What is Mr. Olympia?

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  • Written By: Micki Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 16 May 2019
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Mr. Olympia is a title given to the top male winner of an annual professional bodybuilding competition called Joe Weider’s Olympia Weekend. The winner of this international competition, often referred to as the most prestigious bodybuilding competition in the world, is also the recipient of the Sandow trophy. There have been only 12 different winners crowned Mr. Olympia in the international competition’s history. Contest winners must qualify in order to even enter the contest, which they may do by winning or placing in various other bodybuilding competitions. The judges of Olympia Weekend look for proportionate, symmetrical, and shapely muscles.

The first Mr. Olympia winner was Larry Scott in 1965 and 1966. Two men, Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, have received the Sandow trophy a record eight times each. Perhaps the most well-known title-holder is film actor turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, who became the governor of the US state of California. Schwarzenegger got his start in the film industry as a result of starring in a 1977 documentary about the Mr. Olympia contest, titled Pumping Iron.

Though Arnold finished in second place in his very first competition, he went on to win every following year in which he entered. This occurred from 1970 through 1975, after which point he announced his retirement from bodybuilding. In 1980, however, Schwarzenegger came out of retirement and was a late entry into the contest, which he won yet again.


There are requirements for a bodybuilder to be able to enter Joe Weider’s Olympia Weekend. Originally, one could only compete to become Mr. Olympia if he had previously won the Mr. Universe title. Now, one can qualify if he is a top finalist in another respected competition, such as the Arnold Classic or the New York Men’s Professional, in the same year.

Winners of the Mr. Olympia title often share similar aesthetic qualities. They typically have large muscles that are clearly defined through the skin. These muscles are usually correct in shape and size; size may be relative to the proportion of one’s body. Symmetry is another common trait among winners. For instance, any muscle in the left leg must match in size and shape to the corresponding muscle in the right leg.

The International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBF) sponsors Olympia Weekend. The contest has opened another title called Mr. Olympia 202, for bodybuilding men that weigh less than 202 pounds (91.8 kilograms). Women can compete for the title of Ms. Olympia.


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