Is Arnold Schwarzenegger the Greatest Bodybuilder of All Time?

Arnold Schwarzenegger Is the Greatest Bodybuilder of All Time

Bodybuilding has always been an intense sport that’s been home to countless debates held by passionate fans.

The biggest one? Deciding who the greatest bodybuilder of all time truly is.

A lot of names have been brought up, but none as much as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Arnold is the greatest bodybuilder of all time

We all know that he’s a legend. But, is he really the greatest bodybuilder to ever grace a competitive stage?

In my opinion, yes, he unequivocally is.

Here’s why.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Competition History

Mr. Universe Reign

Before I can begin to explain the different reasons that make him the greatest of all time; we need to take a look at his bodybuilding competitive history.

The Austrian Oak made headlines as a competitive amateur bodybuilder by placing second to Chet Yorton at the NABBA Mr. Universe in 1966.

Young Arnold and Bill Pearl

He would return in 1967 to become the youngest person to ever win the NABBA Amateur Mr. Univere title; at only twenty years old.

As a professional athlete, Schwarzenegger would continue to compete at the same show three times after that in 1968, 1969, and 1970.

Mr. Olympia Legacy

History witnessed Arnold’s Olympia debut at the 1969 Mr. Olympia; where he disappointingly placed second to the reigning champ, Sergio Oliva.

Sergio would prove to be one of Schwarzenegger’s greatest rivals and the only one that ever made him question his greatness on the competitive stage.

Arnold vs Sergio

Arnold’s defeat in 1969 would motivate and push him to become the best possible version of himself.

His competition soon came to realize that Arnold at his best was unbeatable.

The Oak came back in 1970 to win his first of seven Mr. Olympia titles.

Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Olympia competition the following years:

  • 1970
  • 1971
  • 1972 (First Controversial Win) 
  • 1973
  • 1974
  • 1975 (Pumping Iron Was Filmed)
  • 1980 (Second and Last Controversial Win)

His last title, in 1980 -after nearly five years of retirement- went on to be the most controversial win of them all

He originally didn’t intend to participate in the contest, but he ended up doing so after getting in phenomenal shape due to his role in Conan.

Controversial Olympia 1980

Some people believe that he shouldn’t have won, while others defend the judge’s decision and claim that –even at his smallest- Arnold was good enough to win.

This would prove –in the eyes of many- that Schwarzenegger was just that good.

After claiming his seventh title, he would permanently retire from the competitive sport.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Measurements

We can’t talk about how Arnold is the greatest bodybuilder of all time, without mentioning his impressive measurements.

It’s very important to remember that he built his physique with basic gym equipment that was mostly composed of barbells and dumbbells.

The information that he –and all golden age bodybuilders- knew about training, nutrition, supplementation, and rest were also very limited.

Arnold Bicep Peak

These men literally invented bodybuilding and gave modern competitors the knowledge that they now possess.

The fact that their physiques were superior to the ones of modern bodybuilders is absolutely mind-blowing.

Modern bodybuilders may be bigger, but they’re definitely inferior when it comes down to the quality of their physiques.

Here are Arnold’s claimed measurements:

Height: 6’2

Competition Weight: 235lbs (250lbs at his biggest in 1974)

Arms: 22 Inches

Chest: 57 Inches

Legs: 28.5 Inches

Calves: 20 Inches

Waist: 34 Inches

As impressive as measurements are; they mean nothing unless they are complemented by elite genetics.

Arnold’s physique at its best was lean, massive, and symmetrical.

A prime Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t just bodybuilding perfection – it was art.

Here are the reasons that make Arnold Schwarzenegger the greatest bodybuilder, ever.

Reason #1: His Physique

It’s already been mentioned, but let’s be completely honest. Has there ever been a better physique than Arnold’s?

Some of the guys from the golden era came close, but Arnold still had the superior physique. That’s why he could never be defeated and that’s why he’s a seven-time Mr. Olympia.

Some experts would argue that he would lose in a competition next to Ronnie Coleman or Lee Haney – but that’s beside the point.

Arnold, Franco, and Frank

Arnold was from a different era, and even then, I would much rather have his physique over the other Olympia winners.

Arnold’s physique wasn’t just powerful, it was also beautiful, and it flowed perfectly.

Again, some bodybuilders might be bigger but -in my opinion- they’re not better.

Reason #2: He Retired Undefeated

Some fans of the sport believe that Arnold should’ve lost in 1980 and that Sergio Oliva should’ve won against him in 1972.

Obviously, a case can definitely be made for both of these contests regarding who should’ve won.

1980 Mr. Olympia

With that being said, the general consensus among experienced bodybuilding fans/experts is that Arnold deservingly won on both occasions.

Controversy aside, history is set in stone and Arnold will forever go down in history as an undefeated seven-time Mr. Olympia champion.

Reason #3: He Helped Define Bodybuilding

Before competitive bodybuilding became the huge movement that we know today; it was just a couple of guys competing in a small auditorium to win some extra cash.

The likes of Steve Reeves and Reg Park had already sparked an interest in bodybuilding, but things didn’t really take off until Arnold and the rest of the golden crew came onto the scene.

Arnold –alongside the rest of the golden era bodybuilders- created a movement that promoted health, fitness, and self-discipline.

Serge Nubret and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Back in the day, nothing seemed cooler than pumping iron and going to the beach with your friends and some beautiful women.

Arnold quickly became the face of bodybuilding and headlined the fitness movement that we all know very well today.

Magazines, supplements, and gym equipment grew in popularity. And, a lot of it was thanks to the Austrian Oak and his marketable image.

Reason #4: His Love for the Sport  

Arnold knew very well that if it weren’t for his bodybuilding career, he wouldn’t have made it as far as he actually did.

His bodybuilding career was a crucial part of his success and a determining factor that helped shape his legacy as a legendary movie star.

Even during his Hollywood peak, he never forgot where he came from and he took it upon himself to give back to the sport by creating the famous Arnold Classic Sports Festival.

Arnold Schwarzenegger 1991

The Arnold Classic is widely considered to be the second biggest competitive stage in bodybuilding; only bested by the Mr. Olympia.

His competition would give competitors the unique opportunity to take home a big paycheck and gain momentum towards the Mr. Olympia.

If you win the Arnold Classic, you’re automatically considered a serious threat for the Olympia Crown.

Arnold would also promote health and fitness on interviews, television programs, and as the Governor of California.

Reason #5: His Legacy

Most bodybuilders define themselves as such and are never able to leave the meathead stereotype behind.

Arnold never stopped being a bodybuilder because he actually brought bodybuilding into the mainstream; making it likable and relatable.

Arnold as Conan

With that being said, bodybuilding didn’t define Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold Schwarzenegger defined bodybuilding.

His success in Hollywood and politics are only further proof of just how large of a legacy he managed to build.


Arnold Schwarzenegger is the greatest bodybuilder of all time.

He built the greatest physique, he retired undefeated, and he helped shape the world of bodybuilding & fitness that we know today.

He did what many people consider impossible and achieved his iconic status through his achievements inside and outside of bodybuilding.

Arnold Preacher Curls

For some, Arnold is known as the Governor of California and as one of the greatest action stars of all time.

For the bodybuilding community, Arnold is arguably the greatest bodybuilder that the sport has ever seen.

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