Special Interest: The Golden Era of Bodybuilding

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Spotlight Image - The Golden Era of Bodybuilding


Written by Journalism Staff Reporter Jayden Lopez

Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Chris Bumstead. These are some of the top competitors, past and present, of a sport that’s on the rise, bodybuilding. When people see mainstream bodybuilding, they are most likely consumed with men that have incredibly large physiques, almost reaching 300 pounds. Nowadays, that is the appearance of many open physique bodybuilders, but they were not always that big. Amidst the changing world around them, the 60s and 70s have also been coined the “golden era” of bodybuilding.   

California, more specifically, Santa Monica and Venice, are considered the homes of bodybuilding and the fitness boom in general. There, you would catch athletes of any kind working out or just enjoying the California sun with their friends.  These beaches would have minimal equipment including pull-up bars, a place to bench press, and maybe an old school cable machine. Many athletes who were not competitive bodybuilders, used their bodyweight with calisthenics or gymnastics to achieve their physiques. Not far from the beaches were gyms for the more intensive training crowd, most notably, Gold’s Gym. After a brutal session, hitting the beach was not uncommon.  


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Short shorts paired with a stringer is the look widely associated with the Golden Era. The minimal clothing did not get in the way of big lifts, but more importantly showed off the well-developed arm, chest, and leg muscles the athletes managed to build. During this time period, the physiques were smaller considering lack of equipment and performance enhancing drugs known to be used by modern-age bodybuilders. That did not stop the athletes though. Their training styles were very rigorous which included a lot of volume for each of the muscle groups, and even some athletes, like Arnold Schwarzeneggar, would train twice a day. A workout might include five sets of six to ten repetitions for a bench press followed by other chest movements. Most people in the gym now would not even consider that much volume for any muscle group. It’s safe to say that these athletes did a lot with the little they had.  


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At the end of every year, after going through extensive dieting and mass-gaining phases, athletes from all over the world would compete at an event known as the Mr. Olympia. The event assesses the physiques and posing routines of the competitors to determine who looks the best and has the most stage presence. Some of the most popular wins include Arnold’s first in 1969, Frankie Columbo (one of Arnold's best friends) in 1976, and Lee Haney in 1986. The Golden Era is one that gets referenced often in regards to the bodybuilding sport and still carries out its impact to this day.