The National Amateur Body-Builders’ Association (NABBA) was formed in 1950 in the England. This followed the inaugural Mr Universe contest held in 1948 in commemoration of the London Olympics. Carrying on the legacy of its predecessor, the Health & Strength League, NABBA is the original competitive bodybuilding association. The winner of the 1948 Mr Universe was John Grimek, and it is his likeness that adorns the iconic NABBA logo.
In 1950, Steve Reeves won the first NABBA Mr Universe competition. Reeves later transitioned into Hollywood and was one of the first famous bodybuilders to grace the silver screen. Many of the legendary bodybuilders of the 1950’s to 1970’s held the Mr Universe title include Reg Park, Bill Pearl and Arnold Schwarzenegger, amongst dozens of others.
Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s bodybuilding saw a rapid shift away from male dominated competitions with the introduction of women’s bikini and later women’s figure and physique classes.
As bodybuilding continued to evolve throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, NABBA introduced Junior and Masters classes for men, as well as Toned, Athletic and Trained figure for women to provide a wider offering for more competitors.
The Professional Mr Universe title was created in 1952 and is still a highlight of the NABBA Universe festivities today. 2014 saw a rebirth of the NABBA Pro Division, and also saw the introduction of the Professional Mr World title.
2017 was a history making year with the inaugural Professional Ms World and Professional Ms Universe titles being decided.
2018 sees the long awaited reintroduction of Bikini classes to the NABBA International categories. In addition, Classic Bodybuilding and Men’s Sports Shorts have also been included to provide for a wider array of competitors.
NABBA International was created in 1984 as a peak body for the various countries around the world who were affiliated with NABBA.
Founded in Germany in 1968, by Klaus Hoffmann. The early competitions of the World Fitness Federation (WFF) were centred around Northern and Eastern Europe. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, the WFF was able to branch out and bring an alternative to hardcore bodybuilding to a wider audience.
Throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s the number of WFF affiliated countries extended from Europe into Australasia, South America and Africa.
In 2013 following forty years Hoffmann passed the reigns onto then NABBA International President, Graeme Lancefield.
2014 saw a rapid shift away from the traditional WFF events, with the first major international title being held outside of Europe. The 2014 WFF Universe was hosted by South Korea, and was one of the most spectacular events in the WFF’s history. In that same year, Australia hosted the WFF World Championships on the Gold Coast. The scene was set for bigger and better things.
2015 saw the WFF World Championships arrive in South Africa and the following year the WFF Universe travelled to the USA for the first time.
In 2017 Brazil hosted the WFF Universe, and was heralded a resounding success with some of the best quality amateur a professional lineups in recent history.
2018 sees the WFF Universe come back to Asia, this time to Singapore. Though much has changed in the last few years, the focus of the WFF remains the promotion of aesthetic and balanced physiques where shape and proportion don’t play second fiddle to size.
Australia’s first competitor at the NABBA Mr Universe was Victor Vella from NSW who competed in 1963. However, it would be many years before the NABBA name would be commonplace in Australian bodybuilding.
The United Bodybuilding Association of Australia (UBBA) was formed in 1982 by Peter McCarthy. In 1984 the UBBA affiliated with NABBA International. In the late 1980’s the UBBA formally became NABBA Australia, and Australian bodybuilding entered into a new era with more international representation than ever before. Throughout the 1990’s, Australian women and men featured highly at the NABBA Universe and World Championships with many titles brought home to Australia.
In the late 1990’s the general appetite for hardcore bodybuilding, though still strong, was suffering the effects of public scrutiny. By the early 2000’s it became apparent that NABBA Australia would need to adapt to cater for the changing market.
Through an affiliation with WFF International, then based in Germany, NABBA Australia was able to introduce athletic bodybuilding categories, as well as fitness models for women and men, and bikini models.
Today the combination of NABBA and WFF categories in Australia allows for all competitors to find a place within the organisation.
Graeme Lancefield is the President of NABBA/WFF Australia and WFF International, and previously served as President of NABBA International from 2009 to 2017.