Who are the top 8 men bodybuilders of all time? Bodybuilding is over a century old, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It combines exercise and diet to create a powerful physique. These days, the sport attracts competitors and enthusiasts worldwide, and we get to witness the pinnacle of physique development on stage.
Over the years, we’ve seen some incredible bodybuilders on stage, and 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: influence on the sport, dominance during the era, amount of championships won; longevity of career; body physique; and level of combination.
Here are eight of the best bodybuilders of all time:
8. Dexter Jackson
Height 5 feet and 6 inches (168 cm); Contest Weight 215 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 2008
Jackson received the nickname “The Blade” for his impeccable conditioning and deep abs. 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 and the countless critics, Jackson would return the following year and win the title. Jackson has also won the Arnold Classic five times between 2005 and 2015.
In 2015, at almost 46, Jackson placed second in the Mr. Olympia contest.
We can learn from Dexter that determination and the ruthless pursuit of our goals matter much more than our age or what the critics say about us.
7. Frank Zane
Height 5 feet and 9 inches (175 cm); Contest Weight 220 pounds; IFBB Mr. Olympia 1977 – 1979
Unlike many bodybuilders that purely focus on adding more size, Frank Zane is best known for meticulously focusing on symmetry and proportions. So it’s no surprise that many consider him one of the most incredible physiques in bodybuilding history.
In 1968, Zane snagged the Mr. Universe title despite weighing a whopping 60 pounds less. Thanks to his impeccable physique, he managed to win three consecutive Mr. Olympia titles, despite having to compete against much larger bodybuilders on stage.
What we can learn from Frank Zane is that mass isn’t everything and that paying a lot of attention to even the smallest of details can genuinely 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, and their race for the Olympia title was genuinely entertaining to witness. He is one of the top 8 men bodybuilders of all time and is regarded by many as the greatest bodybuilder.
In many competitions, Cutler finished just behind Coleman but finally dethroned him and took the Olympia title in 2006. What’s more, Cutler is the only bodybuilder to lose the Olympia title (in 2008) and then come back the following year to win it back.
According to some, Cutler could have been the most accomplished bodybuilder if it weren’t for Coleman. He won four Olympia titles and runner-up to Ronnie in four – 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005.
We can learn from Jay Cutler about perseverance and trusting the process, no matter how many failures it takes to achieve our goals.
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 arguably has one of the most impressive physiques in bodybuilding. With a chiseled midsection, and remarkable overall symmetry and balance, Heath quickly made a reputation for himself in bodybuilding after discovering the sport in 2002.
In 2005, he won the NPC’s overall title, allowing him to compete as an IFBB pro. The following year, he won his first pro tournaments – the Colorado and New York Pro Championships. He decided not to enroll in the 2007 Mr. Olympia, stating that he needed more time to improve – and that he did.
In 2010, he placed second in Mr. Olympia. In 2011, he won the title and defended it for six consecutive years, until he lost it in 2018 to Shawn Rhoden.
We can learn from Phil to bide our time, know when to act, and improve ourselves behind the scenes.
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. He is deemed the first true mass monster to ever step on the Olympia stage. But he wasn’t just mass and no conditioning. Yates was 275 pounds on stage and boasted incredible leanness – he was among the first bodybuilders to boast truly shredded glutes and hamstrings.
Thanks to these two things, he went on to win 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 work.
A valuable lesson we can learn from Dorian Yates is experimenting and seeing if there might be a better way to achieve something, despite what conventional wisdom suggests.
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 and one of the most recognized names in modern bodybuilding. Known for his monstrous size, incredible proportions, and stage presence, Ronnie won a staggering 26 titles throughout his career, including a record-tying eight wins of Mr. Olympia.
Ronnie set a new standard in male bodybuilding by achieving a stage weight of around 300 pounds – something very few men have ever achieved.
Ronnie is also considered one of the most muscular bodybuilders and has a video of an 800-pound squat.
We can all learn from Ronnie that there is no substitute for hard work, and 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 and one of the most impressive. At 31, Haney was already an 8-time Mr. Olympia winner, having as many titles as Ronnie Coleman.
After placing third in the 1983 Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney would win eight consecutive times from 1984 to 1991. He is also the only famous Mr. Olympia winner who never lost the title.
Some rumors suggest that Haney retired from bodybuilding because he felt he was about to lose his title to the next person on our list – Dorian Yates.
We can all learn from Lee to know when enough is enough. Haney dominated the bodybuilding world in the 1980s and knew when to step down 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 an impeccable and well-proportioned physique, Arnold managed to win seven Mr. Olympia titles between 1970 and 1980.
Arnold also holds the record for the youngest Olympia winner, winning his first title at 23.
Arnold is well-known as a wildly successful person in business, actor, and politician outside of bodybuilding.
Here is a lesson from the man himself:
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
Honorable Mention List
Several other professional bodybuilders won Mr. Olympia and dominated the bodybuilding world for a brief time. Some of the most recent winners of the Mr. Olympia title are still in the middle of their careers and therefore did not get the same consideration as our 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
How did the top 8 men bodybuilders of all time make the list
Yes, championships count. Arnold (7), Lee (8), Ronnie (8), Dorian (6), Phil (7), Jay (4), Frank (3), and Dexeter (1) each won the most championships in their area for the exception of Dexter.
Dexter competed against two of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. He competed against Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler and repeatedly came close but not close enough. 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. In fact, Dexter defeated Jay in the middle of his title runs. Therefore if Jay made the list then the man who interrupted his title run deserves some consideration. But that is only one reason why he made our list. Dexter has won more competitions over 30 than any other bodybuilder in the history of professional bodybuilding.
It should be obvious why Arnold jumped ahead of Lee and Ronnie. He transcended the sport in a way that no one else did or could. Arnold took his bodybuilding career and parlayed it into a celebrity Hollywood status and eventually into the Governor of the largest state in the United States, California. We could argue that if he had been American-born, he would have been the President of the United States.
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. He changed the level of competition for bodybuilders and the expectations for fans.
The other two-time champions who did not make our list
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). But when you look at their level of competition and the number of competitions Dexter won, you would have to give him the nod.
It is worth mentioning that Big Ramy is a current bodybuilder. He has elite size and physique with two titles already under his career. Also, he competed against Brandon Curry, another Mr. Olympia, for his titles. So by the time his career is over, he should replace Dexter Jackson as the 8th greatest bodybuilder of all time if he keeps going at his current rate.
The last word on the eight greatest bodybuilders of all time
The eight greatest bodybuilders of all time is a list that asserts the dominance and legacy of these athletes. It’s an impressive accomplishment to be on this list, but it also speaks volumes about what people think of the sport in general. Not only were these bodybuilders great, but they also had the career and the championships to back it up. Do you agree or disagree with our list? Let us know in the comments.