John Grimek began his career as a strongman and weightlifter, representing the United States at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His body has been described as different from other bodybuilders of his era -- his muscles were tighter, he was more sinewy, and he had a "glow" about him. Because of his skin tone, Grimek became known as "The Glow" during his bodybuilding career. Grimek has also been called the "Monarch of Muscledom" because he never lost a bodybuilding competition.
In 1939, Grimek won a Perfect Man contest in New York. The next year, he entered the first Mr. America contest, sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Mr. America was the first modern bodybuilding event in the United States. Grimek won both the 1940 and 1941 competitions by such a wide margin that the AAU changed the rules so that previous winners couldn't compete again. In 1948, he won the first NABBA (National Amateur Bodybuilders Association) Mr. Universe competition, beating out younger bodybuilders such as Steve Reeves. After winning the AAU Mr. USA in 1949, Grimek retired from competitive bodybuilding. He then began writing for and editing bodybuilding magazines such as Strength & Health and Muscular Development.
Some say that Grimek bridged the gap between strongmen and professional bodybuilders. He was known to be very skilled at striking poses and performing gymnastics (which helped him win Mr. Universe), but he was also extremely strong. Even into his 60s, Grimek could squat and lift more than 400 pounds (181 kilograms).
On the next page, we'll introduce you to Hercules.