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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.

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Misused or Misunderstood? The History of the Body Mass Index

Body Mass Index Chart - Feet and Pounds

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?

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Protein Way of Life by Rheo H. Blair

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Open any muscle mag from the mid-20th century and chances are you’ll find a reference to Rheo H. Blair, and his famous instant protein. Blair’s protein was used by the top bodybuilders of the 1950s ranging from Gironda to Arnie. He was a firm believer in the importance of top quality protein and often got amazing results from his clients.

Today we look at Blair’s 1950s pamphlet entitled the ‘Protein Way of Life.’ There’s some important tidbits to be taken from it.

How to mix the protein drink

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The Ideal Workout by Arthur Jones

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In June 1970, Arthur Jones, the father of High Intensity Interval Training, published the ‘Ideal Workout’ in bodybuilding magazine Muscular Development. In the article, posted below, Jones set out the importance of vigorous training as well as promoting his new brand of exercise machines. Little was Jones to know that his new training machines would soon pop up across the US as America fell into a Nautilus craze.

Just what is the ideal workout?

At this point the answer to the question is not clear even to me, not even after 20 years of keen interest, involvement and research on my part, but at least this much is clear; we are now a great deal closer to the answer than we were as recently as a year ago…at least that’s some progress.

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The Bizarre History of Soda

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Everyone knows soda is now the route of all evil. Media, government, fitness fanatics have long told us that sugary soda drinks are one of the main culprits for the modern obesity epidemic. In fact, so strongly do people feel about soda that several States have attempted to ban or tax soda into oblivion.

It’s hard then to imagine a world in which soda was once seen as medicine, as a way of helping the feeble and infirm get back to full health. Remarkably that’s exactly was happening in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Yes you read that correctly, soda was once seen as a way to heal various illnesses, including obesity by the way! Go figure.

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The Rise of Split Training in Bodybuilding

Chest/Triceps, Back/Biceps and Legs/Shoulders. The Holy Trinity of bodybuilding split routines. Nowadays the idea of split routines is so ingrained in the fitness community that the idea of whole body training for anyone other than a beginner is scoffed at. This is despite the fact that men like Eugen Sandow, George Hackenschmidt right up to Reg Park built their physiques using whole body routines. Something that begs the question…When did bodybuilders start using split training routines and why did they become so popular?

Judging a Physique Contest

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This article first appeared in Bob Hoffman’s Strength and Health Magazine in 1957. It details the point scoring for the precusors for today’s modern bodybuilding shows. Of particular interest are the categories dealing with muscularity and athleticism.

Many of us forget that physique competitions used to include some form of strength component dealing with the 3 big lifts (the two hand press, the two hands snatch, the two hands clean and jerk).

How would bodybuilding be today if Kai Greene and Phil Heath had to compete in the clean and jerk for the Olympia crown?

Since judging a Mister Competition has become one of the touchiest subjects in the Iron World, a great deal of time was devoted to clarifying this issue at the official AAU Convention last Fall in Los Angeles. I am going to try to briefly sum up these points for the benefit of officials who handle such contests.

Cycling down memory lane: The History of the Bicycle

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Two wheels, some slabs of metal, a chain and an uncomfortable chair. What could be more simple to make then the common bicycle? Well motivated in part by a decision to begin cycling to work, I decided to delve into the history books to discover who invented the world’s first bicycle.

What should have been a simple google search descended into a merry-go-round of contradictory facts and misinformation. Nothing’s ever simple is it? Luckily a few interesting tidbits did emerge during my meandering searches…