Bodybuilding is one of the most excruciating sports in the world. While it is a battle of physique and aesthetics, there’s so much more going on behind the scenes that we don’t see. Athletes competing in the sport have this unparalleled dedication towards extreme nutrition and training that exceeds the mortal man’s capabilities. No, they exceed the conventional limitations of the human body. And that’s why I believe that bodybuilders are freaks of nature.
It’s not that they were just born with good genetics, but it’s in their laser focus on achieving Herculean proportions that make them so amazing. The sport isn’t easy, and that’s why all bodybuilders have my respect and admiration. But some of them particularly stand out above the rest of the pack. These guys have inspired a generation of athletes aspiring to compete in IFBB events, and even the most distinguished one of all – Mr. Olympia. In this article, we’ll be showing ten of the most famous bodybuilders and their achievements, which led them to that level of notoriety.
10 Of The Most Famous Bodybuilders
Of course, any list of bodybuilders would not be complete without the undisputed face of bodybuilding. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most prominent figure in all of bodybuilding. He dominated the field in the 60s and 70s before pivoting his career into acting and politics. While most people know him for his roles in The Terminator and Conan The Barbarian, the physique that landed him those roles were also good enough to win 4 Mr. Universe and 7 Mr. Olympia Titles.
Arnold paved the way for many people to come to know and love the sport that is bodybuilding. He may be the most well-known figure, but many would argue that he isn’t the greatest in the sport. Critics compare his physique to the much more toned and athletic ones starting from the 90s, and they say he could never compete against those guys. While other athletes may have more titles than him, you cannot argue about the impact that California’s former governor had on the sport.
Perhaps one of the greatest to never win a Mr. Olympia is “The Sultan of Symmetry” himself. He still managed to rack up 17 professional titles, but the most coveted one managed to elude him throughout his run. Despite that, Flex will go down as one of the greatest to ever do it. He won the Arnold Classic a record four times before the record was later broken by somebody else on this list.
Some of the top bodybuilders recognize Wheeler’s greatness, stating he might have been the greatest of all time. This doesn’t come as a surprise as he had one of the best physiques we’ve ever seen on a stage. His perfect blend of size, muscular definition, proportion, and symmetry was unlike any other. Even without that Mr. Olympia title, Flex Wheeler would give any champion, in any era, a run for their money.
Ronnie Coleman came onto the bodybuilding scene with a bang and is the greatest of all time in most people’s eyes. Back in the 1998 Mr. Olympia competition, the favorites to win the champion were Flex Wheeler, Nasser El Sonbaty, Kevin Levrone, and Shawn Ray. Fresh off of his Night of Champions victory, Coleman showed that he belonged among the best by winning that title by a few points ahead of Wheeler.
This victory marked the start of a dominant run, as he went on to tie Lee Haney’s record-setting 8 Mr. Olympia victories. Coleman was unique in that he set a new standard in bodybuilding, tipping the scales at a whopping 300 pounds. His size and muscular definition were legendary, and Coleman himself would say his back could compete with anyone’s. You can tell he certainly left his mark on the sport, winning an astounding 26 titles before retiring.
How could we not include Lee Haney on this list? The guy was a rockstar, setting a new record of 8 Mr. Olympia titles before retiring at the top of the game. Haney is the one competitor to win Mr. Olympia without ever relinquishing his title. While some say that he retired right on time, knowing he was about to lose to Dorian Yates, you cannot doubt his greatness.
Bowing out of the game at 31, Lee Haney boasts an impressive 13 IFBB titles to his name. His size was one of the most remarkable parts of his repertoire, coupled alongside his razor-sharp definition. He could effortlessly dwarf his competitors with his muscularity and mass. Despite his impressive achievements, Lee Haney often gets overlooked when it comes to the GOAT (greatest of all time) conversation. But in our eyes, he could kick it with the best.
At the top of his game, Jay Cutler was a real mass monster, weighing in at 275 pounds. It’s insane to think that if not for Ronnie Coleman, Cutler might have won the most Mr. Olympia titles in history. But their battles always riled the crowds and gave us one of the most intense competitive rivalries in the sport’s history.
Jay Cutler is known to have one of the most massive bodies while remaining aesthetically appealing by most people’s standards. Besides winning 4 Mr. Olympia titles, he also boasts 3 Arnold Classic victories. An even crazier feat is how he finished top 2 in Mr. Olympia for ten consecutive years, a feat we may not see repeated (unless Phil Heath continues his legendary run).
“The Shadow” Dorian Yates was a 6-time Mr. Olympia, among his 15 IFBB competition wins. While that number seems relatively low compared to the others on this list, it should be worth noting that he only competed 17 times! This means he didn’t win in only two competitions, never placing below 2nd in either. Dorian Yates stood out for his work ethic and high-intensity training, which he sustained every single day of the year. He retired as one of the first real “mass monsters” of his time.
If we’re talking about longevity, look no further than “The Blade” Dexter Jackson. At 50 years old, the blade is still competing and dominating the bodybuilding scene. In the 2020 Arnold Classic, he took home 2nd, finishing behind William Bonac. Dexter stands out for having one of the best, if not the best, set of abs for any bodybuilder. He earned his nickname of “The Blade” for his razor-sharp conditioning and consistent contest-ready shape.
He boasts an amazing 29 IFBB pro title wins, taking home 1 Mr. Olympia title, and a record 5 Arnold Classic titles. DJ announced that after competing in the 2020 Mr. Olympia, he plans on retiring. He leaves behind an excellent track record of longevity, not to mention his physique of beautiful lines and premier muscular definition.
“The Gift” Phil Heath will go down as one of the greatest to ever do it when it’s all said and done. But he isn’t done; Phil still has a lot left in the tank as he looks to compete in this year’s Mr. Olympia in Las Vegas. Already with seven Sandows under his belt, Phil Heath still has the opportunity to cement his name even further in bodybuilding history.
The gift can still catch legends, Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, still searching for that elusive record-tying eighth title. He had a shot at achieving that feat in 2018 but came up short, finishing second to Shawn Rhoden in the event. Despite that, he looks to be in fantastic shape to make a run at it later this year. At Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath has never finished outside of the top 5, and we can’t wait to see him compete at this year’s event.
Levrone also won numerous titles during his pro career. He wrapped up his career with 23 IFBB pro titles. Levrone may not have taken home the Sandow, but he did finish runner-up in Mr. Olympia 4 times. He took home back-to-back Arnold Classic titles in ’94 and ’95, which highlighted his esteemed career. While he doesn’t boast a Mr. Olympia win, he still remains one of the most well-known bodybuilders for his fantastic physique, boasting terrific triceps, delts, side chest, and traps. He left the game as one of the most muscular guys to ever do it.
Rounding out this list is “The Chemist,” Frank Zane. Zane’s legacy in bodybuilding history is cemented because of his stunning physique due to his meticulous focus on symmetry and proportion. The chemist belongs to a select group of three people (Oliva and Yorton being the other two) to have beaten Arnold at Mr. Olympia. He won three Mr. Olympia titles of his own before retiring.
Frank Zane will go down in history for winning Mr. Olympia with one of the most slender waistlines (only behind Sergio Oliva). With broad shoulders, his body featured a very distinct V-taper, akin to an inverted Dorito chip. His aesthetically-appealing physique is a thing of dreams for aspiring athletes today.
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About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.