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You’re familiar with the big names; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, Lou Ferrigno. All guys who got their start by being a kick-ass bodybuilder with a rippling physique.
However, there are guys out there packing the same, sometimes better bodies than the greats we know and love today. However, for one reason or another, these champions’ legendary physiques have been buried deep in the bodybuilding world – with only a few outside of the industry knowing their names.
In this article, we honor several of the unsung heroes of the sport, ‘8 Greats’ that every fitness enthusiast needs to know about.
Get ready to be inspired:
One of the greatest physiques you’ve never heard of has to be Gary Leonard.
A key player in the bodybuilding movement during the 1980’s. Gary managed to find that difficult balance between both size and aesthetics. For those that knew him, Leonard’s proportions were revered as legendary.
With a bodybuilding career spanning over a decade, and his desirable physique secured him numerous covers for multiple fitness magazines. He was marketing gold.
Leonard’s biggest victory was winning the 1980 AAU Mr. Amercia. Incredibly, Gary never managed to win a competition while competing in the IFBB. Despite this, you can still find chatter on several message boards that his physique is the closest there’s been to perfect.
Imagine Ronnie Coleman in his peak, but bigger and leaner – that’s Vic Richards. Weighing a staggering 370lbs (off-season) at just 5′ 10 – he’s arguably the most aesthetic bodybuilder ever to stand at that size.
From an early age it was clear that Victor was going to be literally huge. Just by playing high school football, wrestling and running track, Victor had managed to become 210 lbs at the age of 15.
He claims that he didn’t find bodybuilding – it found him, he wasn’t aiming to become a bodybuilder, he just loved lifting weights.
By 17, Vic found himself in Gold’s Gym. He was taken under the wing of the greats training there at the time – they all saw his potential and wanted to see how big the beast could grow.
Within 8 months he was 225 lbs of ripped lean muscle and competing. By 19 he was 245 lbs, growing for years until Richards found his ideal competition weight of 330 lbs.
He was regularly featured in fitness magazines including Muscle and Fitness, Shape Magazine, FLEX, Men’s Health and Fitness. Vic’s dense musculature, balanced proportions and lean bodyfat was the perfect combination that people couldn’t help but describe as legendary.
Amazingly, Richards never competed in Mr. Olympia. For this reason, many refer to him as ‘The Uncrowned King of Bodybuilding’ believing that Vic would’ve dominated the Mr. O if he entered.
Bill Grant in his prime was one of best lighter weighted bodybuilders out there. The man was pure aesthetics. Weighing in at a humble 185 lbs for competitions, Bill managed to attain both the Mr. America title in 1972, and the Mr. World title in 1974.
Although not that well known to those outside of the industry, inside Bill was a legend. With his incredible proportions and rippling physique, Bill hosted his own cable TV show, and appeared in has appeared in several movies, commercials and theatrical productions.
Bill has never stopped training and still looks in immaculate shape today.
Tony Pearson was known for having the best shoulder-to-waist ratio than anybody else in sport. Self-proclaimed ‘The Michael Jackson of Bodybuilding’ due to his likeness to the pop singer. His body was incredibly lean with amazing lines between muscle groups, to this day it’s one of the most aesthetic out there.
Tony was originally ‘discovered’ on Muscle Beach when Arnold Schwarzenegger noticed him training hard. He saw the potential in Tony and mentored him to greatness. Within a year and a half he was the 1978 Mr. Amercia, and 2 years after he became Mr. Universe (NABBA Federation).
Renown for his incredible definition, and striking lines, Pearson was inducted into the ‘Muscle Beach Bodybuilidng Hall of Fame in 2007. This is an honor saved only for the greats, confirming that he was in the same league as his mentor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane and Joe Weider.
Also known as ‘Brutal Bertil’, Bertil Fox was known for his intense training style and all-round powerful physique. As one of the most aesthetic physiques in the sport, Fox dominated the bodybuilding circuit throughout his youth. Winning several Mr. Britain, Mr. Europe, Mr. Universe, and Mr. World competitions, he was one of the most successful British competitors in the sport.
Bertil got the name ‘Brutal’ from his training style. Unlike most bodybuilders at the time, Bertil’s workout focused on raw strength. Fox would always train with heavy weight at the highest volume he could – smashing each muscle group for 30 sets a session.
So why have you never heard of him?
Because of May 22nd, 1998 – the day the man was convicted of murder. After that, Bertil’s popularity took a turn, as did his overall reputation, seldom have heard of him outside of the bodybuilding industry.
Admit it, Helmut Strebl is the most ripped man you’ve ever seen – if you’re wondering that’s him at 4% body fat. Both a bodybuilder and a fitness model, Helmut first started training from the age of 12.
This is one of the most diverse personalities on our list. Having competed in bicycle racing, powerlifting, bodybuilding and physique events, his knowledge
In terms of training, Helmut takes a slightly different approach to maintain that elite-level leanness. Super-setting muscle groups until failure, in between these sets Helmut has a strict breathing routine, breathing in and out 5 times before moving on to the next exercise.
Helmut claims the key to his leanness is down to carb cycling. This is something he does for a month before competition, eating 150 – 200g of carbs for 3 days, and then 300-400g on the fourth day.
Helmut believes his body, and the way he lives his life, serves as a graphic example for anyone looking to achieve their own ideals – and that hard work pays off.
Bill Pearl is one of the father’s of classic bodybuilding. He gave so much to so many, and despite his incredible physique, he enjoyed teaching others over competing.
Running several gyms throughout his career, Bill was constantly training up and teaching the future bodybuilders how to perform to the best of their ability in the sport.
On the bodybuilding circuit, Bill Pearl was untouchable. Not only did he look the part, he had incredible strength to back it all up. His guest posing routines would involve classic strongman activities, bending bars, ripping up license plates and even tearing horseshoes in half.
His legacy was so great that only after he retired that his competition starts mentioning they could take him onstage.
So what did Bill do? He came straight out of retirement.
He defended his reputation in the 1971 Mr. Universe at the age of 41. The majority of his competition was over a decade younger than him – and yet Pearl still came out on top. A true inspiration to the industry.
Another great you may have never heard of is Bob Paris, the 1983 IFBB World Amateur Championships Overall Winner.
Mainly active around the 80s and early 90s, Bob had one of the most sculpted physiques in bodybuilding. What main Bob’s physique really pop on the stage was his focus on perfect form. He strongly disagreed with lifting as heavy as you could for the sake of it.
Bob’s biggest challenges coming up in the sport wasn’t building his physique or keeping on top of his nutrition – it was his sexuality. After coming out as a homosexual, Bob’s reputation plummeted and 80% of his company’s business vanished overnight.
Bob finally retired from bodybuilding in 1992 and disappeared from the industry. If only he was around a decade or two later in a more progressive time. He would’ve been remembered by more as he should be – as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.
The Great 8 Conclusion
As you can see, it’s not just the mainstream bodybuilders that have legendary physiques. These 8 largely unknown bodybuilders have owned some of the best physiques the industry has ever seen.
However, for our money, the most impressive has to be Helmut Strebl. That dry, 4% body fat is absolutely incredible – especially when you realize he’s been competing since 1996. Even in his middle-age, Helmut still looks phenomenal.
There are plenty of these guys out there that are in fantastic shape, and get little recognition for it. For an objective look at the most sculpted people in the industry, check out GreatestPhysiques.com – it’s one of the fastest-growing encyclopedias of fitness figures we’ve seen.