Mr. Olympia – The Ultimate Bodybuilding Title

Mr. Olympia is the title given to the winner of the professional men’s bodybuilding competition at Joe Welder’s Olympia Weekend. The competition is held every year by the International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness (IFBB) and gathers professional bodybuilders from all around the world, all aiming to win the supreme title. Joe Welder created the contest in order to enable the Mr. Universe winners to continue competing and earning money. The winner of the competition is also awarded with the Sandow trophy.


The first Mr. Olympia contest was held on September 18, 1965 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City. The winner of the first edition was Larry Scott, who was also the winner of the following edition. Even though it is held for nearly 50 years now, there have been only 12 different winners crowded Mr. Olympia in the competition’s history.

The record number of wins is eight. Two bodybuilders managed to receive the trophy eight times each: Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman. However, perhaps the most well-known Mr. Olympia winner is Arnold Schwarzenegger. This classic bodybuilder actually got his start in the film industry as a result of starring in a 1977 documentary about the Mr. Olympia contest. The documentary was called Pumping Iron.


In the very first competition that Arnold participated in, he only finished in second place. He then went on to win every following year in which he entered, which happened from 1970 through 1975. After that, he retired from bodybuilding until 1980, when he was a late entry into the contest – contest which he managed to win yet again. The film actor then turned to politics and eventually became the governor of the US state of California.

In order to enter Joe Welder’s Olympia Weekend, there are certain requirements that bodybuilders must meet. Originally, only men who had previously won the Mr. Universe title could compete to become Mr. Olympia. Now, one can qualify if he is a top finalist in another respected competition of the kind. In 2011, Chairman of the IFBB Professional League, Jim Manion, amended the qualifying conditions as follows:

  • top four in each division at the Olympia;
  • top three in each division at the Arnold Classic/International;
  • top two in each division at the New York Pro;
  • first place at all other competitions, even the Amateurs World Championship Competition.

The top four in each division at the 2011 Olympia will qualify for the 2012 Olympia. The remaining competitors will not be affected. The current holder of the Mr. Olympia title is Phil Heath, who won both the 2011 and 2012 editions.

Winners of the Mr. Olympia title often share similar physical features and aesthetic qualities. Typically, they have large muscles. Those muscles are clearly defined through the skin, being also correct in shape and size. However, size may be relative to the proportion of one’s body. Another common feature among winners is symmetry. This means that any muscle in the left leg must match in size and shape to the corresponding muscle in the right leg, for instance.


The competition has opened another title called Mr. Olympia 202, where bodybuilders that weigh less than 202 pounds (91.8 kg) can enter. There is also an equivalent title for women, called – obviously – Ms. Olympia.

Often referred to as the most prestigious bodybuilding competition in the world, Mr. Olympia is surely the dream of all classic bodybuilders.