From Theodore Roosevelt to Charles Atlas to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the story is a familiar one: A weak or sickly boy, riddled with self-doubt and powerlessness, develops into a strong, confident, and magnetic man through a disciplined bodybuilding regimen. Bodybuilding had its origins in the United States in the late nineteenth century, and it has grown in popularity, both as a fitness practice and a competitive sport, into the twenty-first century. Throughout its history, bodybuilding has been fundamentally concerned with the transformation of the self. This metamorphosis through muscle building represents a fundamentally modern ideal of masculinity that emerged at a time of vast social and cultural change.

As constructions of masculinity in the United States became increasingly grounded in the biological and medical aspects of the ...

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