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October 13, 2022
In the bodybuilding world, there is a distinct size difference between a recreational lifter and a professional bodybuilder. It takes years and years of extreme dedication in the gym and kitchen to enter the world of professional bodybuilding and build the type of mass required to step on stage.
However, even on the big stage, there are different categories. Everyone's big, of course, but then there are the biggest of the big, known as "Mass Monsters." These are the guys who stand out due to the sheer amount of muscle mass they carry, even making other pros seem small in comparison.
Those are the guys we're going to discuss in this article. We'll cover:
The bodybuilding world has evolved quite significantly over the century. Yes, we said century! The sport of bodybuilding has been around much longer than many people realize.
Its roots can be traced back to the early 19th century when the sport of Strongman was the most prevalent fitness-oriented sport. During this time, a man named Eugen Sandow was quite interested in aesthetics and using weight training to manipulate the human body.
In 1901, the first recorded bodybuilding competition took place in London's Royal Albert Hall. Judged by Eugen Sandow, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sir Charles Lawes, the competition was wildly successful, and it grew from there.
Originally, greater emphasis was placed on aesthetics and symmetry, similar to the way the Greeks looked at the human body. (If you're after aesthetics, be sure to check out our Greek God workout plan!).
During this time, athletes were much more limited in how large they could get due to certain pharmaceutical agents being non-existent.
For example, for the first two Mr. Olympia competitions, which began in 1965, two winners weighed in at 205 and 225 pounds.
Here's a look at the first Mr. Olympia winners:
Since this time, things have changed. The quest for bigger muscles has led the best bodybuilders to have one goal: To continue building muscle until becoming absolute monsters.
As you'll see, the off-season weight of 220 and 245 pounds that the first elite professional bodybuilders had wouldn't even give them a chance to step on today's stage.
In fact, competitors today get so massive that a new category was made for bodybuilders 5'5" or shorter, weighing less than 212 pounds, as these guys would otherwise have zero chance of ever being considered to compete with the biggest bodybuilders in the world.
Over the past few years, heavy scrutiny has been placed on the biggest pro bodybuilders due to their freakish size.
Recently, though, the bodybuilding industry has shown signs of starting to slowly trend back toward favoring a more aesthetic appeal, as opposed to only being mass-focused. Mind you, today's lifters are still beasts, but more aesthetically proportioned beasts. (By the way, if your ears perked up at talk of aesthetics, our aesthetic workout routine may be exactly what you're looking for!)
There has even been some insider talk suggesting we may perhaps have already witnessed the largest bodybuilders of all time. With this in mind, these bodybuilders could quite literally be the biggest to ever grace the stage: past, present, and future.
Ready to take a look at the most massively built bodybuilders to grace the competition stage? Here are the top 15 biggest bodybuilders.
We're going to start this list with Phil Heath. However, it's not because of his giant size.
When compared to the other lifters on this list, Phil Heath is relatively small. We say "relatively" because at 5'9", he's still 240 pounds on stage while carrying 270 pounds of mass during the off-season.
So why talk about him? Because Phil Heath is one of the most successful bodybuilders of all time, with 7 consecutive wins at Mr. Olympia from 2011-2017. We could all certainly learn a thing or two following the Phil Heath biceps workout!
"Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights!" One of the most iconic lines spoken in the world of professional bodybuilding, strength training, and gym culture was spoken by Ronnie Coleman.
Hailing from Louisiana, Ronnie Coleman came from a rough life and recalled barely having enough money to eat. It wasn't until Brian Dobson, amateur bodybuilder and owner of Metroflex Gym, offered Ronnie Coleman a free gym membership that he started training.
But the membership came with one caveat. Ronnie had to agree to let Dobson be his personal trainer for a competition in 1990. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Since then, Ronnie Coleman has won 26 IFBB Professional Titles. A few major highlights include:
To put it lightly, Ronnie Coleman is regarded as the strongest and biggest bodybuilder of all time. This would arguably make him the greatest and most compelling athlete to ever step on the big stage.
At 5'11", weighing around 300 pounds for competitions and 330 pounds during the off-season, very few men will ever even come close to this size. The good news, however, is that you can still train like him following the Ronnie Coleman workout split.
We can only imagine what his grocery bill looked like.
"When life closes a door, it opens a window." This quote does a pretty good job of summing up Markus Rühl's professional bodybuilding career.
A German IFBB professional bodybuilder, Rühl started his bodybuilding journey in 1990 at the age of 18. Interestingly, it was a knee injury that he sustained while playing football that opened up his window of opportunity.
During his recovery, a doctor suggested to Markus Rühl that he participate in strength training to speed up recovery and prevent further injury. At the time, Markus weighed just 125 pounds.
He started an intense 6-day workout routine, and just 5 years later, Markus Rühl received his pro card. Rühl's height is 5'10", and records show that he blew up to 285 pounds during contests and a massive 325 pounds off-season.
Since then, he has placed in numerous IFBB competitions while coming away with first in several shows, including:
Looking at his size, it's easy to see why he's considered one of the biggest bodybuilders to ever across the stage.
Some superheroes are real. One of those is The Incredible Hulk, 2X IFBB Mr. Universe, and IFBB Mr. America mass monster, Lou Ferrigno.
Standing at 6'4", Lou Ferrigno's height also puts him as one of the tallest bodybuilders, making it even more difficult to look massive due to weight distribution. But he managed.
With a competition weight of 285 pounds, it's easy to see why Lou Ferrigno was chosen to play the green monster. Since playing The Hulk, Mr. Ferrigno has landed multiple other TV roles and movie cameos.
This included playing a pivotal role in Pumping Iron, the infamous docudrama that followed his rival with Arnold Schwarzenegger as they trained and competed for 1975 Mr. Olympia and 1975 Mr. Universe.
This has cemented him as one of the most popular bodybuilders of all time and a staple in pop culture.
Jay Cutler is one of the more active bodybuilders and can be seen pretty extensively across social media platforms. That's in addition to his extremely successful career as a larger-than-life pro bodybuilder.
Just 5 years after he started training at 18, Jay Cutler won his pro card at the young age of 23. And then in 2005, he won his first Mr. Olympia title. Jay was then crowned Mr. Olympia's winner again in 2007, 2009, and 2010.
This means he went head to head with the great Ronnie Coleman and came out on top (at least for a couple of titles).
Jay Cutler stands at 5'10", weighed in at 260 pounds for his contest weight, and a monstrous 300 pounds for his off-season weight.
The Australian Oak. The Terminator. The Governator. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Without a doubt, the competitive bodybuilding world would likely not be what it is today without the inclusion of this absolute beast of an Austrian. Arnold Schwarzenegger is regarded as one of the original bodybuilders who brought additional muscle mass to an amazing physique.
Arnold lifted during the "Golden Era" of bodybuilding, where lifters focused more on symmetry and aesthetics than the current scene. Now don't get us wrong here, as these lifters, Arnold included, were all still massive.
Arnold stood at 6'2" with a competition weight of 252 pounds, and was known for how aesthetically pleasing his body was. In fact, during the 1975 season, it was his physique and aesthetics that led him to victory over the larger Lou Ferrigno.
Since this time, Arnold created the IFBB Arnold Classic, which has spawned into the largest fitness expos in the world. Hosting various competitive bodybuilding contests, the Arnold Classic also includes an array of other fitness disciplines, such as Strongman and powerlifting.
Little known fact, before the bodybuilding world, Arnold competed in powerlifting. Want to train like him? Get some inspiration from the Arnold split. And let's not forget we also have him to thank for the Arnold Press.
Canadian IFBB professional bodybuilder Paul Dillett is next on our list. Competing in the 1990's Paul earned the nickname "Jurassic Paul" for his larger-than-life size.
At 6'1", Paul Dilllett was competition ready at 285 pounds and grew to 330 pounds in the off-season. While an absolute beast, he wasn't as exceptional as many bodybuilders on this list.
During his 20-year career in the world of bodybuilding, Paul Dillett's top ranking was 4th at My Olympia in 1994. However, since his pre-debut in 1993, he has competed in:
Nicknamed "The Beast," Roelly Winklaar is a Dutch IFBB professional bodybuilder who is absolutely massive.
Standing at 5'8", Roelly Winklaar would blow up to 320 pounds during the off-season, trimming down to 265 pounds for competitions.
"The Beast" has had more than a few highlights in his career. In 2018, Roelly took home first place at the Australian Arnold Classic and earned the people's champion crown at the 2018 Mr. Olympia.
This was due largely to his insane arms, particularly his biceps. In 2019, he also took 5th place at the 2019 Mr. Olympia.
Dennis Wolf, AKA "The Big Bad Wolf," stands at 5'11", and would weigh in at 258 pounds for contests, growing to 300 pounds in the off-season. A German IFBB professional bodybuilder, Dennis Wolf began competing at just 21 years old, 6 years after he began training at 15.
His first pro-debut was in 2006 at the World Amateur championships.
During his career, he won the IFBB Arnold Classic in 2014 and took 4th at Mr. Olympia in 2015
At 5'8", Dennis James was on the shorter side, yet he still managed to weigh in at 260 pounds for competitions. And during the off-season? He grew to 300 pounds!
Dennis James won his first competition in 1985 and then struck his bodybuilding poses on the Mr. Olympia stage for the first time in 2000.
Later, in 2003, Dennis James would get his highest placing at a Mr. Olympia contest with 4th place.
Without a doubt, the title of biggest bodybuilder on this list goes to Greg Kovacs. This monster of a man didn't just have an insane amount of mass - he was also very tall.
Greg Kovacs was 6'4" and towered over the majority of bodybuilders who stood around the 6'0" mark or shorter.
A tall bodybuilder, his height was only matched by his weight, which would hit a staggering 420 pounds during the off-season. Greg would then drop to a jaw-dropping competition weight of 330 pounds.
That is absolutely huge. To put it in perspective, he weighed almost 80 pounds more than Arnold. That's insane.
He may be the absolute biggest bodybuilder to ever walk across the Mr. Olympia stage. Sadly, Greg Kovacs passed away in 2013, at the age of 44, due to heart failure.
Dorian Yates earned the nickname "The Shadow" due to his body mass blocking out the sun as he walked around normal-size people.
From the United Kingdom, Dorian Yates began lifting and building muscle in 1983, making his professional debut at the Newcastle Pro in 1991.
At 5'10", Dorian Yates weighed around 310 pounds for his off-season weight yet would cut down to 260 pounds of pure muscle when he stepped on stage.
Hailing from Switzerland, Jean Pierre Fux's height is listed at 5'11" with a competition weight of 275 pounds. In other words, he's a force to be reckoned with.
Starting his career in 1994 at the IFBB World Amateur Championships, Jean-Pierre took home 1st place in the heavyweight division. He revealed his monstrous dimensions in Mr. Olympia for the first time back in 1996. In 1996 and 1997, Jean-Pierre Fux placed in the top 8 at Mr. Olympia. Suffice it to say, he had a promising career.
In fact, some report him as being the most muscular bodybuilder ever.
Unfortunately, his career was cut short. In 2002, Jean Pierre Fux was doing a photo shoot for Flex Magazine, and on the agenda was getting shots of him doing 700-pound squats.
Things did not go according to plan, and during the squat, Jean Pierre suddenly dropped to his knees. He had suffered massive damage to both of his kneecaps, which ended his career.
Besides Phil Heath, Lee Haney is the smallest bodybuilder on this list. However, he is one of the all-time greatest.
At 5' 11", Lee Haney would weigh around 255 pounds walking across the Mr. Olympia stage, while only gaining around 10 pounds and hitting 265 pounds in the off-season. But that was enough. Not only was Lee Haney the Mr. Olympia winner in 1984, but he also continued winning every year for the next seven years.
If you're keeping record, that's 8 consecutive wins at Mr. Olympia. As an eight-time Mr. Olympia winner, he is tied with Ronnie Coleman as holding the most wins on the Mr. Olympia stage. The only difference? He did it first.
Since his retirement, Lee Haney was appointed chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He also started his own show on The Trinity Broadcasting Network, where he preaches heavily on physical as well as spiritual health.
Mamdouth Elssbiay is almost exclusively referred to by his "Big Ramy." Maybe it's because his real name is too hard to say, or maybe it's just because he's, well....big. Really big.
After starting training in 2009, Mamdouh Elssbiay weighed 200 pounds by 2011. However, the story has it that by 2012, Big Ramy weighed a whopping 286 pounds for his contest weight when he stepped on stage at the 2012 Amateur Olympia in Kuwait city.
He took first place there, earning his pro card just 3 years after he began training. Since then, Big Ramy has perfected his body, and in 2020, he walked across the Mr. Olympia stage and took first place. He then did it again in 2021, making him the reigning Mr. Olympia.
Big Ramy is currently prepping for the 2022 Mr. Olympia competition. Hoping to train like the reigning My. Olympia? Check out the Big Ramy workout routine and diet.
We just went through a list of the biggest giants in bodybuilding history. While there are arguments about who's the biggest bodybuilder of all, we can all agree all of these athletes are larger than life.
That said, don't think that you must aim to be the biggest professional bodybuilder in order to go to the gym and lift weights. The fact is, not everyone wants this. The great thing about bodybuilding is that it's open to anyone, regardless of fitness goals.
Maybe it's to lose a little weight or to get in shape for summer. Or, maybe your ultimate goal is to become a mass monster. And if becoming a mass monster is your goal, the above bodybuilders demonstrate exactly what that looks like.
Images courtesy of bodybuilder's social media accounts.
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