The Man Who Transformed Bodybuilding & Fitness

There are lots of legends. Joe Weider was one of a kind.



He toiled in the dark. Beneath a sheet draped over him and illuminated via flashlight, he pecked at a rented typewriter with his index finger. His mother didn’t want her kitchen table converted into a desk, so he waited until she was asleep. In the summer of 1940, Joe created his first magazine. “You will, no doubt, think us ambitious. Well, so we are!” he proclaimed in the premiere issue of Your Physique, never letting on that “we” was him under several bylines. He wrote every article and drew every illustration. He cranked out the pages on a rented mimeograph machine and spread the wet paper around the house to dry. Postcard announcements were mailed to Canadian strength enthusiasts, but it was after the issue circulated in gyms that subscriptions poured in.

Joe continuously improved his creation. In the first year, he incorporated photos, professional typesetting and printing, the work of expert writers, and color covers. “He went to the American News, and he came in the front door, and they threw him out. And he came in the back door, and they threw him out,” sister Freda remembered her older brother’s persistence. “And finally they said, ‘We have to see this younger man. He’s so insistent.’ They saw him, and they took on the magazine.” Thus, Your Physique was disseminated by North America’s largest magazine distributor.

In 1942, Joe began selling Weider-brand weight sets and other exercise equipment which he advertised in his own magazine. He remained a one-man company. A foundry dropped off the forged metal, and he assembled and packed everything himself—at his parents’ house. Weider corporate headquarters had relocated only from the kitchen to the living room. In 1945, Joe launched a second bodybuilding magazine, Muscle Power. Both of his publications emphasized photography and design superior to their competition. Joe learned publishing via trial and error and by studying the most successful magazines of the era.