Who are the top 8 men bodybuilders of all time? A debate rages amongst bodybuilding fans on how the best bodybuilders rank against each other. Inquiring minds want to know because you can only learn to bring out the best in yourself from someone who has done it too. Therefore to be the best, you must learn from the best and walk the same roads they walked. So, are you ready to discover a bodybuilder’s journey? Do you have what it takes to bring out the best in you? Let’s find out!
Everyone has an opinion on who is the best bodybuilding of all time. Most people’s views are based on their criteria. Some say the best bodybuilder of all-timer never won a Mr. Olympia title. A street legend that rebel bodybuilders across the planet can rally to.
Others say he won the most titles. Someone who is part of the institution. Heck, he helped build the institution! And then others say he had the best stage presence, while others disagree and say he was the most photogenic. Like a photographic memory, that time can’t erase forever immortalized in the hall of fame of bodybuilding.
Which camp are you in? Bodybuilding is over a century old. Yet, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Bodybuilding combines exercise and diet to create a muscular body.
These days, the sport attracts competitors and fans worldwide. Thus, we get to witness the best bodybuilders on stage. This article discusses the top 8 men bodybuilders of all time.
Who Are the 8 Best Bodybuilders of All Time?
Over the years, we’ve seen some incredible bodybuilders on stage. Today, we’ll have a more in-depth look at some of them. The criteria we used to determine the greatest bodybuilders of all time were:
- Influence on the sport
- Dominance during the era
- Amount of championships
- Longevity of career
- Body physique
- Level of combination
8. Dexter Jackson
Mr. Jackson stands 5 feet and 6 inches (168 cm); contest weight 215 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 2008. Dexter Jackson received the nickname “The Blade” for his impeccable conditioning and deep abs.
Also, having won more bodybuilding titles (over thirty) than anyone else, Jackson has had a fantastic bodybuilding career. Despite his third place at the 2007 Mr. Olympia, Jackson returned the following year and won the Mr. Olympia title. Jackson also won the Arnold Classic five times between 2005 and 2015.
Also, in 2015, at almost 46, Jackson placed second in the Mr. Olympia contest. Thus, we can learn the importance of determination from Dexter Jackson. Blade showed us that age is not a disadvantage for those who are determined.
7. Frank Zane
Height 5 feet and 9 inches (175 cm); contest weight 220 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 1977 – 1979. Unlike many bodybuilders who focused on adding more size, Frank Zane was best known for meticulously focusing on symmetry. So it’s no surprise that many consider him one of the fittest bodybuilders in bodybuilding history.
In 1968, Zane snagged the Mr. Universe title despite weighing 60 pounds less. Then, thanks to his physique, he won three consecutive Mr. Olympia titles, despite competing against much larger bodybuilders.
Thus, we can learn from Frank Zane that mass isn’t everything. Attention to minor details can set a bodybuilder apart from everyone else.
6. Jay Cutler
Height 5 feet and 10 inches (178 cm); contest weight 260 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 2006 – 2007, 2009 – 2010. Jay Cutler was the primary rival of Ronnie Coleman in the 2000s. Their race for the Olympia title was exciting to witness. Thus, he is one of the top 8 men bodybuilders. Also, he is regarded by some as the best bodybuilder of all time. Cutler finished just behind Coleman in many competitions.
But he finally dethroned Ronnie Coleman, taking the Olympia title in 2006. Also, Cutler is the only bodybuilder to lose the Olympia title (in 2008) and then win it back the following year. According to some, Cutler could have been the most accomplished bodybuilder if it weren’t for Coleman. Instead, he won four Olympia titles and was runner-up to Ronnie in another four competitions. Thus, we can learn from Jay Cutler about trusting the process. Never give up, no matter how many failures it takes to achieve a goal.
5. Phil Heath
Height 5 feet and 9 inches (175 cm); contest weight 240 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 2011 – 2017. Nicknamed “The Gift,” Phil Heath has one of the most impressive physiques in bodybuilding. With chiseled muscles and excellent symmetry, Heath quickly made a reputation for himself in bodybuilding after discovering the sport in 2002.
In 2005, he won the NPC’s overall title, competing as an IFBB pro. The following year, he won his first pro tournaments. But, he decided not to compete in the 2007 Mr. Olympia, stating that he needed more time to improve – and that he did.
However, in 2010, he placed second in Mr. Olympia. Finally, in 2011, he won the title and defended it for six consecutive years until he lost it in 2018 to Shawn Rhoden. Phil Heath is the most talented and showcases the best body in bodybuilding history. However, many factors go into who is the greatest bodybuilder. But on talent alone, Phil Heath is the best that ever stepped on the big stage. Thus, we can learn from Phil to act with agency and work toward our dream daily. Phil Heath reminds us of what perfection looks like.
4. Dorian Yates
Height 5 feet and 11 inches (179 cm); Contest Weight 265 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 1992 – 1997. Similar to Haney, Dorian Yates is also an undefeated Mr. Olympia champion. Therefore, we deem him the first true mass monster to step on the Olympia stage. But he wasn’t just mass and had no definition.
Yates was 275 pounds on stage and boasted incredible leanness. Also, he was among the first bodybuilders to boast shredded glutes and hamstrings. Thanks to these two things, he won six consecutive Mr. Olympia titles between 1992 and 1997.
Another thing that set Yates apart from many bodybuilders was his unique training style. Unlike most that relied on volume, Dorian trained only four times per week and focused on high intensity. Thus, a valuable lesson from Dorian Yates is not to be afraid of experimenting. Despite conventional wisdom, there may be a better way to achieve a goal.
3. Ronnie Coleman
Height 5 feet and 11 inches (175 cm); contest weight 300 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 1998 – 2005. Ronnie Coleman is one of the top 8 men bodybuilders of all time.
Also, he is one of the most recognized names in modern bodybuilding. Known for his monstrous size, defined muscles, and stage presence, Ronnie won a staggering 26 titles throughout his career, including a record-tying eight wins at Mr. Olympia. Thus, Ronnie set a new standard in men’s bodybuilding. In addition, he achieved a stage weight of around 300 pounds. Also, this was something few men had ever achieved before Ronnie.
Therefore, we consider Ronnie one of the most gifted bodybuilders. He played basketball in college and squatted 800 pounds on camera. Thus, we can all learn from Ronnie that there is no substitute for hard work. Also, we should never stop working on self-improvement.
2. Lee Haney
Height 5 feet and 11 inches (180 cm); contest weight 255 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 1984 – 1991. Lee Haney is one of the top 8 men’s bodybuilders of all time before the steroid era. At 31, Haney was already an 8-time Mr. Olympia winner.
Also, he is tied with Ronnie Coleman for the most Mr. Olympia titles in the history of bodybuilding. After placing third in 1983, Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, would win from 1984 to 1991. He is the only Mr. Olympia champion who never lost the title. Some rumors suggest Haney retired from bodybuilding because he felt he was about to lose to Dorian Yates.
However, we can all learn from Lee when enough is enough. Haney dominated bodybuilding in the 1980s. However, he knew when to walk away as an undisputed champion.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Height 5 feet and 9 inches (175 cm); contest weight 220 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 1970 – 1975, 1980. Along with Ronnie Coleman, Arnold Schwarzenegger is another household name in bodybuilding. Known for his long and muscular physique, Arnold won seven Mr. Olympia titles between 1970 and 1980.
Arnold also holds the record for the youngest Mr. Olympia winner. Thus, he won his first title at 23. Also, he is known as a successful business owner, actor, and politician. Therefore, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the best bodybuilder because he advanced bodybuilding more than anyone in the sport’s history.
Here is a lesson from the man himself: “strength does not come from winning. Instead, your struggles develop your strengths. That is strength when you go through hardships and decide not to surrender.”
Honorable Mention List
Several other elite bodybuilders won Mr. Olympia and dominated bodybuilding briefly. However, some of the most recent winners of the Mr. Olympia title are just getting started.
Therefore, they were not given the same consideration as the Haller Famers. Here is our list of honorable mentions:
- Serio Olivio; 3 times Mr. Olympia; 1967 – 1969
- Franco Columbu; 2 times Mr. Olympia; 1976 & 1981
- Big Ramy; 2 times Mr. Olympia; 2020 – 2021
- Larry Scott; 2 times Mr. Olympia; 1965 – 1966
The only bodybuilders that won multiple titles but did not make our list were Sergio Oliva (3), Larry Scott (2), Franco Columbu (2), and Big Ramy (2). While all are grand champions in their own right, they could only hope to replace Dexter Jackson (1), who had fewer championships. But when you look at their level of competition and the number of competitions Dexter won, we had to give Dexter the nod over them.
It is worth mentioning that Big Ramy is a current bodybuilder. Also, he has elite size and physique with two titles already in his career. Big Ramy competed against Brandon Curry, another Mr. Olympia, for his titles. So by the time his career is over, he may replace Dexter Jackson as the 8th greatest bodybuilder of all time. But he will have to keep going at his current rate.
How Did the Top 8 Men Bodybuilders of All Time Make Our List?
Yes, championships count. Arnold (7), Lee (8), Ronnie (8), Dorian (6), Phil (7), Jay (4), Frank (3), and Dexter (1) each won the most championships in their area, except Dexter. But Dexter competed against two of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He competed against Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler and repeatedly came close to winning the title. Eventually, he would defeat Jay Cutler to win his title. And it was not at the end of Jay’s career, either.
Dexter is the reason Jay does not have five titles in a row. Also, Dexter defeated Jay in the middle of his title runs. Therefore, if Jay made our list, the man who interrupted his title run deserves some respect. But that is only one reason Dexter made our list. Also, Dexter has won more competitions over 30 than any other bodybuilder in the history of the profession.
It should be obvious why Arnold jumped ahead of Lee and Ronnie. Arnold transcended the sport in a way no one else ever did or could. Also, Arnold parlayed his bodybuilding career into a Hollywood career. He became the Governor of the state of California. We could argue he might have been President of the United States one day if he had been American-born.
As for Lee and Ronnie. Well, there is a strong argument that Lee should be the greatest of all time because he earned his titles the old fashion way. He didn’t take STEROIDS! It’s like in baseball or any other sport the athletes that did it naturally get more respect than the ones who cheated. But let’s be fair. It wasn’t cheating in bodybuilding because everyone admitted to doing it except for Lee Haney. That said, Lee Haney’s journey is the one you should follow and model after if you don’t take steroids.
So how did Dorian jump over Phil? The answer is not as simple. But for starters, Dorian Yates was the first big man with an incredible physique. He made Arnold and Lee look like they were amateur bodybuilders. While Arnold transcended the sport, Dorian changed the sport. Dorian altered the level of competition for bodybuilding and the fan’s expectations.
The Last Word on the 8 Greatest Bodybuilders of All Time
The eight greatest bodybuilders of all time is a list that asserts the dominance and legacy of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. It’s an impressive accomplishment to be on this list, but it also speaks volumes about what people think of the sport.
These bodybuilders were great, but they also had the career and the championships to back them up. Do you agree or disagree with the list? If you love bodybuilding, share this article on Facebook or Twitter so that others can learn more about building muscle.