Who Are the Top 10 Bodybuilders in the World?
If you were to walk up to a random bodybuilding fan and asked him/her who the top 10 bodybuilders in the world are – there’s a strong chance that their opinion will be completely different to yours.
Bodybuilding has undoubtedly always been a controversial sport that’s been known to generate a fair share of intense discussions – the subject of this article is home to one of them.
Before writing this piece of content, I considered several different factors that could help define the top 10 list in an accurate and unbiased manner.
After giving it some thought, I remembered that it’s bodybuilding –and not a different sport- that we’re talking about.
Although some people have actually created different ranking systems; it’s a known fact that bodybuilding is one of the most subjective sports in the world.
Sure, I could’ve based this ranking on titles, max gym lifts, and stats – but ultimately, the top 10 would still end up being completely subjective.
If we based the judging on size, Markus Ruhl would lead the rankings. If we talked about beauty and proportions, Bob Paris would be the obvious pick.
So, instead of coming up with a clever system, I decided to write this article based on intelligence and my gut feeling. You may or may not agree with my list, but, here it is nonetheless.
10 – Franco Columbu
Franco Columbu is one classic bodybuilding’s most familiar faces; alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Dave Draper, and the rest of the golden era crew.
The Sardinian Strongman won bodybuilding’s ultimate title – the Mr. Olympia- on two occasions; once in 1976 and the second time in 1981.
Although his second Olympia win resulted to be quite controversial – there’s no denying that he’s one bodybuilding’s greatest role models.
Not only because he was a fundamental piece of the movement that made the bodybuilding & fitness craze go viral – but also because of his incredible feats of strength that made him a household name.
Franco may not have the most titles in the world, but his physique and key role in the history of bodybuilding make him one of the best to ever do it.
Don’t agree? I can assure you that there isn’t a single bodybuilding fan in the world that’s never heard of Franco Columbu.
9 – Frank Zane
Frank Zane won the Mr. Olympia on three occasions (77’, 78’, 79’) and is one of bodybuilding’s most recognized figures.
Known by some as the father of aesthetics; Zane was famous for his extraordinary proportions and flawless posing.
Although he wasn’t usually the largest bodybuilder on stage; it didn’t really matter because his physique resembled that of a Greek statue.
Just like Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger, he is considered to be one of bodybuilding history’s most notable personalities.
Today, an entire generation of young bodybuilders strive to look like Zane did in his prime; prioritizing aesthetics over mass.
The newly created classic physique division is truly a testament to how much of an impact his physique still has on the sport.
8 – Sergio Oliva
Sergio Oliva was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s greatest rival and one of the most genetically gifted bodybuilders to ever grace the Mr. Olympia stage.
Known as “The Myth”, Sergio Oliva won the Mr. Olympia on three consecutive occasions and is the only man in history to have ever defeated Schwarzenegger.
Although his physique was unlike anything humanity had ever seen at that point in time; some people believe that Oliva had the potential to be even greater.
It was a known fact that the bodybuilding legend worked long hours and never really followed a consistent diet.
It’s hard to imagine how much better he would’ve looked had he followed an uninterrupted bodybuilding-oriented lifestyle.
It would definitely be crazy to not consider him as one of the top 10 bodybuilders in the world.
7 – Phil Heath
Phil Heath is the reigning Olympia champion and one of bodybuilding’s greatest and most controversial figures, ever.
Heath won his first-ever Olympia title at the young age of 31 and has been on an unbelievable run that has shown no signs of slowing down.
The package that he showcased at the 2011 Mr. Olympia (his first win) is arguably one of the greatest physiques to ever step on a competitive stage.
It has been said numerous times that if all the Mr. Olympia winners stepped on stage in their prime; Heath would easily be fighting for the win.
Sadly, Phil has never been able to replicate the form that earned him a spot on the bodybuilding hall of fame.
With seven Olympia titles, there’s no denying that he’s one of the best of all time. Hopefully, he manages to bring back the original physique that earned the right to call himself the 13th Mr. Olympia.
6 – Dexter Jackson
Dexter Jackson defeated Jay Cutler in 2008 and became the 12th man in history to ever win the Mr. Olympia.
His win came after a long journey of consistent showings and an even longer list of competitive wins against the world’s bodybuilding elite.
Jackson may not hold the record for the most Olympia titles, but he does hold the record for the most bodybuilding contest wins of all time.
As of 2016, Jackson had already won 28 IFBB professional contests; including the original Arnold Classic, five times. 2017 marked the year where he made his 18th Olympia appearance.
Dexter Jackson and Chris Dickerson are the only two men in the history of the sport to win both the Mr. and Masters Olympia competitions.
The 48-year-old continues to dominate the competition and is now looking to win a second Sandow at the 2018 Mr. Olympia.
5 – Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler is one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors. He lives, breathes, and promotes the sport, unlike any other Olympia champion.
Four-time Mr. Olympia, multiple Arnold Classic champion, and the winner of countless IFBB sanctioned contests; Jay is undoubtedly one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.
His enormous frame, monstrous physique, unmatched conditioning – and tight waist were only rivaled by a prime Ronnie Coleman; whom he defeated in 2006.
He’s the only bodybuilder in history to lose the Mr. Olympia title, only to come back and claim it the year after.
It’s a known fact that he served as a mentor to Phil Heath during his first years as an up-and-coming bodybuilder; only to pass on the Olympia torch to him in 2011.
Jay Cutler is truly the pinnacle of modern bodybuilding and a living legend that will go down forever in the history books.
4 – Dorian Yates
Known by his nickname “The Shadow”, Dorian Yates was bodybuilding’s first ever (successful) mass monster.
His imposing physique and crazy proportions earned him the right to be crowned Mr. Olympia on six consecutive occasions.
His shape, conditioning, and monstrous size made him too much to handle for the bodybuilding elite of the 90s.
There is no denying that Dorian Yates is one of the greatest –and arguably one of the most dominant- Mr. Olympia champions of all time.
He defeated the likes of Shawn Ray, Chris Cormier, Flex Wheeler, and Kevin Levrone. What’s more impressive is the fashion that he defeated them in.
Although his career was plagued with a decent amount of controversy, Dorian Yates –in his prime- was truly unbeatable.
3 – Lee Haney
If there’s a perfect word to describe eight-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney – it’s flawless.
The legendary bodybuilder won his first Olympia at the jaw-dropping age of 28 years old.
He was appointed by Bill Clinton as the chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
Unlike many eras where controversy was always a common issue, Lee Haney’s wins were never questioned for obvious reasons.
Rich Gaspari, Tom Platz, Sergio Oliva, and Dorian Yates are just a few of many bodybuilding legends that the eight-time Mr. Olympia defeated.
Till this day, he’s a positive figure that both amateur and veteran bodybuilders look up to for inspiration and motivation.
2 – Ronnie Coleman
There isn’t a single person in the entire bodybuilding community that can deny the magnitude of Ronnie Coleman’s greatness.
Coleman won the Mr. Olympia eight consecutive times; only getting better after each one of his legendary wins.
The eight-time Mr. Olympia competed during one of the most difficult eras of the entire sport; fighting off hall of famers like Shawn Ray, Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, and many more.
At the peak of his career, he was deadlifting and squatting 800lbs, bench pressing 500lbs, and dumbbell pressing 200lbs.
Even though he weighed in at nearly 300lbs at his biggest, he always managed to keep his aesthetics and proportions alive – something that’s truly rare for a mass monster.
The only bodybuilder to ever give Ronnie a run for his money was Jay Cutler, who became his successor and a four-time champ. Jay, himself, claims that Ronnie is the best bodybuilder of all time.
His training intensity -which is nearly impossible to replicate by anyone- has managed to inspire an entire generation.
1 – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Whereas some bodybuilding fans believe that Ronnie Coleman is the greatest bodybuilder ever, there are others –like myself- that know that the title belongs to no one other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A seven-time Mr. Olympia winner, massive movie star, and a successful politician – Schwarzenegger, against all expectations, became a living legend that’s bigger than all of bodybuilding.
Arnold is undoubtedly the single most popular figure of the entire golden era of bodybuilding and one of the pioneers that helped push the sport to the level that it has achieved.
Health & fitness, the supplement industry, and heck… working out in general – owe a lot of their popularity to Schwarzenegger and the rest of the golden era crew.
The Arnold Classic Sports Festival -established in 1980- is the second biggest bodybuilding show in the world; next to the Mr. Olympia.
Lastly, Arnold’s physique was truly flawless, even by today’s standards. It’s truly impossible to find a bodybuilder that can even come close to the Austrian Oak – that’s why Arnold will forever be numero uno.
Choosing who the top 10 bodybuilders in the world are, is not an easy task. Over the years, there have been numerous athletes who’ve managed to leave their mark on the sport.
Many fans choose to rank the best bodybuilders in the world based on their physique. Others go by the number of titles that they won.
Although there are definitely intelligent ways to formulate a ranking; I personally believe that a bodybuilder’s legacy and impact on the sport should also count for something.
Bodybuilding is relative and subjective. Not to mention that it’s impossible to compare a modern bodybuilder with one from the golden era.
Nowadays, we have access to a ton of new information on dieting, training, and performance enhancement that wasn’t available back in the 60s, 70s, and even 80s.
Can you imagine what Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Sergio Oliva and Franco Columbu would’ve looked like with all the resources that we have today? It definitely gives us something to think about.