The bronze era of bodybuilding which were the early days of modern bodybuilding offer fascinating insights into the origins of this now popular and globally recognized sport. From Eugen Sandow, often referred to as the "Father of Bodybuilding", to the early 20th century strongmen who performed feats of strength for circus crowds, these vintage titans have plenty to teach us. This article will delve into the annals of physical culture, tracing back to the inception of bodybuilding. We will explore the diets and training philosophies with the hope that these historical lessons can illuminate our present understanding and future progression of this enduring sport and lifestyle.
When Was The Bronze Era of Bodybuilding?
Bodybuilding's bronze era was from approximately 1894 to 1939, not many people know about the early beginnings or our sport. This the time when strong men became more interested in the look of their physiques and started working for muscle size and definition rather than just power lifting power.
At the time it was called physical culture, and promoted the benefits of weight training for strength, health, and a well developed body.
From this era came not only modern day bodybuilding, but also weightlifting and powerlifting.
Bronze Era Bodybuilders
Some of the best known bodybuilders from the bronze era are Arthur Saxon, Bert Goodrich, Earle Liederman, Eugen Sandow, George Jowett, Siegmund Klein, Tony Sansone, etc.
In particular Eugen Sandow who is rightly known as "The Father of Bodybuilding", was the first to train with barbells and dumbbells for a perfectly developed muscular body and he was the first to do physique display, flexing his muscles in different poses for pictures and in front of crouds of people.
Bronze Era Bodybuilding Diet
The diets of bodybuilders from the bronze era focused on unprocessed, natural foods, including raw milk, eggs, meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. They also understood the importance of a balanced diet of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Eugen Sandow said about his own diet - "I never touch tea or coffee ... eat 'plain', wholesome food for the most part, but do 'indulge' on occasion. I have my meals at regular intervals, and prefer simple foods that are easy to digest. I chew my food well and believe strongly that mastication is a key to good health."
Bronze Era Bodybuilding Workouts
How did bronze era bodybuilders train? The bronze era bodybuilders had limited equipment available to them, really just barbells and dumbbells, there were very few gyms in those days and no contests for them to compete in. But they had desire and desire and ingenuity going for them and they invented many of the exercises we still use today.
They generally did full body workouts at least 3 days a week, but sometimes practicing their lifts almost every day. They lifted heavy, but not to failure, concentrating on progressive resistance - making sure they lifted heavier weights over time.
The did a lot of squat variations such as back squats, hack squats, etc.
And they did a lot of overhead pressing variations including two handed standing press, and the one handed barbell bent press.
As well as some of today's best known bodybuilding exercises such bench or floor press, rows, bicep curls, sit ups, etc.
Bronze Era Bodybuilding and Steroids
Because some of them were pretty big and ripped, many people ask, "did bronze era bodybuilders use steroids?". Because modern bodybuilding widely utilizes steroids it's a fair question to ask.
The truth is testosterone wasn't even isolated until 1935 and Dianabol wasn't invented until 1958, so there were no testosterone shots or anabolic steroids available for the bronze era bodybuilding to use, even if they wanted to.
Since they built their strength and physiques without the use of anabolic steroids, it gives us a good idea of what is humanly possible given good genetics, hard training and a healthy, natural diet.
Bronze Era Bodybuilding Books
Far removed from glossy magazines and high-tech fitness apps of today, these bronze era bodybuilding books offer a distinctive viewpoint into the physical strength ideals and training techniques of yore. Bridging the gap between the rudimentary and the scientifically evolved, the bodybuilding manuscripts from the bronze era present practical wisdom on training techniques and diet that is surprisingly still relevant today.
Strength and How to Obtain It by Eugen Sandow
The Way To Live: In Health and Physical Fitness by George Jowett
The Development Of Physical Power by Arthur Saxon