LegendaryLife Profile: Sergio “The Myth” Oliva

The Myth. The Legend. Servio The Myth Oliva showing-off his incredible 23 inch arms!

The Myth. The Legend. Servio "The Myth" Oliva showing-off his incredible 23 inch arms!

In the world of bodybuilding where legends such as Lou Ferrigno, Casey Viator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mohammed Makaway, Casey Viator, , Lee Labrada, Ron Coleman, Jay Cutler, , Lee Haney, Lee Priest, Dorian Yates, Weider, Mentzer and “Barbarian” Brothers, Mike Katz, Dexter Jackson, Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray still cast a dominating shadow over this sport, one man, still maintains the biggest of them all. He is called Sergio “The Myth” Oliva.

Sergio Oliva’s early years

Few people realize that Sergio was a Cuban born on July 4th, 1941 and got into bodybuilding rather by accident. He was a soldier in the war against communism but lost, so he headed for the beach where a few friends introduced him to weight lifting.

Sergio Oliva’s legend begins

After less than a year of training, he was able to perform clean & jerks in excess of 400lbs, which was more than double his weight at the time. Considering he was still a teenager at this time made it all the more impressive. He caught the eye of the Cuban government and in 1961, he represented Cuba in the Pan American Games. During these games, he sneaked-out and sought asylum in an American Consulate, which was granted.

Sergio Oliva enters the mainstream bodybuilding community

In 1963, after moving from Miami, Florida to Chicago Illinois to work at a foundry, his legend started to grow due to his shier power and strength at the local gym he exercised at. Apparently, he was lifting more weight than anybody thought was possible and word began spreading quickly in the bodybuilding circles. He decided to give a competition a try and a year later, became “Mr. Illinois”! After a few competitions, he gathered enough steam to compete in an IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding) sanctioned event in 1967, blowing away the competition! He won both the Mr. World Contest and Mr. Universe that year followed by winning Mr. Universe yet again three consecutive years later! He was so impressive at the time that he won the 1968 Mr. Olympia completely uncontested, nobody could even come close to the physique he had developed in only four years of being in the sport! He won an impressive number of contests during this years as a competitive, professional bodybuilder which is still talked about to this day!

Here is a listing of all the competitions he entered:

  • 1963 Mr Chicago
  • 1964 Mr Illinois
  • 1964 Mr America – AAU, 7th
  • 1965 Junior Mr America – AAU, 2nd
  • 1965 Junior Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular
  • 1965 Mr America – AAU, 4th
  • 1965 Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular,
  • 1966 Junior Mr America – AAU, Winner
  • 1966 Junior Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular
  • 1966 Mr America – AAU, 2nd
  • 1966 Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular,
  • 1966 Mr World – IFBB, Overall Winner
  • 1966 Mr World – IFBB, Tall, 1st
  • 1966 Mr Universe – IFBB Winner
  • 1966 Olympia – IFBB, 4th
  • 1967 Olympia – IFBB, Winner
  • 1967 Universe – IFBB, Overall Winner
  • 1968 Olympia – IFBB, Winner
  • 1969 Olympia – IFBB, Winner
  • 1970 Mr World – AAU, Pro Tall, 2nd
  • 1970 Olympia – IFBB, 2nd
  • 1971 Universe – Pro – NABBA, Tall, 2nd
  • 1972 Olympia – IFBB, 2nd
  • 1972 Mr. Galaxy – WBBG
  • 1973 Mr International – IFBB, Professional, 1st
  • 1974 Mr International, Professional, 1st
  • 1975 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
  • 1976 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
  • 1977 World Championships – WABBA, Professional, 1st
  • 1978 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
  • 1980 World Championships – WABBA, Professional, 1st
  • 1981 Pro World Cup – WABBA, Winner
  • 1984 Olympia – IFBB, 8th
  • 1984 Pro States Championships – WABBA
  • 1985 Olympia – IFBB, 8th

Sergio’s physical achievements!

Sergio’s body was truly aspiring and the symmetry he achieved was at least 20 years ahead of his competitors at the time. Considering he was rather short at 5ft9 compared to the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger (6ft2) and Lou Ferrigno (6ft5), he still managed to more than hold his own against these monsters of the sport at the time. He was also about the same weight as far taller competitors and his body was so amazing that he even gave Arnold his first and only loss of his career! His arms measured an incredible 23 inches unflexed with impressive 20 inch forearms. His chest was almost as large as Arnold Schwarzeneggers at the time (58 inches) and yet, he still managed to maintain an incredibly slim waist of 28 inches! His legs where like massive tree trucks measuring an incredible 33 inches… again, he BLEW AWAY the competition in just about every category! His arms where so massive, considering his overall body size, that they where usually described as pythons, which is maybe where Hulk Hogan got his idea of describing his arms in the same manner.

Sergio Oliva later in life

Sergio entered the police force after many years of competition and became a family man at the age of 43. He, like many great legends, bowed-out of the sport, having earned the respect of fellow athletes for pushing the sport of competitive bodybuilding into a new era, that of the “genetic freaks” that would soon dominate the arena. He also wrote a book in 2007 which is difficult to get.

Sergio “The Myth” Oliva Videos

(great summary of an amazing man)

(Sergio posing at the 1984 Olympia)

(Sergio posing at the 1985 Olympia)

Like father like son?

It doesn’t end there, Sergio Oliva Jr. is really starting to make inroads within the bodybuilding community as well, here is one of his videos… impressive and given a few years, I am sure he will continue in the legacy of his father.

Sergio Oliva Trivia

  • Sergio Oliva was shot by his x-wife 5 times!
  • Sergio’s first job in America was that of a TV repairman
  • Sergio is still the only bodybuilder to ever win and hold, the top standings in four competitive bodybuilding federations at the same time! (IFBB, AAU, NABBA, WBBG)
  • Once Cuba’s weightlifting team got wind of his escape, the entire team followed suit
  • Sergio’s competition weight was normally between 240lbs and 255lbs, which, even by today’s standards, is enormous considering the low body fat he maintained during these events

The Bottom Line

Legends come in all sizes and shapes, Sergio’s just happens to be among the largest!

Buzvia: Official Sergio Oliva Web Site and Sergio Oliva on Wikipedia

See also: LegendaryLife Profile: Bill Kazmaier and LegendaryLife Profile: Mariusz Pudzianowski


  • Mike Greene says:

    I think Mr Oliva was and still is one of the best bodybuilders of all time. From the first time I picked up a set of weights, I wanted to be like him. Although I never really reached my true potential, I did achieve nice size arms. Being in the Air Force during most of my lifting time, I couldn’t exceed a certain weight. But now at age 50, I’m back training and feel stronger than ever. The Mythe will always be my altermate bodybuilding idol!!!

  • Jon says:

    Congrats on keeping up the training at 50… you are never too old to live out a dream! I do look forward to seeing how his son matures as a bodybuilder and I do wish he would guest pose again, even if he isn’t at his peak, I’m sure his body would still be astounding!


  • Mark says:

    Sergio, as having been said before, is to bodybuilding what Babe Ruth is to baseball. That says it all.

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