In the first installment of an occasional series, we celebrate some of the very best covers in the long history of muscle magazines.

Brian Buchanan

Ironman, Sept. 1989 (bodybuilder: Brian Buchanan) We’re not ranking these, but this might be #1 of all time. Phenomenal physique, superb idea, flawless execution.

John Grimek

Muscular Development, Feb. 1969 (bodybuilder: John Grimek) Everything was perfectly classic: physique, pose, location, framing.

Lou Ferrigno net worth

Muscle Builder, July 1979 (bodybuilder: Lou Ferrigno) Not much muscle, but a great dual shot of Lou and his Hulking alter ego.

Dave Draper cause of death

Mr. America, April 1970 (bodybuilder: Dave Draper) The babes-admire-bodybuilder covers are a relic from an earlier era (a half-century ago!), but this four-to-one pyramid shot may have been the ultimate example of the genre. That’s Betty Weider on Dave’s shoulders.

Dennis Newman

Muscle & Fitness, Nov. 1996 (bodybuilder: Dennis Newman) Newman recreates the Greek sculpture Discobolus of Myron (460 BC). Now that’s classic!

Bodybuilder magazine

The Body Builder, Sept. 1936 When muscle mags didn’t need much muscle. A beautiful illustration from 84 years ago highlighting female athleticism and aesthetics.

Arnold Schwarzenegger steroid cycle

Sport Journal, Nov. 1980 (bodybuilder: Arnold Schwarzenegger) Of course, we had to feature an Arnold cover, but with hundreds of them to choose from, which one? This archery pose in the mountains against a clear blue sky is hard to top.

Rachel McLish nude

Muscle & Fitness, July 1995 (bodybuilder: Rachel McLish) Muscles & Curves: An elegant example of a simple idea flawlessly executed.

Clarence Ross bodybuilder

Your Physique, Oct. 1947 (bodybuilder: Clarence Ross) One of the 11 colorful and often fanciful covers that the artist George Quaintance painted for Joe Weider’s first magazine. (Another was of an idealized buffed-up Joe Weider in the arms-crossed pose that became legendary).

Chris Cook bodybuilder

Flex, March 2005 (bodybuilder: Chris Cook) When it comes to covers, we’re suckers for anything unique, and this Chris Lund photo of Cook and his dogs stood out in an era of mostly grimacing, workout shots.

See also: Great Muscle Magazine Covers, Vol. 2 and Bad Muscle Magazine Covers, Vol. 1