When Was the Golden Era of Bodybuilding? [Explained]

One of the most debatable topics surrounding the golden era of bodybuilding is- When Was the Golden Era of Bodybuilding? The seekers are often confused by the different answers coming from various fans of the sport. Some eat up a decade while some add an extra decade to the range. While most of the answers correctly state the ending of the golden era of bodybuilding- The ’80s. The starting is the real fuss no one is really sure about. So is it the 50’s, the 60’s or the 70’s? Let’s find out:

The Golden Era of Bodybuilding ranges across the time period of the’50s to ’80s. During the ’50s the Muscle Beach had gained quite some popularity worldwide for being the hub for bodybuilders and acrobats. It was during this period the NABBA Universe Championships came to existence (1948-first Universe Championship was held) & IFBB was established. The competitive sphere for bodybuilding took a flight in the ’50s and later paved way for the Mr Olympia competition in the mid-’60s. It is safe to say, the competitive bodybuilding witnessed a revolution in the ’50s. Bodybuilders like Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Jack Delinger were some of the famous names during the ’50s. The Mr Olympia competition added a new spark to the competitive bodybuilding revolution in 1965. Sadly, the golden era’s light started diminishing in the ’80s and the ’90s displayed the mass monsters of the mass era across the various championships. The best-known bodybuilders from the start of the mass era are Dorian Yates & Ronnie Coleman.


The ’50s: The Start Of Golden Era of Bodybuilding

The foundation bricks for the golden age were laid during the ’40s. The first modern bodybuilding competition- Mr America arrived in the year 1939. Names like John Grimek, Steve Reeves & Clancy Ross held the torch after winning the Mr America title. In 1946, Joe Weider established the IFBB. Later in 1948 began the global modern bodybuilding competition- Universe Championships. 1965 was the year when the first Mr Olympia was held and awarded to Larry Scott. In the ’50s the bricks laid down in the ’40s resulted in success. The viewership for the sport saw an uptick. Bodybuilders who were just getting started in the ’30s and ’40s at shows like Mr America and Mr Universe (Amateur) hit their peaks in the ’50s. It was in 1952 when NABBA introduced a Mr Universe (Pro) category. The golden era-defining bodybuilders- Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Leo Robert, Arthur Robin, Jim Park and Juan Fererro were the Mr Universe (Pro) during the ’50s. All of these Mr Universe titleholders are not familiar faces at the famous Mr Olympia but they played an important part in defining what is known today as the old school bodybuilding or the golden age of bodybuilding.


The ’60s & The ’70s: The Peak of Golden Era of Bodybuilding

When talking about the golden era of bodybuilding, these two decades are the most important. Many cited examples of golden era bodybuilders come from these two decades. These two decades saw making of not just the Olympia competition but also great bodybuilders like- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sergio Oliva, Frank Zane, Franco Columbu, Robby Robinson, Lou Ferrigno, Ken Waller, Serge Nubret & Mike Mentzer. The bodybuilders from these two decades continue to influence and motivate us even today. Most comparisons for today’s bodybuilders are drawn from the bodybuilders of this period of the golden era of bodybuilding. By the time the ’60s arrived, various competitive shows across the world had established the name for bodybuilding as a competitive sport effectively.

In 1965 with an idea of getting the champions of various competitions together to compete against each other and see who is the best of the best, Mr Olympia was established under the IFBB federation. Larry Scott was the first winner of Mr Olympia followed by Sergio Oliva in the year 1967. Sergio Oliva is also the only man to have defeated Arnold Schwarzenegger on stage. Beginning from 1970 Arnold cemented his legacy by winning the Mr Olympia title 5 times in a row. One of the factors that led to an increase in the popularity of bodybuilding during these decades was Hollywood. Movies started casting these competitive bodybuilders to fill roles for muscular men. The idea of muscularity and aesthetics garnered eyes from the general population after watching these movies. The gym industry became lucrative as the desire for getting a muscular body increased.


The ’80s: The Last of Golden Era of Bodybuilding

It is said the growth hormones and insulin are the main reason behind the decline of the golden era and the emergence of the mass era. Anabolic steroids were a part of the bodybuilding culture before the ’80s. But the dosages were not as much as they later evolved to. Also with the common application of insulin and growth hormones during this time, the mass era was not too far away. As more money came into the sport, the competition increased. With increased competition, the chase for becoming the best began. Bodybuilders would go to extreme lengths just to outsize their rival. This idea was the reason why the aesthetics and the elegance in the sport started to starve. The viewers who were earlier impressed by the aesthetics were now drawn more towards the bodybuilder with the biggest size. After all, as non-competitive people, we are attracted by the feets unusual

During the ’80s bodybuilders were much muscularly developed and bigger than the bodybuilders from the previous decades. They still honed the aesthetic factor but it wasn’t hidden it was reaching to an end. During the ’80s bodybuilding wasn’t an unknown sport anymore. Other sports athletes and even actors across the movie industry applied bodybuilding techniques in their regime to utilize the importance of sculpted muscles. The ’80s was also the decade of making of Lee Haney, the first man to surpass the Arnold’s six Mr Olympia record. Not only did he surpassed Arnold, but also made the record of highest Mr Olympia wins which holds true to this date. 1991 can be said to be the year the Golden Era ended. In 1992 arrived Dorian Yates- The man who redefined the definition of mass and won 6 consecutive Mr Olympia titles. By this time, the competitors at Olympia and other shows had only one aim- to dethrone Dorian Yates. This chase led to an increase in muscle mass through extreme approaches just to catch up with the size of Dorian Yates. Later, in 1998 Ronnie Coleman succeeded Dorian with a much larger body. The golden era saw its official end and from there the ’90s was announced to be the mass era. The common names across the last of the golden era are- Lee Haney, Samir Bannout, Chris Dickerson, Rich Gaspari, Tom Platz, Danny Padilla & Lee Labrada.

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