Bodybuilding can be traced back to the stone-lifting traditions of ancient Greece and Egypt. But modern bodybuilding did not develop until the late 19th century, thanks to the 'Father of Modern Bodybuilding', Eugen Sandow. Bodybuilding gained popularity in the 1950's and 1960's through competitions like Mr. Universe and Mr. America. From there the sport only continued to grow through such stars as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.
But, with the rise in popularity, the drive for success also began to increase within the bodybuilding circuit. Many competitors struggled for success, spending countless hours tearing down their muscles through heavy weight lifting and high protein diets. However, many found that their gym exertions just did not result in the level of gains they wanted. The use of steroids became prevalent and was used by the most popular competitors, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger.
While competitors gained muscle mass and a lot of notoriety, they damaged their bodies. Steroid use and the extreme diets required to maintain low body fat resulted in damaged liver, kidneys, and also increased heart size. With such extreme damage to the body, the most intense bodybuilders fell victim to disease and, in the most extreme cases, early death.
Many of the competitors who were rising in the bodybuilding circuit were in their late twenties and early thirties. By the time they reached the height of their career their bodies were already damaged and worn down. Some other notable bodybuilders took huge logistic risks in the course of their career, performing dangerous stunts that put them in harm's way. Still others were consumed by steroid use, and suffered psychologically. This tragically led to a number of sudden and even disturbing bodybuilding deaths.
7 Andreas Munzer
The bodybuilding world is fraught with accusations of steroid use and extreme diets that weigh on bodybuilders' organs and lead to early deaths. No bodybuilder is more known for this tragic type of death than Andreas Munzer. As an avid admirer of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Munzer aspired to build a large body that was void of practically any fat.
Unlike many bodybuilders, Munzer was a year-round machine. He participated in several competitions annually, but also made guest appearances, and never took a break from his very strict low carb diet. He used muscle building drugs coupled with high doses of diuretics, to remove extra water weight from his body, on an almost constant basis.
This drug abuse led to severely damaged internal organs. Munzer was plagued by severe stomach pain for months before he was admitted to the hospital in March of 1996. Doctors were forced to operate on Munzer to stop bleeding from his stomach. After the surgery his liver and kidneys shut down. Munzer died on March 14 at the young age of 31. His autopsy revealed that his liver was filled with tumors and a heart that was twice the size of a normal man's heart. His blood tests showed very high potassium levels and traces of about twenty drugs.
6 Greg Plitt
As a West Point graduate and an Airborne and Ranger, Greg Plitt had the training and mentality to sky rocket him to stardom. After serving for five years as a Ranger, Plitt received his personal training certification and began training clients out of Los Angeles, California.
He took his passion for fitness and his career as a personal trainer one step further by authoring the workout program MFT 28, which was featured by Bodybuilding.com. He appeared on the cover of magazines such as American Health & Fitness, Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Men's Health, Fitness Rx for Men, and Men's Exercise. His training and his good looks also awarded him spots on commercials for Old Spice Body Wash, Calvin Klein, Under Armour, and Old Navy Jeans. And, in 2008 he became a member of the Bravo TV community on the reality show, Work Out.
Greg Plitt's life was cut short when on January 17, 2015 he was killed by a Metrolink Antelope Valley Line train in Burbank, California. According to reports, the star was running between the rails, and trying to outrun a train to prove the effectiveness of an energy drink. Plitt was only 37-years-old.
5 Chad Brothers
Imagine jogging on the treadmill at your local gym when a fellow gym goer sudden goes into psychotic rant and starts ripping apart equipment and screaming like a barbarian. Sounds like something from a movie right? Unfortunately, this actually happened in Golds Gym, Colonie, New York in 2011.
The man who began the rampage was Chad Brothers, a 32-year-old bodybuilder and local resident. According to witnesses, Brothers fell off an elliptical machine and immediately went into a rage. He cranked up the speed of a treadmill that a fellow gym goer was jogging on and then punched the man in the face. Next he knocked over several 700 pound weight machines and destroyed the office area.
The police arrived and attempted to calm Brothers. However when he refused to do so he was tased and immediately stopped breathing. CPR was performed but Brothers did not regain consciousness. At the time of his outrageous behavior and death, Brothers had a mixture of steroids and PCP in his system. He's believed to have fallen victim to 'roid rage', a term often used to describe the uncontrollable rage will can be a result of excessive steroid use.
4 Oli Cooney
For most of us, two heart attacks and three strokes would force us into a lifestyle change. But not Oli Cooney.
The obsessed bodybuilder from Baildon, West Yorkshire, was determined to change his physique. By the age of 16, Oli Cooney had begun his grueling workout regimens. By the age of 18, he was warned by doctors to slow his weightlifting regimen. And by 20, after just four years within the bodybuilding arena, Cooney was dead. Cooney was very open about his anabolic steroid use, even after he was diagnosed with chronic heart damage and chest pains.
Though he eventually stopped taking steroids, the damage that was done to Cooney's body was irreversible. After his third stroke, Oli Cooney was warned by doctors not to return to working out. However, he did not listen to their warnings and began working out three to four times a week. After a night out, Cooney collapsed on his way to a taxi and was pronounced dead at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. His mother has used her son's death as a way to educate other fitness fanatics about the life-threatening effects of steroid use.
3 Aziz "Zyzz" Shavershian
Born a skinny and awkward boy in Moscow, Aziz Shavershian relocated to Australia with his family at a young age and aspired to become a man of muscle. Instead of simply lifting heavy weights and bulking up in the gym, Shavershian became obsessed with 'aesthetics'. This was a different basic approach to bodybuilding, with the envisioned end result not an overwhelming bulk of muscle, but an overall sexually appealing look through muscle definition. And Shavershian, also known to the world as "Zyzz" created his dream body in just four years.
With plenty of newfound confidence to go along with his new body, Zyzz began uploading videos of himself to YouTube and frequenting bodybuilding websites. Zyzz earned national recognition when he was a part of the YouTube series "National Road Trip" and was named the "epitome of aesthetics."
Just as he was rising to fame, Shavershian died in a Bangkok sauna of a heart attack. The fitness model's sudden death shocked fans and started a frenzy of speculation around Zyzz's steroid use. While the toxicology report has remained within the Shavershian family, many have pointed to steroids as the primary cause of death.
2 Anthony D'Arezzo
Everyone loves a good comeback story, and that was just what Anthony D'Arezzo was going to be. A former high school wrestling star who earned a scholarship to wrestle at Boston University, D'Arezzo was always a disciplined person.
After graduating from college D'Arezzo continued weight-lifting and in 1988 was named Mr. Rhode Island. He was strong, too. D'Arezzo could bench press 535 pounds, a feat that won him first place in 1992 at the American Bench Press Championships.
A series of injuries plagued him for a time and in 2002, he was diagnosed with congenital heart disease - a disease that was made worse by his constant used of steroids. After several years of taking it easy, D'Arezzo got back into the bodybuilding circuit, and started using steroids again.
He flew to Pittsburgh for a competition. After he weighed in, Anthony D'Arezzo sat in his hotel room with a friend, practicing his poses. He collapsed and died of a heart attack before he was able to set foot on the stage.
1 Steve Michalik
Intensity was the key word to describe Steve Michalik's bodybuilding regimen and, at times, insanity. From the start of his life, Michalik was surrounded by intensity. First from his abusive parents, and eventually as a B52 Bomber pilot in Guam, Michalik had a fast moving, struggle-filled life, a life which created a drive for success within him.
His drive carried him into bodybuilding. In 1972 Michalik won the title of Mr. America. In 1975 he won the title of Mr. Universe. But his wins were laced with constant doses of steroids.
At the weight of 265 pounds Michalik was pure muscle. But despite his outward accomplishments, Michalik had ruined his internal self. In the 1980's, he was diagnosed with liver tumors, heart failure and kidney disease. He was forced to retire from bodybuilding, but went on to open his own gym in New York and train countless bodybuilders.
He received a kidney transplant in 2011 before his death, at the age of 63, in 2012.