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The Remarkable History of Bodybuilding in Australia: From Bronzed Icons to Global Stars

Dive into the incredible journey of bodybuilding in Australia, from its early days to the rise of legendary competitors and the impact of the sport on fitness culture.


Bodybuilding has long been an integral part of Australian fitness culture, with the sun-kissed shores of this great nation providing the perfect backdrop for the growth and development of the sport. From the golden era of bodybuilding to modern-day icons, Australia has produced some of the most memorable names in the industry. In this in-depth look at the history of bodybuilding in Australia, we will explore the roots of the sport, examine the lives and careers of iconic Australian bodybuilders, and reveal how the sport has evolved over the years.

The Origins of Bodybuilding in Australia

Bodybuilding can trace its roots back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when physical culture and the pursuit of a strong, muscular body became increasingly popular. In Australia, the rise of bodybuilding can be attributed to the influence of strongmen, such as Eugen Sandow and Arthur Saxon, who toured the country showcasing their incredible feats of strength. These pioneers inspired countless Australians to take up weight training and pursue a sculpted physique.

bodybuilder in australia

The Golden Era of Bodybuilding in Australia

The 1960s and 1970s saw the golden era of bodybuilding in Australia, driven by the rise of legendary figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sergio Oliva, and Frank Zane. These global icons put the sport on the map, and their influence reached the shores of Australia, inspiring a new generation of bodybuilders to take up the sport.

During this period, Australian bodybuilding saw the emergence of homegrown talent like John Terilli, Graeme Lancefield, and Roger Walker. These local heroes dominated the Australian bodybuilding scene and represented the country on the international stage. John Terilli, for example, is a two-time IFBB Mr. Universe winner and a celebrated figure in the sport.

Notable Australian Bodybuilders

Throughout the years, Australia has produced a number of iconic bodybuilders who have made their mark on the international stage. Some of the most notable names include:

Lee Priest


Born in Newcastle, New South Wales, Lee Priest is one of Australia’s most successful and well-known bodybuilders. Priest began competing at a young age, winning his first competition at the age of 17. He went on to have a successful professional career, with numerous titles under his belt, including the IFBB Iron Man Pro Invitational and the San Francisco Pro Invitational.

Tony Doherty

A respected figure in the Australian bodybuilding community, Tony Doherty is a successful competitor, promoter, and gym owner. Doherty has been involved in the sport for over 30 years and is the owner of the prestigious Doherty’s Gym chain. His commitment to the sport has made him a central figure in the Australian bodybuilding scene.

Bev Francis

As a pioneer for female bodybuilders in Australia, Bev Francis paved the way for women in the sport. She began her career as a powerlifter before transitioning to bodybuilding in the 1980s. Francis achieved international success, earning multiple titles including the IFBB Ms. Olympia runner-up position.

The Impact of Bodybuilding on Australian Fitness Culture

bodybuilder in australia

The history of bodybuilding in Australia has had a significant impact on the nation’s fitness culture. The sport’s popularity led to the establishment of numerous gyms and training facilities across the country, catering specifically to bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. Bodybuilding also played a role in shaping public perceptions of health, fitness, and the pursuit of a sculpted physique.

In addition, bodybuilding has helped popularize various training techniques and dietary practices, such as the use of supplements, resistance training, and high-protein diets. The spread of bodybuilding culture has, in turn, influenced the growth of related industries, including personal training, sports nutrition, and fitness apparel.

Modern Bodybuilding in Australia

In recent years, the landscape of bodybuilding in Australia has continued to evolve. Today’s competitors are pushing the boundaries of the sport, constantly striving to achieve greater levels of muscular development and conditioning. Australia now hosts a number of prestigious bodybuilding competitions, including the Arnold Classic Australia, the IFBB Australian Pro Grand Prix, and the WBFF Australia Championships.

The Australian bodybuilding community has also embraced the rise of natural bodybuilding, with organizations like the International Natural Bodybuilding Association (INBA) and the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) promoting drug-free competition and advocating for healthy and sustainable approaches to the sport.

Old School Round Table with Tony Doherty

Influential Australian bodybuilders, such as Calum von Moger and Josh Lenartowicz, continue to represent the country on the international stage, earning accolades and admiration from fans around the world. The legacy of Australian bodybuilding icons, coupled with the dedication and passion of up-and-coming athletes, ensures that the sport will continue to thrive in the Land Down Under.

The history of bodybuilding in Australia is a fascinating story of determination, passion, and the pursuit of physical perfection. From the early days of strongmen inspiring a nation to the golden era of bodybuilding and the rise of modern champions, Australia has played a significant role in shaping the sport’s global landscape.

As bodybuilding continues to evolve and grow, the influence of Australian competitors and the sport’s impact on the nation’s fitness culture remains as strong as ever. With a proud tradition and a bright future ahead, the legacy of bodybuilding in Australia is sure to endure for generations to come.

Next, you should check out our posts on Top 5 Austrian Fitness Influencers: Get Inspired and Transform Your Fitness Journey and Top 10 Australian Fitness Influencers You Need To Follow.

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