Outside of bodybuilding circles, Frank Zane is practically unheard of. Despite winning the Olympia three years in a row at the end of the 1970s, he was superseded by perhaps the most famous bodybuilder of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger. But while Zane might have been forgotten by popular culture thanks to Arnold’s freaky muscles, he’s still the bodybuilder you probably most want to look like.
Strongmen around the turn of the 19th century usually grab the attention of most people interested in Physical Culture. Almost everyone will know the name Eugen Sandow. Yet despite our preconceived notions that strength is an exclusively male pursuit, Physical Culture was in fact an all-encompassing movement that didn’t exclude based on gender. There were female performers as well, many of whom were stronger than their male counterparts. Society viewed these women with a suspicious eye. Was it possible to be strong and ladylike? Were they not too masculine? Katie Sandwina, once the ‘Strongest Woman in the World’ had to face many of these pressures. What’s more, she did it with a smile.
Constipation: a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels, usually associated with hardened faeces.
Constipation may seem an odd topic of study, but the history of the condition and efforts aimed at relieving it open up interesting social, political and economic histories . From 1900 to 1940, the United States suffered a pandemic of constipation. The condition was widely acknowledged in public discourse and a thorn in the side of the medical profession. Today’s article focuses on Physical Culturist Charles Atlas’s role in promoting anti-constipation remedies. In examining Atlas’s story we will look briefly at what the medical profession had to say about the condition and what marketers were selling to consumers before examining what the ‘World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man’ had to say. It’s a story as bizarre as it is interesting.
Part one and two of this series detailed the creation of the World Bodybuilding Federation and the first ever WBF show in June 1991. Today’s third and final installment looks at how drug accusations, no-show Hulks and poor conditioning brought down the radical bodybuilding experiment.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Irish alcohol industry has, at its core, always been particularly adept at marketing. From Whiskey to Guinness, sellers have used a variety of inventive advertisements to flog their wares to a thirsty public. Illustrating this is today’s post about a strange encounter between Eugen Sandow, a Prussian born strongman and Murphy’s Stout based in County Cork, Ireland.
The above image depicting Sandow lifting a horse overhead was one of many used by the brewing firm in the early years of the twentieth-century to promote their stout.
So how did Murphy’s come to secure the image rights of one of the world’s most popular figures? The answer seems to have come down to sheer serendipity.
You can’t talk about great strongmen without mentioning Jon Pall Sigmarsson. He was a complete strength athlete. From competing in strongman, Highland Games, Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and even Bodybuilding, Jon Pall embodied his Icelandic Viking heritage in all that he did. It was the combination of his physical ability and larger-than-life personality that have left a legacy in the world of strength.
It never thought in terms of training individual bodyparts when I was a world-champion powerlifters, and I certainly never did any specific shoulder exercises as part of my workouts. In those days, I’d think in terms of doing bench presses and squats, not chest and legs. So when I switched to bodybuilding, I had tremendously strong front delts from all those years of heavy benches, but my side and rear delts were lagging.
Let me add that my benches back then weren’t strict, bodybuilding benches, but an all-out powerlifting movement — bringing the bar very low, arching and pressing up using a lot front delts and even lats as well as chest and triceps. I was always a shoulder presser, which gave me even more disproportionate front deltoid development.