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20 Best Bodybuilders of All Time

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Bodybuilding is an icon sport that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Only the greatest of the humans can get involved and yet only a few of them become the best of all time. Scouting through the history of the sport, we have created this list of the 20 best bodybuilders of all time that only feature the greatest icons.

If you have ever wondered who is the best bodybuilder ever or who’s the biggest name in this game, this post will help you find the right answers. We have used several factors to analyze who are the most legendary mass monsters on this planet who helped raise the bar for the bodybuilding universe.

These bodybuilders are genetic beasts combined with sheer discipline and exceptional skills. They are a whole different species of humans. They have a kind of physique that needs to be preserved in museums for generations to come. Let’s have a look at our list of the best bodybuilders of all time.

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

The first name on this list is the greatest and arguably the most popular bodybuilder of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The seven-time Mr. Olympia winner made his professional debut at the NABBA Mr. Universe in 1968 and won his first Olympia title two years later. He remained undefeated for six consecutive years then.

In 1976, he dropped the crown only to return five years later and win his seventh Mr. Olympia title. After that, Arnold announced his retirement from the sport. He has become synonymous with bodybuilding all around the world and has played a significant role in the popularization of the sport.

Arnold dominated the bodybuilding competition from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. After his retirement, he appeared in numerous movies including Commando, Twins, Predator, Maggie, Junior, and others. The Hulk-sized man will always be remembered for his iconic physique as the best-ever bodybuilder.

2. Ronnie Coleman:

Ronnie Coleman is one of the best bodybuilders of all time and would have topped this list if not for the fame of Arnold. This humongous American retired professional bodybuilder is an eight-time Mr. Olympia title holder. He holds the record for joint-most Olympia wins ever.

Coleman also held the record for the most wins as an IFBB professional with 26 titles to his name before Dexter Jackson broke the feat. Having debuted in 1992 at the IFBB World Amateur Championships, Coleman won his first Olympia title in 1998 and then dominated the championship till 2005.

Coleman was known to weigh up to 320 lbs during the off-season and would then cut the pounds to 287 to 300 lbs for the competition. He was so massive that other competitors looked like dwarfs while competing against him. He is arguably the biggest and the most chiseled mass monster that this world has ever seen.

3. Lee Haney:

Lee Haney is the third name on our list of the best bodybuilders of all time. He is the joint record-holder for the most Mr. Olympia titles alongside Coleman. After making his professional bodybuilding debut at the 1983 World Pro Championships, he won his first Olympia title the next year.

Since then, Lee Haney continued to dominate the championship for the next eight years. He also won 11 IFBB professional bodybuilding contests and was the inaugural NPC National Championship winner. Haney weighed around 260 lbs during the off-season but then cut his weight to 230 to 250 lbs for the stage.

At the age of just 31, Lee Haney retired from professional bodybuilding and focused on a career in sports training in nutrition. If he hadn’t hung up his boots so early, he might have won a few more Olympia titles and contests easily. However, we can only wonder now.

4. Dorian Yates:

Dorian Yates is the next name on this list. The British former professional bodybuilder made his debut at the Newcastle Pro in 1991. He won the Mr. Olympia title the next year and went on to win it six times consecutively till 1997. Yates is best known for his massive size, chiseled glutes and hamstrings, and his high-intensity training regimen.

He was also the Night of Champions and Grand Prix Germany winner. During the off-season, Yates weighed around 310 lbs and then cut down his weight to 275 lbs for the competitions. Popularly called “The Shadow,” Yates also published an autobiography titled ‘Blood and Guts’ to help ambitious bodybuilders.

5. Frank Zane:

Frank Zane is one of the most aesthetic bodybuilders of all time. The three-time Mr. Olympia winner is the lightest professional bodybuilder to make this list of the greatest-ever legends. Weighing just 185 lbs on the stage, Zane began weight training at the age of 14 and made his debut at the Mr. Pennsylvania competition in 1961. He became Mr. Olympia for the first time in 1977 and continued his dominance for the next two years.

Some of Zane’s titles include IFBB Mr. America, Mr. Universe, Mr. Keystone, and the NABBA Mr. Universe. He had the second-thinnest waistline in the history of Mr. Olympia’s championship and is one of the only three men to have beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger in a professional bodybuilding contest.

6. Phil Heath:

Phil Heath is the fifth name on our list of the best bodybuilders of all time. He is known for his monstrous physique and winning seven consecutive Olympia titles from 2011 to 2017. He made his professional debut at the Colorado Pro Championships in 2006 and last appeared on stage in Mr. Olympia 2020.

Popularly known as “The Gift” for his premium genetics, Heath easily went up to 300 lbs during the off-season and then cut pounds to compete with the weight of 240 lbs on the stage. He is widely famous for having the most complete physique with each of his muscles showing prominently.

7. Dexter Jackson:

Dexter Jackson is the seventh bodybuilder on our list. He made his professional debut at the Arnold Classic in 1999 and won the 2008 Mr. Olympia title. Popularly known as “The Blade,” Jackson holds the records for winning the most professional bodybuilding titles (29) than any other person.

Some of Jackson’s biggest achievements include a record-breaking 5 Arnold Classic wins, multiple Grand Prix championships, and various Masters first-place victories. He is also one of the only three pros to have won both the Mr. Olympia and Arnold Classic competitions.

8. Jay Cutler:

Jay Cutler is a four-time Mr. Olympia winner after winning his first title in 2006. He also won consecutive Arnold Classic titles in 2002, 2003, and 2004 before that. Cutler is best known for having incredibly chiseled quads that measured a massive 30″ and for featuring on the covers of several fitness magazines over the years.

Some of the biggest titles that Cutler won apart from Mr. Olympia and Arnold Classics include the Australian, British, Dutch, and Romanian Grand Prix, and the Ironman and San Francisco Pro Invitationals.

9. Flex Wheeler:

Kenneth ‘Flex’ Wheeler was widely known as “The Sultan of Symmetry” for his incredible physique. Legends like Arnold and Coleman have described him as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. The retired American IFBB professional bodybuilder made his debut at the IFBB World Amateur Championships in 1990.

He went on to win several prestigious competitions in the sport of bodybuilding like the Arnold Classics (x4), the French and Hungarian Grand Prix, the Night of Champions, and the South Beach Pro Invitational. He never won the Mr. Olympia title but was the runner-up in 1993, 1998, and 1999.

10. Franco Columbu:

Franco Columbu is another veteran bodybuilder on this list who is a two-time Mr. Olympia winner. Popularly called “The Sardinian Strongman,” Columbu was a lifelong friend, business associate, and training partner of Arnold. He is best known for his symmetrical physique that helped him conquer numerous contests.

Columbu was also a competitive strongman along with being a brilliant bodybuilder. He placed fifth at the 1977 World’s Strongest Man competition. He also set several powerlifting records including a 525lb bench press, 655lb squat, and 750lb deadlift. On top of that, Columbu is a successful author and chiropractor too.

11. Samir Bannout:

Samir Bannout is the next icon on our list of the best bodybuilders of all time. The “Lion of Lebanon” started training with weights at the age of 16 and kicked off his competitive career by becoming Mr. Lebanon in 1978. He had an 18-year-long career in the sport and also won the IFBB World Amateur Championship.

In 1983, Bannout won the Mr. Olympia competition, defeating the reigning champion Chris Dickerson. He became the first Lebanese bodybuilder to win the prestigious title. He also won several competitions including the IFBB Night of Champions and the Grand Prix Sweden.

12. Rich Gaspari:

Rich Gaspari a.k.a The Dragon Slayer is the next legend on this list. He is best known for being the inaugural Arnold Classic Winner. Gaspari started training at the age of 14 and earned his first major win at the age of just 19 by winning the Teenage Mr. America competition.

After that, he went on to win the NPC Nationals in 1984 to turn professional in bodybuilding. Gaspari also placed second in Mr. Olympia from 1986 to 1988. After retiring from competitions, Rich started his supplement company named “Gaspari Nutrition,” which is still a well-known name in the industry.

13. Sergio Oliva:

Sergio Oliva Sr. is one of the best bodybuilders of all time and his three victories of the Mr. Olympia title during the 1960s prove that. Widely known as “The Myth,” Oliva was gifted with fantastic genetics that helped him gain an enormous size and become a living beast.

Weighing between 225 to 235 lbs, Sergio Oliva was a Cuban refugee who moved to America and became a policeman before turning to bodybuilding. He is also remembered for his fierce rivalry with another legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

14. Eugen Sandow:

Eugen Sandow is regarded as the “founding father of modern bodybuilding.” Born in Prussia in 1867, Sandow became a circus performer and an athlete to avoid getting into the military. However, he later became involved with weightlifting and strongman competitions throughout Europe.

He realized that he had gifted genetics for the sport and quickly developed muscles and strength. Sandow is one of the first bodybuilders to have posed and lifted weights in front of an audience. That’s why he is the statute that is used for the Mr. Olympia winner’s trophy.

15. Lou Ferrigno:

Lou Ferrigno is one of the biggest bodybuilders of his era. Standing at 6 feet 5 and weighing 295 lbs during his prime, Ferrigno was the youngest man to win the IFBB Mr. Universe title twice. Due to his gigantic physique, he was cast as The Incredible Hulk back when special effects weren’t really good in Hollywood.

Ferrigno was also mentioned as a ‘threat’ in the bodybuilding documentary of Arnold Schwarzenegger. His physique will always be remembered as an idol for budding and aspiring bodybuilders.

16. Kevin Levrone:

Kevin Levrone is the next name on our list of the best bodybuilders of all time. He started training with weights at the age of just 11 after seeing his brothers lifting. He made his professional debut at the Chicago Pro Invitational in 1992 and he never looked back after that.

Levrone never won the prestigious Mr. Olympia title but he was among the top five competitors several times. He competed in 68 contests with 20 pro wins and three amateur titles. Even at the age of 59, he has a brilliant physique. For his glorious career, he was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame.

17. Shawn Ray:

Shawn Ray is one of the unluckiest legends of bodybuilding but one of the greatest icons of his time. He placed in the top five in the Mr. Olympia competition for twelve consecutive years from 1990 to 2001 with two of those being first runner-up finishes. However, he never won the title.

Another unlucky feat of Ray is that he was the first professional bodybuilder to fail drug testing at the Arnold Classic in 1990. However, he won the title next year in 1991. Ray was active for three different decades before retiring from bodybuilding at the age of 36 in 2001.

18. Kai Greene:

Kai Greene is the modern-day legend who never won the Mr. Olympia competition. However, he was placed second in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and never competed after that. The bodybuilder rose to fame in the late 200s and got compared to the likes of Ronnie Coleman and Phil Heath.

Standing at 5 feet 8, Greene weighed around 300 pounds during the off-season but always maintained his weight when he had to appear on the stage. Greene is best known for his monstrous back development. Due to his size and fame, he also appeared in Netflix’s Stranger Things and the movie Pogaru.

19. Mamdouh Elssbiay:

Mamdouh Elssbiay, popularly known as “Big Ramy,” is one of the best bodybuilders of all time in the modern era. He started his Mr. Olympia journey in 2013 with his physique improving in every edition. The Egyptian beast was close to winning the title in 2017 when he almost beat the defending champ, Phil Heath.

However, he failed and then placed sixth the next year. Finally, Big Ramy won the crown in 2020 and 2021. What helped him gain the impeccable size is the combination of his inimitable genes and fisherman training. He is possibly the biggest professional bodybuilder right now.

20. Jean Pierre-Fux:

Jean Pierre-Fux is one of the biggest mass monsters of his era. Standing at 5 feet tall, the Swiss bodybuilder weighed 270 lbs on the stage. He was placed among the top eight at the Mr. Olympia competition in 1996 and 1997 against a highly stacked card.

Unfortunately, he suffered a tragic accident during a FLEX photo shoot which cut his career short. If not for that unforeseen incident, his name would’ve made it higher up on this list of the men with the best physique.

Final Take:

If bodybuilding is an art, then these are the 20 best artists whose pictures should be a part of any museum dedicated to this sport. These men can make it to the top contenders of any bodybuilding show with their muscle proportion, conditioning, and symmetry, and also have mean muscle mass.

Their bodies are so amazingly chiseled that fans love to watch them on screens and in person. They look crazy and when you see them in person, you’re bound to be left in awe. That’s it for this guide. If you have any suggestions or recommendations for our list of the best bodybuilders of all time, let us know.

Here is a quick recap of our list;

  1. Arnold Schwarzenegger
  2. Ronnie Coleman
  3. Lee Haney
  4. Dorian Yates
  5. Frank Zane
  6. Phil Heath
  7. Dexter Jackson
  8. Jay Cutler
  9. Flex Wheeler
  10. Franco Columbu
  11. Samir Bannout
  12. Rich Gaspari
  13. Sergio Oliva
  14. Eugen Sandow
  15. Lou Ferrigno
  16. Kevin Levrone
  17. Shawn Ray
  18. Kai Greene
  19. Mamdouh Elssbiay
  20. Jean Pierre-Fux

Frequently Asked Questions:

Who is the best bodybuilder of all time?:

Arnold Schwarzenegger is widely known as the best bodybuilder of all time due to his efforts and contributions to popularizing the sport and becoming its face throughout the world. He is the owner of gifted genetics, impressively chiseled physique, and incredible symmetry. He is a true legend of the game.

Who is the world’s No. 1 bodybuilder?:

Derek Lunsford is the current no.1 bodybuilder in the world as he won the 2023 Mr. Olympia title by beating the defending champion Hadi Choopan. However, the all-time number 1 rank is jointly shared by Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney as both the legends won the prestigious title a record 8 times.

Who is the king of bodybuilding?:

Ronnie Coleman is the undisputed king of bodybuilding as he took the sport to the greatest heights. The eight-time Mr. Olympia winner held the record of winning 26 IFBB contests. He used to weigh over 320 lbs during the off-season and then cut weight to 287 to 300 lbs to pose on the stage.

Who is better Ronnie or Arnold?:

Ronnie Coleman is better than Arnold Schwarzenegger when the body and muscle mass of the two professional giants are compared. However, the latter is more popular due to his work in Hollywood and being a global icon of the sport while the former is a legendary player of this game.

Who won most of Mr. Olympia’s competitions?:

The record number of most Mr. Olympia wins is eight and it’s held by two men, Ronnie Coleman, and Lee Haney. The second person to win the most Mr. Olympia titles is Arnold Schwarzenegger who won the competition seven times. These three are also the biggest names to be involved in the contest.

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