In the decades before bodybuilding became fashionable, when young men wanted to workout, they would say, “Hey, lets’ go to the YMCA and lift weights” In fact, during the early part of this century, weightlifting was much more popular than bodybuilding, in part because bodybuilding was regarded as too narcissistic.
Inveterate observers of weight-training history will recall how prevalent “odd lift” contests were back around the time of World War I. Competitions were held and records established for such odd lifts as the “two hands anyhow.” the “bent press” and the “one-hand deadlift.” For various reasons, these eventually fell from grace and were replaced by the three Olympic lifts: the press, snatch, and clean and jerk. These new movements required considerable athletic ability and, thus, were viewed as more respectable by the international sport community. They even were accepted as official events in the Olympics and are still quite popular today.
Eventually, some of the esteem reserved for Olympic lifting was wrested away by powerlifting, which has long had a strong following and gained even more recognition and acceptance after it became an official sport in the 1960s.
Finally, due primarily to the efforts of Joe Weider, bodybuilding assumed its rightful place in the sun in the ’60s and has progressed to its current predominance. It has thoroughly supplanted Olympic lifting and powerlifting in public appeal.