Bodybuilding is the use of progressive resistance exercise to control and develop ones musculature. An individual who engages in this activity is referred to as a bodybuilder. In competitive amateur and professional bodybuilding, bodybuilders appear in lineups doing specified poses, and later perform individual posing routines, for a panel of judges who rank competitors based on criteria such as symmetry, muscularity, and conditioning. Bodybuilders prepare for competition through a combination of dehydration, fat loss, oils, and tanning (or tanning lotions) which make their muscular definition more distinct. Some well-known bodybuilders include Charles Atlas, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Lou Ferrigno. Currently, IFBB professional bodybuilder Phil Heath from the United States holds the title of Mr. Olympia. The winner of the annual Mr. Olympia contest is generally recognized as the worlds top professional male bodybuilder.
The "Early Years" of Western Bodybuilding are considered to be the period between 1880 and 1953.
Bodybuilding did not really exist prior to the late 19th century, when it was promoted by German born Eugen Sandow, later of England who is now generally referred to as "The Father of Modern Bodybuilding". He is credited as being a pioneer of the activity because he allowed audiences 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 musical 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 Pendleton.
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 perfect "gracilian" (this was a standard where a mathematical "ideal" was set up and the "perfect physique" was close to the proportions of Greek and Roman statues from ancient times – see Golden Mean). 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 September 14, 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 1968, 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 Treloars 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.
Many other important bodybuilders in the early history of bodybuilding prior to 1930 include: Earle Liederman (writer of some of the earliest bodybuilding instruction books), Zishe Breitbart, Georg Hackenschmidt, Emy Nkemena, George F. Jowett, Finn Hateral (a pioneer in the art of posing), Frank Saldo, Monte Saldo, William Bankier, 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 P. Mead, who became an impressive muscle champion despite the fact that he lost a leg in World War I. Actor Francis X. Bushman started his career as a bodybuilder and sculptors model before beginning his famous silent movie career. Bushman was a disciple of Eugen Sandow.
The National Physique Committee (NPC) was formed in 1981 by Jim Manion, who had just stepped down as chairman of the AAU Physique Committee.
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