginning of Vince McMahon’s World Bodybuilding Federation. The WBF promised to revolutionise the way bodybuilding conducted itself and when June 15th was chosen for the first ever WBF show, people waited anxiously to see what would happen.

Creating a buzz

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In the build up to the show, crossovers between the WBF Bodystars and Vince’s WWF became more and more common. Indeed during WWF programs it was commonplace to see whole segments dedicated to the Bodystars discussing their workout routines. One particular bizarre publicity stunt saw a team of wrestlers face off against the Bodystars in Family Feud. Coupled with this, ahem ‘brilliant’ marketing, Vince’s supplement line, Integrated Conditioning Program, was blazoned throughout arenas in the US when the wrestlers were in town.

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The Curious Case of the World Bodybuilding Federation

In the first of a three part series, we look at the brief life of the World Bodybuilding Federation, an organisation financed by wrestling mogul Vince McMahon that tried to take on Joe Weider’s formidable stronghold on the sport.

While the WBF ultimately failed, its influence on the sport cannot be underestimated.  

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Part One: Kicking Ass and Taking Names

Bodybuilding is an interesting sport in more ways than one. Aside from the bulging muscles, oiled behemoths and flashy lights, there exists a fascinating business element to the sport.

For the greater part of the 20th and 21st century, bodybuilding has been ruled and prescided over by the International Federation of Bodybuilding, the IFBB. Every major professional bodybuilding tournament boasts the IFBB logo and many of the greatest bodybuilders from Arnie to Ronnie have cut their teeth in the organisation.

Created by Joe and Ben Weider, the IFBB spent the mid half of the 20th century fighting off and finally defeating Bob Hoffman’s AAU organisation thereby becoming ‘THE’ bodybuilding organisation that all the athletes wanted to be a part of for the remainder of the century. From the 1960s onward, the IFBB became a monopoly that few dared to challenge.

It came as a surprise then when Vince McMahon, a man associated more with pro-wrestling than bodybuilding, sought to overthrow the Weider’s in the early 1990s and establish his own bodybuilding federation, labelled the World Bodybuilding Federation. Whilst the WBF only lasted for two years, it diveded the bodybuilding community, bringing in reforms of varying success and making the sport somewhat more mainstream.

Misused or Misunderstood? The History of the Body Mass Index

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Chances are you’ve encountered the Body Mass Index (‘BMI’) at some point in your life. The measurement has become increasingly common as a health indicator and as we’re increasingly warned about the obesity epidemic sweeping parts of the globe, it’s nigh on impossible to ignore the statistics centring on BMI.

So what is the BMI? When was it invented and what exactly does it measure?

Muscle and Nutrition: When Paul Bragg met Bob Hoffman

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The history of Bodybuilding and Physical Culture is full of those great ‘what if’ moments. What if Joe Gold never opened Gold’s Gym? What if Arnold never took up the sport? And what if drugs never infiltrated physique competitions?

Another great ‘what if’ moment that many of us are unaware of comes from the 1940s, when nutrition zealot Paul Bragg met with Bob Hoffman, the owner of York Barbell with a proposal to create nutritional supplements. Whilst the two men failed to collaborate, Bragg’s suggestion would later result in the birth of the modern day supplement industry.

Up in Smoke: The Nazi Anti-Tobacco Campaign

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‘So many excellent men have been lost to tobacco poisoning.’

 Adolf Hitler, 1942

Much historical study has been conducted into addressing the atrocities committed by the Nazi Regime from 1933 to 1945. However, considerably less attention has been dedicated to the Nazi anti-tobacco campaign, a relatively benign government policy, which importantly, was one of the first campaigns by a Western government designed to deal with health issues arising from tobacco use. This subject is particularly topical in the current climate, as many Western governments are attempting to reduce tobacco use among their own citizens. This paper will examine the first mass Western government campaign against tobacco and its ultimate failings.

Why were the Nazis so concerned to control the use of tobacco among its citizens? Is it possible that the Nazis were concerned with the wellbeing of some of its citizens? Or were more selfish motives involved?