The "Early Years" of Western Bodybuilding are considered to be the period between 1880 and 1930.
Bodybuilding (the art of displaying the muscles) did not really exist prior to the late 19th century, when it was promoted by a man from Prussia (Germany) named Eugen Sandow, who is now generally referred to as "The Father of Modern Bodybuilding". He is credited as being a pioneer of the sport because he allowed an audience to enjoy viewing his physique in "muscle display performances". Although audiences were thrilled to see a well-developed physique, those men simply displayed their bodies as part of strength demonstrations or wrestling matches. Sandow had a stage show built around these displays through his manager, Florenz Ziegfeld. The Oscar winning 1936 film "The Great Ziegfeld", depicts this beginning of modern bodybuilding when Sandow began to display his body for carnivals. The role of Sandow was played by actor Nat Pendelton.
Sandow became so successful at flexing and posing his physique, he later created several businesses around his fame and was among the first to market products branded with his name alone. He was credited with inventing and selling the first exercise equipment for the masses (machined dumbbells, spring pulleys and tension bands) and even his image was sold by the thousands in "cabinet cards" and other prints.
Sandow was a strong advocate of "the Grecian Ideal" (this was a standard where a mathematical "ideal" was set up and the "perfect physique" was close to the proportions of ancient Greek and Roman statues from classical times). This is how Sandow built his own physique and in the early years, men were judged by how closely they matched these "ideal" proportions. Sandow organised the first bodybuilding contest on 14 September, 1901 called the "Great Competition" and held in the Royal Albert Hall, London, UK. Judged by himself, Sir Charles Lawes, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the contest was a huge success and was sold out and hundreds of physical culture enthusiasts were turned away. The trophy presented to the winner was a bronze statue of Sandow himself sculpted by Frederick Pomeroy. The winner was William L. Murray of Nottingham, England. The most prestigious bodybuilding contest today is the Mr. Olympia, and since 1977, the winner has been presented with the same bronze statue of Sandow that he himself presented to the winner at the first contest.
On 16 January 1904, the first large-scale bodybuilding competition in America took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The winner was Al Treloar and he was declared "The Most Perfectly Developed Man in the World". Treloar won a $1,000 cash prize, a substantial sum at that time. Two weeks later, Thomas Edison made a film of Al Treloar's posing routine. Edison also made two films of Sandow a few years before, making him the man who made the first three motion pictures featuring a bodybuilder. In the early 20th century, Bernarr Macfadden and Charles Atlas, continued to promote bodybuilding across the world. Alois P. Swoboda was an early pioneer in America and the man whom Charles Atlas credited with his success in his statement: "Everything that I know I learned from A. P. (Alois) Swoboda."
Other important bodybuilders in the early history of bodybuilding prior to 1930 include: Earle Liederman (writer of some of the earliest bodybuilding instruction books), Seigmund Breitbart (famous Jewish bodybuilder), Georg Hackenschmidt, George F. Jowett, Maxick (a pioneer in the art of posing), Monte Saldo, Launceston Elliot, Sig Klein, Sgt. Alfred Moss, Joe Nordquist, Lionel Strongfort (Strongfortism), Gustav Fristensky (the Czech champion), Ralph Parcaut, a champion wrestler who also authored an early book on "physical culture," and Alan C. Mead, who became an impressive muscle champion despite the fact that he lost a leg in World War I.
The National Physique Committee (NPC) was formed in 1981 by Jim Manion, who had just stepped down as chairman of the AAU Physique Committee. The NPC has gone on to become the most successful bodybuilding organization in the U.S., and is the amateur division of the IFBB in the United States. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the decline of AAU sponsored bodybuilding contests. In 1999, the AAU voted to discontinue its bodybuilding events.
This period also saw the rise of anabolic steroids used both in bodybuilding and many other sports. To combat this, and to be allowed to be an IOC member, the IFBB introduced doping tests for both steroids and other banned substances. Although doping tests occurred, the majority of professional bodybuilders still used anabolic steroids for competition. During the 1970s the use of anabolic steroids was openly discussed partly due to the fact they were legal. However the U.S. Congress in the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 placed anabolic steroids into Schedule III of the Controlled substance act (CSA).
In 1990, wrestling promoter Vince McMahon announced he was forming a new bodybuilding organization, the World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF). McMahon wanted to bring WWF-style showmanship and bigger prize money to the sport of bodybuilding. McMahon signed 13 competitors to lucrative long-term contracts, something virtually unheard of in bodybuilding up until then. Most of the WBF competitors immediately abandoned the IFBB. In response to the WBF's formation, IFBB president Ben Weider blacklisted all the bodybuilders who had signed with the WBF. The IFBB also quietly stopped testing their athletes for anabolic steroid use since it was difficult to compete thus with a new organization which did not test for steroids. In 1992, Vince McMahon instituted drug testing for WBF athletes because he and the WWF were under investigation by the federal government for alleged involvement in anabolic steroid trafficking. The result was that the competitors in the 1992 WBF contest looked sub-par, according to some contemporary accounts. McMahon formally dissolved the WBF in July, 1992. Reasons for this probably included lack of income from the pay-per-view broadcasts of the WBF contests, slow sales of the WBF's magazine Bodybuilding Lifestyles (which later became WBF Magazine), and the expense of paying multiple 6-figure contracts as well as producing two TV shows and a monthly magazine. However, the formation of the WBF had two positive effects for the IFBB athletes: (1) it caused IFBB founder Joe Weider to sign many of his top stars to contracts, and (2) it caused the IFBB to raise prize money in its sanctioned contests. Joe Weider eventually offered to accept the WBF bodybuilders back into the IFBB for a fine of 10% of their former yearly WBF salary.
In the early 2000s, the IFBB was attempting to make bodybuilding an Olympic sport. It obtained full IOC membership in 2000 and was attempting to get approved as a demonstration event at the Olympics which would hopefully lead to it being added as a full contest. This did not happen. Olympic recognition for bodybuilding remains controversial since many argue that bodybuilding is not a sport.
In 2003, Joe Weider sold Weider Publications to AMI, which owns The National Enquirer. Ben Weider is still the president of the IFBB. In 2004, contest promoter Wayne DeMilia broke ranks with the IFBB and AMI took over the promotion of the Mr. Olympia contest.
In the modern bodybuilding industry "Professional" generally means a bodybuilder who has won qualifying competitions as an amateur and has earned a 'pro card' from the IFBB. Professionals earn the right to compete in sanctioned competitions including the Arnold Classic and the Night of Champions. Placings at such competitions in turn earn them the right to compete at the Mr. Olympia; the title is considered to be the highest accolade in the professional bodybuilding field.
In natural contests bodybuilders are routinely tested for illegal substances and are banned for any violations from future contests. Testing can be done on urine samples, but in many cases a less expensive polygraph (lie detector) test is performed instead. What qualifies as an "illegal" substance, in the sense that it is prohibited by regulatory bodies, varies between natural federations, and does not necessarily include only substances that are illegal under the laws of the relevant jurisdiction. Illegal Anabolic steroids, Prohormone and Diuretics, under widespread use by professional bodybuilders, are generally banned by natural organizations. Natural bodybuilding organizations include NANBF (North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation), and the NPA (Natural physique association). Natural bodybuilders assert that their method is more focused on competition and a healthier lifestyle than other forms of bodybuilding.
In the 1970s, women began to take part in bodybuilding competitions, and was extremely popular for a time. More than ever women are training with weights for exercise purposes with desire for a more attractive body and to prevent bone loss. Many women however still fear that weight training will make them "bulky" and believe weight training is only for men. However strength training has many benefits for women including increased bone mass and prevention of bone loss as well as increased muscle strength and balance. In recent years, the related areas of fitness and figure competition have gained in popularity, providing an alternative for women who choose not to develop the level of muscularity necessary for bodybuilding. The first Ms. Olympia contest in 1980, won by Rachel McLish, would resemble closely what is thought of today as a fitness and figure competition.
In competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders aspire to develop and maintain an aesthetically pleasing (by bodybuilding standards) body and balanced physique. The competitors show off their bodies by performing a number of poses - bodybuilders spend time practicing their posing as this has a large effect on how they are judged.
A bodybuilder's size and shape are far more important than how much he or she can lift. The event should therefore not be confused with strongman competition or powerlifting, where the main point is on actual physical strength, or with Olympic weightlifting, where the main point is equally split between strength and technique. Though superficially similar to the casual observer, the fields entail a different regimen of training, diet, and basic motivation.
The general strategy adopted by most present-day competitive bodybuilders is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the "off-season") and approximately 3-4 months from competition attempt to lose body fat (referred to as "cutting"). In doing this some muscle will be lost but the aim is to keep this to a minimum. There are many approaches used but most involve reducing calorie intake and increasing cardio, while monitoring body fat percentage.
In the week leading up to a contest, bodybuilders will begin decreasing their water intake so as to deregulate the systems in the body associated with water flushing. They will also increase their sodium intake. At the same time they will decrease their carbohydrate consumption in an attempt to "carb deplete". The goal during this week is to deplete the muscles of glycogen. Two days before the show, sodium intake is reduced by half, and then eliminated completely. The day before the show, water is removed from the diet, and diuretics may be introduced. At the same time carbohydrates are re-introduced into the diet to expand the muscles. This is typically known as "carb-loading." The end result is an ultra-lean bodybuilder with full hard muscles and a dry, vascular appearance.
Prior to performing on stage, bodybuilders will apply various products to their skin to improve their muscle definition - these include fake tan commonly called "pro tan" (to make the skin darker) and various oils (to make the skin shiny). They will also use weights to "pump up" by forcing blood to their muscles to improve size and vascularity. Some may also gorge on sugar-rich candies to enhance the visibility of their veins, often considered a sign of high muscle-definition.
The high levels of muscle growth and repair achieved by bodybuilders require a specialized diet. Generally speaking, bodybuilders require more calories than the average person of the same weight to support the protein and energy requirements needed to support their training and increase muscle mass. A sub-maintenance level of food energy is combined with cardiovascular exercise to lose body fat in preparation for a contest. The ratios of food energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats vary depending on the goals of the bodybuilder.
Carbohydrates play an important role for bodybuilders. Carbohydrates give the body energy to deal with the rigors of training and recovery. Bodybuilders seek out low-glycemic polysaccharides and other slowly-digesting carbohydrates, which release energy in a more stable fashion than high-glycemic sugars and starches. This is important as high-glycemic carbohydrates cause a sharp insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat rather than muscle, and which can waste energy that should be directed towards muscle growth. However, bodybuilders frequently do ingest some quickly-digesting sugars (often in form of pure dextrose or maltodextrin) after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen stores within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Protein is probably one of the most important parts of the diet for the bodybuilder to consider. Functional proteins such as motor proteins which include myosin, kinesin, and dynein generate the forces exerted by contracting muscles. Current advice says that bodybuilders should consume 25-30% of protein per total calorie intake to further their goal of maintaining and improving their body composition. This is a widely debated topic, with many arguing that 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is ideal, some suggesting that less is sufficient, while others recommending 1.5, 2, or more. It is believed that protein needs to be consumed frequently throughout the day, especially during/after a workout, and before sleep. There is also some debate concerning the best type of protein to take. Chicken, beef, pork, fish, eggs and dairy foods are high in protein, as are some nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. Casein or whey are often used to supplement the diet with additional protein. Whey protein is the type of protein contained in many popular brands of protein supplements, and is preferred by many bodybuilders because of its high Biological Value (BV) and quick absorption rates. Bodybuilders usually require higher quality protein with a high BV rather than relying on protein such as soy, which is often avoided due to its claimed estrogenic properties. Still, some nutrition experts believe that soy, flax seeds and many other plants that contain the weak estrogen-like compounds or phytoestrogens can be used beneficially as phytoestrogens compete with this hormone for receptor sites in the male body and can block its actions. This can also include some inhibition of pituitary functions while stimulating the P450 system (the system that eliminates chemicals, hormones, drugs and metabolic waste product from the body) in the liver to more actively process and excrete excess estrogen.
Bodybuilders usually split their food intake for the day into 5 to 7 meals of roughly equal nutritional content and attempt to eat at regular intervals (normally between 2 and 3 hours). This method purports to serve two purposes: to limit overindulging as well as increasing basal metabolic rate when compared to the traditional 3 meals a day. However, this has been debunked as the most reliable research using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labeled water finds no metabolic advantage to eating more frequently.
It has been argued that overtraining can be beneficial. One article published by Muscle & Fitness magazine stated that you can "Overtrain for Big Gains". It suggested that if one is planning a restful holiday and they do not wish to inhibit their bodybuilding lifestyle too much, they should overtrain before taking the holiday, so the body can rest easily and recuperate and grow. Overtraining can be used advantageously, as when a bodybuilder is purposely overtrained for a brief period of time to super compensate during a regeneration phase. These are known as "shock micro-cycles" and were a key training technique used by Soviet athletes. However, the vast majority of overtraining that occurs in average bodybuilders is generally unplanned and completely unnecessary.