The history of bodybuilding through the ages and civilizations: understanding its aesthetic sense, discovering its evolution and the men who shaped it.
According to psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, only 7% of our communication is verbal, 38% para-verbal and 55% non-verbal. Faced with such an observation, we easily understand how our attitudes, unconsciously, speak for us.
More than our words or our beautiful speeches, a look, a gesture or a posture will reveal a part of our inner being. The shape of our body is also important because it also communicates who we are and our way of life.
In the West for example, curves are the sign of a sedentary lifestyle, evoke the good eater but also a neglect of his appearance. Unlike the curves, the slender silhouette of women arouses desire in the male sex. And a muscular body refers to dynamism, modernity, virility, strength.
Our body therefore gives a more or less gratifying image of ourselves to others. But this body is not a frozen mass. Our body lives and is a source of emotions. He is the guardian of our history, our hopes, our sufferings, our well-being.
And during this history, our spirit will want to shape this body in order to assert and accentuate our personality. Some will embark on a diet or a sport to eliminate unsightly curves. Others will highlight this body through artistic practices such as photography or sculpture in particular.
Between sport and body enhancement
Whether we are athletic or not, the mention of the word bodybuilding rarely leaves people indifferent. Indeed, as soon as we talk about bodybuilding, our mind immediately returns us to the image of a “superman” with oiled muscles ready to burst.
This vision will appear for some terrifying, even disgusting. For others, the extraordinary development of muscles will have an unreal and inaccessible side.
But this development of the muscles to the extreme, the appearance of the veins also recall the illustrations of the anatomy where each muscle is perfectly drawn. This last perception of bodybuilding evokes a certain perfection of the body. Bodybuilding, in this development of muscles, reveals often hidden and unknown parts of our anatomy. However, we can only be fascinated by the result. And as we saw above, muscle is a symbol of virility and strength.
But beyond these different feelings, do we really know bodybuilding?
Too often, we limit bodybuilding to excessive bodybuilding or even a show of strength. These simplifications represent errors of understanding of this discipline.
Bodybuilding, also called bodybuilding is the construction of the body by the development of muscle mass in one but aesthetic. We understand then that bodybuilding combines both sports training and artistic research.
It is also important to emphasize that the bodybuilder must have a healthy lifestyle especially in terms of food and rest of his body.
From the evocation of the beauty of the body to the concretization of a discipline
How did the practice of bodybuilding come about?
The evocation of the beauty of the body by the harmony of its muscular mass appears from Antiquity with the myth of Hercules and the Greek statues.
Hercules realized what no man could accomplish: the twelve works entrusted by Eurysthée. Through his exploits, we find this notion often attributed to bodybuilders of "superman", of surpassing oneself. In addition, the representations of Hercules through sculptures, reveal to us a muscular body, with perfect lines.
The Greeks worshiped the body, half-man body, half-god body. They materialized this ideal beauty through their sculptures representing naked bodies with apparent muscles, perfect proportions and symmetry in the torso. These sculptures still command admiration today and defined the first criteria of body aesthetics close to those of bodybuilding in terms of muscle mass development and in artistic research.
Strengthened by this ancient culture for the aesthetics of the body, bodybuilding as we know it today, will develop thereafter thanks to passionate people who will carry this aesthetic until materializing it in the form of sports discipline.
Without being the founder of modern bodybuilding, the personality of Georges hebert will contribute to the birth of the discipline by its look focused on the physical condition in particular of men. Indeed, this French naval officer, born in 1875, will discover through his travels, that men say he says "primitive", living close to nature, have excellent physical condition and develop perfect muscles. From this observation, Georges Hebert will develop the "natural method" based on the practice of movements in a natural environment.
His approach will later influence several prominent figures in bodybuilding. Especially Eugen Sandow, German athlete, considered today as the true founding father of bodybuilding.
Who does not yet know the name of Sandow in the field of Bodybuilding?
He was the first bodybuilder to be internationally recognized for his shows. His passion for aesthetics of the body revealing perfect muscles dates back to his early childhood. Indeed, he lived with his father the first years of his existence in Italy and very quickly, the Roman statues exerted on the boy, a real fascination. At the age of 19, he embarked on force representations during circus shows in several European countries. Noticed by an American promoter, Florenz Ziegfield, he will participate in the great universal exhibition of 1893 in Chicago. There, he will distinguish himself from the other participants who came to demonstrate their strength. Indeed, during his performances, Eugen Sandow attaches more importance to his postures, the development of his muscles and the general aesthetics of his body than to the force itself. This peculiarity will thrill the public and will add one more stone to the edifice of discipline.
By 1920, a bodybuilding treaty would be written by Earle Liederman.
The second important figure in the construction of the discipline was undoubtedly Joe Weider. This Canadian bodybuilder was born in 1919. His involvement and his contributions to the democratization of bodybuilding are considerable. Joe Weider is passionate and has a fascination for the beauty of muscles from an early age. From 1936, he designed new intensification techniques for the development of muscle mass. In 1949, he and his brother Ben Weider founded the International Federation of Bodybuilding. Also a businessman, he will create several magazines on bodybuilding, including FLEX et Muscles and fitness. But his most significant contribution will remain the creation of the great and international bodybuilding competition: Mister Olympia 1965. Joe Weider represents the "dad" for many current bodybuilders and more precisely for the famous actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Indeed, it was Joe Weider who discovered the young Arnold in Austria. He will become his mentor and coach. When he passed away in 2013, Arnold Schwarzenegger paid him a poignant tribute.
Increasingly democratizing, bodybuilding is arriving in sports halls and at Muscle Beach, especially with the first winner of Mr Olympia, Larry Scott. The population came in 1987, to admire the training of bodybuilders on the Muscle Beach, arranged for this purpose.
Today, Frédéric Mompo, coach and several times world champion in this discipline, struggles to break down prejudices about bodybuilding. He wants to make the public understand how bodybuilding is above all a lifestyle requiring impeccable hygiene. Bodybuilders are real body artists.
Discover the main bodybuilding competitions
The very first bodybuilding competition (the great competition) was organized by Georges Sandow himself in 1901 in England. The announcement of the competition provoked intense enthusiasm from students in England. The objective of this competition was to enhance physical culture and the enhancement of muscle mass. He set out several selection criteria such as symmetry, the participant's state of health, body balance, tissue quality, etc. The winner was William L. Murray.
But the real, the essential and the most prestigious bodybuilding competition is that of Mister Olympia developed by Joe Weider in 1965. Indeed, the first Mister Olympia competition took place on September 18, 1965 in the Brooklyn district of New York. Since then, Mr. Olympia represents the most prestigious international competition, professionalizing bodybuilding. The competition is managed each year by the International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation.
All these personalities come from horizons, backgrounds, different countries. But what joins them is this passion, this veneration for the beauty of a perfect body, bordering on unreality, a practically deified body.
Bodybuilding is the art of bringing this body to light thanks to a lifestyle choice requiring rigor, patience and great moral strength.