First there was Milo of Croton, an Ancient Greek wrestler who trained by carrying a calf on his back. Then it was Arnold Schwarzenegger who would propel bodybuilding to new heights. Now, we have an Australian Mr Universe for the first time since 1995 who goes by the name of Lee Priest.
The Newcastle-born bodybuilder recently took the National Amateur Body-Builder’s Association (NABBA) crown for Mr Universe, a competition dating back to 1948. Priest won his first title, Mr Australia, at the tender age of 19 before becoming one of the youngest men professionally recognised by the International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IFBB) one year later.
Priest has enjoyed notable bodybuilding status after competing in the IFBB for 16 years and topping the elusive Ironman Pro Invitational in 2006. Based in Venice Beach for much of his career, he adopted Schwarzenegger training principles that no doubt helped him become a champion bodybuilder.
Before Arnie put bodybuilding on the map, the aesthetically-gifted Eugene Sandow was the travelling strongman who stunned European and American audiences in the late 19th century with his feats of strength and “muscle display performances”.
Known as “The Father of Modern Bodybuilding”, Sandow went on to judge the first major bodybuilding competition in 1901 at Royal Albert Hall, London. What was then known as, “physical culture”, would never be the same.
Physique competitions incorporating athletes from a variety of sports became popular in the late 1930s before weightlifter John Grimek dominated the Mr America title and showed the world how beneficial resistance training could be. This saw the rise of purist bodybuilding competitions and the formation of the IFBB by the Weider brothers.
Star of the original Hercules films, Steve Reeves, was the first ever Mr Universe in 1950. Coincidentally, this was when Irvin Johnson began to market his milk and egg based protein supplements to those looking to replicate Reeves’ buff and chiseled physique.
The archetypal Hollywood bodybuilder would of course be superseded by “The Austrian Oak” Schwarzenegger who won Mr Universe four times and Mr Olympia seven times. His starring role in the cult film, Pumping Iron, launched his illustrious acting career.
Priest, himself, has had a handful of appearances in TV series as well as featuring in several films about the Mr Olympia competition. As far as bodybuilding goes, coming back to win Mr Universe after not competing for seven years is an astonishing achievement. Who knows what will be next for the 41 year old and the sport of bodybuilding?