Joe Weider, Father of BodybuildingLeave a Reply

Born in 1922, Joe Weider grew up in the Great Depression. Joe and his brother Ben couldn't make it home from school in their rough sector of Montreal without being beaten up or picked on by neighborhood thugs. The brothers began building physically powerful bodies with a set of barbells made with parts found in a junkyard as they grew into young men. Joe certainly became the strongest kid in the neighborhood by age 18, an achievement that led him to win Quebec's weightlifting competition, the most important of that era.

Joe and Ben Weider have been the driving forces behind a health and fitness industry that's now grown into dozens of corporations worldwide worth billions of dollars. Things haven't always been this good for bodybuilders.

"In the late 1930's and '40's bodybuilding was very primitive," Joe, who immigrated to the States from Montreal, Canada, in 1947, told Flex Magazine in July, 2002.

The Amateur Athletic Union added a bodybuilding competition to the existing weightlifting contest in 1939 due to the increase in popularity of the sport – the next year this competition was named AAU Mr. America. Around the mid-1940's the majority of bodybuilders became angry with the AAU, because they only permitted amateur competitors and they placed more focus on the Olympic sport of bodybuilding.

The tale of how the International Federation of Bodybuilders came into being is one of the sport's most engaging true legends. The Weider brothers had organized a bodybuilding competition, and a few scant moments before its opening ceremony, the AAU threatened to yank their sanction. With a packed audience and a lineup of athletes ready to go onstage, Ben and Joe made a bold resolution to never again be held hostage by the AAU or anyone else for that matter.

Joe is now considered the father of modern bodybuilding, and has been nicknamed the Master Blaster. By 1940 Joe was publishing a muscle magazine titled Your Physique, and in 1945 he began another publication called Muscle Power. In the 1960's, Joe owned the Weider Barbell Company, with offices in Jersey City, New Jersey, and then in California.

Joe Weider And Arnold Schwarzenegger

By 1968, Joe Weider was putting out a slew of bodybuilding publications, and was bodybuilding's most powerful voice. In 1968 he recognized the potential of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who by then owned every bodybuilding title in Europe. Weider flew Schwarzenegger to Florida for the Mr. Universe contest, watched him lose and pronounced him the sport's future.

Creating Champions in China

Judging bodybuilding radical and nonconforming, the Chinese Government banned the sport in 1953. Instantly identifying the void created by this verdict, Ben Weider journeyed to China in 1954 as a guest of the All-China Sports Committee to endorse the benefits of bodybuilding and to lecture on the principles of a safe and effective weight-training program. The Weider system provided the structure and organization Chinese bodybuilders needed to design their bodybuilding programs.

The Weider Principles

Over the years, Joe Weider came up with the Weider principles of bodybuilding. These principles are:

  • Pre-exhaustion training – pre-fatiguing a larger muscle with an isolation, single joint movement so it can be even more exhausted by the compound movements to follow.
  • Muscle priority training – working out your most undersized muscles first, so as to subject them to the greatest possible effort.
  • Pyramiding – when using several sets for a particular workout, doing your first set with less weights for more reps, steadily adding to the weight and reducing the reps over the remainder of your sets.
  • Supersets – working opposite muscle groups in back-to-back fashion, taking as little rest as possible in between sets.
  • Tri-sets – doing three sets consecutively for the same body part with as little rest as possible in between sets.
  • Set system training – simply doing more than one set for each exercise.
  • Giant sets – doing 4-6 exercises for the same body part with little rest between sets.
  • Instinctive training – this entails experimenting with your workouts and being attentive to how your body acts in response to certain types of exercise.
  • Compound sets – alternating two exercises for the same muscle group, taking as little rest as possible between each set.
  • Staggered sets – training smaller, slower-developing body parts like calves, or forearms in between all sets for your major body parts.

Of course, Weider didn't discover any of the principles used by bodybuilders, but he did name them. Pumping became known as the "Weider Flushing Principle." Training with loose form was retitled the "Weider Cheating Principle." Even adding more weight to the bar was credited as the "Weider Overload Principle." Terms like supersets, giant sets and descending sets are all part of the terminology of today's lifter, courtesy of Joe Weider.

Weider's training principles have influenced athletes, coaches and sports scientists to alter their training. But ask him which achievement he is most proud of and like a true father he'll tell you he loves them all.

"I'm proud of everything that I did over the years," Weider says. "Everything that I did was for the love of it."

Joe's dream, even during the rough years in Montreal, was to bring accurate, complete training advice and routines to the masses, a dream that has placed him in his current position as publisher and editor of Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Prime and Men's Fitness Magazines.

Joe is clearly the father of modern bodybuilding, and regardless of what people say about him, he possesses a tremendous love for the sport. He built the empire of bodybuilding, and he deserves respect.


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