Joe Weider, Iconic Jewish Bodybuilding and Magazine Guru, Dies at 93

Launched Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stable of Men's Mags

Pioneer: Bodybuilding guru Joe Weider started the Mr. Olympia competition in the 1960s.
getty images
Pioneer: Bodybuilding guru Joe Weider started the Mr. Olympia competition in the 1960s.

By Reuters

Published March 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Joe Weider, the self-made fitness and bodybuilding guru who built a magazine empire that included more than a dozen popular publications such as Muscle and Fitness, Shape and Men’s Fitness, died on Saturday at the age of 93.

Weider, also known for starting the Mr Olympia bodybuilding contest in the 1960s and mentoring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, passed away from heart failure at a Los Angeles area hospital, his longtime publicist Charlotte Parker said.

“Joe Weider was a titan in the fitness industry and one of the kindest men I have ever met,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement posted on his official website.

“He leaves behind a fantastic legacy of a fitter world,” the film star and former governor of California said. “Very few people can claim to have influenced as many lives as Joe did through his magazines, his supplements, his training equipment and his big-hearted personality.”

Born to Jewish immigrants from Poland in a tough neighborhood of Montreal in 1920, Weider began lifting weights as a teenager to stand up to bullies and older boys before competing in his first bodybuilding contest at the age of 17, according to a biography provided by Parker.

He started his first magazine, Your Physique, in the early 1940s and with his younger brother Ben rented Montreal’s Monument National Theater to host the first Mr Canada contest during that same decade.

The two brothers also founded the International Federation of Bodybuilders and in 1965 Weider created the Mr Olympia competition, the sport’s premiere bodybuilding contest.

Weider met Schwarzenegger at a bodybuilding contest in Europe and convinced him to move from his native Austria to the United States to seek wider recognition.

“He saw a lot in Arnold,” Parker said. “He felt that the sport needed a star and right away he could see that Arnold was something special.”

Schwarzenegger, then nicknamed the “Austrian Oak,” first gained fame by winning a string of Mr Olympia titles in the early 1970s before going on to a successful career in such films as “The Terminator” and “Total Recall.”

He was elected governor of California in 2003 and served two terms before retiring from politics.

“Joe didn’t just inspire my earliest dreams; he made them come true the day he invited me to move to America to pursue my bodybuilding career,” Schwarzenegger, who visited Weider in the hospital before his death, said in the statement.

“I will never forget his generosity. One of Joe’s greatest qualities is that he wasn’t just generous with his money; he freely gave of his time and expertise and became a father figure for me,” he said.

Schwarzenegger also credited Weider with getting him his first acting role, in a movie called “Hercules in New York,” by claiming that the hulking young Austrian was a Shakespearean actor from Germany.

Weider, who also created a line of sports nutritional supplements and ultimately founded more than a dozen fitness magazines including Fit Pregnancy, Living Fit and Flex, sold his Weider Publicans to American Media Inc. in the early 2000s.

He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Betty.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.