Here you will find a list of what we consider the top bodybuilders of all time. Of course there will always be subjectivity in this kind of article, considering everybody has their own opinion in terms of the bodybuilders overall physique, competition winnings, impact in the bodybuilding world as well as society in general, etc. This list will combine all of the areas possible, which not only includes the bodybuilders physique at their prime, but also the popularity, impact, competition winnings, and more.
#15 – Samir Bannout
Samir won the Mr. Olympia competition in 1983. Similarly to Frank Zane, Samir had very pleasing aesthetics and was one of the first to display the extremely striated triceps. He also displayed lower back conditioning that is now referred to as the “Christmas tree”.
#14 – Frank Zane
Frank Zane had the physique that most people want to have. He wasn’t a mass monster, but he focused more on his conditioning, muscle symmetry, and he of course had a pleasing structure which enabled him to win the Mr. Olympia competition. A thin waist and wide shoulders made him one of the best bodybuilders of all time.
#13 – Rich Gaspari
A very influential and successful bodybuilder that now runs Gaspari Nutrition. Gaspari was able to come in second place in the Mr. Olympia competition three times. He is most noticeable for his EXTREME vascularity, and he had pretty good legs as well. His short arms and structure couldn’t give him the sandow, but Gaspari is one of the most popular bodybuilders of all time.
#12 – Kevin Levrone
Kevin Levrone is known as one of the genetic freaks of bodybuilding. He never won the Mr. Olympia competition, but has come very close to winning it and was a top contender for many years. His huge delts and arms were a notable strong point and he came in very great conditioning. The Maryland Muscle Machine is a very inspirational bodybuilder that now runs his own website where he completes transformations and inspires others to complete their goals.
#11 – Flex Wheeler
Kenneth Wheeler, also known as flex wheeler, is one of the most popular bodybuilders of all time and came very close to winning the Mr. Olympia competition (the highest achievement a bodybuilder can achieve). He began training for martial arts but eventually stepped on the bodybuilding stage. Wheeler was known for his confidence. Wheeler had just about everything it took to become an Olympia champion. Incredible symmetry, round muscle bellies, and great conditioning.
#10 – Larry Scott
Larry Scott was the first crowned Mr. Olympia winner and was considered the golden boy of bodybuilding during that era. He had unmatched arms and although he was told he wouldn’t be a very great bodybuilder because of his shoulders, incredible size and conditioning won the crowd like no other bodybuilder.
#9 – Phil Heath
(Update – Moved from #13 – #9) Phil “The Gift” Heath is considered to be, by most, the new age Ronnie Coleman in terms of potential to retain the Olympia crown with sheer dominance. All of his Mr. Olympia placings have been in the top five, and he has won the 2011 and 2012 Mr. Olympia competition, beating his friend Jay Cutler and rival Kai Greene. The gift’s round muscles and cartoon character structure makes him to appear much larger on stage, and he seems to be making steady improvements every year. His impact on bodybuilding as an icon isn’t as great as some other names, but a 2-time Mr. Olympia winner deserves some recognition.
#8 – Lou Ferrigno
Granted that Lou never won the Mr. Olympia title (the biggest accomplishment a bodybuilder can achieve). Lou played a MAJOR impact in promoting bodybuilding in the industry today. Similarly to Arnold Schwarzenegger, if you mentioned bodybuilding, a picture of the incredible hulk (lou ferrigno) will most likely come to mind. Lou was a very tall bodybuilder but made up for it with incredible size. He even made Arnold Schwarzenegger look small at times. To many, he may be known mostly for his role in the incredible hulk series.
#7 – Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler is the current (at the time of this article) Mr. Olympia. He has won the Mr. Olympia competition 4 times and has placed second to the legendary Ronnie Coleman numerous times, sometimes giving him a good run for his money. Jay has been an incredible ambassador of the sport and has promoted bodybuilding extremely well as the representative of the sport. Jay is known for his incredible size, wide back, huge legs, and consistency. Although he does not always nail his condition, Jay has not placed out of the top two for many years.
#6 – Sergio Oliva
Sergio was another bodybuilder that was way ahead of his time. Sergio had incredibly massive arms and unmatched legs for his time. Bodybuilders have only been able to match the leg size proportions in the more recent years of bodybuilding where most people in that era didn’t have much leg development at all. He had an incredibly small physique and has won the Mr. Olympia competition three times.
#5 – Franco Columbu
Franco was a friend that was often seen training with Arnold in the Pumping Iron film. He is one of the most popular shorter bodybuilders and has won the Mr. Olympia competition during his prime. Along with his popularity as a short bodybuilder, Franco was known for his incredible strength. Most people would be surprised to know that Franco could bench, deadlift, and squat more than Arnold could.
#4 – Lee Haney
Lee Haney shares the 8-consecutive Mr. Olympia sandow record with Ronnie Coleman. Similarly to Dorian, Lee brought incredible size and proportions to the stage. Standing around 5’11″ tall, Lee competed at around 245 pounds. He had charisma and confidence and retired at the early age of 30 (bodybuilders are known now to compete well into their 40s).
#3 – Dorian Yates
This six-time Mr. Olympia winner set a new standard for size. Dorian is an English bodybuilder that is most known for his extreme work ethic and intense training. Although Dorian never had the genetic advantage that most bodybuilders have, he made up for it by training intense with very heavy weight. He also was one of the first bodybuilders to create a personal training video that showcased what he put into the gym. Even with a torn bicep, Dorian was able to win the Mr. Olympia competition.
#2 – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the face of bodybuilding, and even now when you mention the word “bodybuilding”, most people will still think about Arnold. Arnold was ahead of his time and promoted bodybuilding not only through the competitive stage, but his massive physique gave him unique roles in action movies. Arnold won 7 Mr. Olympia titles. He is most notable for his Chest, Biceps, and Calves. His legs were not horrible, as they were good for their time, but do not match up to the current expectations of bodybuilders. Arnold stood 6’2″ and competed usually around 240 pounds.
#1 – Ronnie Coleman
Many other articles and listings will have had Arnold placed in the number one spot. No doubt Arnold is probably the most popular bodybuilder and also has an astonishing 7 Olympia victories under his belt, and had an unmatched physique for his time, but let’s think about it more throughly. If Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman stood head to head both in their prime, how big would the difference be? Of course it is unfair to compare the two, since sports supplementation, training, and much more has advanced in the many years between the bodybuilders competitive career, but it is undeniable that Ronnie Coleman was superior. Ronnie stood as high as 290+ pounds on the competitive stage and every body part was considered a strong one. His back is considered to be the best in all of bodybuilding. Huge 23″ arms with incredible bicep peaks, a wide chest and back, tree-trunk legs, and more secured 8 consecutive sandows for Ronnie Coleman.