The ideal male physique has changed a lot over the last century.

The renowned strongmen of the early 1900s weren’t the oiled-up, Schwarzenegger-sized bodybuilders we know and love today; they were smaller dudes who struck poses in fig leaves and performed wacky feats of strength for crowds gathered in the street.

From the father of modern bodybuilding, Eugen Sandow, to Hercules star Steve Reeves, here’s what bodybuilders looked like in the early 1900s.

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Eugen Sandow, 1900

Known as the father of bodybuilding, Sandow developed strength training techniques that are still used today. Among his many accomplishments, Sandow helped stage the world’s first bodybuilding show in 1901 at England’s Royal Albert Hall.

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Eugen Sandow, circa 1900

In this photo, Sandow poses with a selection of weightlifting equipment.

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A 1902 advertisement for Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture

Started by legendary bodybuilder Eugen Sandow in 1898, the publication is recognized as the world’s first bodybuilding magazine.

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Eugen Sandow, 1910

Sandow had a powerful legacy. Today, winners of Mr. Olympia receive a Sandow statuette: a small sculpture of Sandow himself.

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Eugen Sandow, undated

In this photo, Sandow strikes a pose while wearing a fig leaf and gladiator sandals.

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Katie Sandwina, 1895

In this photo, Katie Sandwina gears up to break a chain over her thigh.

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Mr. Eggleton, circa 1905

A bodybuilder known as Mr. Eggleton was the manager of Eugen Sandow’s physical school.

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The Strongman Pose, circa 1900

A strongman in Russia strikes a pose.

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Lionel Strongfort, 1901

Strongfort was known for his “human bridge act,” wherein a car carrying a half-dozen passengers would drive over a plank of wood set up like a see-saw over his body.


Strongman, undated

In this undated photo, a strongman attempts to break a chain with his bare hands.

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Tom Joyce, undated

Please don’t try this at home. In this undated photo, strongman Tom Joyce resists the strain of four guys pulling a rope around his neck. “Tom performs his feats of strength as a hobby,” according to the photo caption.

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Strongman, circa 1900

In this photo, a strongman performs for a crowd at the Place de l’Opera in Paris, France.

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George Hackenschmidt, 1902

George Hackenschmidt was a professional wrestler. He’s also known as the father of the bench press and hack squat.

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George Hackenschmidt, 1911

In this photo, Hackenschmidt performs a bench press in front of a crowd in Chicago.

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George Hackenschmidt, 1911

In this photo, Hackenschmidt lifts a barbell over his head with one hand.

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William Murray, circa 1905

Winner of the Sandow bodybuilding competition around 1905, Murray was the “first recognizable bodybuilding champion,” according to Physical Culture Study.


Strongman, 1910

In this photo, a strongman lifts a dumbbell over his head.


Gus Lasser, 1920s

In this photo, strongman Gus Lasser bends an iron pipe with his mouth.

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Charles Atlas, circa 1920

Italian-American bodybuilder Charles Atlas famously transformed himself from a “97-pound weakling” into one of the biggest names in physical fitness. He developed the ultra-successful bodybuilding program called “Dynamic Tension,” which focused on bodyweight and isometric exercises.

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Charles Atlas, circa 1930

In this photo, Atlas demonstrates a piece of fitness equipment known as the “Electric Vibrator” — a muscle-building tool, according to Getty Images.

Charles Atlas, 1945

Atlas flexing on the beach.

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Galen Gough, undated

After suffering a serious head injury in World War I that left him paralyzed in one arm, the Kentucky-born Gough reportedly healed himself through bodybuilding. He went on to become an actor and bodybuilder in the 1930s, renowned for strongman stunts like the one pictured here.


Galen Gough, 1934

In this photo, a 200-pound Gough holds firmly onto two horseshoes while seven women try to pull him out of place.

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A bodybuilder in the 1930s

A bodybuilder strikes a pose in this photo from the 1930s.


Steve Reeves, 1939

The bodybuilder-turned-actor was famous for his title role in 1958’s Hercules.

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