When we think of the history of bodybuilding the majority of us gaze upwards towards the gym ceiling and picture Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his impressive poses.

However, the art of bodybuilding has preceding era’s way before this Arnold age. Of course, modern bodybuilding is far from what it was when it all began. Still, the principles remain rooted and recognition of what’s gone before helps to promote and further improve this sport.

Ancient Bodybuilding

Greeks provide us with evidence of bodybuilding, way before it was classified as a sport. As we know now the ancient Greeks had gymnasiums where individuals would train, develop and prepare their bodies for a number of physically demanding scenarios. Including personal record breaking as well as mortal combat.

This marked the start of true bodybuilding where records were kept and broken to reach new heights in their endeavors. These impressive Greeks did not use any resistance machines or equipment to develop their physiques. They were solely relying on physical bodyweight exercises to enhance skills as well as build muscle mass.

Within the 11th century, the Greek concept of ideal physique developed and influenced Indian culture. Around this period the resistance training was born. We can observe the initial use of weighted exercises such as dumbbells to enhance muscle mass growth and develop stronger athletes.

Pre Competition Era

The 1800s provided us with thick, fatty, heavy set physiques each competition to lift the heaviest animal, cart or rock they could find.

The public would come together to see these strongmen competing with each other and making bets on who they thought could out lift another.

This pre-competition era developed a platform for official records to be kept, held and set as targets. Although not a competition based on physique these shows gathered a lot of momentum and interest from the public up until the 1930s where pure bodybuilding would start to materialize.

Pre Steroids Era

As the momentum of interest in strongmen gathered speed from the 1930s onwards the world to the West was starting to focus on developing balanced overall physiques, rather than just impressing the crowd with impressive lifting feats.

At the time this era was called the golden age of bodybuilding. Gyms and training spots were being open for more and more people focused on physical aesthetics.

More notably the age of posing and doing it in front of a mirror also begun! With the Western world setting the pace for this movement the birth of Mr. America sought out official recognition for bodybuilding prowess.

This is known as the first official bodybuilding event and was the keystone for future events and recognition in the trend to be gained.

Physique events rather than strongmen events then started to transform the face of the building and grow into widespread prominent bodybuilding tournaments throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The Olympia

The Mr. Olympia competition took bodybuilding to a whole new level. This was the ultimate competition between individuals not with just an interest in bodybuilding. But agreeing to and competing against a clear set of requirements and criteria to enter the event.

To enter the Olympia, an individual must have either won preceding competitions or at least competed in their final stages. Larry Scott won the first ever Mr. Olympia contest held in 1965 after he already won Mr. World, Mr. America, and the Mr. Universe titles.

As we know Mr. Olympia is still the most iconic bodybuilding competition. Big name winners over the years, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sergio Oliva, have progressed the sport even further. Schwarzenegger was then going on to be a forerunner of the next era.

The Arnold Era

Ok so now at this point you can gaze up towards the ceiling of the gym and think of Arnold as a historical figure in one of his classic bodybuilding poses.

From 1969 there was the very healthy rivalry in the sport between the undefeated Sergio Oliva and a young Austrian named Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Albeit new to the scene of bodybuilding Schwarzenegger did not win that year. However, he did win the Olympia in 1970 and 1971. Then went on to become a true icon, world-renowned bodybuilding symbol across this golden era and provided inspiration for many both inside and outside of the sport.

The Coleman Era

Ronnie Coleman throughout the 1990s was the new name in bodybuilding world with a huge following. He won the Mr. Olympia competition 8 times in a row.

Coleman changed the method to bodybuilding; he opted for flexibility, the larger range of motion and using free weights rather than machines.

This method made huge inroads into what we see as modern bodybuilding today. From this point onwards there were now new methods of training and lifting weights. New physiques and new records to be broken.

Present Bodybuilding

The current era has watched bodybuilding reaches its highest peak in popularity and interest. The amount of people inside the sport and involved in bodybuilding is at its greatest with its influences rubbing off on individuals from all walks of life. Whether people are competing or not the impact and effect this sport has had on the ‘everyday’ person is phenomenal.

From wanting to get ‘ripped’, training for sport specific goals to maintaining a certain level of health and fitness people are using bodybuilding methods and techniques carved out from pre-existing history, experience, and knowledge.

The access to knowledge, exercises, diet, workout plans as well as the bodybuilders themselves is now much easier than before. The internet and social media have taken bodybuilding into the palm of the hands of anybody with a slight interest.

You can follow the pathways of successful bodybuilders again transforming the sport to an even greater level. This digital spotlight on the sport of bodybuilding continues to push its boundaries and its popularity right across the world.