Sunday, October 12, 2008

Eugen Sandow: Founder of Modern, Classic Physique Building!

(above left: Eugen Sandow; above right: Farnese Hercules)

If we were to look to a founder of modern, classic physique building, our search would take us back to Eugen Sandow. Sandow was a very popular strongman of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who lived most of his life in England. Unlike some other strongmen of his era, his physique was not rotund or ponderous, but instead was muscular, symetrical, and well-defined. He soon realized that his popularity was due as much to his classic physique as it was to his feats of strength.

With Sandow, we see all the elements that would later flower in the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building (the 1940s and 50s). He started his own magazine, Physical Culture (later renamed as Sandow's Magazine of Physical Culture), published books and courses on training, sold exercise equipment, opened his own gyms (Physical Culture studios), posed for physique photos, and even sold his own supplements (Sandow's Health and Strength Cocoa). He also sponsored the first, large-scale, national physique contest called "The Great Competition" (in 1901) which involved a series of qualifying contests at the regional level.

In the photos above, it is significant that you can see Sandow (left) recreating the pose of the Farnese Hercules (an ancient Greek sculpture). This demonstrates Sandow's clear recognition and promotion of the classic ideal in physical development. From this beginning, classic physique building would flower in the Golden Age (the 1940s and 50s) and then decline and dissappear in the 1960s as chemically-enhanced bodybuilding took over the scene.

It is our hope that through our efforts, and with your help, we can bring about a Renaissance of Classic Physique Building in the 21st century! To learn more about Sandow, please visit and - CPB

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