For generations now, people have been inspired by muscle.
One topic of debate that comes up regularly is who would be the best among the best.
Here are our 50 that we would put up against anyone. Some are from bodybuilding and others are from other forms of sports and entertainment.
And since muscle is best respected in motion, we’ve done our best to find various workout and posing videos featuring each ranking member on this list.
Keep in mind that this is based on era and where the athletes stood at that time. Some are obvious while others may not be. Just trust me. These great men and women belong on this list.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Between his Olympia winning physique in the 70’s and his movie star muscles he carried in the 80’s, Schwarzenegger was responsible for inspiring many people to start training for more than two generations now.
2. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
The Rock has picked up where Arnold left off and is likely the greatest muscle man of the past two decades.
He was great in the WWE but now he’s even better. He keeps his followers satisfied on both Instagram and in the theaters and is proud of being both show and go.
3. Frank Zane
Outside of Arnold, the three-time Mr. Olympia was the most popular bodybuilder in the late ’70s and even into the early ’80s.
He had a ripped physique but it appeared to be more achievable which intrigued his fans.
4. Mike O’Hearn
O’Hearn has graced over 500 magazine and novel covers and won quite a few natural bodybuilding shows in his career.
His initial fame began in the ’90s but thanks to YouTube his incredible feats of strength and incredible physique are still being showcased.
5. Sylvester Stallone
Rocky Balboa, Rambo, and even in his everyday life – Stallone was revered for his physique throughout his entire career and even in the last few years thanks to his run in “The Expendables”.
6. Lee Haney
The man who broke Arnold’s Olympia record is still in the conversation when it comes to the greatest physique in bodybuilding history.
Haney’s wide shoulders and tiny waist were and are unmatched to this day.
7. Triple H
“The Game” doesn’t need to get ready because he stays ready.
He had a few injuries in the ring throughout his WWE career but when he came back he was always in peak condition. His look in 2002 is still talked about today.
8. Jean-Claude Van Damme
Take your pick, Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, or any other film he was in during that era. Van Damme was jacked and put on great performances to match.
9. Shannon Sharpe
This one might surprise you but in his playing days, he was known for his bodybuilder-like physique.
Even now at age 50, he’ll occasionally show his guns when he’s on “Undisputed”.
10. John Cena
The 16 time WWE Champion has the best physique in the world of sports entertainment.
In recent years, he’s also been showing it off in commercials and movies like Johnson before him.
11. Dolph Lundgren
“Ivan Drago” made being bad look pretty good when he took on Stallone in Rocky IV.
If he was going to break his opponent, he had to look like he could do it and he did.
12. Tyron Woodley
He’s one of the top stars in the UFC and he has the look to back up his talking and walking.
He obviously has to be in great shape to compete but when he’s in the octagon he looks like he could be on the cover of a magazine.
13. Ronnie Coleman
You might instantly think of the early 2000’s but look up Coleman’s photos from 1998 to 2000. Conditioning and symmetry were unmatched.
He did take it to another level later in his career but his look early on was more popular among bodybuilding fans.
14. Ultimate Warrior
His intensity and charisma made him a legend in pro wrestling and his body inspired many kids to start training.
Hulk Hogan may have been the guy in that era but more people wanted to look like the Warrior.
15. Phil Heath
The 7-time Mr. Olympia is known as “The Gift” because of his genetics but his effort in the gym is what led him to topple Jay Cutler in 2011.
He held the title of the greatest body in the sport for the next 7 years.
16. Michael Phelps
At 6’4” Phelps was tall but still showcased a great physique when he was setting records in the Olympics.
He would compete at around 5% body fat back in his swimming days.
17. Shawn Ray
He is considered by many bodybuilding historians to be the best bodybuilder to never win the Olympia.
He wasn’t a tall competitor but he hung with some of the biggest boys in his era from 1988-2001.
18. Bo Jackson
Bo knows a lot and it showed when he did interviews in the locker room. If it hadn’t been for a hip injury, he’d probably be a Hall of Fame player in both baseball and football.
He knew his way around a weight room too.
19. Steve Reeves
Reeves was the muscleman movie star of the 50’s and 60’s – especially in Europe. He was also Mr. USA, Mr. World, and Mr. Universe.
He was a pioneer in fitness for many in Hollywood.
20. Eugen Sandow
You might know the name because of the Mr. Olympia trophy that is in his likeness but at the turn of the 20th century, Sandow was the #1 muscleman in the world.
He made a living posing and doing feats of strength.
21. Lee Labrada
He’s the leader of Labrada Nutrition and the father of current pro, Hunter Labrada, but Lee’s physique was world class and his posing maximized his ability onstage.
If not for Haney, he likely would’ve won the Olympia at least once.
22. Lex Luger
The former football player and pro wrestler was known as “The Total Package” when he was in the ring.
When he flexed, the crowd was in awe and his strength also put him in rarefied air. Even in a world where great bodies were the norm, he stood out.
23. Greg Plitt
The late Greg Plitt was arguably the best male model in the world.
His ability to share his knowledge made him a great combination for the companies he worked with and the fans he inspired.
24. LL Cool J
The fame was in the name. Ladies love Cool James and it was for good reason.
One of the greatest assets in his hip-hop career was his body which at the time was revolutionary in the world of music.
25. Flex Wheeler
The four-time Arnold Champion and three-time Olympia runner up had a body that was considered one of the best ever.
He looked great when he came out of retirement in 2017 but his look in the ’90s was on another level.
26. Ashley Kaltwasser
Kaltwasser might be the greatest competitor in the history of the IFBB Pro League bikini division.
The multi-time Olympia and Arnold winner still can set the stage and Instagram on fire.
27. Rachel McLish
McLish was the first winner of the Ms. Olympia and openly talked about weight training which at that time was not fashionable.
Her body and work was a major factor in the female fitness revolution.
28. Nicole Wilkins
What Kaltwasser is to the bikini division, Wilkins is to the figure division.
Her muscle and presentation has been and still is a standard in the history of competition.
29. Torrie Wilson
The former WWE diva was among the most popular women in the world during her career.
Even now in her 40’s she still has a physique that stands out anywhere she goes.
30. Dana Linn Bailey
DLB may be the greatest female strength athlete ever.
She has excelled in bodybuilding, powerlifting, and is still going strong.
31. Demi Moore
Check out G.I. Jane and you’ll see why she is on this list.
When that movie came out, half of the promotion was about how she prepared for the film.
32. Angelica Teixeira
The reigning Bikini Olympia champion looks like she will hold that title for years to come.
Her combo of muscle and symmetry is the best in the game right now.
33. Paige Hathaway
Hathaway has been one of the most popular fitness people on Instagram.
Her 4 million plus followers can attest to why she is included. She trains hard and shows it often.
34. Lindsey Vonn
To be at the Olympics is one thing but to be one of the greatest in your sport deserves a whole new level of respect.
Vonn doesn’t just ski well. She lives in the gym too.
35. Juliana Malacarne
The four-time Women’s Physique Olympia winner overtook Bailey and didn’t relinquish the title until she was ready to move on.
She won every pose she presented and dominated the stage.
36. Michelle Lewin
Lewin’s name and body are known around the world. Not many models feature muscle the way she does.
It’s why she’s regarded as one of the top models in the world.
37. Jamie Eason
Jamie Eason overcame cancer and dominated the fitness industry for several years.
She was the feature of several centerfolds and the face of a couple of companies.
38. Lisa Marie Varon
Better known as “Victoria” from her days in WWE, Varon wasn’t only an IFBB Pro but also a former Women’s champion.
Strength wasn’t her middle name but it could’ve been.
39. Brooke Ence
In the world of CrossFit, Ence is among the most popular and when she competed was in contention for the title of Fittest on Earth.
40. Janet Layug
She is among the top contenders for the Olympia bikini title and has even won the title of Ms. Hooters International.
41. Jennifer Nicole Lee
She has won titles onstage, been featured in magazines, and even was in a movie with “The Rock”.
When “Pain and Gain” came out in 2013, she was among the most popular women in the world.
42. Lais DeLeon
DeLeon is still a fresh face in the fitness scene but her physique stands the test of time.
If a list like this comes out in 10-15 years, she could be on it.
43. Brittany Renner
Renner is better known as an author but has the brawn too.
Her local gym address could likely be her own because she looks like she lives there.
44. Cory Everson
Everson did for women’s bodybuilding what Arnold did for the men’s side – she made it cool.
The former Ms. Olympia was a face and body of fitness for several years.
45. Stephanie Sanzo
The Australian model, mother, and lifter doesn’t just look strong but is very strong by any standard.
Go check out her Instagram if you don’t believe me.
46. Beth Phoenix
Phoenix stood out in WWE because of her modern muscle as well as her throwback ability to wrestle like the previous generation did in the ring.
47. Timea Majorova
Back in the early 2000s, Majorova was in almost every major fitness and bodybuilding magazine.
Her look captivated the industry for a long time.
48. Brooke Wells
Wells finished in 6th at the CrossFit Games last year and is known to break the internet whenever a photo of her has been shared.
49. Amanda Latona
Amanda Latona is now known as the wife of Steve Kuclo but rose to fame for her own body that was featured onstage and in shoots.
50. Brandi Chastain
Go look up the 1999 Women’s World Cup and watch when she kicks in the winning goal. In celebration, she takes off her jersey to reveal some awesome abs.
She’s been the subject of several fitness conversations since.