Story: Bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting

Page 1. Bodybuilding

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Bodybuilding is an activity involving the intensive development of muscles through exercise and diet.

In competitive bodybuilding a panel of judges rates the contestants on the size, tone and symmetry of their muscles. Each bodybuilder goes through a routine, striking a series of poses. In some competitions the bodybuilders may also go through a fitness routine. New Zealand has both men’s and women’s bodybuilding contests.

‘Stomach of steel and an iron will’

In 2011 Morrinsville bodybuilder Nathan O’Hearn followed this regime:

4 a.m.: One-and-a-half-hour walk or jog

6 a.m.: 10-egg-white scramble, then rest or sleep

8 a.m.: One-and-a-half boiled chicken breasts and kūmara

10 a.m.: Two-hour gym workout then protein shake

12 p.m.: Free time

3 p.m.: 10-egg-white scramble then two-and-a-half-hour cardio workout such as lawn mowing

6 p.m.: Protein shake

7 p.m.: One-and-a-half- to two-hour walk

9 p.m.: One-and-a-half boiled chicken breasts and salad

10 p.m.: Bed.1

Bodybuilder’s regime

Bodybuilders do gym-based weight-training (weightlifting) and strength-training exercises. They generally eat specialised diets with carefully worked-out proportions of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Many eat five to seven meals a day, each of similar nutritional value. Designated rest periods are also important in the bodybuilding regime.

Origins of bodybuilding

Bodybuilding emerged in New Zealand as part of the ‘physical culture’ movement of the 1890s and 1900s. The movement was largely based on the teachings of Eugen Sandow, a British-based Prussian strongman. Sandow travelled the world showing off his ‘unrivalled muscular development’ to packed theatres.2 His 1902–3 visit to New Zealand gave a huge boost to the exercise and bodybuilding movements.

Sandow marketed the ‘Sandow system’ of exercise methods and equipment. Sandow schools – gymnasiums that used Sandow’s methods – were set up around New Zealand from 1900. Some instructors, such as Dick Jarrett of Whanganui and Fred Hornibrook of Christchurch, became nationally famous athletes and bodybuilders.

Sandow in Auckland

‘The curtain rises to show Sandow, arrayed simply in tights, a leopard skin and sandals, mounted on a revolving pedestal, against a background of plum-coloured velvet, in order to show his wonderful muscular development. He assumes a score of different poses, each having the effect of showing a different group of muscles in a state of tension … The perfect physical development of the athlete caused a great sensation.’3

In 1900 Hornibrook organised a competition in Christchurch to find the ‘best developed man’.4 This was New Zealand’s first bodybuilding competition and became an annual event attracting large audiences. Hornibrook also organised a physical development competition for women, although the female competition was judged at a gym rather than in public.

In 1911 the first national annual physical culture competition for men was held. National competitions appear to have been discontinued during the First World War, and then in the 1920s and 1930s the physical culture movement emphasised gymnastic exercises rather than muscular display.

At the 1940 centennial exhibition the New Zealand Weightlifters’ Association held a ‘Centennial physical excellence contest’ to select a ‘Mr New Zealand’ and a ‘Miss New Zealand’ from 12 finalists representing the various provinces.5 This appears to have been the first Mr New Zealand competition. By 1949 Mr New Zealand was a regular part of the annual New Zealand Weightlifting Championships.

Modern bodybuilding

Competitive bodybuilding in its modern form began in New Zealand in the late 1950s and 1960s. This was partly the result of publicity given to bodybuilding in the US and partly due to the opening of new gyms.

Clive Green’s gym in Auckland, opened in 1958, became a training centre for bodybuilders. Bodybuilding became a sport in its own right, rather than a sideline activity for weightlifters and wrestlers, and New Zealanders began to compete in international competitions such as Mr Universe and Mr Olympia.

From the 1970s the use of drugs such as steroids developed into a major issue. One response to this was ‘natural bodybuilding’, which involved strict testing regimes to ensure contestants were drug free. The International Natural Bodybuilding Federation holds its own Natural Universe and Natural Olympia competitions.

In the 2000s there were a number of New Zealand national bodybuilding competitions for both men and women. The National Amateur Bodybuilding Association ran an annual championship, while competitions for professionals were organised by the New Zealand International Federation of Bodybuilding. The natural bodybuilding movement held contests organised by the South Pacific Natural Physique Association.

Footnotes:
  1. James Parr, letter to his parents, 26 August 1859, ‘James Parr’, qMS-1628, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Back
How to cite this page:

Peter Clayworth, 'Bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting - Bodybuilding', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/bodybuilding-weightlifting-and-powerlifting/page-1 (accessed 26 October 2020)

Story by Peter Clayworth, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 27 Jan 2015