10 Best Natural Bodybuilders of All Time

best natural bodybuilders

The athletes who’ve built the best physiques without using PEDs

Natural bodybuilding is about maximizing one’s genetic potential through dedicated training and nutrition protocols. In the pursuit of achieving a remarkable physique, a significant number of athletes have resorted to using steroids (1). These substances enable athletes to push their bodies to extreme limits and produce muscle growth faster. Leagues like the IFBB Pro League don’t test for steroids. On the contrary, natural bodybuilding leagues put their athletes through rigorous drug testing protocols. Let’s dive into the top 10 natural bodybuilders of all time and the ins and outs of natural bodybuilding.

Disclaimer: Generation Iron does not condone or endorse the use of illegal drugs. This article is to help educate on the basic information of what these drugs actually do and in no way is a recommendation or instruction guide on how to use the steroids mentioned within this article.

10 of the Best Natural Bodybuilders 

Due to the lower popularity of natural bodybuilding, you might only know a few bodybuilders on this list. Plus, many bodybuilders who claim to be natty aren’t. Our list includes bodybuilders who have never failed a drug test and compete in the natural federation competitions. However, you may never entirely know if an athlete is 100% natty. Below is a list of the top 10 natural bodybuilders (in no particular order). 

Eugen Sandow

best natural bodybuilders

We’re starting our list with the father of modern bodybuilding, Eugen Sandow. This is the athlete whose figure is awarded the coveted Mr. Olympia trophy. Since Sandow was born in 1867 and steroids gained traction in the 1950s, we can confidently say this legend was natty.

Ron Williams

Ron Williams is the most decorated natural bodybuilder and has won over 250 competitions, making him an easy entry for the list of best natural bodybuilders. This superstar was inducted into the International Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in 2008. He has 7 Mr. Natural Oympia titles, 7 Mr. Natural Universe Titles, and 7 Mr. Natural World Titles.

Jeff Seid

 

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Jeff Seid is someone that many people would not expect to see on the list of best natural bodybuilders, as many say he is not natural. Seid is famous for his impressive physique and his feat of being the youngest IFBB Pro when he started at 19. Seid was an All-American wrestler before bodybuilding and stood at 6 feet tall.

Ulisses Williams Jr.

 

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Ulisses Williams Jr. is another decorated natural bodybuilding title holder, boasting wins in over 24 competitions, how could we not put him on the list of best natural bodybuilders? Williams Jr. is also known for his eight-pack, a deviation from the coveted 6-pack.

Rob Terry

Rob Terry won the Natural Olympia in 2017 and 2018, making him a great candidate for the list of best natural bodybuilders. He stood 6’5” and was in the WWE and Impact before joining natural bodybuilding. 

Derek Joe

 

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Derek Joe competed in his first-ever amateur bodybuilding competition in 2020. He went from that to winning the Natural Olympia Men’s Classic Physique Open in 2021, a tough battle, and the reason he made the list of best natural bodybuilders.

John Hansen

 

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John Hansen is 5’5” and weighed over 200 pounds in his competing days. He won the first Natural Olympia and the Mr. Natural Universe title three times, which makes it almost inevitable that he makes the list of best natural bodybuilders.

Paul Krueger

 

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Paul Krueger is a force to reckon with in natural bodybuilding. He shocked everyone by winning the 2021 Natural Olympia weeks after getting his pro card! However, you should know he was an amateur bodybuilder for 25 years before becoming a professional natural bodybuilder.

Meshack Ochieng

 

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Meshack Ochieng is called the “Natural Ronnie Coleman” because you could easily mistake him for a non-natty athlete. However, Ochieng competes in the INBA and NANBF, which are very strict about their drug testing, and has won multiple natty competitions. 

Mike O’Hearn

 

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We left the most controversial for the last with Mike O’Hearn. As a four-time INBA Mr. Natural Universe who has never flunked a drug test, O’Hearn’s natty status can never quite be contested. However, you’ll find many articles and podcasts debating this, but Mike O’Hearn is still the best natural bodybuilder to us.

What Is Natural Bodybuilding

As the name suggests, natural bodybuilding is simply bodybuilding that is done without drug use. Natural bodybuilders, like bodybuilders in the IFBB Pro League, strive to obtain a shredded physique, except without the support of performance enhancers. As a result, they tend to be smaller than their juiced-up counterparts.

That said, not all bodybuilders admit to the use of steroids. Many claim to be natty, as many people consider steroid use as cheating. To set their athletes apart, natural bodybuilding leagues such as the INBA PNBA do multiple drug tests throughout the year and have a list of prohibited substances. 

Advantages & Disadvantages of Natural Bodybuilding

Most people start building their muscles naturally before choosing to take performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). However, many bodybuilders, especially those who compete in natural bodybuilding leagues, decide to stay natty. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of natural bodybuilding to help you determine if it fits your goals.

Advantages

Safer

Performance-enhancing drugs come with side effects that can be negatively life-altering. Some include hair loss, hormonal issues, depression, and heart failure. As a natural bodybuilder, you don’t have to unduly worry about these side effects as those drugs won’t be in your system. 

Better for Longevity 

Another advantage of not worrying about the above side effects is longevity. Lifting weights naturally is excellent for your health and well-being. Without the extra damage from drugs, you stand a good chance of living a long and healthy life.

More Pocket Friendly

Bodybuilding can be very expensive. You must eat a healthy diet, pay for a gym membership, and take quality supplements in addition to all the costs of preparing for a show, like travel costs. Adding steroids to that cost can add up, as the quality options are costly. Natural bodybuilding relieves you of that extra financial stress. 

The Best for Your Pride & Self-Image

The satisfaction comes with knowing that you worked hard and pushed yourself to your limits to get your muscles. Bodybuilders who take steroids and lie about it end up living a double life, which can be stressful mentally. Natty bodybuilders have the peace of mind from knowing they are credible and made this happen themselves without any help from drugs. 

Disadvantages

Lots of Testing

Being a natural bodybuilder comes with year-round and consistent testing. Most natural bodybuilders also bear the costs of these tests, which can be expensive in the long run. There’s also the stress of false positives and the cumbersome appeal process to rectify this mistake. 

Smaller Recognition

Natural bodybuilders get a small fraction of the massive fan love that other bodybuilders get. This can be a tough pill to swallow, leading many to give up. Media coverage for natural bodybuilding is also not as impressive as many prefer the mass monster look that athletes in the IFBB Pro League have. 

Limitations

While you can be a pro-natural bodybuilder, your body will not be able to outperform other bodybuilders since there’s no way a natty can keep up with PED users in the bodybuilding sphere. 

Lower Compensation

Due to lower fan and media involvement, natural bodybuilding pays less. Prize money from competitions is less, and the sponsored deals have a smaller payout. This is why many people approach bodybuilding as a hobby and have other jobs to fund their lifestyle.

Slower Progress

Watching your steroid-using counterparts make it far faster can be discouraging. Building muscle and strength is hard and can take a while. This could lead to frustration for the natty bodybuilder.

Differences Between Natural Bodybuilding & Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding is about lifting weights to achieve muscle hypertrophy and growth. The goal is to look as big and shredded as proportionally possible. Bodybuilders who use performance-enhancing drugs have a higher strength threshold and can lift more for longer, leading to more muscle growth. This study confirms the relationship between weight, volume, and muscle growth (2). In addition, anabolic steroids cause an anabolic chain in the body that yields more muscle growth as well. 

To differentiate between categories, natural bodybuilding competitions have an extensive list of what is forbidden for natural bodybuilding. Taking any of the following affects your natty status:

Competitions for Natural Bodybuilders

The most prominent natural bodybuilding regulating organizations are the International Natural Bodybuilding Association and Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association (INBA/PNBA), the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF), and the American Natural Bodybuilding Federation (ANBF). They all work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and their banned substance list. 

Some popular competitions for bodybuilders that these bodies hold include the Natural Olympia, the PNBA Elite World, and the Natural Universe. These competitions have the same divisions as in the IFBB Pro League, e.g., the Men’s Open division, Women’s Open, Men’s Physique, Women’s Physique, Classic Physique, Bikini, Wellness and Fitness.

Best Natural Bodybuilders Wrap Up

Pursuing natural bodybuilding is a captivating journey that many embark on but few complete. Despite its relatively modest financial and fame rewards compared to its counterpart, it offers a healthier approach and arguably commands greater respect to achieve their physiques without the helping hand of PEDs. Explore the profiles of some remarkable natty bodybuilders we have curated, and delve further into the world of natural bodybuilding below:

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References

  1. Hartgens, F., & Kuipers, H. (2004). Effects of androgenic-anabolic steroids in athletes. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 34(8), 513–554. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200434080-00003 
  2. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244897
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.