Bodybuilding During The 1940’s – 1960’s

Bodybuilding During The 1940’s – 1960’s

With everyone always talking about the Golden Era of bodybuilding during Arnie’s rise in the 1970’s it is worth noting that the notion of bodybuilding has been around much before then. With the rise of video camera’s and a personality behind the ‘freaks’ bodybuilding was thrown on to the global stage, however, the real pioneer’s of bodybuilding were around in the 1940’s.


During these times bodybuilding was as raw and rare as it could be, equipment was limited – there were no machines, and drugs were unheard of. Diets consisted mainly of meat, eggs, milk and cheese, the athletes did not have an ‘on’or ‘off’ season, they were natural Adonis’ year round for the health benefits. Their physiques were taped and flowing, the idea that there was huge bulk of the midriff due to organ enlargement would have been scoffed at.

The bodybuilders mainly used dumbells, barbells and bars to perform dips and pull ups which developed the whole upper body. They also performed feats of strength unheard of today such as bending rods of steel and pounding iron spikes into boards.


Down at muscle beach the bodybuilders which included men and women would perform to large family crowds every weekend with displays of strength, balance and then strut their physiques on stage for prizes.


The bodybuilders would train, live and eat together usually housed in a large apartment owned by a lady who would feed them too for a minimal fee. This environment created a strong brotherhood which was far greater than the generation that followed.


Trainee’s usually worked out 3 times a week to avoid over-training and get sufficient rest for their muscles to develop and grow, there was no such thing as cardio and the guys lifted heavy. This spawned a number of magazines that listed work out regimes and diets for followers to try, back then there was very little in the media but it created a generation of lifter physiques that were very aesthetically pleasing to look at rather than the bloated mass that we see competing today.

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Ben BA(Hons), PGCert

Ben established this site to be a free resource in 2015. Since then it has gained over half a million visits. He has always been interested in sport and he started playing rugby at the age of 6 represented his town, county and school. Ben also enjoys cycling, has started skiing and is in the Army Reserve representing his Regiment as part of the 150 Regimental Shooting Team. He holds a bachelor's and postgraduate degree in sport exercise & nutrition.
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