Top 30 Bodybuilders of All Time
By: Marc Lobliner
CMO, TigerFitness.com; CEO, MTS Nutrition; Mediocre Retired Pro Bodybuilder
This list can be argued for weeks on end, but I won’t waiver. The rankings should be based on a combination of wins, losses, how much they impacted the sport and of course, my darn opinion! Here is a rundown of 1-30 and a brief reason why!
- Dexter Jackson
The winningest pro in the history of the sport, Dexter Jackson has won the Arnold, the Olympia, and many other shows. He continues to compete into his 50’s!
- Ronnie Coleman
Arguably the greatest of all time, Ronnie won eight Mr. Olympia titles and was perhaps the most dominating bodybuilder of our time and competed in arguably the most competitive era against legends like Flex Wheeler, Chris Cormier, and Jay Cutler. If not for injuries, Ronnie would have won even more Sandow’s.
- Dorian Yates
Winning six Mr. Olympia titles, Dorian dominated the stage after Lee Haney stepped down. The man who brought unseen size and graininess to the world, Dorian also pioneered a training system based on lower volume training when higher volume training was commonly used based around Mike Mentzer’s HIIT principles.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Austrian Oak popularized bodybuilding. He is on most lists as the best of all time, but in my opinion, his physique, while awesome at the time, lacked the legs and WOW factor of these men before him. However, if not for Arnold, Bodybuilding would be an even more obscure, niche sport.
- Phil Heath
7x Mr. Olympia, Phil has had an epic battle with Kai Greene for the top spot. Conditioning and his stomach lately (due to injury) have hurt his reputation, but “The Gift” is still young and can still jump up to the number one spot if he overcomes his injuries.
- Jay Cutler
4x Mr. Olympia, Jay was the man who pushed Ronnie Coleman for most of his wins. If not for Ronnie, Jay would have won many more Sandow’s.
- Franco Columbu
Famously seen as Arnold’s sidekick, Franco was a legend and pioneer for the sport and was the original “giant-killer”.
- Lee Haney
Tied with Ronnie Coleman for the most Mr. Olympia titles with 8, Lee was the last of a generation featuring both size and aesthetics. Known for his “stimulate, don’t annihilate” training philosophy, Lee is arguably in the top 5, but this list is subjective to my opinion.
- Sergio Oliva
Known as “The Myth”, Sergio boasted some of the best proportions in the history of the sport. Winning the Sandow five times, Sergio brought symmetry, size and perfect muscle bellies never before seen.
- Samir Bannout
1983 Olympia winner and “Lion of Lebanon”, Samir was classy, honest about his use of anabolics at a time when many weren’t and was known for his grainy and detailed lower back.
- Chris Dickerson
An accomplished opera singer, Chris was a phenomenal poser and boasted thick, dense and symmetrical muscle. He won the Mr. Olympia in 1982.
- Frank Zane
“The Chemist”. In an era of growing physiques, Zane brought an under-200lb physique and won the Olympia. A tribute to the beauty of the human physique, Zane can easily be placed in the top 10 on this list with three Mr. Olympia wins!
- Kai Greene
Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, Kai was Phil Heath’s nemesis. They battled it out and were even featured in the hit movie Generation Iron. Kai boasts one of the best backs in the history of the sport and a dense build nearly unequaled. A man known for some controversial pictures and videos in the past as well as a philosophical approach to life, Kai is a bodybuilding Icon and has made his way onto ESPN as well as Netflix’s Stanger Things.
- Shawn Rhoden
He won the Olympia and unseated a reigning Mr. Olympia in Phil Heath at that. Known for his conditioning and proportions, Shawn has to be in the top 15 for one reason alone, The Sandow.
- Flex Wheeler
The shoe-in for the Mr. Olympia title after Dorian Yates retired, Flex never quite made his mark. With Ronnie Coleman being the main reason, he also had a car accident and health issues that made him retire. Known as a genetic freak due to a myostatin deficiency, Flex was part of the greatest era in bodybuilding.
- Shawn Ray
A true icon and “bodybuilding businessman”, Shawn never won the Olympia but placed high every single year and brought class and aesthetics to the stage in an era dominated by mass monsters like Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman. Known for his ability to make more money at the sport than anyone else.
- Kevin Levrone
Kevin is, in my opinion, the biggest freak of all. Training only a few months out of the year and focusing the rest of the time on his band “Full Blown”, Kevin was always there to challenge for the top spot at the Mr. Olympia.
Personal note: I once gave Kevin a ride home from Weider HQ in Woodland Hills, CA when I worked there in 2002. He told me in the car he was prepping for the Olympia the next week. It was 12 weeks out and he couldn’t weigh a pound over 190lbs. I was like, “Okay….you do that.”
12 weeks later, at the show, they announced his name and he stepped onstage at 240lbs RIPPED. I almost fell out of my chair!
- Chris Cormier
Like Flex Wheeler, Chris never won the Mr. Olympia but was always in the top pushing the winner. Known for his partying, Chris was a top competitor in an insanely competitive era.
- Gunter Schliercamp
A magazine favorite when I worked at Weider, Gunter was huge but had an inviting, infectious smile. A tremendous advocate for the sport, Gunter is best known for BEATING Ronnie Coleman during his Olympia Reign in the 2002 Show of Strength.
- Branch Warren
The blue-collar bodybuilder, Branch is known for conditioning, graininess and surreal size. He has won the Arnold Classic as well as the Most Muscular Award at the Mr. Olympia. Perhaps the most intense trainer of any era.
- Eugen Sandow
They named the Olympia trophy after the guy! Eugen was a bodybuilder and strongman and despite strongmen being, well, FAT at the time, Eugen resembled a Greek God statue. He was a carnival attraction and “The Father of Bodybuilding”.
- Lee Priest
At a little over 5’ tall, Lee is known for his tremendous arms. Known for being outspoken, I reckon that Lee would have won an Olympia had he not upset the powers that be at the IFBB. Regardless, Lee went on to win multiple NABBA Mr. Universe titles.
- Victor Martinez
In a career plagued by injuries like a torn quad and his sister’s untimely death, Victor never truly realized his potential.
- Marcus Ruhl
Not the prettiest physique, but this fan-favorite brought intensity, a huge smiling most muscular and mass that I would argue still has not been matched to this day.
- Serge Nubret
Classy and a work of art – that’s how I describe Serge. A WABBA world champion and small film star, Serge belongs on this list.
- Steve Reeves
After winning the 1950 Mr. Universe, Steve retired at the age of 24. He helped popularize the sport in another way, by playing Hercules on the big screen!
- Reg Park
Arnold’s idol, he starred in Hercules and won the NABBA Mr. Universe.
- Lee Labrada
Placed top 4 at the Mr. Olympia for seven years and presented a classic, proportioned physique. Lee has featured on over 100 fitness magazine covers.
- Rich Gaspari
Rich brought something nobody else ever had, shredded glutes. In 1986 at the IFBB Pro World, Rich was the first man to get conditioned enough to have shredded glutes.
- Flex Lewis
Flex is rumored to be coming back to the open class but has won seven consecutive 212 and under titles at the Mr. Olympia.