Joe Weider, Trainer of Champions

Joe Weider, the Master Blaster
and Trainer of Champions since 1936

Bodybuilding’s Visionary:
Joe Weider

“To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.”
Anatole France

Written by Rob Wilkins,
Executive Assistant to Ben Weider
Except where noted, all photographs courtesy of WEIDER PUBLICATIONS

The remarkable Joe Weider is considered by many as the founder of modern bodybuilding.  More than anyone else in history, he stands as a pillar of encouragement and knowledge to millions of individuals with the desire to improve their physique.  Through his magazines, Joe helped create international bodybuilding stars, provided scientific-based training principles and most of all, inspired people to make dramatic changes in their life.

Born November 29, 1922, Joe grew up in a tough neighborhood in Montreal, Canada during the Great Depression. To help his hard-working family make ends meet, he dropped out of grammar school at 12 years old to deliver fruit and groceries at the local market.

Undersized and weighing only 115 pounds, he was no match for the neighborhood thugs who routinely picked fights with him and his younger brother, Ben.  Tired of this abuse, Joe headed off to Johnny Young’s Wrestling Club to learn the latest wrestling techniques. Due to his slight frame, the coach quickly dismissed him as he knew he would eventually get injured.

With this rejection, Joe’s passion for developing a stronger body intensified as he sought out information on bodybuilding by visiting the local news-stand where he purchased two used bodybuilding magazines for a few pennies, including a 1930 edition of the Milo Barbell Company’s Strength magazine. These publications provided him with the fundamentals necessary to start lifting weights and provided the spark for him to publish his own magazine. Lacking the funds to purchase a weight set, Joe scavenged a local train yard for an old axle and two flywheels which he shaped into a barbell. As his physique filled out, his friends called him “Tarzan” and he was no longer a target of the neighborhood bullies.

Joe’s reputation as a knowledgeable strength coach and disciplined athlete spread throughout the community and soon, a scout from the Verdun Barbell Club in Montreal invited him to join their club.

As soon as Joe entered the Verdun Barbell Club he thought he was in heaven. As the skinny kid, Joe cherished the way the successful power-lifters and weight-lifters shared their training secrets with him and the time spent at this club made a huge impact on Joe’s life.

Two years later, Joe competed in his first amateur contest, the Montreal District Senior Meet, where he lifted 70 pounds more than competitors in his weight class. His total surpassed even those of the light-heavyweights and heavyweights and earned him a national ranking.

Ben and Joe Weider: Brothers of Iron

His competitive success and his ongoing physical transformation inspired him to educate others. This was a huge challenge as in the late 1930’s, most medical authorities soundly discouraged bodybuilding and gyms were few and far between. Those interested in improving their physiques shared training ideas through letters and magazines.  Joe felt that the magazines during this time period published incomplete and often erroneous information and he dreamed of publishing his own magazines.

In August 1940, with a savings of only seven dollars, Joe began to work on his first magazine, Your Physique. Working out of his parent’s house, orders poured in and within 18 months Joe had made a $10,000 profit – a small fortune at a time when a loaf of bread cost four cents and a gallon of gas eleven cents. In 1942, remembering his own difficulties in finding training equipment, he started the mail-order Weider Barbell Company.

In 1946, Joe and Ben rented Montreal’s Monument National Theater to host the first Mr. Canada.  On the order of Bob Hoffman, the American Athletic Union (AAU), who controlled bodybuilding in Canada, decided in the final moments leading up to the competition, to pull their AAU sanction and threatened to blackball any bodybuilder who participated in the Weider’s competition.  Fed up with the unfair treatment from the AAU officials, the Weiders immediately decided to organize their own bodybuilding federation that would free them from the AAU and provide bodybuilders an option in which to compete.   This alternative federation was the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB).

There were many bodybuilding federations when the IFBB was formed but Joe’s relationship with bodybuilders made them feel Joe was their friend and they remained loyal to him. Joe was a bodybuilder at heart and bodybuilders knew Joe was keenly aware of what they needed; sound training principles, a well-written magazine with inspiring photos and a way to make a respectable living from the sport. Providing these basic needs became Joe’s life work.

Perhaps the item that brings the most satisfaction to Joe is the fact that the medical profession is now promoting the benefits of a bodybuilding program.  A week rarely goes by without a medical study confirming to the general public the benefits of a bodybuilding program.

“For centuries, man has searched for the ‘fountain of youth’ and in the bodybuilding lifestyle, they finally found it,” said Joe. In the July 1950 edition of Your Physique, Joe boldly declared in a column titled, “I Predict,” that taking part in a regular bodybuilding program, one would maintain a high level of fitness, reduce risk of chronic disease and premature death.

The Master Blaster, Joe Weider, Trainer of Champions
On the cover of the 60th anniversary MUSCLE & FITNESS

“One of my main goals with our magazines was to educate the public and explain that if they followed a bodybuilding lifestyle, it would greatly improve the quality of their life and overall appearance,” said Joe.  In addition to using his magazines as a source of bodybuilding information, he created the Weider Training Principles. To establish the most effective bodybuilding exercises, Joe spent countless hours in various gyms studying, discussing and cataloging the techniques that were effective for bodybuilders, weight-lifters and power-lifters alike. By 1950, he compiled 12 years of his observations into these training principles which to date, has provided millions of dedicated students the basic principles they need to build a strong, muscular body.

On August 1, 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association (AHA) released a joint statement confirming adults will benefit from performing activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance. In addition, for the first time ever, a muscle-strengthening recommendation is now included.  The joint statement also mentions how new research links muscular strength to health benefits, such as protection against bone loss and a decreased risk of all-cause mortality, just as Joe predicted nearly six decades earlier (to view this report, click here … “Physical Activity and Public Health: Updated Recommendation for Adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association“).

In addition to the health benefits associated with a bodybuilding lifestyle, many bodybuilders use the discipline and focus they developed while lifting weights to become successful leaders in other aspects of life such as politics and business.  “Nothing brings me as much pride and happiness as to see our champion bodybuilders upon their retirement from the competitive stage, continue to thrive in other areas of life,” said Joe.

“For example, two of our former Olympia champions, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (’90-’92) and the great Lee Haney (’99-’02) were appointed by the President of the United States to serve as Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.  In addition, Lee Labrada and Rich Gaspari have used the attributes which led to their success as bodybuilders and created two of the industry’s most respected supplement companies.”

Joe and Betty on the occasion of their
45th Wedding Anniversary in 2006

“From the age of 15 until the present time, bodybuilding has been my passion and to witness the significant progress we have made from the early days to now clearly demonstrates to me, with hard work and a little bit of luck, dreams do come true.”

The first Olympia competition was held on September 18, 1965 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York. Created by Joe, the Mr. Olympia title was the ultimate title and to achieve it, the top bodybuilding stars in the world would face each other to determine who had the best physique.

The inaugural Mr. Olympia was a huge success as hundreds of fans crammed into the theater to witness the crowning of the world’s number one bodybuilder. “There was so much enthusiasm and energy in the crowd we knew right away that the Mr. Olympia competition would be a tremendous success,” commented Ben.   “The fans were so excited, many of them were still in the theater well past 2:00 am.”

Joe felt the Mr. Olympia competition would create endorsement opportunities for the athletes and provide them with the ability to make a decent living from the sport. Joe’s ultimate plan was for the Mr. Olympia title to help create international bodybuilding superstars and raise the profile of the sport.

The 2007 Mr. Olympia was the most successful bodybuilding competition of all time and enjoying this spectacular competition the most was the proud creator, Joe Weider. One of the highlights of the competition occurred when the crowd of over 7,000 gave Joe a standing ovation in appreciation for all he has done for bodybuilding and as a sign of respect for this living legend.

“Attending the Olympia Weekend is the highlight of my year,” said Joe. “I am fortunate enough to see so many former champions and old friends. These are the people I love. These are the people of my spirit and my soul; their sincerity, devotion and support of the sport is endless. Also, I get the opportunity to meet so many fans who have directly contributed to the growth of the sport.”

Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia winner, received $1,000 for winning the title.  As a sign of the progress and support the sport enjoys today, Jay Cutler, the 2007 Mr. Olympia winner received $155,000.  “I am extremely proud that we are now able to offer such a large amount of money to the Olympia competitors,” said Joe.  “Thanks to the year-round efforts of my brother Ben, David Pecker, Jim Manion and Robin Chang, we will soon be proud to offer a prize purse totaling one million dollars.”

Joe Weider and a young Arnold Schwarzenegger

Joe continues to work tirelessly to promote healthy nutrition and fitness and in recognition of his efforts, he has been the recipient of many awards.  Some of his most recent awards include:

* 2005, inducted into the inaugural class of the National Fitness Hall of Fame.

* May 8, 2006, inducted into the Young Men’s – Young Women’s Hebrew Association Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame, Montreal, Canada.

* On Labor Day 2006, California Governor and former Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, presented Joe with the Venice Muscle Beach Hall of Fame’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

* May 2007, named as one of six inaugural recipients of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS) Lifetime Achievement Award.

* On July 9, 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger presented Joe with a state proclamation declaring the day as “Joe Weider Day.”

While many people have helped bodybuilding grow into one of the world’s most popular sports today, bodybuilding as we know it would not exist without the clear vision of Joe Weider.

Without question, Joe Weider has played an influential role in the lives of millions of people.  The following are tributes to Joe:

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Governor, California
I honestly don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing if Joe had not come into my life.  From the day I entered public service and politics, Joe has contributed generously to my campaigns.  And he has always stood behind me, giving moral support that means the world to me.

Bodybuilding has a tremendous impact psychologically.  When you pick up a weight and start exercising, it’s impossible to feel hopeless or helpless.  From one workout to the next, even from one rep to the next, you feel your body changing.  And if you can change your body, you can change other things.

People everywhere look better and feel better because of the pioneering work of Joe Weider.

For that we all owe him thanks.  And for what Joe gave to me personally, I owe all the thanks I can give.

Joe Weider and David Pecker, Chairman & CEO,
American Media Inc.


David Pecker – AMI Chairman & CEO
Without Joe Weider, fitness as we know it would not exist. Joe pioneered training techniques that form the basic foundation for pretty much every exercise program today and at the same time created an entire industry around it. How many of our society’s visionaries can claim similar accomplishments?

Rafael Santonja – IFBB President
For the past thirty years, it has been an honor and privilege to call Joe Weider a trusted friend.

My feelings of respect and admiration remain intact through the years. Some of my best memories in life are of the numerous trips and discussions I’ve had with Joe. Beginning with our first meeting, his bright dynamic mind, golden heart and iron determination had a strong impact on me and his powerful influence has helped me make key decisions in my personal life.

Joe, with his brother Ben, are the founders of modern bodybuilding and deserve the utmost respect and appreciation for all they have done in developing and promoting this sport we all love and enjoy today.

Jim Manion – Chairman, IFBB Professional League
“No ifs, ands or butts about it – without Joe Weider there would be no sport of bodybuilding as we know it today. When the NPC was formed, Joe Weider was there to support me and our sport through exposure in his magazines. You are the best Joe, thank you for everything!”

Jay Cutler – Mr. Olympia (’06 & ’07)
Joe Weider is the Godfather of bodybuilding. He was the first one to offer me a contract before I was even an IFBB Pro. He brought me to California and really made my bodybuilding career take off. Joe made bodybuilding what it is today, and I owe him a lot. Thank you, Joe!

Joe and Ben Weider with Dr. Rafael Santonja,
President of the International Federation of Bodybuilding
and Fitness, at the 2007 Mr. Olympia

Jenny Lynn – Ms. Figure Olympia (’06 & ’07)
On behalf of all women physique athletes, words cannot express how grateful we are to Joe Weider for his continuous support in promoting women’s bodybuilding, fitness and figure competitions. On a personal level, I sincerely thank Mr. Weider for his role in creating this industry which I love and which allows me to use my visibility as Ms. Olympia (Figure) to serve as a positive role model for women and promote the benefits of physical activity.

Robin Chang – Vice President/AMI Events
True innovators have a way of altering the landscape.  They bring something new and exciting to an unsuspecting audience, leaving them yearning for more.  Like a divine architect, Joe Weider laid the foundations for the modern sport of bodybuilding.  By taking unprecedented risks, he single handedly inspired generations of athletes to push the limits of the human form.  Without him, there would be no Mr. Olympia and no legacy of great champions.  Joe is the epitome of all that bodybuilding is and will be.

John Balik – Publisher, Iron Man Magazine
Joe Weider’s vision and tenacity have propelled bodybuilding from obscurity to worldwide recognition. On a personal level, Joe has been both a mentor and an inspiration to me.  He always urged me to perfect my art (bodybuilding photography) and the opportunities he provided allowed me to realize my dreams.

Joe, thank you for your dedication to a sport we both love.

Gunter Schlierkamp – IFBB Superstar
I started bodybuilding at 16 and the first name I came across was Joe Weider. In the gym where I trained, everyone was familiar with the “Master Blaster.”

From the start, I read all of his magazines and religiously used the Weider Training Principals in my program.  I heard how Joe helped many people to achieve their goals and motivate them to live better and healthier life’s.

As an aspiring amateur, my goal was to meet Joe and become a Weider athlete.

Without question, as the Father of Bodybuilding, Joe has been a positive influence in millions of life’s, mine being one of them.  Like a father, he has motivated and inspired me to be the best I can be.

Fortunately, I’ve been a Weider Athlete for 10 years and I have to say that I could not work for a better company or family.

Joe’s passion for the sport and the drive to help other people improve the quality of their life is something I have never seen before. Thank you Joe for the life and opportunities I have and for always having the time to share your wisdom with me.  I sincerely appreciate it.

The Weider brothers, Joe and Ben,
at the 2006 Olympia Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada
*photo courtesy of Rob Wilkins

Jim Rockell – IFBB Head Judge
As a teenager living in Rochester New York in the sixties, I first became aware of Joe Weider after seeing old copies of Your Physique and Muscle Builder magazine.  My town was rich in bodybuilding connections with Bernar McFadden’s health studios in Dansville, N.Y which is less than an hour away. The first Vic Tanny Health Spa’s less than a quarter of a mile away from my current gym location set up by Armand and Vic Tanny.

I would read Joe’s magazines where he would mention these pioneers of bodybuilding and see pictures of Alan Stephan, an early Rochester bodybuilding champion, and of course pictures of Pete Grymkowski and Danny Padilla in the mid-to-late sixties and and early seventies.

Joe Weider’s writings and his love of bodybuilding inspired me to want to lift weights, and of course those weights had to have the Weider Barbell name on them.  As a twelve year old boy I walked two miles to a small sporting goods store to purchase two 25-lb Weider plates to add to my 110-lb set of Weider weights.

That was one heck of an arm workout, and those twelve year old arms and forearms were pumped for days!!!

Rich Gaspari – 2004 IFBB Hall of Fame Legend
If it were not for the publicity given to me by Joe Weider, I would not have had the opportunity to be recognized world-wide as a champion bodybuilder.

After my career ended, I was able to capitalize on my bodybuilding fame to start Gaspari Nutrition and follow in Joe’s footsteps in the sports nutrition market.

Joe’s always been very much of a father figure to me and I sincerely thank and appreciate all he’s done for me.

Eric, Joe and Ben Weider – “Keepers of the Fitness Flame”
From the cover of the March 2000 Montreal Business Magazine
*photo courtesy of Laszlo

Lee Labrada – 2004 IFBB Hall of Fame Legend
Joe Weider is the father of modern bodybuilding. Through Joe’s tireless promotional efforts, he has influenced millions of individuals to start bodybuilding.  By extension, the positive impact which he has had, and continues to have, on the modern fitness movement cannot be fathomed.  I am honored to know him and appreciate him tremendously.

Betty Pariso – IFBB Athlete Representative (Women’s Bodybuilding)
There isn’t a bodybuilder today who hasn’t been influenced in some way by Joe Weider!  Like many others, my early knowledge of weight training and bodybuilding came from reading the Weider magazines.  He started it all, and his legacy of inspiration will continue for years to come.

The cover of Joe and Ben’s latest book – BROTHERS OF IRON

Shawn Perine – Senior Writer, FLEX Magazine
Simply put, bodybuilding as we know it today would not exist without Joe Weider. More than anyone in history, Joe has helped turn what was once a misunderstood activity considered by many the domain of dangerous narcissists into a mainstream pursuit of millions. Even more significantly, it was Joe Weider as much as Jack LaLanne who launched the fitness revolution of the second half of the 20th century. Through his magazines, training equipment, courses and supplements he managed to build a Rome-like empire revolving around health and fitness that has touched every point on the globe.

I, personally, owe Joe Weider my undying gratitude. If not for his influence I might never have discovered bodybuilding, which has guided me down a straight and steady path from my earliest teen years into adulthood. Even beyond the level of health and conditioning and the physique bodybuilding has given me, I’ve gained immeasurable self-confidence and inner peace.

Of course Joe is also ultimately responsible for my career as a writer for FLEX magazine. Now that I’m fortunate enough to know the man personally I take every chance I get to thank him for helping make me the person I am today.

Rick Blair – Executive VP-Active Nutrition Unit, Weider Nutrition
With over 25 years of traveling domestically and internationally, I have been overwhelmed by the number of individuals whom have been positively influenced by Joe Weider’s bodybuilding principles.  There is no other man or woman who has touched so many bodybuilders, and in so many circles around the world.   I am proud to be associated with such a great man, leader and mentor and I am honored to be part of the Weider legacy and future.

Art Bedway – IFBB Judge
As a young boy, Joe Weider was the person who I looked to for the motivation and information necessary to improve my physique.  As an adult, Joe provided the blueprint I used when I opened my fitness center and supplement shop for body builders and martial art students.  Having your own business is very demanding however, Joe’s ability to maintain a strong, muscular physique and run his business empire was something which I greatly admired and emulated.

Thanks to Joe’s guiding hand, the sport of bodybuilding has been an anchor in my life for over 35 years and I owe a lot of my success to the life principles gained through the sport of bodybuilding.

Thank you, Joe!

Dan Solomon – Creator of Pro Bodybuilding Talk Radio  
The sport of bodybuilding has given me and my family a life that could not have been possible without the vision of Joe Weider.  The ability to prosper financially from bodybuilding is a direct result of Joe’s passion and the foundation he laid years ago.  Joe’s legacy lives on through the work of so many others who now share his vision.

Joe Weider,
photo taken in 2003 for the Official Olympia Program

By Joe Weider
(July 1950 edition of  YOUR PHYSIQUE)

1. I predict that civilization will speed up in every phase, and that the stresses and strains on mankind will continue to increase.

2. I predict that the resulting increase in mental and physical illness will force the world to recognize the importance of systematic exercise and physical activities.

3. I predict that bodybuilding will become the chief form of systematic exercise and physical activity, and that it will come to be looked upon as one of the greatest forces in the field of preventive medicine.

4. I predict that a full realization of the importance of muscular development will sweep the world, and the sport of bodybuilding will grow by leaps and bounds.

5. I predict that the principles of good bodybuilding — which include a balanced diet, adequate sleep, plenty of fresh air, ample sunshine and regular workouts — will become basic principles of living.

6. I predict that bodybuilding will become the steppingstone to every other sport and physical activity.

7. I predict that the art of relaxation, one of the fundamental principles in bodybuilding, will become more and more important as tensions increase, and that relaxation will be universally taught and advocated.

8. I predict that those who practice bodybuilding will live healthier, happier and more useful lives.

9. I predict that bodybuilding will spread to every corner of the world and that it will one day be recognized as the king of all sports and physical activities.

10. I predict that bodybuilding will one day become one of the greatest forces in existence, and that it may be hailed as the activity that actually saved civilization from itself.

(Source: *All photographs are courtesy of Weider Publications.