Remembering 5 Legends from “The Golden Era of Bodybuilding”

I started lifting weights when I was very young. It all came about after I found a bunch of 1940s and 1950s magazines in an old abandoned barn on the edge of town in Clifton, Texas where I spent some of my childhood. I put the magazines in my wagon, ran home, cut a piece of pipe, loaded the pipe with bricks on each side and that’s how I got my start in the fitness industry. Some of the people featured in those magazines are now gone, but I still pull out some of those magazines from time-to-time to see some of the great old time bodybuilders of the early to mid 1900s.

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These are a few of my favorites:

1. John Grimek

  • Born: June 10, 1910
  • Died: November 20, 1998 (age 88)

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This guy is very well known in informed bodybuilding circles even to this day. John Grimek is a legend in the bodybuilding and strongman worlds. Not surprisingly, he was strong until the end. John Grimek passed away in 1998 and was reported to be able to do 400+ pound squats for reps well into his 60s.


  • “The Glow”
  • “The Monarch of Muscledom”


  • 1939 York Perfect Man
  • 1940 Mr. America
  • 1941 Mr. America
  • 1946 Most Muscular Man In America
  • 1948 Mr. Universe (“Short” & “Overall” categories)
  • 1949 Mr. USA
  • IFBB Hall of Fame (1999)

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2. Armand Tanny

  • Armand 5657632

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    Born: March 5, 1919

  • Died: April 4, 2009 (age 90)

Armand Tanny and his brother Vic Tanny (a pioneer of modern health clubs) were both well known in the Muscle Beach, California scene of the 1940s and 1950s. Armand Tanny was a long time writer in the fitness industry and a well respected authority on early bodybuilding culture and training. He had a degree in physical therapy and not only was Armand Tanny a bodybuilding personality, he was also an actor and served in the Coast Guard as well. Muscle Beach, California was torn down in 1959. In the late 1980s the city wanted to rebuild it as it had been originally but in a slightly different location. It has been said that the City of Los Angeles did not name Muscle Beach Venice until Armand Tanny gave them his blessing.


  • 1949 Pro. Mr. America
  • 1950 Mr. USA
  • IFBB Hall of Fame (2005)

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3. George Eiferman

  • George11 4339992

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    Born: November 3, 1925

  • Died: February 12, 2002 (age 76)

George Eiferman served in the United States Navy during World War II and took up the sport of competitive body building upon his return to the states. Over his lifetime he was not only a legendary bodybuilder but gym owner, TV personality and public speaker.


  • 1947 Mr. Philadelphia
  • 1948 Mr. California
  • 1948 AAU Mr. America
  • 1962 Mr. Universe
  • IFBB Hall of Fame (2000)

4. Clarence “Clancy” Ross

  • Ross1 5741101

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    Born: October 26, 1923

  • Died: April 30, 2008 (age 84)

Clarence Ross is one of my favorite bodybuilding personalities of all time! This guy did it right. Not only was he one of the earliest bodybuilding figures to be featured in magazines and on television, he also served in the United States Air Force and was also a gym owner. He managed to create a life that allowed him to do the things he loved most. He and John Grimek are the only two people to ever beat the legendary Steve Reeves two times in competition.


  • “The King of Bodybuilders”


  • 1945 AAU Mr. America
  • 1946 Pro Mr. America
  • 1948 Mr. USA
  • 1949 Mr. North America
  • 1955 Pro Mr. Universe
  • IFBB Hall of Fame (2000)

5. Steve Reeves

  • Steve Reeves5 7214881

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    Born: January 21, 1926

  • Died: May 1, 2000 (age 74)

No list of great bodybuilders could be complete without listing the amazing Steve Reeves. This bodybuilding icon and legend is the timeless recipient of adoration and admiration from millions of bodybuilding and strongman purists. Steve Reeves lived a life defined by his passion for health, fitness and vibrant living. This championship bodybuilder was also an extremely successful actor, philanthropist and World War II Army veteran. Steve Reeves is without a doubt the most iconic early bodybuilder.


  • 1946 Mr. Pacific Coast
  • 1947 Mr. Pacific Coast
  • 1947 AAU Mr. America
  • 1948 Mr. World
  • 1950 Mr. Universe
  • IFBB Hall of Fame (1999)

This was a lot of fun! Going through and seeing these great photos and taking time to look these guys up once again online and read about them was really cool. I hope you enjoyed meeting some of the legendary personalities that founded the sport of bodybuilding as we know it today.

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