Eugen Sandow – world’s first bodybuilder

The culture of strongmen competitions is an ancient one. There were strongmen in circuses and other shows, performing feats of strength. In the late 1800s, a young guy named Eugen Sandow decided to look like a Greek god while performing these feats and created the whole discipline of bodybuilding.

Eugen Sandow was born with a different name to a German father and Russian mother in Prussia in 1867. When he turned 18, to avoid conscription, he left Prussia and started to travel throughout Europe as a circus athlete. This is when he adopted his popular stage name Eugen Sandow – a name that has now been immortalized in the bodybuilding hall of fame.

The Big Break

While still with his circus troupe, Sandow once visited the gym of another well known strongman named Ludwig Durlacher, better known as Professor Attila. Durlacher immediately recognized Sandow’s potential and decided to mentor him. In 1889, Professor Attila accessed that Eugene Sandow is ready for the big league of strongmen and sent him to participate in a strongmen competition in London. Sandow easily defeated the reigning champion and was launched into instant stardom. Soon after, he was getting requests from all over the world to perform and show his feats of strength.

Muscle Display Performances

Eugene Sandow was on the road, touring the whole world, performing amazing feats of strength that were in line with that age’s entertainment. The show organizers soon realized that the audience is more fascinated by Sandow’s well developed muscles than the amount of weight he was lifting. Organizer Florenz Ziegfeld replaced Sandow’s typical strongmen performances with making him move around the stage in various poses and called it ‘muscle display performance’. These were in essence were the world’s first body building shows.

Body Sculpting

Sandow’s poses became more popular than his feats because he deliberately modeled his body after Greek statues. He invented the idea of building a body that looked sculpted, as opposed to lifting the most weight or performing other strongman feats. For many years Sandow had measured Greek and Roman statues in museums and had developed a Grecian model of the perfect physique. He then painstakingly built his physique to what he considered to be of ideal proportion according to his Grecian model formula. This act of actively developing muscles in your body to reach a particular proportion made Eugene Sandow the father of modern bodybuilding.

The Legacy

There has been some form of strongmen competition in almost all cultures around the world and all these disciplines have been touched directly or indirectly by the learning of Eugene Sandow about muscle and strength building. Other than being the first bodybuilder of the world, he was an advocate of exercise, opened gyms, wrote about fitness and organized the first bodybuilding competition in 1901. Mr Olympia – the most prestigious award in today’s bodybuilding is the statue of Sandow.

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