While not perfect, the following nine individuals are my choice for a short list of important pioneers in weight lifting, body building, aerobics, health, and esporta membership cost.
Eugen Sandow The Non Pareil (1867 – 1925) Born in Germany, Eugen Sandow has often been called “Father of Modern Bodybuilding”. Like Charles Atlas, as a youth, Sandow was a great admirer of Greek and Roman statues depicting athletes and gladiators.
Sandow is considered to be a pioneer in bodybuilding because he measured statues to determine exact proportions and then worked to develop his own body parts to match them. In his late teens, while performing in strongman shows, he was spotted and taken on by legendary showman Florenz Ziegfeld.
His big splash in America was at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. His intelligence, natural charm, and cultured appearance combined with his astounding physique and strength made him a star. Women actually paid him money for the privilege of feeling his muscles.
For the men, he wrote widely on health, fitness, and bodybuilding. He, like Bernarr Macfadden and Charles Atlas offered a mail order course teaching his students how to achieve health and fitness. He eventually opened a progressive fitness club in London which stood in stark contrast to the dank, dark, and sweaty gyms of the day.
Through his personality and innovation, he made exercise and physical fitness popular for a broader audience than had previously been reached. Bernarr Macfadden (1868 – 1955) Born Bernard Adolphus McFadden in the state of Missouri, Bernarr Macfadden changed his first and last names because he felt that the new names had a greater appearance of strength.
This was not the only strange activity of the man who advocated regular fasting, and some very esoteric health practices for the day and whose wife called him a kook. He combined his own personal views of fitness training and health practices into an entity he referred to as “Physical Culture” which became the title of his first magazine.
He eventually became a bit of a publishing mogul, but was usually considered to be skirting the edges of reality in his obsessive approach to physical fitness. However, he inspired young men like Charles Atlas and brought the idea of health and fitness as a way of life to a broader portion of the public.
Charles Atlas (1892 – 1972) was born Angelo Siciliano in 1892 in Acri, Calabria, Southern Italy. In 1905, his parents emigrated to America with young Angelo. A few years later, he had changed his first name to “Charles” when he won a photo competition in a magazine run by the creator of “Physical Culture”, Bernarr Macfadden.
Young Charles was inspired to improve his physique.by Greek statues he saw at the Brookly Art Gallery. His first attempts at fitness was with improvised barbells made of sticks and stones. His observation of animals in the zoo, however, led him to base a series of fitness actions on their apparent means of maintaining their fitness in captivity. He called his discovery Dynamic Tension and went on to market his program to thousands of boys and men.
On the path to becoming “Charles Atlas”, he posed for statues of Atlas. Some of which were exhibited in the museum where he found his initial inspiration. At the time of his death, he was still exercising daily and running every other day. His course on Dynamic Tension had been the inspiration for over three million men and boys.
Bob Hoffman (1898 – 1985) Bob Hoffman is considered by many to be “Father of World Weightlifting” and was the founder of York Barbell. He was an athlete, nutritionist, weightlifter, coach and philanthropist. Although an exceptional athlete as a young boy, the mature Bob Hoffman was never a great weightlifter or coach.
However, his vision, sense of purpose, and personal belief in the value of weightlifting led him to create York Barbell, a company which was long recognized as the leader in the manufacture of weightlifting equipment and which is still in existence today.
while many felt his writings and opinions were “over the top”, his personal bravery and willingness to face adversity was shown not only in his later life as he espoused and defended his positions, but also during World War I where he was awarded three Croix de Guerres with two palms and a silver star from France, The Belgian Order of Leopold by Belgium, the Italian War Cross by Italy, and the Purple Heart by America.