By HGC / Photos by Dominic Soave
The history of Canadian bodybuilding cannot miss the name Ben Weider. He was a school dropout from Montreal who took bodybuilding out of sweat-soaked gyms and helped usher in the modern-day fitness boom attracting many followers from all over the world.
In his more than sixty years of involvement in bodybuilding, as Founding President of the International Federation of Body Builders (I.F.B.B.). Mr. Weider and his older brother Joe anticipated, then led, the worldwide fitness revolution and legitimized the sport of bodybuilding.
The I.F.B.B., founded by the Weiders in 1946, has 173 member national federations worldwide and sanctions thousands of amateur and professional competitive events.
Ben Weider was born in Montreal Feb. 1, 1923, to Jewish Polish immigrants. He and his brother Joe dropped out of grade school to support the family. He worked in garment sweatshops and restaurants before enlisting in the Canadian Army and serving during the Second World War.
Originally, Mr. Weider wanted to be an architect, but because he was Jewish he was denied entry-level positions in Montreal architecture firms. He worked with his brother Joe to put out a physique magazine and helped him operate his mail-order business in weightlifting equipment.
Before founding the I.F.B.B., Weider published the first issue of Your Physique magazine in 1939. Twenty-nine years later, in 1968 the publication was renamed Muscle Builder magazine.
Mr. Weider published several books on Napoleon and contended that the French emperor was poisoned in exile on St. Helena. Weider began his publishing empire with $7 at age 17, after building his own barbells out of junked car wheels and axles. As an adult, he introduced a line of home and gym exercise equipment and was the first to incorporate nutrition into bodybuilding.
Mr. Weider became the promoter and producer of physique contests and travelled the world as an ambassador of bodybuilding, introducing the sport overseas and organizing new national federations of the I.F.B.B. In 1947, Joe moved to New Jersey, later moving the U.S. Weider enterprises to Southern California, while Ben remained in Montreal.
One might say that the history of bodybuilding dates back to Ancient Greece when famous athlete Milon of Croton (late 6th century BC) would train in the off years by carrying a newborn calf on his back every day until the Olympics took place. By the time the events were to take place, he was carrying a four year old cow on his back. There might have been born the principle of perseverance in training and progressive overload present today.