The History of Bodybuilding
For as long as man has roamed the earth a muscular physique has been a point of high admiration; simply examining the work of the ancient Greeks can easily support this fact. While muscularity and a toned shape has always been admired the competitive nature of bodybuilding and what we perceive to be bodybuilding today can be traced back to the late 1800’s and the father of it all Eugene Sandow. Commonly referred to as the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding” Sandow was one of the first to use his physique as not only a means entertainment but a means in-which to make a living. From feats of strength displayed with a lean muscular physique, Sandow would soon discover he could parlay his new found fame into modern business world. From promoting shows similar to the ones where he was the eye of display to producing the first mass produced line of weight lifting equipment, Sandow not only found wealth and fame but an iconic status as well.
Sandow’s success was so great that to this day the top bodybuilding show in the world, the Mr. Olympia rewards the winner with a bronze trophy in the likeness of Sandow himself; it is the same trophy Sandow commissioned made for the very first competitive bodybuilding show in 1901. As Vince Lombardi is to football so is Eugene Sandow to bodybuilding but what does this have to do with steroids? We can confidently say Sandow did not use synthetic anabolic steroids, after all, they were not available until the late 1930’s but there were other similar methods available at the time. During the life of Sandow it was not uncommon for a competitor of any sport to supplement with animal testicular extract; did Sandow partake, we don’t know but we do know that what Sandow started is what has led to where we find ourselves today.
The Beginning of the Modern Age:
The competitive nature of bodybuilding started by Sandow, while new and exciting for many would remain largely socially unpopular by the masses for the next several decades but soon that would all begin to change. By the 1940’s synthetic testosterone was highly available and by the 1950’s one of the most popular steroids of all time would rapidly hit the shelves in the form of Dianabol. These were the first two anabolic steroids made available and athletes of all sports would begin to use them heavily but it was bodybuilding that perhaps owed the biggest debt of gratitude. Through the 1950’s and 60’s we would begin to see physiques of a far more impressive nature; bigger, better and more well-defined. With the emergence of such bodybuilders as Steve Reeves, Reg Park and Clarence Ross for the first time in history bodybuilding begin to gain some legitimate notice in the 1950’s and the following decade would prove to be even bigger.
By the 1960’s, while still a more or less underground sport the athletes were truly reaching remarkable levels of conditioning and size; by this time steroids were as available as water from the tap and the good news for the athletes was they were 100% legal. Legendary bodybuilders such as Sergio Oliva, Dave Draper and Larry Scott were displaying physiques unlike any had ever seen but once again, the 1960’s would pale in comparison for what was to come.