Most people, if they put in a little effort, can build up a fair amount of muscle mass.
There’s a big difference between the casual goer to gym and professional bodybuilders, though.
But nowadays, Bodybuilding is out of reach with the idea that “bigger is better” considering the not-so-impressive bodies of professionals these days.
It wasn’t about size back in the day. It’s been about aesthetics and proportionality.
There was almost no reliance on mass to win titles for bodybuilding and the drugs to do so.
An impressive physique certainly has the muscular size to it, but it should contain perfect symmetry and tremendous detail to make it appear as if someone sculpted them from a marble slab.
Not as if they were just inflated with hot air muscles in the back of a laboratory holding water.
So, there must be the best bodybuilders who fit into the textbook definition.
To answer this, we developed a list of the greatest bodybuilders of all time based on their overall physique, muscularity, winning profile & overall positive influence they had on the sport.
Here’s what we think are top 10 best bodybuilders in the world:
10. Dexter Jackson
He is the oldest and experienced top Olympia won contestant in this age, starting his streak from 1999 to this day in 2019.
Unsurprisingly, he is planning to compete in 2020, Mr. Olympia, at the age of 50.
We know Dexter Jackson for having the best set of abs in bodybuilding, dubbed ‘The Blade’ for his razor-sharp conditioning and consistent contest-ready-shape.
Besides owning a record high of 28 professional bodybuilding titles from the IFBB, Jackson has won Arnold Classic 5 times more than any other bodybuilder.
He has also taken part in 19 competitions for Mr. Olympia (World Record).
And, after several years in the top four, Jackson finally tasted victory when he won the 2008 Mr. Olympia contest.
Dexter Jackson, epitomizing the symbol of the time of our father’s, never seems to age.
Jackson has won the cover of countless bodybuilding magazines and articles since 1999, having competed in every single Mr. Olympia contest.
It is almost impossible for any Olympia level top bodybuilders to compete for so long.
9. Phil Heath
Phil Heath made his professional debut in 2006 after discovering bodybuilding in 2002.
From 2011 to 2017, he won seven consecutive Mr. Olympia wins before Shawn Rhoden dethroned him last year.
Phillip Heath, who by his nickname, “The Gift,” many knows, grew up in Seattle, Washington, and was a typical jock of high school.
He played varsity basketball and excelled enough to win a University of Denver basketball scholarship.
Although he enjoyed basketball, he was searching for his next challenge and discovered the world of bodybuilding in 2002 only after college.
For his first event, The Rocky Mountain NPC USA Championship “Northern,” he boosted his body from 185 pounds to 215 pounds of pure muscle, before cutting down to 192 pounds.
Heath won–quite the way to start his career. He trained harder, grew larger, and finally picked up many other titles, including his IFBB Pro card and seven Mr. Olympia wins.
8. Lou Ferrigno
Without the Incredible Hulk, there would be no list of top 10 bodybuilders complete.
Lou Ferrigno had a difficult childhood because he was very shy because of his hearing loss (which resulted from an ear infection in his youth).
He was a gangly kid, reading comic books, fancied to be as strong as the muscular characters inside–and he certainly achieved that goal (in fact exceeded it).
When he was 12, he first picked up a weight and trained enough over the next decade to become the youngest man to win twice the IFBB Mr. Universe competition.
He was also the tallest to do so, and the only one to win two consecutive wins.
He was also among the youngest to enter the prestigious contest of Mr. Olympia, strutting on stage at the age of 23.
Lou was a serious threat to Arnold during his last bodybuilding years. Many speculated that Lou would be the one who would dominate Mr. Olympia after Arnold.
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen as Lou got interested in pursuing his Hollywood career as they offered him the role of The Incredible Hulk.
In 1976 instead, Franco Columbu took over the title of Mr. Olympia.
By becoming The Incredible Hulk and entering the Hollywood world, he eventually realized his childhood dream.
7. Flex Wheeler
Kenneth “Flex” Wheeler racked up an incredible 17 professional championships, but he never won the Sandow, finishing at second position three times.
He won a record four times for the Arnold Classic and was once described by Arnold Schwarzenegger as “the greatest bodybuilders he had ever seen.”
Flex is regarded by experienced bodybuilding fans as the best of the best, not only for aesthetic purposes but as a bodybuilder in general.
If you lined up all the pro bodybuilders from all the different eras and put them all in one place, you’d be hard-pressed not to choose Flex as having the best physique among them.
He was all bodybuilding represented: with very few flaws, size, and detail.
In fact, he won the all first 4 shows he entered, including a pretty amazing 2nd place finish in his first Mr. Olympia, we can look back on his rookie debut in 1993.
Flex Wheeler had the best mid-section and a chiseled yet big body to accompany.
He had all-size, mass, definition, proportion, and symmetry.
Throughout his career, he was often compared to near-perfect legends like Steve Reeves and Bob Paris, yet attained an unprecedented level of muscularity.
6. Kevin Levrone
If we recognize Flex for aesthetic physique, his closest rival, Kevin Levrone is known for having a muscular physique.
Considered by many to be the most underrated bodybuilder of all time, with his incredible arms and delts, Kevin Levrone consistently impressed fans along with a chiseled midsection.
Although he has won 23 titles for pro shows, 2 Arnold classics & 4 time Olympia second rankings, he has never won the prestigious title of Mr. Olympia.
But, as he made his comeback at the age of 51 (after his unofficial retirement in 2003 for tricep tear), the ‘Uncrowned Mr. Olympia’ took another shot at the title in 2016.
Despite placing 16th, both fans and athletes agreed that he was the competition’s true champion competing at such an age.
The Maryland Muscle Machine had just fallen short of securing greatness, placing four times in second place at the Olympia.
5. Lee Haney
Haney was able to retire at the extremely young age of 31 with a record-tying 8 Mr. Olympia titles (1984-1991) and foster a career outside of bodybuilding.
The only famous bodybuilder ever to win Olympia and never lose his title afterward.
After a record of eight victories, he retired. In the 1980s, Haney dominated the world of bodybuilding and has since retired to a much quieter life.
Many claim he retired because he knew that he was about defeated by a guy below.
4. Dorian Yates
The first real Mass Monster Dorian Yates, who like Haney was undefeated Olympia, ranks fourth in our list.
Dorian began a new age of bodybuilding, with the size and granite-like conditioning anyone had ever seen.
Dorian throughout his career has won Six Olympia trophies.
What makes Dorian Yates one of the all-time’s best bodybuilders ever is not only his six Mr. Olympia titles (1992-1997) but also his special training style.
While we knew Dorian for his training four days a week, several professional bodybuilders trained six days a week.
The reason was, his high intense training style & he reached the full muscle recovery with shorter yet intensive four days a week.
We also knew him before anyone else for bringing his extremely shredded glutes and hamstrings to the stage.
Besides his accomplishments and some of the most granite-hard bodybuilding conditioning, the work ethic of Yates makes him an icon for many fans.
Yates worked 365 days a year with a machine-like focus on training, with intense and brutal routines (which was also one reason for his early retirement).
3. Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler, personally speaking, is my favorite bodybuilder.
Although Jay spent most of his career fighting with Ronnie Coleman in second, he’s a four-time Mr. Olympia on his own.
He would have been Mr. Olympias winning the best bodybuilder of history if it weren’t for Big Ron.
Also, Jay is the only Mr. Olympia to lose the competition and then come back to win the title.
Jay Cutler is a winner of four times Mr. Olympia (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010).
One of the modern-day mass builders Cutler weighed in on the stage at a solid 275 pounds.
Cutler is considered to have one of the most massive yet aesthetically appealing physiques in the modern era with his massive upper body and feathered quads.
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Even if you know nothing about bodybuilding, you’ll probably know who Arnold Schwarzenegger is.
The bodybuilder from Austria set records in the world of fitness, becoming the youngest person to win the title of Mr. Universe when he was 20.
Over the years, he racked up countless titles, including four more titles of Mr. Universe and seven prestigious titles of Mr. Olympia.
After an illustrious bodybuilding career, Schwarzenegger (who, after migrating to the U.S. in 1968, had become a U.S. citizen) began to conquer another industry–Hollywood.
Many consider him as the world’s best bodybuilder ever.
However, Schwarzenegger could not compete with the standards of today in terms of athleticism.
In fact, many bodybuilders have shown better strength and mass since the early 1990s when competing with Schwarzenegger.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has successfully changed bodybuilding for decades with his charismatic personality and never say die mindset, facing all odds.
An unknown fact about Arnold is that throughout his career he has also competed and won several powerlifting contests.
1. Ronnie Coleman
Ronnie Coleman without a doubt is the world’s no. 1 bodybuilder of all time.
When 1997, Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates retired and Paul Dillett collapsed on stage, Ronnie Coleman stunned the bodybuilding world after winning his first Mr. Olympia title in 1998.
Coleman took the show away from Shawn Ray, Nasser El Sonbaty, Lee Priest, Flex Wheeler, and Kevin Levrone, all of them have been jockeying for years against Dorian for first place.
Ronnie came and ripped in a massive and perhaps Dorian was glad he retired at the time because the size and conditioning of Ronnie were unmatched to this point.
In the early stages of his career, Ronnie Coleman had it all, including mass and conditioning.
Not only was Ronnie Coleman one of the biggest bodybuilders ever (300 pounds stage weight), but he was also one of the strongest.
It’s frightening to think after working out with an 800+ pound squat and deadlift, Ronnie still used to say that he hasn’t worked as hard as he might.
Coleman impressed judges quickly at his first competition in 1990 and soon began to dominate the world of bodybuilding, winning his IFBB Pro card and countless titles.
In fact, he has most IFBB professional holds the record for the most victories–a remarkable 26, including eight coveted Mr. Olympia titles.
With amazing physiques, each generation has had its fair share of great bodybuilders.
Focus moved from mass to aesthetics (Rhoden) and back to mass (current 2019 Mr. Olympia, Curry).
Lean, aesthetic physique, and relentless efforts to better the human body were the one consistent factor.
I hope you agree with our top 10 bodybuilders list. Please share this post with your gym mates on social media.