The top 10 old-school bodybuilders that are still influential today and what they do

The top 10 old-school bodybuilders that are still influential today and what they do

Old-school bodybuilding is a phrase adopted to define bodybuilding techniques from the 1970s and 1980s. These techniques involve heavy weight lifting and basic workouts. According to old-school bodybuilders, lifting substantial weights was the most effective muscle development method.

old school bodybuilders
Some of the most influential old-school bodybuilders. Photo: Jack Mitchell, Harry Langdon, Frazer Harrison
Source: Getty Images

Bodybuilders in the past had fewer options than today's bodybuilders. Gyms in the 1970s and 1980s were generally smaller hardcore establishments for only serious trainers. Most gymgoers were powerlifters, bodybuilders, and others looking to get big and powerful. The gym establishments were well-stocked with free weights like benches, dumbbells, barbells, and cable machines.

Top 10 influential old-school bodybuilders

One advantage of traditional bodybuilding is that one can obtain excellent results in less time. You are not required to spend hours every day at the gym. Below is a list of some of the most famous old-school bodybuilders you should know.

1. Chris Dickerson

Dickerson's ambitious profession lasted thirty years, and he was recognized for his strongly muscled, symmetrical body shape and his posing abilities on the posing dais. He debuted in the muscle-building contest in 1965, finishing third in the Mr Long Beach contest.

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Dickerson went professional in 1973 and achieved 15 skilful bodybuilding titles throughout his professional life across four companies. He stepped down after acquiring the Masters Olympia 50+ division in 1994 and was enlisted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2000.

2. Mike Mentzer

old school bodybuilders
Mike Mentzer performs onstage during a screening in New York City. Photo: Sal Traina
Source: Getty Images

After observing the men on the covers of multiple muscle magazines, Mentzer began bodybuilding at 11, weighing 95 pounds or 43 kilograms. His dad had purchased a weight set and a user guide for him. Mike followed the advice in the booklet to train up to three days per week.

He won the Mr Lancaster competition in 1971. The famous personality sustained his most humiliating defeat the same year, finishing tenth in the AAU Mr America competition, which Casey Viator gained. Mike was enlisted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2002.

3. Tom Platz

Tom Platz's lucrative bodybuilding profession commenced in 1973 with the Mr Adonis contest. He participated as an amateur until 1978 when he earned the middleweight division of the World Amateur Championships. Platz rose to prominence as a result of his impressive leg advancement.

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He created an intense, high-volume leg training regime, resulting in his unprecedented size and description. Regardless of what was discovered to be lacking somewhere else, it is broadly accepted in muscle-building circles that Platz has the best legs in strength training of his time and some of the finest legs in bodybuilding ever.

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger

old school bodybuilders
Bodybuilder, actor and future Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger pose for a portrait session in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Harry Langdon
Source: Getty Images

Schwarzenegger started weight training in 1960 when his soccer coach accompanied them to a local gym. He opted for bodybuilding over soccer as a career when he was 14, and Arnold began his competitive profession when he was 17.

Schwarzenegger is regarded as one of the most influential figures in bodybuilding heritage, and his reputation is honoured in the Arnold Classic yearly bodybuilding contest. He has remained a well-known muscle-building figure long after his withdrawal, partly thanks to possessing gyms and fitness magazines. He has reigned over several competitions and award ceremonies.

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5. Frank Zane

old school bodybuilders
Professional bodybuilder Frank Zane was photographed. Photo: Jack Mitchell
Source: Getty Images

Frank Zane began bodybuilding as a young teen after pursuing Muscle Magazine. Weightlifting helped him go from 130 pounds or 59 kg at 14 to 160 pounds or 73 kilograms at 17. He is a threefold Mr Olympia, and his body type is widely regarded as one of the best in bodybuilding legacy due to his careful attention to proportion and regularity.

He was entered into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 1999. Zane is among only three men to have beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bodybuilding competition, besides just a few Mr Olympia winners weighing less than 200 pounds (91 kg). He contested for over 20 years, stepping down after the 1983 Mr Olympia, winning Mr World, Mr Universe, Mr America, and Mr Olympia.

6. Franco Columbu

He is a classic bodybuilding winner. Columbus, a former boxer, earned Mr Olympia in 1976 and 1981 and finished fifth in the initial World's Strongest Man competition in 1977. He also had a successful acting profession and wrote several books on bodybuilding and nourishment.

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Columbu was enlisted into the International Federation of Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in 2001 and obtained the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. At a young age, he went to Germany for a job and encountered Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1965 at a bodybuilding contest in Stuttgart, Germany, where they established a lasting friendship.

7. Lou Ferrigno

old school bodybuilders
Lou Ferrigno arrives at the premiere of Disney and Marvel's "Thor: Ragnarok" at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Gregg DeGuire
Source: Getty Images

Ferrigno gained his first big championship, IFBB Mr America, shortly after completing high school in 1969. Four years afterwards, he has crowned IFBB Mr Universe. Lou practised with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Columbus, Ohio, early in his profession. He finished second on his initial try at the Mr Olympia contest in 1974.

He owns the Ferrigno Fitness line of workout equipment. In January 2009, he donated apparatus to The Price Is Right for use as a One Bid prize and illustrated the machine himself. Ferrigno appeared as a playable Lego edition in Lego Marvel's Avengers in 2016.

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8. Steve Reeves

He is one of the old-school natural bodybuilders. Reeves became interested in bodybuilding while attending Castlemont high school and training at Ed Yarick's gym in Oakland, California. He joined the US Army after finishing high school during World War II and worked in the Philippines.

In the pre-Mr Olympia epoch, he was Mr World in 1948, Mr Universe in 1950 and Mr America in 1947. The inaugural Mr Olympia was hosted in 1965, 15 years later. Steve was a horse breeder who advocated for drug-free bodybuilding. He spent the last two decades in Valley Center, where he shared a home with his second spouse, Aline, until her demise in 1989.

9. Larry Scott

old school bodybuilders
Lary Scott poses for a photo. Photo: @astenoes, @thearchivesofbodybuilding on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Larry started coaching at the age of 16 and gained the Mr Idaho contest at the age of 20 in 1959. He earned Mr Pacific Coast (1961), Mr California (1960), Mr Universe (1964) and Mr America (1962) shortly after relocating to California.

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Scott earned the first two Mr Olympia competitions in 1965 and 1966 when Joe Weider established the IFBB's Mr Olympia title. Despite resigning after his Olympia victory in 1966, he attempted a short comeback in 1979 before stepping down from the contest in 1980. The renowned celebrity was a devoted Mormon who studied electronics at California Air College.

10. Serge Nubret

old school bodybuilders
Serge Nubret, a contestant in the Mister Universe contest, flexes his muscles during the preliminary judging stage. Photo: Keystone
Source: Getty Images

Nubret enlisted in the International Federation of Bodybuilders in 1960 and was crowned World's most muscular man in Montreal the following year. Nubret continued to improve, winning titles such as WBBG Pro. Mr World NABBA Mr Universe in 1976 (London), Mr Olympus in 1977 (New York), and a further World champion title in 1981 (Geneva). Unfortunately, he succumbed to natural causes in 19 April 2011.

Under what circumstances has bodybuilding gone wrong?

Weightlifting greatly strains your joints, tendons, and ligaments over time. Consequently, many bodybuilders suffer from tendinitis, back pain, shoulder pain, and other joint issues. If left unaddressed, these injuries will persist and worsen significantly.

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Old-school bodybuilding routine

The old-school routines are a cross between hypertrophy and weightlifting. The succeeding workout split was used by all of the day's big men:

  • Monday – Back and chest
  • Tuesday – Legs
  • Wednesday –Shoulders and arms
  • Thursday – Back and chest
  • Friday – Legs
  • Saturday – Shoulders and arms
  • Sunday – Rest


  1. How did old-school bodybuilders get big? Bodybuilders gained greater weights lifting heavy weights, particularly using barbell rows, bench presses, overhead presses, squats, deadlifts and dips.
  2. What is different about old-school bodybuilding? Traditional bodybuilders used heavy weights and low reps, whereas contemporary bodybuilders utilize higher reps and lighter weights.
  3. Who is the old biggest bodybuilder? Jim Arrington. He was born in 1932, making him 90 years old as of 2023.
  4. What supplements did old-school bodybuilders take? They took supplements such as; ferulic acid, desiccated liver, dried milk powder, kelp/iodine tablets, brewer's yeast, hydrochloric acid (HCL) capsules and ribonucleic acid (RNA Tablets).
  5. Why do old-school bodybuilders look different? Due to a preference for aesthetics overweight, bodybuilders from the golden epoch appeared better to many observers.
  6. Did old-school bodybuilders do cardio? Cardio is optional for getting muscular, but it was seldom a requirement for old-school bodybuilders.
  7. Which bodybuilder has an enormous chest? Arnold Schwarzenegger had the biggest chest ever.

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Above are some of the most influential old-school bodybuilders. Bodybuilders in the past had fewer options than today's modern bodybuilders. Gyms in the 1970s and 1980s were generally smaller hardcore establishments. They were well-stocked with free weights like benches, dumbbells, barbells, and cable machines. published a list of top dancehall artists in the World. The top 20 dancehall performers have enthusiasts from around the globe and are constantly posting new projects to gain new fans.

Dancehall is a popular music genre nowadays. The genre emerged in Jamaica in the late 1970s and has subsequently spread and grown into a top pick among music fans all over the globe. Many critics initially saw dancehall as a mini version of reggae than just the roots style.

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Tatiana Thiga (Lifestyle writer) Tatiana Thiga is a content creator who joined Yen in 2022. She is an English literature graduate from Kenyatta University. She has amassed sufficient knowledge working on a variety of topics, including biographies, fashion and lifestyles, guides, and more. In 2023, Tatiana finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. You can reach her at

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