John Grimek was probably the greatest bodybuilder of the 30’s and 40’s – and beyond! He was the only bodybuilder to the AAU Mr. America title twice in 1940 and 1941. So complete were his victories that the organization changed the entry rules excluding previous winners.
There is some confusion about the exact date when John Carrol Grimek was born. Some documents say that he was born on June the 17th 1910, but some of the documents say that he was born of June the 18th 1911. Some even claim that he was born on June the 17th 1909. Who knows? What we do know is that a legend was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey at that time.
Grimek started lifting in his early teens. His initial interest was physique training. As well as a bodybuilding practitioner, Grimek was a talented weight lifter. He competed for the U.S. team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a heavyweight placing ninth overall. Many experts believed he could have been a medal winner if he had competed at light heavyweight.
The late 30’s saw Grimek turn his attention to pure bodybuilding although he still competed at many weightlifting events. In 1948 John Grimek won the 1948 NABBA Mr. Universe contest narrowly beating a young Steve Reeves. Steve Reeves declared, “John Grimek is the greatest bodybuilder that ever lived” – high praise indeed from one of bodybuilding’s superstars.
Grimek’s massive physique greatly influenced bodybuilders of the 50’s with greats like Bill Pearl and Reg Park declaring his influence and perpetuating his Herculean aesthetic. Upon retirement, Grimek was the only bodybuilder never to be defeated in a contest – before or since.
After retiring from bodybuilding, Grimek continued to train and write for popular bodybuilding publications, “Strength & Health” and “Muscular Development”. His articles and influence permeated bodybuilding right to the point of his death. Grimek is known for his Herculean physique and it is fair to say that he changed the aesthetic ideal of the male physique forever.
- 1939 York Perfect Man
- 1940 AAU Mr. America
- 1941 AAU Mr. America
- 1946 Most Muscular Man In America
- 1948 NABBA Mr. Universe
- 1949 Mr. USA
Check out a rare interview with John Grimek in the video below as well as some footage of his posing routine: