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?

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Tony Sansone’s Weight Gain Diet

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Born at the turn of the twentieth-century, Tony Sansone is perhaps one of the most famous physical culturists never to turn his hand to bodybuilding. Nevertheless his influence on bodybuilders and those seeking to get in shape was remarkable. Training under both Bernarr McFadden and Charles Atlas, Sansone developed one of the most sought after physiques in 1930s America.

He modelled, quite provocatively at times, wrote extensively on good nutrition and ran a series of gyms, which included a regular training spot for the legendary Steve Reeves. Shunning excessive bulk for definition and aesthetics, Sansone possessed a body that many men today would envy. Indeed, the renowned physical culture historian David Gentle once commented

If Sansone had been born in Greek antiquity, he would have been immortalized as a god.

With this in mind, today’s post looks at Sansone’s simple and effective way to build muscle mass while maintaining a relative level of leanness.

Bigger Faster Stronger: The Mr. Olympia

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Bodybuilders, like most other professional athletes in the last four decades, have undergone an unprecedented change. Whereas the first Mr. Olympia weighed in at just over 200 lbs, the modern champion is more likely to be sixty pounds heavier and leaner as well.

While the reasons for this, at least in bodybuilding, are clear, it is still interesting to reflect upon this change. Today’s short post discusses the average weight for the overall Mr. Olympia since it’s inception and shows how and when ‘the mass monsters’ gained a foothold in the sport.

The History of Calorie Counting

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Ah yes the much-maligned calorie. Whether you’ve ever tried to lose weight, put on mass or even just feel okay about eating junk food, chances are you’ve come across those pesky calorie numbers on food labels. You may be surprised to learn that despite the ubiquity of calorie counting in today’s society, this unit of measurement is a relatively recent phenomenon and the idea of counting calories for health purposes is even newer.

In today’s post we’re going to look at who invented the calorie, how calorie counting became popularised and finally, how calorie counting became the mainstay of bodybuilding diets 

Marian Mason: England’s Trailblazing Woman of Fitness

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Although sporting historians have long noted the importance of Englishwomen in the development of sport in general, few studies have devoted themselves to the study of callisthenics. Those that do, often employ problematic timelines. Indeed, although Fletcher, McKrone and Holt famously argued that women used sport and callisthenics to gain some form of social freedoms, all dated their studies from the latter half of the nineteenth-century. A decision which has done a great injustice to Marian Mason, England’s first female physical fitness instructor, who beginning in the 1820s, ran one of the most sought after training studios in all of England.

The History of Weightlifting Shoes

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This work is largely a retelling of Andrew Charniga Jr.’s excellent post ‘Why Weightlifting Shoes’ available on his website here. Any errors are of course my own and I do recommend you check out the original. 

A regular problem for gym goers concerns the right type of shoes to wear and this is especially the case when it comes to weightlifting shoes. Whether you bodybuild, Olympic lift or crossfit, chances are you own, or have at least considered owning, a pair of weightlifting shoes. These days, weightlifting shoes are becoming something of a fashion accessory for the avid gym goer, a way of colourfully distinguishing oneself in the weightroom and adding a couple more pounds to their squats.

But where did these bizarre shoes with high heels come from? How have they evolved over the past century and what do we know about their history? In today’s blogpost, we’re going to discuss one of the relatively unexplored elements of the weightroom. Having previously examined the history of foam rollers and swiss balls on this site, it seems only fair to look at footwear.

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?

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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.