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Famous Bodybuilders

There are thousands of bodybuilders across the world but a select few have become household names and international stars, initially for their toned physique and eventually, in some cases, branching out into the Hollywood film industry.

In line with the huge growth in the nutrition and lifestyle industry, bodybuilding is more in the headlines these days. It has existed as a sport for decades, with displays by bodybuilders dating back to the 19th century.

Historians believe the ancient Greeks used weights around three thousand years ago, following the same ideal of beauty that is supported by the modern bodybuilders of today. Read on to find out about some of the most prominent bodybuilders of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

 

  1. Eugen Sandow

Eugen Sandow or the "father of modern bodybuilding" was a pioneering Prussian bodybuilder born on 2nd April 1867. Having delighted audiences with "muscle display performances" of his well-toned physique, he was credited with being the first bodybuilder to have branded products, inventing and selling exercise equipment such as dumbbells, tension bands and spring pulleys. He organised the first recognised bodybuilding contest, The Great Competition, in September 1901 at London's Royal Albert Hall. The Oscar-winning 1936 Hollywood movie, The Great Ziegfeld, depicted the birth of modern bodybuilding when Sandow began displaying his physique at carnivals.

 

  1. Charles Atlas

Born on 30th October 1892, in Calabria, Italy, Angelo Siciliano emigrated with his family to Brooklyn, New York, in 1903. As a shy, skinny boy, Angelo was bullied. Visiting Brooklyn Museum, he was inspired by the physiques in statues of Apollo, Hercules and Zeus and he soon began bodybuilding. Changing his name to Charles Atlas, he won the World's Most Beautiful Man contest in 1921. In 1922, he beat 775 contestants to the title of World's Most Perfectly Developed Man. His legendary mail order business, Charles Atlas Ltd, launched in 1928, selling "Dynamic-Tension" fitness to the masses. Although Atlas died in 1972, his company still lives on.

 

  1. Jean-Claude Van Damme

The man known as the "muscles from Brussels" was born in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Belgium, on 18th October 1960. At the age of 11, his father enrolled him at a Shotokan karate school. He also learned kickboxing and earned a karate black belt when he was 18. He began weightlifting to improve his physique and won the Mr Belgium bodybuilding title. After winning a record 18 consecutive victories in full contact karate tournaments, he opened a gym in Brussels but his real passion was to become an action film star, so he moved to Los Angeles in 1982. After various small acting roles, his breakthrough came in the 1988 film, Bloodsport, which grossed $35 million at the box office. Van Damme’s movie successes to date include Universal Soldier, Street Fighter, The Expendables 2 and Timecop.

Van Damme

 

  1. Steeve Reeves

Born in 1926 in Glasgow, Montana, USA, Steve Reeves was a bodybuilder turned actor who starred in a number of hit Hollywood movies, such as Hercules Unchained and Duel of the Titans. He began bodybuilding at Castlemont High School and trained in weight-lifting and bodybuilding at Ed Yarick's gym in Oakland. After serving for the US Army during World War II, he won the Mr Universe title in 1950. His movie breakthrough came in 1957 when he played the lead character in the low-budget epic, Hercules, which grossed $5 million in the United States. He also wrote books promoting drug-free bodybuilding. Reeves died aged 74 in 2000.

 

  1. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Born in Thal, Austria, in 1947, Schwarzenegger began bodybuilding when he was 15 and won a record five Mr Universe and seven Mr Olympia contests, before emigrating to the US in 1968 and embarking on his film career. Today, his estimated worth is $348 million after a string of box office action hits such as The Terminator, Running Man and Predator. Renowned for his philanthropic work, he also served as California's state governor from 2003 until 2010.

Schwarzenegger

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