Transition from Strongman to Bodybuilder

Symmetry and aesthetics were a foreign concept to the strongman who ruled the strength and physical culture at the time.  However, as the 20th century approached, a man was the first to bridge the gap between the overweight and unsightly strongman to the bodybuilder that we all know today.
Officially known as the first famous bodybuilder and the father of modern bodybuilding, Eugene Sandow, immediately became a legend with his unprecedented combination of muscle quality and strength. He became a turn-of-the-century physical cultural icon who is referred to as one of bodybuilding’s greatest.  Once a strongman himself, he did not quite have the stomach for the sport, if you know what I mean.  Instead of giving up on progressing in the physical culture, Sandow developed his aesthetics.  
Sandow started out in Europe as a professional strongman, outdoing all other strongmen to make a name for himself before he travelled to America in the1890s.  Upon arrival, his reputation earned him the title as the world’s strongest man.  The most amazing thing about Sandow, however, was his beautifully symmetrical and densely muscular physique, which eventually positioned him as the first real bodybuilder and promoter of bodybuilding.
Sandow's legacy lives on in the increasing popularization of bodybuilding as a sport into the 21st century. In fact, he was the single judge of the first bodybuilding contest ever held.   Sandow’s image is forever immortalized on the current Mr. Olympia statuette.  Despite the vast aspects that judges look at today, bodybuilding is now judged based off his original selection that he sought in all competitors.  The main points include:

  • General development.
  • Equality or balance of development.
  • The condition and tone of the tissues.
  • General health.
  • Condition of the skin.

Sandow and the top 3 competitors at the very first bodybuilding competition.

Bodybuilding competition intensified when the AAU (the Amateur Athletic Union) established the Mr. America in 1939, and now competitors were seeking to minimize fat along with gaining muscle mass.  The sport bodybuilding was truly evolving at an exponential rate with the creations of the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders) and NABBA (the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association) in the 1950’s-60’s.  International competitions with only the top qualifiers really pointed out who the pioneers of the sport were when the first large-scale bodybuilding competitions were held by the IFBB and NABBA.  With the selection of all the top athletes from either division, a competition had to be held to see who the top competitor really was.  This led to the creation of the first Mr. Olympia in 1965. 
1960 Steve Reeves, much bigger and more aesthetic than prior bodybuilders.  Bigger, but not big enough in today's eyes.

Shortly after the start of Mr. Olympia competition, Arnold Schwarzenegger burst on the scene, making the biggest impact ever on the sport of bodybuilding.  Although there are many bodybuilders who impacted the sport, it was Arnold, who in my eyes, which changed the game all together.