Tag: American Sports History

The History of American Powerlifting

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Perhaps the most popular form of training for modern gym goers, powerlifting is nevertheless a relatively recent phenomena. Indeed, while bodybuilding and Olympic Weightlifting date to the start of the twentieth-century, it was not until the 1960s that the art of lifting incredibly heavy things was formally recognised.

Today’s article thus looks at the birth of American powerlifting, from it’s humble beginnings, past it’s first competitions and into the age of international contests. A story of strength, politics and fun.

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Arthur Jones, Dick Butkus and the Long Con

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Controversial to the nth degree, Arthur Jones was a man known for his pull no punches approach. Wonderfully innovative, the founder of the Nautilus exercise phenomena had a strict sense of right and wrong when dealing with his small circle of clients.

This was demonstrated, most spectacularly, when Jones was approached by Dick Butkus, then linebacker for the Chicago Bears, in 1973. One of the most feared players in the NFL, Butkus had by then built a legacy based on ferocious tackling and a dogged determination to make quarterback’s lives a living hell.

On the first meeting of the two men however, Butkus was something of a sorry sight. Despite a physically imposing frame (Butkus stood at 6ft 3 and weighed over 240 lbs.), the Bear’s legend was almost crippled with the knee problems that would soon force him to leave the NFL. Compounding matters was the fact that Butkus was now out of contract with the Bears, meaning that any idea of a last payout was becoming slimmer by the day.

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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.