Who Is Chris Dickerson?
One of the most motivating bodybuilders in the sport’s history is Chris Dickerson. not only for what he accomplished physically but also for the influence he had on the industry personally.
Short Career of Chris Dickerson
Chris Dickerson was one of the shortest athletes to win at barely 5’6″ and only began training at the age of 24. He was also the first Black, Gay, and Over 40 bodybuilder to be named Mr. Olympia.
Chris’ tale is one of a bodybuilder who trained despite all difficulties, both mentally and physically. To disprove everyone’s assumptions, he entered a field into which he was too old, too short, and with a race and orientation that most people wouldn’t accept.
“The ideal physique is one with broad shoulders, a small, tapered waist, shapely and developed legs. The neck, arms and calves should all measure the same or close to it.
It is equally important to work on your posing in order to show off what development you have attained to your best advantage.”
Body Measurements of Chris Dickerson
|Full Name:||Chris Dickerson|
|YEAR OF BIRTH:||1939|
|ERA:||1960, 1970, 1980, 1990|
|PROFESSION:||Bodybuilder, Model, Lecturer, Orderly, Drama Student, Singer|
|WEIGHT:||185 – 195lbs (83.9 – 88.5kg)|
“Being a competitor can often be very rough. Physique competitions are difficult to judge.
Learning to win is easy but knowing how to lose is a much truer test of the stuff we are made of. Being a competitor can bring out the very best and the worst in our nature.”
- 1966 Mr. North America – AAU, 2nd
- 1966 Mr. New York State – AAU, Overall Winner
- 1966 Mr. Eastern America – AAU, Overall Winner
- 1966 Mr. Atlantic Coast – AAU, Overall Winner
- 1966 Junior Mr. USA – AAU, Most Muscular, 1st
- 1966 Junior Mr. USA – AAU, Winner
- 1967 Mr. California – AAU, Winner
- 1967 Mr. America – AAU, Most Muscular, 4th
- 1967 Mr. America – AAU, 6th
- 1967 Junior Mr. America – AAU, Most Muscular, 5th
- 1967 Junior Mr. America – AAU, 4th
- 1968 Mr. USA – AAU, Most Muscular, 2nd
- 1968 Mr. USA – AAU, Winner
- 1968 Mr. America – AAU, Most Muscular, 3rd
- 1968 Mr. America – AAU, 3rd
- 1968 Junior Mr. America – AAU, 3rd
- 1969 Mr. America – AAU, 2nd
- 1969 Junior Mr. America – AAU, 2nd
- 1970 Mr. Universe – NABBA, Short, 1st
- 1970 Mr. America – AAU, Most Muscular, 1st
- 1970 Mr. America – AAU, Winner
- 1970 Junior Mr. America – AAU, Most Muscular, 1st
- 1970 Junior Mr. America – AAU, Winner
- 1971 Universe – NABBA, Short, 1st
- 1973 Universe – NABBA, Short, 1st
- Also, 1973 Universe – NABBA, Overall Winner
- 1973 Pro Mr. America – WBBG, Winner
- 1974 Universe – Pro – NABBA, Short, 1st
- 1974 Universe – Pro – NABBA, Overall Winner
- 1975 World Championships – WBBG, 2nd
- 1975 Universe – Pro – PBBA, 2nd
- 1976 Universe – Pro – NABBA, Short, 2nd
- Also, 1976 Universe – Pro – NABBA, 3rd
- 1976 Olympus – WBBG, 4th
- 1979 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, Lightweight, 4th
- Also, 1979 Grand Prix Vancouver – IFBB, 2nd
- 1979 Canada Pro Cup – IFBB, Winner
- 1979 Canada Diamond Pro Cup – IFBB, 2nd
- 1980 Pittsburgh Pro Invitational – IFBB, 2nd
- Also, in 1980 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 2nd
- 1980 Night of Champions – IFBB, Winner
- 1980 Grand Prix New York – IFBB, Winner
- Also, 1980 Grand Prix Miami – IFBB, Winner
- 1980 Grand Prix Louisiana – IFBB, 2nd
- 1980 Grand Prix California – IFBB, Winner
- Also, 1980 Florida Pro Invitational – IFBB, Winner
- 1980 Canada Pro Cup – IFBB, Winner
- 1981 Professional World Cup – IFBB, 2nd
- 1981 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 2nd
- Also, 1981 Night of Champions – IFBB, Winner
- 1981 Grand Prix World Cup – IFBB, 2nd
- 1981 Grand Prix Washington – IFBB, Winner
- Also, 1981 Grand Prix New York – IFBB, Winner
- 1981 Grand Prix New England – IFBB, 2nd
- 1981 Grand Prix Louisiana – IFBB, Winner
- Also, 1981 Grand Prix California – IFBB, Winner
- 1982 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, Winner
- 1984 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 11th
- 1990 Arnold Classic – IFBB, 8th
- 1994 Olympia – Master
“Be prepared, have your poses down pat, practice, practice and practice. Expect to be nervous, but try to enjoy yourself on stage, and if you do not place number one, blame yourself and not the judges.
Keep in mind no one will remember your losses. People only remember the winner.”
In the center of Alabama, Chris Dickerson was one of three triplets born in 1939. Mahala Ashley Dickerson, one of the most heroic African Americans of the day, was his mother.
Mahala, a close friend of Rosa Parks for her whole life, was the second black woman admitted to the Indiana bar in 1951 and the first black female attorney in Alabama.
Chris’s mother inspired him when he was a small child by demonstrating that, if you have enough willpower, color or gender can only slow you down, and never stop you.
Learning about Bodybuilding
Chris was always athletically gifted in school, but his main interests were singing and acting. After graduating from high school, Chris continued his studies at the New York Academy of Dramatic Art in the hopes of one day becoming an opera singer.
There, Chris’ singing instructor thought weight training was the greatest method to build up his chest since it would help him sing better.
Dickerson first focused on function rather than improving as a singer. After a brief visit to his aunt in California, Chris realized the benefits of weight training after spotting a picture of Bill Pearl in a muscle magazine.
Dickerson developed an obsession with the way of life; he even spent time in Los Angeles and started working out at Bill’s gym to pick up Bill’s brain.
Dickerson’s attitude so struck Bill that he immediately began working with the young bodybuilder. To make ends meet while traveling, Chris accepted a job as a hospital orderly in Los Angeles. His long-term goal was to develop into a top-tier bodybuilder.
Adversity, First Competition, and 1966 on the East Coast
When Chris competed in bodybuilding, he was aware of three significant disadvantages:
- Being openly gay in a sport of only straight men
- Being African American where racism was still prevalent
- Having a height of 5’6 while the sport was dominated by tall men
The most significant one is the last one. Because racism and homophobia were pervasive, Chris knew he would face issues related to his color and sexual orientation.
He was aware that this would only have an impact on how people perceived him as a person, which he knew he could overcome, as opposed to his height, which would have an impact on how people perceived him as a bodybuilder and which he could less readily change.
At the age of 24, he began taking his training seriously, which is unheard of in the sport, especially when competing for titles like Mr. Universe and Olympia.
Dickerson entered his first competition, Mr. Long Beach, in 1965, two years after beginning his training, and finished in third place.
Chris was pleased with the outcomes rather than seeing it as a failure and still considers the 1965 Mr. Long Beach one of his favorite competitions:
“To this day, my sentimental favorite trophy is this one. I won my first trophy, and I was never the same after that.
Dickerson, who was overflowing with motivation in 1966, participated in 12 tournaments on the East Coast and won them all.
It was just a matter of time until Chris Dickerson realized he was deserving of an Olympia after becoming a bodybuilding superstar within a year.
Bodybuilder “making it”: AAU & NABBA Federations
Chris gained popularity in the bodybuilding community after 1966. He was quickly emerging as one of the most well-known bodybuilders of his time, appearing in magazines and earning a lot of attention.
Dickerson believed that proportions were the key to his success; with calves, a neck, and biceps that were all precisely the same size, he was ideal for the fashionable turn the sport had been taking.
Chris’ acting prowess is thought to be another factor in his success. During his time at the New York Academy of Dramatic Art, he learned the best stage presence techniques for maximizing his posing and general physique.
Resuming Bill Pearl
He returned to Bill Pearl to advance him and the idea of Mr. America in mind. As they prepared for the 1967 Mr. America contest, Bill and Chris began exercising five days a week and posing on the sixth.
He, unfortunately, came in sixth overall, but he persisted anyhow. Chris was Mr. America (AAU) and Mr. Universe by 1970. (NABBA).
Dickerson came to England to continue winning NABBA championships since they were based in Europe as he was ruling both the AAU and NABBA federations.
He would win the Mr. Universe contests held by the NABBA for many years before concentrating on the Mr. Olympia competition held by the IFBB.
The Controversial 1980 Mr. Olympia and the IFBB
In the IFBB, Chris Dickerson began his bodybuilding career in 1979. Chris was only getting warmed up even though he was 40 years old when most sportsmen in his sport would have retired. Before he retired, he aimed to win the Mr. Olympia title.
He was fighting against bodybuilders who were in the prime of their careers while he was now middle-aged, so it felt like a now-or-never scenario.
Coming in sixth place in his first Olympia was a rough start, but Dickerson didn’t see it as a setback because he knew he could win.
Sydney, Australia hosted one of Dickerson’s most well-known Olympiads in 1980. Chris and many of the other bodybuilders in attendance believed they would lose to Arnold Schwarzenegger on popularity alone after the surprise last-minute admission of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It appeared to be the case because Frank Zane finished third, Dickerson came in second, and Arnold took first.
In the 1980 Mr. Olympia
The Australian Bodybuilders Association (ABBA) concurred and gave Dickerson the winnings so that he could fight back against the IFBB.
Chris, however, had his sights set on the following Olympia to achieve an uncontested triumph with the support of all judges.
Unfortunately, Dickerson finished second again the next year, this time to Franco Columbu, a close friend of Arnold’s. Chris accepted the loss yet another time. Until Winston Roberts, a representative of Canada said the following to him:
Chris, if you don’t return, you’re just going to make life easier for everyone else because they won’t have to deal with you.
The magic happened right here. Chris Dickerson, at 43 years old, finally won the title of Mr. Olympia in 1982 after taking Winston’s counsel and deciding to give it all one last try.
This was a momentous occasion for Dickerson and sport as a whole because he was the first black and homosexual Mr. Olympia contestant and the oldest Mr. Olympia ever
Chris departed from bodybuilding as one of the most significant figures the sport had ever seen after finally accomplishing his goals.
He did, however, come back for one more dance in 1994, winning the Olympia once again in the Masters’ 50+ division.
“Invest time in learning… To prevent injuries, listen to what your body is telling you to do.
Chris’ training method was distinct because it was a compromise between Mike Mentzer’s low-rep, excessively heavy workouts and Frank Zane’s high-rep, light-weight programs.
The exercises Dickerson utilized had a beauty to their simplicity, and it was the ideal combination of size and aesthetic training.
He asserted that using only free weights would provide you with all the training you require. He gave machines very little thought.
Dickerson’s words perfectly capture his enthusiasm for this form of weightlifting:
Nothing compares to training with free weights when it comes to laying the groundwork for physiques that can win titles.
Chris’ bench press routine is a wonderful illustration of his exercise program. According to reports, he would set up a bench with 400 pounds on the bar and perform rep after rep.
Chris was able to maintain perfect form and completely utilize his muscles with a large weight thanks to this great compromise.
Chris would stick to the fundamental workouts to build his physique from the inside out. By focusing on the “cosmetic” aspect of his physique last, he made sure he had enough “clay” to eventually sculpt down.
He was a great believer in taking your time and being patient with your body and laying the groundwork before making any other alterations.
“You can work the muscles in all different directions, angles, and postures, separate, isolate and combine them, but they will always come out the way they are going to come out. Although your body is designed for a specific look, the secret is to mix up your exercise.
In terms of nutrition, Chris thinks that recuperation and nutrition are the two key components of a lean physique. He perceived overtraining as a hardship that few men could manage, mostly because they were ill-equipped to manage their diets.
Chris believed that supplementing was the best way to go to achieve your goals, in contrast to some of the other bodybuilders of that age who took an approach to a natural, “whole” diet.
Chris was able to get technical and calculate exactly what he need to attain the body he desired by paying great attention to amino acids, B-Complex vitamins, Vitamin E, and other elements in his diet.
He ignored his body in favor of studying science; it was this scientific method that helped him win Mr. Olympia in 1982 at the age of 43 over rivals who had much more youth on their side.
“I believe I did a great job putting everything together, of course with the assistance of my coach and mentor, Bill Pearl. Watching me lift my first weight from the beginning made me feel incredibly lucky.
He would also claim that I was his best pupil because I had no prior knowledge, I had no undesirable habits to break, and, of course, I was intelligent enough to pay attention to what he said.
Influences and Idols
Bill Pearl, Chris’ mentor, and trainer have had the most impact. Dickerson was not only astonished by Pearl’s physique when he first saw him in a Californian muscle magazine but he was also motivated to take up the sport himself.
Chris visited Bill’s gym in California and inquired about training after being so impressed by Bill’s (5-time Mr. Universe winner) with his body.
The two got along well nearly right away, and Pearl decided to take Dickerson on as his disciple after being moved by his zeal for the game.
Chris might not have been inspired to begin his training in California and develop into one of the world greats we know today if it weren’t for Bill Pearl, known in the business as the “World’s Best-Built Man of the Century.”
“I believe that having a negative attitude is the worst thing a bodybuilder can do… As soon as you are in that position, all you are is the instrument. You are defeating yourself by adding that negativity to the situation.
What Chris Dickerson Can Teach Us?
Chris is without a doubt one of the sport’s most important bodybuilders in history.
He was the most ethnically diverse Mr. Olympia winner in history. the oldest winner of the competition as of 2016 and the first black and LGBT champion.
If Chris has taught us anything, it’s that perseverance pays off. Chris struggled against all difficulties to earn his place in history during a time that was largely racist and homophobic. He was successful where anyone else would have given up.
Remember Chris the next time you find yourself up against the odds in your sport, workout, job, or in life in general. Consider the challenges he faced and how, by doing what he did, he surmounted them.
Hard work pays off, regardless of how long it takes or how impossible it may seem. Spend the time, have patience, and you will be rewarded.