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Competitive Bodybuilding: Historical Landmarks


"Strong Man Acts" moved to North America in the 1800's and are credited with inspiring what is known today as bodybuilding. Usually a circus performer who displayed his strengths was known as a strongman. Strongmen displaying their strength by bench presses, steel bending, breaking heavy iron chains and such were watch by audiences attending the circus. Although bodybuilding did not yet exist, many 19th century strongmen had well-built bodies and even sold photographs of themselves flexing and posing. In present days, when we use the term 'strongman', it mostly refers to participants competing in varied strength competitions. (besides making your muscles big enough to entertain the thought of lifting rocks, trucks or rolling massive tires around).

Using a combination of different exercises to develop physique and muscle fiber is what is referred to as bodybuilding. (mainly weight training) and diet. However, not every bodybuilder is in it for the competition. This sport involves displaying pronounced muscle tone, exaggerated muscle mass and muscle definition before a panel of judges, who assign points to competing bodybuilders based on their aesthetic appearance.

The major benchmarks in the evolution of the comparatively young sport of competitive bodybuilding are described beneath.

* Although two weightlifting events were included in the first modern Olympics of 1896, contemporary bodybuilding really began with a Prussian by the name of Eugene Sandow who invented many present day bodybuilding techniques as well as many of the first exercise equipment for the masses (tension bands, machined dumbbells etc).

* Sandow put together the very first bodybuilding contest called the Great Competition in September of 1901, staged at London's Royal Albert Hall. The Great Ziegfeld, tells some of the story of the beginning of modern bodybuilding and the 1936 Oscar winning film, Sandow's manager was Florenz Ziegfeld.

The Grecian Ideal was a term used to describe the perfect physique as represented in the classical proportions of ancient Greek and Roman statues, during Sandow's time. Competitors were scored based on how closely they matched these proportions during the early days of competitive bodybuilding. Sandow used these standards to develop his own physique.

* Sandow's counterpart in North America was a man named Bernarr Macfadden. Macfadden put forth a great deal of effort to increase his strength (he was not healthy during childhood), and began by offering fitness apparatus for sale. He also advocated women's physical fitness (this was considered a great new idea at the time). The first publication of his "Women's Physical Development" magazine arrived in 1900. It was renamed Beauty and Health shortly thereafter. Macfadden set up several healthatoriums (institutes that offered courses in physical fitness) throughout the eastern as well as midwestern parts of America.

* The first bodybuilding competition of this kind was put on by Macfadden on January 16, 1904 in the U.S at Madison Square Garden, New York City. Two of the terms used to describe it were Physique Contest and Physique competition (other than weight competitions, strength exhibitions or athletic feats) this was the main focus point of the show. Al Treloar, who was announced The Most Perfectly Developed Man in the World, won. The notable Charles Adams in 1921 and 1922 acquired fame as did other several participants in later Macfadden bodybuilding competitions.

* The first major international bodybuilding competition was the Mr. Universe contest, founded in 1947, followed by the Mr. Olympia contest in 1965.

The period between 1940 and 1970 is known as the Golden Age of bodybuilding because this is when the criterion of more muscle mass was added to the ideal bodybuilder aesthetic, along with the existing criteria of muscular symmetry and definition. World War II is often sited as the chief reason towards the growth of larger, powerful, boldly assertive attitudes. The 1977 film, Pumping Iron, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger also gave bodybuilding added publicity.

* Women's bodybuilding competition began in the 1970s (although a few women had participated in earlier contests organized by Macfadden in the U.S.)

* The International Olympic Committee granted provisional status to the sport of competitive bodybuilding in 1998 but has not yet approved it.

* With advancements in technology, bodybuilders are more massive today than they have ever been. Many competitors in today's bodybuilding competitions weigh over 250 pounds and have less than 5% body fat.

 


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