There’s not really a ‘full-time job’ that is salaried, has benefits, a 401k, etcetera that you can apply for if you’re a bodybuilder. (Well, if there is one, LET ME KNOW WHERE TO APPLY ASAP!)
But, seriously- how do bodybuilders make money?
Bodybuilders make money through money earned at competitions, but most of their revenue comes from sponsorships, TV/movie appearances, and modeling. And interestingly enough, some bodybuilders actually coach other bodybuilders for money, like Charles Glass.
But, that’s not all of the ways bodybuilders make money. Let’s cover a few different ways they can get some money.
First of All, Most Bodybuilders Aren’t That Rich
Honestly, when you look at my list of the richest bodybuilders of all time, you may realize that most of the bodybuilders you know aren’t that rich.
Arnold Schwarzenegger for example, is super rich- but most of his money came from his movies, NOT the competitions.
A lot of bodybuilders see the money gained from competitions as nothing more than a ‘bonus’. Most are going to the competition for the medal and to rank high, nothing else.
You’d be surprised to find out the FIRST EVER Mr.Olympia competition had a grand prize of, get this: $1,000. That’s right, Arnold won $1,000 after his years of hard work. (really uh, “paid off”)
Nowadays, the prize pool is much higher, but that’s not where the money usually comes from for bodybuilders.
Furthermore, most bodybuilders just ‘show off’ that they are rich- or aren’t rich in general. Remember, bodybuilding is a sport all about ‘showing off’- so it’s no surprise many in the industry brag with cars they just have on a lease.
Many ‘amateur’ bodybuilders work extra jobs like security, bouncing, or other labor-intensive jobs that require incredibly strong people to get bonus cash.
And that is something interesting about bodybuilding- there are quite a few jobs that open up when you have all that muscle.
But, let’s talk about the main ways bodybuilders are actually making money.
Look, if you see a company selling this awesome new fitness product and the guy on the commercial looks like he has never lifted a day in his life- you aren’t going to buy the product.
Meanwhile, when you have a famous bodybuilder on the ad, people associate that bodybuilder with the product. Subconsciously and consciously people think, “this big guy approves of the product, so it has to work”.
It’s one of the fundamental things in advertising, having somebody that strongly represents your product.
Now, not everybody is a bodybuilder, it is a rarity. So, these companies have to be ready to pay a higher premium for the bodybuilders, as they are somewhat hard to come by.
But, the advertising is good for another reason. Whenever a bodybuilder goes to a competition (which is actually relatively frequent), many people will flock to follow them on their social media handles or look them up. If they see them repping a certain product, their subconscious will recognize it. This leads them to be more likely to buy the product in the future.
It’s a great way of advertising, as it’s not like a ‘one-time superbowl ad’ that gets forgotten after. It’s a recurring ad and it works on a very subconscious level which continues to bring sales.
They Can Have Multiple Sponsorships
Plus, bodybuilders can have MULTIPLE sponsorships at a time. So, this means these bodybuilders can be stacking multiple thousand of dollar payments on top of each other every single month.
These can all add up to a big lump payment every month, and they really don’t have to do much else with it other than wear the clothes or post pictures of it. And as the sales come in, those contracts will continue.
Competitions are a great source of bodybuilder income. However, to say that it makes up a majority of a bodybuilder’s income is just wrong.
Here’s the problem with bodybuilding: you have to train for years and years before you can go to a competition. This means you have to make money somewhere else in the meantime. This is why most bodybuilders will look to other methods of earning cash for their hobby.
Bodybuilding is expensive. You have to pay for a gym membership (try Active & Fit Direct if you want a cheap membership [$25] to every gym in the world basically, no joke) and you need to pay for a ton of food.
Remember, food is actually really expensive. And bodybuilders have to eat 1.5-2x more than most people usually. And- most of that has to be protein, which is generally more expensive than most foods.
So, while competitions pay well these days, the problem is getting there! Most of these bodybuilders end up getting some sponsorships along the way and have enough cashflow at that point where the competition money doesn’t really matter.
And that doesn’t even take into account- what happens if they lose the competition or place really bad? Then they get virtually nothing.
How Much Money Can You Win In A Bodybuilding Competition?
Let’s assume they win or place high, how much money can you win in a bodybuilding competition?
Well, for the Mr.Olympia competition, 1st place is $400,000, 2nd place is $150,000, and 3rd place is $100,000.
It really depends on what competition you go to for the pay out. The Mr.Olympia competition pays the most (the Arnold Classic pays close to $400k aswell), and the rest not so much. For instance, the Mr.Universe prize pool is a total of $32,000. Which doesn’t really look that good at all.
Many lower competitions may offer a price pool of $100-200, or nothing at all.
So the truth is, unless you’re hitting the big leagues- bodybuilding competitions will not be really paying you much at all.
And with that, most competitors really only see the winnings as a bonus. They are in the competition to win the TITLE, not the money.
It’s a very interesting misconception people have about bodybuilding, the competitions really are not the main source of money.
Bodybuilding is still a sport that isn’t quite understood. Even today, people are still arguing if exercises are good/bad and constantly bicker over different diets.
These pro bodybuilders obviously have all figured out something that works. Charles Glass, for instance, trains new bodybuilders at Gold’s Gym in Venice. He makes a little cash on the side and he helps out a ton of aspiring bodybuilders get an edge on their competition.
Some bodybuilders that are trying to reach the pro levels, such as the Mr.Olympia competition will NEED the expert help of former pro bodybuilders- as standard workout programs just won’t cut it. They can also earn a nice chunk of change here.
Many bodybuilders start blogs to share their experience with bodybuilding.
As I said above, bodybuilding is still a sport that isn’t well known. This means that virtually anybody that has successfully made it has made an important discovery- and people want to know!
Many of these bodybuilders will share their strategies and secrets they used to get big, and these blogs can actually be invaluable.
I remember stumbling upon an old school bodybuilder’s blog detailing in-depth his guide to working out forearms. Suddenly, my forearms went from tiny to big.
A big thing with bodybuilding is that everybody is a little different, especially depending if you’re an ectomorph/endomorph/mesomorph. And learning from other bodybuilders with the same genetics, body type, and/or heritage can help you understand what really makes your genetic code ‘tick’ and build that muscle.
Bodybuilding is a sport that is sometimes difficult to understand with just words.
I can tell you all I want to maximize the range of motion and to squeeze the muscle, but it’s honestly just 100x easier to see someone else doing that and copy that.
And many bodybuilders know this, which is why many of them turn to YouTube videos showing exactly how they perform many exercises.
Plus, you can see who the bodybuilder is. That way you can trust them. Who’s to say I’m not just some 105 lb soaking wet “self professed weight lifter” running this blog?
Many bodybuilders use their physique to get them roles in TV or movies.
For instance, the Incredible Hulk needs a bigger guy to play the role.
One of my favorite instances of this is my idol Rich Piana- he played in multiple TV shows including Planet of the Apes AND Scrubs. Look at this compilation of all the roles he’s played:
Having an incredibly muscular guy can be an invaluable asset for commercials involving comedy skits, wrestling, et cetera. Sometimes it’s just funny to see the big guys smashing things, and it catches the attention of the watcher.
Modeling companies need strong and muscular men to represent their product. It makes their clothes look better and people subconsciously associate that clothing to look better on them, too.
When it comes to things like underwear modeling where most of the body is exposed (especially Calvin Klein), bodybuilders are some of the first people they look for to feature in their ads.
Modeling is a great way to make money as a bodybuilder, so you’ll see a lot of them doing it as a side gig too.
Bodybuilding is literally a sport that is best defined by the words “patience”. If you worked out 8 hours a day for a month, you would barely see any difference.
Bodybuilding is a sport that is all about just trusting in the process, going to the gym consistently, and dieting consistently for years on end. You need to believe that what you do TODAY will pay off NEXT YEAR.
There is no instant gratification in bodybuilding, it takes years of hard work.
It’s the same thing with starting a company or running a business. You can’t just start one and expect it to make a million dollars in the first month, it will take years of nonstop work and dedication to it.
A lot of these bodybuilders are those people that have ingrained in their mind to NEVER give up and to keep pushing- no matter what.
And that’s why so many of them run businesses, they know they have to do things that suck for a long time, but eventually it will pay off.
Most bodybuilders run side businesses because of this. Rich Piana was notorious for uploading tons of YouTube videos teaching his fans about running businesses.
The Bottom Line? Don’t Do It For The Money
If you want to do bodybuilding for the money- just stop. Do bodybuilding as a way to grow your own body and make yourself look crazy shredded. Do it as a way to become healthier, do it as a way to be stronger- but don’t do it for the money.
Sure, when you finally make it down that long road, you might get a little incentive for it. But it’s not going to come for years on end, and it won’t even pay that much at the end of it.
So, stick to doing it for a reason that isn’t money, and ironically the money will come.
Good luck out there. If you have another way bodybuilders make money that I didn’t include in this post, please comment down below and I will add it ASAP! Thank you for reading.