The Incredible History of Bodybuilding

By: John Howard

Bodybuilding is a spectator sport where the aesthetic look of the body muscles are displayed and adjudged.

The history of bodybuilding can be traced back to 11th century India. Men in India have been lifting stone weights called Nals to build up their health and increase their stamina. There was no physical display of the body. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians also underwent weight training to build up an aesthetically beautiful and refined muscular body which can be seen in their sculptures.

Bodybuilding as we know it now is a fairly recent sport, less than 200 years old.
In fact the first bodybuilding contest, called 'The Great Competition' was held in 1901. It was organized by Eugen Sandows, who judged the contest along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Charles Lawes.

The history of body building can be divided into 3 eras. In the period before 1930, men built up their physique to show off their strength and muscle poweress to the public. They were called strongmen who would challenge each other to contests where they would try to out throw each other.

Eugen Sandow was a Prussian strongman who had an attractive, symmetrical and heavily muscled body. He popularized bodybuilding and is known as the 'father of modern bodybuilding'. He actively promoted the building up of a shapely body resembling Greek statues and was very successful in that. The very first bodybuilding contest organized by Sandow was very successful. The winner was chosen on the basis of symmetric and balanced development of body and good health. The winner was presented with a statue of Eugen Sandow by Sandow himself.

Today, the winner of the prestigious Mr. Olympia competition gets the same trophy.

The period between 1930 and 1970 has come to be known as the golden era in the history of bodybuilding. The Second World War inspired more young men to be stronger and aggressive. The rise of technology, better training and nutrition resulted in the increase in bodymass of bodybuilders. The Amateur Athletic Union for amateurs and International Federation of Bodybuilders formed by the Weider brothers for professionals in the sport organized Bodybuilding competitions in America. The National Amateur Bodybuilders Association formed in 1950 started a Mr. Universe competition in the UK.

With the advance in technology and medicine, the size and body weight of bodybuilders increased greatly after the 1970s. The use of health hormones and insulin gave them greater body mass and larger shapes. Use of other drugs followed, the disturbing effects of which can be seen in the declining health of former champions. Many athletes and movie stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Lewis and Frank Zane gave the sport great publicity.

Bodybuilding is not yet an Olympic event mainly because of the rampant use of steroids in the sport.

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