The History of Body-Sculpting

Body sculpting (or bodybuilding) is a form of body modification involving intensive muscle hypertrophy; an individual who engages in this activity is referred to as a body sculptor (or bodybuilder). In competitive body sculpting, body sculptors display their physiques to a panel of judges, who assign points based on their appearance. The muscles are revealed through a combination of fat loss, oils, and tanning (or tanning lotions) which combined with lighting make the definition of the muscle group more distinct.

Individuals well-known for being body sculptors include Charles Atlas, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno who starred on TV Shows and in movies . Currently, three time winner Jay Cutler holds the title of Mr. Olympia as the world's top body sculptor. 1


Early years-

The "Early Years" of Western Body sculpting are considered to be the period between 1880 and 1930.

Eugen Sandow

Body sculpting did not really exist prior to the late 19th century, when it was promoted by a man from Prussia (northern Germany) named Eugen Sandow,2 who is now generally referred to as "The Father of Modern Body sculpting". He is credited as being a pioneer of the sport because he allowed an audience 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 body sculpting, 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 strong advocate of "the Grecian Ideal" (this was a standard where a mathematical "ideal" was set up and the "perfect physique" was close to the proportions of ancient Greek and Roman statues from classical 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 organized the first body sculpting 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 body sculpting contest today is the Mr. Olympia, and since 1977, the winner has been presented with the same bronze statue of Sandow that he himself presented to the winner at the first contest.3

First large-scale body sculpting competition in America

On 16 January 1904, the first large-scale body sculpting 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".4 Treloar won a $1,000 cash prize, a substantial sum at that time. Two weeks later, Thomas Edison made a film of Al Treloar's 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 body sculptor. In the early 20th century, Bernarr Macfadden and Charles Atlas continued to promote body sculpting across the world. Alois P. Swoboda was an early pioneer in America.

Notable early body sculptors

Many other important body sculptors in the early history of body sculpting prior to 1930 include: Earle Liederman (writer of some of the earliest body sculpting instruction books), Zishe Breitbart, Georg Hackenschmidt, Emy Nkemena, George F. Jowett, Finn Hateral (a pioneer in the art of posing), Monte Saldo, 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 C. Mead, who became an impressive muscle champion despite the fact that he lost a leg in World War I.

1950s and 1960s

Body sculpting became more popular in the 1950s and 1960s with the emergence of strength and gymnastics champions joining the sport, and the simultaneous popularization of muscle training, most of all by Charles Atlas, whose advertising in comic books and other publications encouraged many young men to undertake weight training to improve their physiques to resemble the comic books' muscular superheroes. Of notable athletes, US national and gymnastics champion and US Olympic weightlifting team competitor John Grimek and British strength athlete Reg Park as winners of newly-created body sculpting titles such as the Mr. Universe and Mr. America competitions paved the way for others. Magazines such as Muscular Development were accompanied by the public notoriety of Muscle Beach. The casting of some body sculptors in movies was another major vehicle for the sport's popularization. Of body sculptor-actors perhaps the most famous were Steve Reeves and Reg Park, who were featured in roles portraying Hercules, Samson and other legendary heroes. Dave Draper gained public fame through appearances in Muscle Beach Party, part of the "beach party" series of films featuring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon that began with Beach Blanket Bingo, and also in cameo appearances in television series such as the Beverly Hillbillies. Other rising stars in this period were Larry Scott, Serge Nubret, and Sergio Oliva. The gym equipment and weight training supplement industries founded by Joe Weider were complemented by the growth of the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB), which was co-founded by Joe and his brother Ben. The IFBB eventually displaced the Amateur Athletic Union's Mr. Universe titles and also that of NABBA, the National Amateur Body sculptors Association as the most important and notable contests.

1970s onwards-

New organizations

In the 1970s, body sculpting had major publicity thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger and others in the 1977 film Pumping Iron. By this time the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) dominated the sport and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) took a back seat.

The National Physique Committee (NPC) was formed in 1981 by Jim Manion, 5 who had just stepped down as chairman of the AAU Physique Committee. The NPC has gone on to become the most successful body sculpting organization in the U.S., and is the amateur division of the IFBB in the United States. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the decline of AAU sponsored body sculpting contests. In 1999, the AAU voted to discontinue its body sculpting events.

Rise of anabolic steroids

This period also saw the rise of anabolic steroids used both in body sculpting and many other sports. In body sculpting lore, this is partly attributed to the rise of "mass monsters", beginning with Arnold Schwarzenegger but including Franco Columbu, Lou Ferrigno, Dorian Yates, Lee Haney, Ronnie Coleman and Paul DeMayo and also the emergence of athletes such as Rich Gaspari and Andreas Munzer, who defied their natural genetics to attain size and hardness previously unimagined. To combat this, and in the hopes of becoming a member of the IOC, the IFBB introduced doping tests for both steroids and other banned substances. Although doping tests occurred, the majority of professional body sculptors still used anabolic steroids for competition. During the 1970s the use of anabolic steroids was openly discussed partly due to the fact they were legal.6 However the U.S. Congress in the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 placed anabolic steroids into Schedule III of the Controlled substance act (CSA). Similarly in Canada, in the wake of the Ben Johnson scandal, steroids were added to the Criminal Code of Canada as a Class IV controlled substance (that class was created expressly for steroids).

World Body sculpting Federation

In 1990, wrestling promoter Vince McMahon announced he was forming a new body sculpting organization, the World Body sculpting Federation (WBF). McMahon wanted to bring WWF-style showmanship and bigger prize money to the sport of body sculpting. A number of IFBB stars were recruited but the roster was never very large, with the same athletes competing; the most notable winner and first WBF champion was Gary Strydom. McMahon formally dissolved the WBF in July 1992. Reasons for this probably included lack of income from the pay-per-view broadcasts of the WBF contests, slow sales of the WBF's magazine Body sculpting Lifestyles (which later became WBF Magazine), and the expense of paying multiple 6-figure contracts as well as producing two TV shows and a monthly magazine.

Olympic sport discussion

In the early 2000s, the IFBB was attempting to make body sculpting an Olympic sport. It obtained full IOC membership in 2000 and was attempting to get approved as a demonstration event at the Olympics which would hopefully lead to it being added as a full contest. This did not happen. Olympic recognition for body sculpting remains controversial since many argue that body sculpting is not a sport.7

Recent developments-

In 2003, Joe Weider sold Weider Publications to AMI, which owns The National Enquirer. The position of president of the IFBB is vacant following the death of Ben Weider in October 2008. In 2004, contest promoter Wayne DeMilia broke ranks with the IFBB and AMI took over the promotion of the Mr. Olympia contest. Other professional contests emerged in this period, most notably the Arnold Classic and Night of Champions but also the European Grand Prix of Body sculpting. Also with the growth of consumer lifestyles in Europe and especially in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union saw whole new populations of body sculptors emerge from those areas.


Professional body sculpting-

In the modern body sculpting industry, "professional" generally means a body sculptor who has won qualifying competitions as an amateur and has earned a "pro card" from the IFBB. Professionals earn the right to compete in sanctioned competitions including the Arnold Classic and the Night of Champions. Placings at such competitions in turn earn them the right to compete at the Mr. Olympia; the title is considered to be the highest accolade in the professional body sculpting field. Steroid testing in these competitions is generally never done.

Natural body sculpting-

In natural contests body sculptors are routinely tested for illegal substances and are banned for any violations from future contests. Testing can be done on urine samples, but in many cases a less expensive polygraph (lie detector) test is performed instead. What qualifies as an "illegal" substance, in the sense that it is prohibited by regulatory bodies, varies between natural federations, and does not necessarily include only substances that are illegal under the laws of the relevant jurisdiction. Illegal Anabolic steroids, Prohormone and Diuretics, under widespread use by professional body sculptors, are generally banned by natural organizations. Natural body sculpting organizations include NANBF (North American Natural Body sculpting Federation), and the NPA (Natural Physique Association). Natural body sculptors assert that their method is more focused on competition and a healthier lifestyle than other forms of body sculpting.

Female body sculpting-

The first U.S. Female’s National Physique Championship, promoted by Henry McGhee and held in Canton, Ohio in 1978, is generally regarded as the first true female body sculpting contest - that is, the first contest where the entrants were judged solely on muscularity.8 In 1980 the first Ms. Olympia (initially known as the "Miss" Olympia), the most prestigious contest for professionals, was held. The first winner was Rachel McLish who had also won the NPC's USA Championship earlier in the year. The contest was a major turning point for the sport of female’s body sculpting. McLish inspired many future competitors to start weight training and competing. In 1985, a movie called Pumping Iron II: The Women was released. This film documented the preparation of several females for the 1983 Caesars Palace World Cup Championship. Competitors prominently featured in the film were Kris Alexander, Lori Bowen, Lydia Cheng, Carla Dunlap, Bev Francis, and Rachel McLish. At the time, Francis was actually a powerlifter, though she soon made a successful transition to body sculpting, becoming one of the leading competitors of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In recent years, the related areas of fitness and figure competition have gained in popularity, surpassing that of female body sculpting, and have provided an alternative for females who choose not to develop the level of muscularity necessary for body sculpting. Rachel McLish would resemble closely what is thought of today as a fitness and figure competition instead of what is now considered female body sculpting. Fitness competitions also have a gymnastic element to them.


In competitive body sculpting, body sculptors aspire to develop and maintain an aesthetically pleasing body and balanced physique. In prejudging, competitors do a series of mandatory poses - the front lat spread, the rear lat spread, the front double biceps, the back double biceps, the side chest, the side triceps, the most muscular (men only), and the thigh-abdominal pose. Each competitor also performs a routine to display the physique. A posedown is usually held at the end of a posing round, while judges are finishing their scoring. Body sculptors spend time practicing their posing, since they are judged on it.

In contrast to strongman or powerlifting competitions where physical strength is important, or to Olympic weightlifting, where the main point is equally split between strength and technique, body sculpting competitions typically emphasize condition, size and symmetry. Different organizations emphasize particular aspects of competition, and sometimes have different categories in which to compete.


Cutting and bulking

The general strategy adopted by most present-day competitive body sculptors is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the "off-season") and approximately 12–14 weeks from competition attempt to lose body fat (referred to as "cutting") while minimizing the loss of muscle mass. Generally this involves reducing calorie intake and increasing aerobic exercise while monitoring body fat percentage.

The precise effectiveness of the cutting and bulking strategy is unknown, with only limited observational case studies on the subject. No studies involving precise hypercaloric feeding combined with resistance exercise have been conducted.

Many non-competitive body sculptors choose not to adopt this strategy, as it often results in significant unwanted fat gain during the "bulking" phase (particularly for those who do not use anabolic steroids). While competitive body sculptors focus their efforts to achieve a peak appearance during a brief "competition season", most ordinary individuals prefer to maintain an attractive physique year-round. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a proper weight training program combined with a modestly hypercaloric diet with proper macronutrient balance can produce steady gains in size and strength, while avoiding significant increases in body fat.


In the week leading up to a contest, body sculptors may decrease their consumption of water, sodium and carbohydrates, the former two to alter how water is retained by the body and the latter to reduce glycogen in the muscle. The day before the show, water is removed from the diet, and diuretics may be introduced, while carbohydrate loading to increase the size of the muscles through replenishment of their glycogen. The goal is to maximize leanness and increase the visibility of veins. The appearance of veins are further enhanced immediately before appearing on stage by darkening the skin through tanning products, applying oils to the skin to increase shine and some competitors will eat sugar-rich foods to increase the visibility of their veins. A final step is the use of weights to fill the muscles with blood and further increase their size.

Muscle growth—

Body sculptors use three main strategies to maximize muscle hypertrophy:

• Adequate rest, including sleep and recuperation between workouts
• Specialized nutrition, incorporating extra protein and supplements where necessary
• Strength training through weights or elastic/hydraulic resistance

Weight training-

Weight training causes micro-tears to the muscles being trained; this is generally known as microtrauma. These micro-tears in the muscle contribute to the soreness felt after exercise, called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It is the repair to these micro-trauma that result in muscle growth. Normally, this soreness becomes most apparent a day or two after a workout. However, as muscles become adapted to the exercises, soreness tends to decrease.9

Weight training aims to build muscle by prompting two different types of hypertrophy, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy leads to larger muscles so is favored by body sculptors more than myofibrillar hypertrophy which builds athletic strength. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is triggered by increasing repetitions, whereas myofibrillar hypertrophy is triggered by lifting heavier weights. 10


The high levels of muscle growth and repair achieved by body sculptors require a specialized diet. Generally speaking, body sculptors require more calories than the average person of the same weight to provide the protein and energy requirements needed to support their weight training and increase muscle mass. A sub-maintenance level of food energy is combined with cardiovascular exercise to lose body fat in preparation for a contest. The ratios of food energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats vary depending on the goals of the body sculptor.11


Carbohydrates play an important role for body sculptors. Carbohydrates give the body energy to deal with the rigors of weight training and recovery. Body sculptors seek out low-glycemic polysaccharides and other slowly-digesting carbohydrates, which release energy in a more stable fashion than high-glycemic sugars and starches. This is important as high-glycemic carbohydrates cause a sharp insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat rather than muscle, and which can waste energy that should be directed towards muscle growth. However, body sculptors frequently do ingest some quickly-digesting sugars (often in form of pure dextrose or maltodextrin) after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen stores within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.12


Protein is probably one of the most important parts of the diet for the body sculptor to consider. The motor proteins actin and myosin generate the forces exerted by contracting muscles. Current advice says that body sculptors should consume 25-30% of protein per total calorie intake to further their goal of maintaining and improving their body composition.13 This is a widely debated topic, with many arguing that 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is ideal, some suggesting that less is sufficient, while others recommending 1.5, 2, or more.14151617 It is believed that protein needs to be consumed frequently throughout the day, especially during/after a workout, and before sleep.18 There is also some debate concerning the best type of protein to take. Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, eggs and dairy foods are high in protein, as are some nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. Casein or whey is often used to supplement the diet with additional protein. Whey protein is the type of protein contained in many popular brands of protein supplements, and is preferred by many body sculptors because of its high Biological Value (BV) and quick absorption rates. Body sculptors are usually thought to require protein with a higher BV than that of soy, which is additionally avoided due to its claimed estrogenic properties.19 Still, some nutrition experts believe that soy, flax seeds and many other plants that contain the weak estrogen-like compounds or phytoestrogens can be used beneficially, as phytoestrogens compete with estrogens for receptor sites in the male body and can block its actions. This can also include some inhibition of pituitary functions while stimulating the P450 system (the system that eliminates chemicals, hormones, drugs and metabolic waste product from the body) in the liver to more actively process and excrete excess estrogen.2021 Cortisol decreases amino acid uptake by muscle, and inhibits protein synthesis.22


Body sculptors usually split their food intake for the day into 5 to 7 meals of roughly equal nutritional content and attempt to eat at regular intervals (normally between 2 and 3 hours). This method purports to serve 2 purposes: to limit overindulging as well as increasing basal metabolic rate when compared to the traditional 3 meals a day. 232425

Dietary supplements-

The important role of nutrition in building muscle and losing fat means body sculptors may consume a wide variety of dietary supplements.26 Various products are used in an attempt to augment muscle size, increase the rate of fat loss, improve joint health and prevent potential nutrient deficiencies. Scientific consensus supports the effectiveness of only a small number of commercially available supplements when used by healthy, physically active adultscitation needed. Creatine is probably the most widely used performance enhancing legal supplement. Creatine works by turning into creatine phosphate, which provides an extra phosphorus molecule in the regeneration of ATP. This will provide the body with more energy that lasts longer during short, intense bits of work like weight training.

Performance enhancing substances-

Some body sculptors use drugs such as anabolic steroids and precursor substances such as prohormones to increase muscle hypertrophy. Most of the substances require medical prescriptions to be accessed legally. Anabolic steroids cause muscle hypertrophy of both types (I and II) of muscle fibers caused likely by an increased synthesis of muscle proteins and are accompanied with undesired side effects including hepatotoxicity, gynecomastia, acne, male pattern baldness and a decline in the body's own testosterone production, which can cause testicular atrophy.272829 Other controlled substances used by competitive body sculptors include human growth hormone (HGH), which can cause acromegaly. Steroid use is prevalent among professional body sculptors because such big growth and size is impossible without them.


Although muscle stimulation occurs in the gym lifting weights, muscle growth occurs afterward during rest. Without adequate rest and sleep, muscles do not have an opportunity to recover and build. About eight hours of sleep a night is desirable for the body sculptor to be refreshed, although this varies from person to person. Additionally, many athletes find a daytime nap further increases their body's ability to build muscle. Some body sculptors take several naps per day, during peak anabolic phases and during catabolic phases.


Overtraining occurs when a body sculptor has trained to the point where his workload exceeds his recovery capacity. There are many reasons that overtraining occurs, including lack of adequate nutrition, lack of recovery time between workouts, insufficient sleep, and weight training at a high intensity for too long (a lack of splitting apart workouts). Weight training at a high intensity too frequently also stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) and can result in a hyper-adrenergic state that interferes with sleep patterns.30 To avoid overtraining, intense frequent weight training must be met with at least an equal amount of purposeful recovery. Timely provision of carbohydrates, proteins, and various micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, even nutritional supplements are acutely critical.

It has been argued that overtraining can be beneficial. One article published by Muscle & Fitness magazine stated that you can "Overtrain for Big Gains". It suggested that if one is planning a restful holiday and they do not wish to inhibit their body sculpting lifestyle too much, they should overtrain before taking the holiday, so the body can rest easily and recuperate and grow. Overtraining can be used advantageously, as when a body sculptor is purposely overtrained for a brief period of time to super compensate during a regeneration phase. These are known as "shock micro-cycles" and were a key weight training technique used by Soviet athletes.31 However, the vast majority of overtraining that occurs in average body sculptors is generally unplanned and completely unnecessary.32

Non muscle-developing methods-

Some body sculptors, particularly at professional level, use substances such as site enhancement oil to mimic the appearance of muscle where it may otherwise be disproportionate or lagging. Surgical methods are also often employed to remove steroid-related gynecomastia in male body sculptors, and breast implants in female body sculptors who wish to retain a feminine physique, which can be compromised in terms of breast reduction by intense weight training.


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