Bodybuilding Statistics: Training, Diet, Supplements, and Steroids

If you’re looking for bodybuilding statistics, whether out of personal interest or for a work or school project, this article is for you!

Here you’ll find interesting facts about bodybuilding in general and statistics on the training and dietary practices of amateur and professional bodybuilders, all compiled from peer-reviewed scientific research.

In addition, you’ll learn what is known about the steroid use of competitive bodybuilders.

Bodybuilding Training Statistics

While posing on stage is physically demanding, the athletic part of bodybuilding is the training between competitions. Without paying your dues in the gym, a bodybuilder’s physique remains forever unattainable.

  • Bodybuilders work out 5–6 days per week. They follow a 5-split routine (~70% of the bodybuilders) or a 3-split (~30% of the bodybuilders), training each major group once or twice weekly.
  • Top bodybuilders train no more than two muscle groups per workout, each session lasting 60–70 minutes.
  • Almost all bodybuilders, 95%, perform 4–5 exercises per muscle group and 3–6 sets per exercise during the off-season. They do 4–12 reps per set, with 7–9 being the most frequently utilized rep interval.
  • During the pre-contest season, some bodybuilders reduce the number of sets they perform, instead increasing the number of reps, with 7–12 being the most popular interval. Twenty percent upped the reps to 15 per set.
  • Eight-five percent of bodybuilders use heavier weights during the off-season compared to contest preparation time.

Bodybuilding Diet Statistics

You can train your butt off in the gym, but unless your diet is on point, you’ll never be a successful bodybuilder. Some argue that diet is at least as important as training. That is certainly the case during pre-contest preparations when fat loss and maintenance of lean muscle mass are paramount.

  • The average calorie intake of male bodybuilders is between 2,390 and 3,824 calories per day, with the corresponding number for female bodybuilders being between 1,195–2,509 calories. The lower number of calories represents the pre-contest diet phase, and the higher is from off-season dietary data.
  • Male bodybuilders eat 2–4.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, and the protein intake of female bodybuilders ranges from just below 2 g/kg/day to 2.8 g/kg/day.
  • The protein intake of professional bodybuilders can be as high as almost 50% of their daily calorie intake or 3–5 times as high as the average American adult.
  • Bodybuilders often eat fewer carbs than many other athletes, going as low as an average of 3.8 g/kg/day when preparing for a competition. Their fat intake is generally low, although many eat more saturated fats than most dietary guidelines recommend.
  • Most professional bodybuilders dehydrate themselves when preparing for a competition, and almost everyone uses diuretics to rid themselves of water weight. According to some reports, they refrain from drinking fluids for up to 40 hours before a show while simultaneously using diuretics, losing an average of 4.7 kilograms of water weight.

Bodybuilding Supplement Statistics

From protein powders to vitamins and creatine – the use of dietary supplements to gain a competitive edge is prevalent in bodybuilding.

  • Virtually all competitive bodybuilders use dietary supplements.
  • These are the most popular bodybuilding supplements during the off-season, with bodybuilders typically using 3–4 at any given time.
    • Protein shakes (86.4% of all bodybuilders use this supplement)
    • Creatine monohydrate (68.3%)
    • Brached-chain amino acids / BCAAs (66.9%)
    • Glutamine (42.3%)
    • Vitamins (39.8%)
    • Fish oil (37.2%)
  • When preparing for a contest, bodybuilders use the same number of supplements, with the following being the most popular.
    • Protein shakes (73.6%)
    • BCAAs
    • Glutamine (51.3%)
    • Vitamins (44.4%)
    • Fish oil (42.7%)
    • Ephedrine- and caffeine products (24.3%)
  • The vitamin and mineral intake of competitive bodybuilders often exceed 100% of the RDA or even the tolerable upper limit.

Bodybuilding Steroid Statistics

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are widely used and abused for their muscle-building and strength-increasing properties, perhaps especially in strength sports and bodybuilding.

  • The more steroids a bodybuilder takes, the more muscle mass they build.
  • Among bodybuilders competing in amateur contests, at least 3 out of 4 report using anabolic steroids.
  • During the off-season, bodybuilders who report using steroids take 3–4 compounds at the same time, the most common being Nandrolone (48.1%), Sustanon 250 (46.4%), Boldenone (42.8%), and testosterone (36.5%).
  • Pre-contest, bodybuilders report using a similar number of different compounds but also adding other performance-enhancing drugs. The common steroids are Stanozolol (52.2%), Boldenone (31.2%), and Oxandrolone (18.2%), and other performance enhancers include Clenbuterol (54.9%), Liothyronine (45.7%), and Clomifene (33.5%).
  • There is no scientifically valid and detailed data on the steroid use of high-level professional bodybuilders, but it is likely highly prevalent.

Bodybuilding Body Composition Statistics

With bodybuilding being a sport where the competitors are judged on aesthetics rather than performance, the ideal body composition means more muscle mass and less body fat.

  • Competitive amateur bodybuilders carry, on average, 20 kilograms more lean body mass than recreational lifters.
  • The top pros, like Mr. Olympia contenders, commonly weigh 120 kilograms in contest-ready condition, meaning an additional 30–35 kilograms of lean mass compared to the average amateur.
  • The body fat percentage of male bodybuilders ranges from below six at contest time to 16.3 during the off-season. Female bodybuilders’ body fat range from 15.3–25.2% depending on the season. This is data from amateurs; pros likely go lower during contest prep.
  • While dieting for a contest, bodybuilders lose up to 70% of their body fat.

In-Depth Bodybuilding Statistics

Do you want to know how bodybuilders train and eat and which supplements and steroids they use? You’re in luck: the rest of this article dives deep into the available data from scientific research, with references to everything in the bullet points above and much more.

How Do Competitive Bodybuilders Train?

Competitive bodybuilding is judged on three primary criteria: muscle mass, definition, and symmetry. To achieve the ideal combination of the three factors, a bodybuilder dedicates years to strength training, dietary manipulation, and the use of supplements, both legal and sometimes illegal.

A bodybuilding competition can be physically challenging, with the bodybuilders posing in a dehydrated and depleted stage after months of strict dieting. However, the athletic part of competitive bodybuilding does not take place during the competition itself but in the gym during the months leading up to it.

Typically, bodybuilders split the competitive year into several phases, the off-season and the pre-contest season. A bodybuilder can have one or more of each season per year, depending on how many contests they compete in. Often, they train differently depending on how close they are to a competition, splitting their body parts in different ways, using heavier or lighter loads, and introducing cardio training to their workout routine.

Unfortunately, only a few studies look at the training practices of competitive bodybuilders, making it challenging to present any accurate statistics. Today, almost all bodybuilders have a social media presence, and you can often see them showing their workout routine in YouTube videos, but structured and comparative research is scarce.

The most comprehensive study of the training habits of competitive bodybuilders is a web-based survey, the results of which were published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.1 The researchers gathered detailed information from 127 competitive male bodybuilders with an average of 7.5 years experience from approximately eight bodybuilding contests. These were amateur bodybuilders, but the researchers compared their results to those of two bodybuilding world champions who also participated in the survey.

Let’s take a look at the data they found.

  • Regardless of the training season, all bodybuilders followed a split routine, working out 5–6 times per week. They either performed a 5-split routine (~70% of the bodybuilders) or a 3-split (~30% of the bodybuilders), training each major group once or twice weekly. No competitive bodybuilders reported employing an upper/lower split or a full-body routine. The workouts lasted for 40–90 minutes.
  • For comparison, the two world champion bodybuilders used a so-called “bro-split”: they performed five workouts per week, trained no more than two muscle groups per workout, and worked out for 60–70 minutes per session.

Training Practices in Detail

Seventy-four percent of the bodybuilders performed 4–5 exercises per muscle group during off-season training. Most of the remaining bodybuilders reported doing 6–7 exercises per muscle group, with only 1.6% performing 2–3 exercises.

Almost all bodybuilders, 95%, performed 3–6 sets per exercise during off-season.

As a contest approached, pretty much nothing changed in how many exercises per muscle the bodybuilders performed compared to the off-season. The majority still performed four to five exercises per muscle group. However, fewer of them did 5–6 sets per exercise, instead performing 3–4 sets. As you reduce your calorie intake and get leaner, your capacity to perform many high-quality sets per exercise might be reduced.

bodybuilding statistics: numer of sets
Number of sets during off-season (black) and pre-season (white).

The most popular repetition interval during off-season was 7–12 RM, with 77% of the bodybuilders keeping their sets within that range.

More bodybuilders reported using less weight and performing more reps during the pre-contest preparations. Fewer trained using a 7–9RM protocol, instead switching to 10–15RM.

bodybuilding statistics: repetitions
Repetition maximums (RM) used during the off-season (black) and pre-season (white).

Most bodybuilders (68.6%) preferred resting for 1–2 minutes between sets during off-season training. Thirty percent rested 2–3 minutes between sets, but almost no one rested less than one minute.

The rest intervals decreased when contest time approached. Fewer bodybuilders rested 1–3 minutes per set, instead only taking a 30–60 second rest interval.

Eight-five percent of the participants said that they trained heavier during the off-season phase compared to pre-contest, using more weight and fewer reps.

bodybuilding statistics: rest intervals
Rest intervals between sets during the off-season (black) and pre-contest (white).

Sixty-four percent of the bodybuilders regularly performed some form of cardio during off-season training. The majority did 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, with running (68.8%), cross-trainer (61.2%), walking (53.7%), and cycling (39.9%) being the most popular forms of cardio.

Compared to off-season practices, most bodybuilders ramped up their cardio significantly when gearing up for competition. Eight-five percent reported including aerobic training in their pre-contest preparations, with ~60% performing at least five weekly sessions. The remaining bodybuilders did 2–4 weekly sessions of aerobic exercise. Most now performed 120 to 150+ minutes of low- to moderate-intensity cardio per week. The types of cardio were similar to off-season, with jogging/running (74.6%), cross-trainer (elliptical trainer) (64.5%), walking (53.2%), and cycling (38.2%) being the most popular.

bodybuilding statistics: cardio
Minues of cardio performed during off-season (black) and pre-contest (white).

For comparison, the elite bodybuilders did 4–5 exercises for each muscle group, performing 4–5 sets per exercise using a load of 6–12RM. Some training sessions included heavier training performing 1–5RM using heavier weights. They varied their rest intervals from 1–3 minutes depending on the exercise and the load. They did not do any cardio during the off-season.

Unlike the amateur bodybuilders, the world champions continued training the same way as during the off-season. They only reduced the number of sets slightly during the last two weeks of pre-contest preparations and started doing more repetitions.

Bodybuilding Training Practices: Other Studies

The above study with 127 participants might be the most extensive study looking at the training practices of competitive bodybuilders. However, it’s not the only one, even though most other ones are small or even case studies of only one bodybuilder.

A 2020 narrative review compiled the results from 14 studies using various research protocols.2 The study we just looked at was included. The combined results were similar to the individual, large study. All bodybuilders had titles in high-level competitions.

During the off-season, they trained for maximal muscle growth. That means using a higher load, fewer reps, and longer rest intervals compared to pre-contest training. Everyone used split routines rather than full-body workout programs. During pre-contest, most bodybuilders added cardio.

Dietary Patterns of Bodybuilders

Training is only part of bodybuilding success. What and how much you eat, even when you eat it, plays a significant role in building a competitive physique. You could argue that diet is far more critical than training during the pre-contest phase when fat loss is paramount.

At the same time they assessed the body composition of bodybuilders, the researchers of the above Polish study conducted a 24-hour diet survey to compare the dietary patterns between the pros and the amateurs. Self-reported dietary habits are notoriously unreliable, but if anyone can be trusted to report their diet down to the gram, it’s a competitive bodybuilder.

Again, some interesting and significant differences exist between pro bodybuilders and amateurs.


In general, the pros ate 700 more calories per day than the recreational bodybuilders, and that’s on a pre-contest fat-loss diet. On average, the professional bodybuilders’ caloric intake was significantly different from that of the amateurs, amounting to 3078 calories daily compared to 2,400 calories.


The most significant difference in dietary habits between pros and amateurs was their protein intake. 

The recreational bodybuilders ate 1.73 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or roughly 23% of their calorie intake. That’s quite a lot outside of the bodybuilding community, but it’s the amount needed to optimize muscle growth, according to research.3

If you compare that amount to how much protein the professional bodybuilders ate, it’s more like a morsel. The pros ate 3.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, almost 44% of their calories. Taking their average weight of 87 kilograms means a daily protein intake of 321 grams. That’s 3–5 times as much as the average American adult.4

Fat and Carbs

The professionals also ate significantly less fat than the control group, although the carb intake was similar. The source of those carbs was likely different, though, as the fiber intake of the pros was 66% higher.

Fluids, Dehydration, and Diuretics

Restricting or eliminating water intake before a bodybuilding competition is common to achieve a dry look and avoid fluid retention on stage. In addition, many bodybuilders use diuretics, either natural, mild ones, or powerful diuretic drugs with possibly catastrophic consequences.5 6

The majority (93%) of the 29 professional bodybuilders dehydrated themselves in preparation for the competition, and almost everyone, 97%, used diuretics to rid themselves of even more water. For 14–40 hours before the show, they refrained from drinking anything, used diuretics, and lost an average of 4.7 kilograms of water weight.

Typically, up to 40 hours without water is not dangerous. It’s certainly not healthy or recommended, but it’s not life-threatening. However, it can be a gamble with your life when you’re half-starved from months of dieting, with very low body-fat levels, and using diuretics simultaneously.

Other Studies Looking at the Diet of Bodybuilders

You can go through individual YouTube accounts of various pro bodybuilders and watch their “full day of eating”-videos to get an idea of their food intake during bulking and cutting. However, very few comparative studies look at pro bodybuilders’ dietary habits, and the studies are often of relatively low quality. However, a 2015 review compiled the data from all available research until 2014. Here’s what it found.

Male bodybuilders ate 2,390–3,824 calories per day, and female bodybuilders ate 1,195–2,509 calories. The lower number of calories in both cases represented the pre-contest diet phase.. The lower number of calories in both cases represented the pre-contest diet phase.

Protein intakes ranged from 2–4.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day in men and from somewhat below 2–2.8 g/kg/day in women. None of the studies looked at the timing of the protein intake, only the total daily intake.

Many of the studies included in this review raised concerns about the high protein intake of the bodybuilders and the risk of impaired renal function and bone health. However, those studies were from the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, the World Health Organization and many others have published reports showing no evidence linking protein intake to renal disease.7 As for bone health, more recent research suggests that a high protein intake indicates a positive rather than negative relationship.8

The carbohydrate intake of the bodybuilders in the review was relatively low. Only one of 18 studies found that male bodybuilders ate more than 6 grams of carbohydrates/kg/day. During the competition phase of the diet, they ate an average of 3.8 g/kg/day. Female bodybuilders ate more carbs overall, but the sample of women was likely too small to be representative.

As for dietary fat, the intake was often well below 30% of the bodybuilders’ total calorie intake. Several studies found an intake of saturated fat higher than generally recommended.

Most bodybuilders used vitamin- and mineral supplements and their intake of micronutrients often exceeded 100% of the RDA or even the tolerable upper limit.

Dietary Supplements

Even though most bodybuilders agree that whole foods are the most important source of nutrients, dietary supplement use is common practice to ensure a sufficient intake of micronutrients and other compounds that might aid performance, the development of muscle mass, and body fat control.

All bodybuilders participating in the 2013 survey used dietary supplements.2

Off-season, they used 3–4 supplements, with the most popular supplement being protein shakes (86.4%). Following protein, creatine monohydrate (68.3%), branched-chain amino acids (66.9%), glutamine (42.3%), vitamins (39.8%), and fish oil (37.2%) were the most commonly used supplements.

During pre-contest preparations, they used a similar number of supplements, with protein shakes (73.6%), branched-chain amino acids (68.5%), glutamine (51.3%), vitamins (44.4%), fish oil (42.7%), and ephedrine-containing/caffeine-containing products (24.3%) being the most popular.

During off-season training, the two world champions used protein, creatine, glutamine, branched-chain amino acids, and vitamins. The only difference during the pre-contest phase was that they stopped using creatine.

Body Composition: Professional Bodybuilders Vs. Amateurs

Bodybuilders have significantly more muscle mass and, in general, less body fat than the average person. But what about the difference in body composistion between pro bodybuilders and recreational amateur bodybuilders?

A 2019 Polish study collected data from 29 professional male bodybuilders on the day of the Championship of Poland in Bodybuilding and Fitness competition, comparing it with data from 26 amateur recreational male bodybuilders. .9 Here’s what they found.

  • The pro bodybuilders and the control group were similar in age, weight, and height, but that’s where the similarities ended. The pros had, on average, 5.38 cm bigger arms and 5.12 cm bigger quads. At the same time, their waist circumference was 5.76 cm smaller than the recreational lifers’.
  • The Body Mass Index (BMI) of the pros was a little higher than the control group, but not by much. However, their body fat percentage, obtained by skinfold measurements, was very low, 5.68% on average, compared to 18.75% in the group of recreational bodybuilders.

Those numbers mean that the lean body mass of the pros was significantly higher. Indeed, bioelectrical impedance analysis measurements revealed that their fat-free mass amounted to, on average, 81 kilograms, compared to only 60 kilograms in the control bodybuilders. Even though the pros weighed more (87 vs. 80 kg), that’s still a massive difference in lean muscle mass.

And remember that the top pros, like the Mr. Olympia competitions, carry much more muscle mass than the ones in this study. On the current Mr. Olympia lineup, it’s common to see bodybuilders weighing 120 kg (260 lbs) in contest-ready condition.

This is likely the largest and best study comparing the body composition of bodybuilders and one of the few that include professionals, but there is more research. A 2023 review compiled the data from 16 with a total of 295 bodybuilders between 18 and 45, both male and female.10

The researchers found that, as expected, the bodybuilders carried significantly more lean body mass than the average man or woman. Their body fat percentages ranged from 15.3–25.2% for females and 9.6–16.3% for males, the higher numbers representing off-season conditioning. During the pre-contest phase, they lost 30–60% of their body fat, with a few bodybuilders losing up to 70%. Despite this drastic fat and weight loss, most bodybuilders managed to maintain their lean body mass while preparing for competition.

Of course, comparing the body composition of bodybuilders in different studies introduces limitations. One study might use skinfold measurements for determining body fat, while another uses bioelectrical impedance (BIA) techniques for the same purpose. A third study might utilize DXA for body composition measurements. Different methods for estimating body fat and body composition are not equally accurate, with variations up to 50%.

The bottom line is: body weight and BMI say very little about a person’s body composition. A bodybuilder can weigh the same and have the same BMI as an untrained person but with a body consisting of significantly more lean body mass and less body fat.

How Fast Do Bodybuilders Gain Muscle?

Resistance training is the most effective way to build muscle, but muscle growth can’t continue indefinitely. If you look at the Mr. Olympia stage, you see the upper limit of human muscle growth, but that is with numerous anabolic compounds added to the equation. The maximal attainable muscle mass without anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs is not established. It is likely highly influenced by genetics, and it’s a safe bet to assume it’s significantly less than the muscle mass exhibited by pro bodybuilders.

Beginners can gain significant amounts of lean body mass and muscle thickness in only a few months. For example, a Japanese study had young, untrained men perform the bench press three times weekly for 24 weeks, and their chest muscle thickness increased by more than 40%.11

bodybuilding statistics: muscle growth from 24 weeks of bench press training
Muscle growth from 24 weeks of bench press training.

The first few weeks of strength training mostly lead to increased water weight, not muscle protein.12 After that, muscle mass increases rapidly but soon starts to slow down.

The more advanced you are, the slower your gains, and after a year or two of training, most bodybuilders would be overjoyed to add a kilogram or two of lean muscle mass per year.

In all cases, using anabolic steroids significantly increases the rate of muscle growth and the amount of muscle gain possible.

Sooner or later, all bodybuilders reach a plateau where further muscle growth becomes challenging and even impossible. After a handful of years of yearly progress, they invariably peak and even start losing mass and conditioning. You see this in pro bodybuilders at the highest level, too.

For example, in a study of highly competitive male and female bodybuilders, 24 weeks of hypertrophy-specific training led to no muscle growth at all.13 This was during the off-season without dietary restrictions and while the bodybuilders used steroids during the study period or earlier in their career.

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroid use is prevalent among competitive bodybuilders for a good reason: they increase the rate of muscle growth and strength dramatically and allow for gains that would be impossible to achieve naturally. “Other things being equal, a person cannot out-train, out-diet or outperform steroids.”14 Some trainers and doctors downplay the effectiveness of anabolic steroids and claim that you can gain as much muscle through hard work and grit, but that is simply not true. You can’t argue against the potential health consequences like an increased risk of heart and liver damage and high blood pressure, but it’s not possible to compete in the pro league without using them.

The more anabolic steroids a bodybuilder uses, the more muscle mass they gain. Small doses lead to modest increases in lean body mass, while large doses lead to dose-dependent gains.15

A 1996 study gave 43 men injections with 600 mg of testosterone per week and found that those receiving testosterone gained more fat-free mass without exercising than men who engaged in strength training but didn’t receive any testosterone.16

bodybuilding statistics: gains with and without steroids
Gains without (left) and with steroids (right).

In 2001, a similar study protocol showed a direct dose-dependent relationship between testosterone and the increase in muscle mass.17 After 20 weeks, men who received 600 mg/week had gained, on average, 8 kilograms of fat-free mass and lost 1 kilogram of body fat without lifting. Participants who combined testosterone injections with strength training three times weekly gained even more.

Steroid Use in Competitive Bodybuilders

In 1989, a study found that 54% of competitive male bodybuilders used steroids regularly.18 Of female competitors, only 10% reported anabolic steroid use. The most prevalent compounds, in order of the most to least frequently used, were Dianabol, Deca Durabolin, Anavar, Testosterone, Androl 50, Winstrol, Primobolan, Equipoise, Finaject, Parabolin, HCG, Primacetate, Enanthate, Halotestin, and Maxibolin among the men and Deca Durabolin, Anavar, Testosterone, Dianabol, Equipoise, and Winstrol among the women. Note that these were bodybuilders competing in small, local events. The use of steroids in major competitions was likely significantly higher even back then.

The results from the 2013 web survey were no different.2

Among the bodybuilders competing in regular amateur bodybuilding competitions, 76.7% reported using anabolic steroids. Among those competing in drug-tested “natural bodybuilding” shows, however, no one reported using steroids. In addition, the world champions said they did not use steroids. Remember that this survey involved self-reporting, though, no actual testing.

  • During the off-season, the bodybuilders who reported steroid usage combined 3.6 ± 1.3 different steroids, the most common being Nandrolone (48.1%), Sustanon 250 (46.4%), Boldenone (42.8%), and testosterone (36.5%). 
  • They used 3.3 ± 1.6 different compounds during the pre-contest phase, combining anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. The most common steroids were Stanozolol (52.2%), Boldenone (31.2%), and Oxandrolone (18.2%). Other performance enhancers included Clenbuterol (54.9%), Liothyronine (45.7%), and Clomifene (33.5%).

There are no studies of steroid usage in high-level professional bodybuilders, and the pros aren’t drug tested. However, it’s likely safe to say that virtually all bodybuilding pros use anabolic steroids. It’s physiologically impossible to add that amount of lean muscle mass without the use of synthetic anabolic compounds. There are natural bodybuilding federations and contests, though, that do test the competitors for anabolics. While they are far from as massive as the Pro League athletes, they also display remarkable muscle mass and conditioning.

Other Anabolic Compounds

In addition to steroids, bodybuilders use other anabolic compounds to boost muscle growth. Two examples are growth hormone and insulin.

Growth hormone (GH) improves the amino acid uptake in muscle and has powerful fat-burning properties.

The prevalence of GH use in sports is unknown because most purchase it on the online black market. However, statistics indicate that up to 5% of university athletes in the USA have taken it at some point. For weightlifters, that number could be as high as 12%.19

There are no official statistics on GH use in bodybuilding, but it’s a safe bet to assume it’s prevalent at all levels, with the pros likely using it without exception.

Bodybuilders use insulin to shuttle nutrients into muscle cells. It also boosts recovery after exercise because it stimulates glycogen synthesis.

Insulin use among bodybuilders in general is as high as 10%.19 Again, that number is likely significantly higher in the pro ranks.

Bodybuilding Statistics: Competitions and Prize Money

Bodybuilding is a sport and a lifestyle. There is no set definition of a bodybuilder. Anyone who pursues the development of their body through weight training and diet can call themselves a bodybuilder. You certainly don’t have to compete to do so.

Competing in bodybuilding is a different animal entirely. In the competitive sport of bodybuilding, the athletes show the development of their muscle mass, symmetry, and conditioning on stage and are judged on their strengths and weaknesses compared to their competitors.

There are several bodybuilding federations with slightly different rules and criteria, but the International Federation of Bodybuilders is by far the largest.

Bodybuilding competition has long been a grassroots movement, with athletes competing for the sake of competing and for the fun of it, without any prize money to speak of. At the higher level, though, today’s top bodybuilders can make hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money in addition to various sponsorships.

For many years, the most prestigious international bodybuilding event was the Mr. Universe competition, with winners that include names like Steve Reeves and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1965, however, Joe Weider and the IFBB launched the Mr. Olympia event.20

It quickly became the modern bodybuilding contest for pros, with the winner universally regarded as the best bodybuilder in the world (although some judging decisions led to controversy in the early 1980s.)

Considering the Mr. Olympia competition has been running annually for nearly 60 years, the number of title holders is remarkably small. Many Mr. Olympia title winners have held the crown for multiple years before either being dethroned by another competitor or stepping away from the bodybuilding scene for other reasons.

Mr. Olympia Champions

  • Larry Scott (1965–1966)
  • Sergio Oliva (1967–1969)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (1970–1975, 1980)
  • Franco Columbu (1976, 1981)
  • Frank Zane (1977–1979)
  • Chris Dickerson (1982)
  • Samir Bannout (1983)
  • Lee Haney (1984–1991)
  • Dorian Yates (1992–1997)
  • Ronnie Coleman (1998–2005)
  • Jay Cutler (2006–07, 2009–2010)
  • Dexter Jackson (2008)
  • Phil Heath (2011–2017)
  • Shawn Rhoden (2018)
  • Brandon Curry (2019)
  • Mamdouh Elssbiay (2020–2021)
  • Hadi Choopan (2022)

During the 60s, 70s, and into the 80s, bodybuilding prize money was not that great, even in the Mr. Olympia contest. However, as the bodybuilding industry grew, so did the monetary rewards for competing in high-level events. For example, the prize pool of the 2022 Mr. Olympia was a whopping $1,500,000, with the victor walking away with $400,000 in addition to the Sandow statue awarded for first place. And recently Arnold Schwarzenegger announced an increase of the Arnold Classic first place cash prize to $300,000.21

Final Words

That’s a lot of bodybuilding statistics! Hopefully, you’ve gained insight into competitive bodybuilders’ training, diet, supplement, and drug strategies.

In the future, it would be interesting to see scientific data compiling the practices of the top pros. Anonymous data collection could allow for comprehensive information collection without compromising the privacy and integrity of the bodybuilders. Individual pro bodybuilders with social media presence often present their approach to training and diet in YouTube videos and other formats. Still, there is a limit to what they can reveal publicly.

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  1. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(6):p 1609-1617, June 2013. Training Practices and Ergogenic Aids Used by Male Bodybuilders.
  2. Sports (Basel). 2020 Nov; 8(11): 149. Training Programs Designed for Muscle Hypertrophy in Bodybuilders: A Narrative Review.
  3. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376-384. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults.
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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas is a certified nutrition coach with over three decades of training experience. He has followed and reported on the research fields of exercise, nutrition, and health for almost as long and is a specialist in metabolic health and nutrition coaching for athletes. Read more about Andreas and StrengthLog by clicking here.