Bodybuilding is a sport that involves developing the musculature of the body through weight training, targeted exercises, and specialized diets. Competitors aim to display a physique with maximum muscular size, definition, proportion, symmetry, and an extremely low level of body fat. It takes years of hard work and dedication to build an elite bodybuilder’s physique.
The pinnacle of bodybuilding competition is the Mr. Olympia contest, considered the “Super Bowl” of bodybuilding. First held in 1965, Mr. Olympia brings together the top male professional bodybuilders each year to compete and crown the overall winner with the coveted Sandow trophy. One of the all-time greats is Lee Haney, who holds the record for most Mr. Olympia wins at eight titles from 1984 to 1991. Other legendary Mr. Olympia winners include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, and Phil Heath.
The elite women’s competition on the professional stage is the Ms. Olympia contest. First held in 1980, the Ms. Olympia features premier female bodybuilders presenting some of the most finely-tuned physiques. Notable Ms. Olympia champions include Cory Everson with six consecutive wins in the mid-1980s and Iris Kyle with ten overall victories, the most in history.
Getting to the Olympia Stage
Getting a shot at winning the Mr. or Ms. Olympia requires years of intense training, precise nutrition, and ascending through bodybuilding’s competitive ranks. Most champion bodybuilders start competing as amateurs in local contests to earn professional status and eligibility. From there, bodybuilders compete in a series of professional qualifying events and placement determines qualification for the big stage of the Olympia.
At the professional level there is a clear hierarchy of events. Up first are national contests like USA Championships and the Europa competitions held in various countries. Top placements may qualify competitors to more elite contests like the Arnold Classic and New York Pro. Success at those events can lead to qualifying for the pinnacle Olympia.
Judging and Ranking
Bodybuilding competitions depend heavily on subjective aesthetic evaluation and ranking. Judges assess muscle size, definition, proportion, symmetry, and stage presentation in making their decisions during mandatory poses and posedown rounds. Scores are awarded and tabulated to rank each competitor and decide final placings and winners.
Politics and controversy sometimes come into play if competitors or fans feel judging was unfair or biased. But in general, the Olympia titles and top ranks represent competitors deemed to embody the highest ideal of the elite bodybuilder’s form. Dethroning the reigning Mr. or Ms. Olympia requires a near perfect presentation and knocking out the defending champion. Holding onto that top rank for consecutive years signifies dominance in the sport.
The road to bodybuilding glory begins long before stepping on the premier stages. But winning (and defending) a Mr. or Ms. Olympia title marks the pinnacle for professional athletes in this demanding niche sport.