From world records to shocking deaths to contests-during-Covid, we look back at the year that was in muscles, strength, and fitness.


Unfortunately, the biggest stories of 2021 were dismal.

๐Ÿฆ  The first was the persistence of the COVID-19 PANDEMIC, which continued to impact the fitness world. It was reported in August that 22% of U.S. health clubs and gyms had permanently closed during the pandemic, with a collective revenue loss of nearly $30 billion. Bodybuilding and lifting events were cancelled, moved, rescheduled, and/or downsized. For example, the Arnold Classic was held in September (not March), with only a few events and no expo. And, speaking of Arnold, the muscle worldโ€™s greatest icon suffered a backlash for his โ€œScrew your freedomโ€ comments regarding anti-vaxers and anti-makers. Some in our community lost their lives to Covid. Some, including bodybuilding legend Flex Wheeler, were hospitalized but pulled through.

โšฐ๏ธ The other biggest story is also, sadly, a repeat: the HEART-RELATED DEATHS of bodybuilders way too young. This was brought home when 37-year-old 212 Olympia top competitor George Peterson and 46-year-old 2018 Mr. Olympia Shawn Rhoden died a month apart. Somethings need to be done (ideas include a heart health education program and blood test and blood pressure contest requirements) or this story will, sadly, keep getting retold with different names. (Story on pro bodybuilder mortality)



Mr. Olympia ๐Ÿ† Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay wasnโ€™t at his best, but he won his second Sandow in a lackluster Mr. O. ๐Ÿฅˆ2nd: Brandon Curry ๐Ÿฅ‰3rd: Hadi Choopan (Full story)

2021 Mr. Olympia
Choopan, Curry, Elssbiay / YouTube

212 ๐Ÿ† Derek Lunsford / Classic ๐Ÿ† Chris Bumstead / Menโ€™s Physique ๐Ÿ† Brandon Hendrickson / Wheelchair ๐Ÿ† Harold Kelley / Ms. Olympia ๐Ÿ† Andrea Shaw / Womenโ€™s Physique ๐Ÿ† Sarah Villegas / Figure ๐Ÿ† Cydney Gillon / Fitness ๐Ÿ† Whitney Jones / Bikini ๐Ÿ† Jennifer Dorie / Wellness ๐Ÿ† Francielle Mattos

(Bumstead’s diet)


๐Ÿ† Nick Walker, 27, won the A.C. with two-time and defending champ William Bonac unable to compete. ๐Ÿฅˆ2nd: Iain Villaire ๐Ÿฅ‰3rd: Steve Kuclo (Full story)


๐Ÿ† Tom Stoltman of Scotland won his first WSM title. 4-time winner ๐ŸฅˆBrian Shaw was second. (Full story)


๐Ÿ† Rebecca Roberts of Wales won her first WSW title.


๐Ÿฅ‡China dominated weightlifting once again, winning seven gold medals. Americans performed well with two women medaling ๐Ÿฅˆ๐Ÿฅ‡and a 21-year-old man finishing fourth (no American guy has medaled since 1984). ๐Ÿฅ‡Georgian super-heavyweight Lasha Talakhadze continued to break his own records with literally no competition. Full story here. (Full story)


๐ŸŒŽ RAW BENCH PRESS Julius Maddox broke his own record again, benching 782.6 lbs. (355 kg). Profile of Maddox here.

๐ŸŒŽ DEADLIFTS 7 of the 12 menโ€™s divisions saw new world deadlift records, including 986.5 lbs. (447.5 kg.) in the 242 class by Polandโ€™s Krzysztof Wierzbicki. And 5 of the 10 womenโ€™s divisions also saw new world records, including, repeatedly, by three women in the unlimited division. Ultimately, Tamara Walcott pulled the biggest womenโ€™s deadlift ever: 636 lbs. (288.5 kg.).

๐ŸŒŽ POWERLIFTING TOTAL Weighing 396, super-heavyweight Daniel Bell broke the 2600 barrier, totaling 2607 lbs. (1182.5 kg.), raw with wraps.

Daniel Bell world record
Bell squats 500 kg. (1102 lbs.) on his way to a 2607-lb. total / Instagram

๐ŸŒŽ WEIGHTLIFTING The Georgian GOAT, Lasha Talakhadze, set and broke his best-ever marks three times this year, upping the record total from 485 to 488 to 492 kg. His record snatch is now 225 kg. (496 lbs.) and record clean-and-jerk is now 267 kg. (588.6 lbs.).


๐ŸŽฌ Super muscles and super strength continued to rule at the box office. SUPERHEROES occupied five of the top six spots with Spider-Man: No Way Home running away with the title. The only non-Marvel movie in the top six was F9: The Last Saga with John Cena, whose stock is rapidly rising, providing the muscle previously supplied by The Rock.

๐ŸŽฌ๐Ÿ“บ๐Ÿ“ฑ๐ŸŽค Speaking of DWAYNE JOHNSON, he was everywhere from Jungle Cruise in cineplexes to Young Rock and Red Notice on TVs to the worldโ€™s second most popular Instagram account to his lines in the Tech N9ne song โ€œFace Offโ€ that became a ubiquitous meme: โ€œItโ€™s about drive, itโ€™s about power.โ€ No one since Arnold has done more to mainstream massive muscles than The Rock.


๐Ÿ“ท JIMMY CARUSO, 95, photographer, took iconic Arnold photos in the ’60s & ’70s  

๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿคผโ€โ™‚๏ธ MELISSA COATES, 50, bodybuilder, won a pro bodybuilding title, pro wrestler  (Tribute)

๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ† CHRIS DICKERSON, 82, bodybuilder, 1982 Mr. Olympia, won 10 pro shows, 2nd in 1980 & 1981 Mr. Olympias (Tribute)

๐Ÿ’ช๐ŸŽฌ  DAVE DRAPER, 79, bodybuilder, 1965 Mr. America, 1966 Mr. Universe, iconic cover and product model, actor (Tribute)

Dave Draper death
Betty Weider and Dave Draper in a typical Weider beach shot

๐Ÿ‹๏ธ๐ŸŒŽ ERNIE FRANTZ, 86, powerlifter, won 1974 World Championships 181-lb. class, 9 masterโ€™s world records, co-founded American Powerlifting Federation   

๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ† JENNY LYNN-POWELL, 49, figure competitor, 2006 & 2007 Ms. Figure Olympia, won 12 pro figure titles (Tribute)

๐Ÿ“ท๐ŸŽฌ  GEORGE BUTLER, 78, director, photographer, directed documentary Pumping Iron (1977) and shot photos for book (1974) of same name (Interview)

๐Ÿ’ช JOHN MEADOWS, 49, bodybuilder, popular trainer/nutritionist

๐Ÿ’ช MATT MENDENHALL, 61, bodybuilder, perhaps best amateur to not go pro (Tribute)

๐Ÿคผโ€โ™‚๏ธ PAUL ORNDORFF, 71, pro wrestler, โ€œMr. Wonderfulโ€ in ’80s

๐Ÿ’ช GEORGE PETERSON, 37, bodybuilder, won 2 classic pro shows and a 212 pro show

๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ† SHAWN RHODEN, 46, bodybuilder, 2018 Mr. Olympia, won 6 pro shows, 2nd in 2016 Olympia (Tribute)

๐Ÿ‹๏ธ๐Ÿฅ‡๐ŸŒŽ YURY VLASOV, 85, weightlifter, 1960 heavyweight Olympic champ, 4-time World Champ, 34 world records


Five questions for 2022:

โ“ Will Brandon Curry or William Bonac win the Arnold Classic again?

โ“ Can Julius Maddox become the first human to bench 800 raw?

โ“ Can Lasha Talakhadze become the first human to total 500kg. in weightlifting?

โ“ Will Big Ramy secure his dynasty with a Mr. Olympia three-peat?

โ“ Will the world, and the fitness world, return to something like normal?