Build Muscle, Win the War

While deep in bodybuilding research, rummaging  through dated copies of Your Physique, Muscle Builder, and Santé et Développement Physique hoping that the yellowed pages stay intact (one must not forget, these are sacred items), it became clear to me that, in the early establishments of muscle magazine, one can easily find messages of nationalism and nation pride alongside advice to build better shoulders and prevent hair loss (no matter how many times I read that one, my hair still fell out, oh well).

Although messages were present in several magazines (France, Canada, Britain, United States) and ranged from promoting the rejuvenation of a (what was argued as) a weak French Canadian nationality to strengthening the American Navy with weightlifting, this post focuses on Your Physique seeing that it is so close to home.


This cover dates back in 1942. If you paid attention throughout most of your schooling (and through Saving Private Ryan) you know that the Second World War was in full swing for 3 years. With the Canadian army overseas fighting for its country, Joe Weider decided to preach the positive effects of bodybuilding vis-a-vis winning the war and retaining ‘real Canadian manhood.’

Notice the shirtless soldiers huddled around the artillery piece joined by both American and Great Britain flags.


This next cover was published in 1952 – the Korean War. In the 1950s, Your Physique was changed to Mr.America, sort of makes sense seeing that Joe Weider was living in New Jersey at that point.

With a new war, Weider found a new opportunity to promote, preach, and sell bodybuilding. Although only one cover is shown here, the year 1952 provided us with four issues featuring a shirtless soldier either in action, or looking as if action was right around the corner.


In 1942 and 1952, Weider included articles related directly to the fighting. Examples are “This is no time to be weak,” “Korean Death Trap,” and “Hell’s Hill.”

As a PhD student and serious researcher in this stuff, I can only wonder, did Weider do this out of love for his country and absolute desire to improve the army, or did he see both wars as a means to endorse his product? Now I am not insinuating that Joe Weider was not patriotic, I never met him so I couldn’t tell you. However, it is common knowledge that he was as fierce businessman. One can only read, reflect, and reiterate.

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