How much do bodybuilders make & How to make money in bodybuilding

This article will take you 5 minutes to read. Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered! You can also watch my youtube video.

How much do top professional bodybuilders make? How much do natural bodybuilders make? Is bodybuilding a sport people do for a passion which won’t offer a signifcant income for their hard work? If so, are there any other alternatives to making money as a bodybuilder?

If you have been asking yourself these questions because you want to become a professional bodybuilder, this article should answer them for you.

How much do bodybuilders make?

The Bodybuilding market

Let’s be frank, there are a lot of factors to consider. First of all, if you compare bodybuilding to sports like football, there is virtually no money to be made in bodybuilding. The market is not the same and the audience is not either. Funds are tighter and federations won’t pay their athletes as much as Paris St Germain will pay Neymar (€36.8 million a year).

When bodybuilding meets football ;)!

Although I believe that at the pace the fitness industry is growing, it is a shame bodybuilders don’t receive higher rewards for their hard work.

There is no fixed salary in bodybuilding

Just like many sports, athletes are not paid a fixed salary. While footballers will have a fixed salary from their clubs, bodybuilders have to place in competitions and earn their money through prizes. That sounds pretty fair, just like tennis players and golfers have to win contests to get paid. It’s just that bodybuilders don’t make anything compared to these two sports.

Rafael Nadal and a bodybuilder

What top professional bodybuilders make in enhanced divisions

We will take the example of the Olympia contest for the athletes placing in the top 5 in 2019:

5th place, Roelly Winklaar

Roelly Winklaar won 40.000 dollars at 2019 Mr Olympia

40.000$

4th place, Dexter Jackson

Dexter Jackson won 45.000 dollars at 2019 Mr Olympia

45.000$

3th place, Hadi Choopan

Hadi Choopan won 100.000 dollars at My Olympia 2019

100.000$

2nd place, William Bonac

William Bonac won 150.000 dollars at Mr Olympia 2019

150.000$

1st place, Brandon Curry

Brandon Curry won 400.000 dollars at 2019 Mr olympia

400.000$

Contestants placing from 10th to 5th place did not get anything in the last two Olympia competitions.

Now, if we take into consideration that you need to pay for your “supplements” and everything else you need to pay for in day to day living… this does not give bodybuilders much to live on. 

It’s pretty obvious that bodybuilders do not make that much money.

Did you know?

In 1990, Vince McMahon tried to create the World Bodybuilding Federation against the IFBB and sign professional bodybuilders with a proper salary.

Vince McMahon created the WBF in 1990

Gary Strydom, one of the top bodybuilders at the time, signed a three-year deal worth $400,000 per year.

Gary Strydom was making 400.000 dollars a year with the WBF

Back in those days, this was a huge amount of money, especially if you consider the IFBB was not paying their athletes much money and would not sign contracts. A few other bodybuilders went and signed with the WBF like Lou Ferrigno and Mike Quinn.

Lou Ferrigno old school posing

Today, we still can’t say any federation can match what Vince Mcmahon once had to offer. This is unfortunate seeing how fast the fitness industry is growing and how much money is now involved.

There is an interesting video from Generation Iron youtube channel explaining everything with Shawn Ray. I recommend watching it.

Bodybuilders own businesses to make money

Here is what popular professional bodybuilders do: they create their own business using their personal image and experience. This could be a blog, an online supplement shop, a clothing line or all of the above. Ronnie Coleman who appeared to have made quite a lot of money by winning Mr. Olympia eight times also has his own clothing and supplement brand.

Yeah Buddy is Ronnie Coleman's protein powder
Yeah buddy!

Jay Cutler seems to have done well for himself too. After winning Mr. Olympia four times we see him living in a great big mansion. He has his own brand which definitely fuels his income. Of course, both of these top athletes made a name for themselves in the industry, but this does not mean that at a lower “status” you cannot do the same!

Jay Cutler in his mansion and his Mr Olympia trophy

Another way these bodybuilders make money is through coaching. A lot of them have a lot of experience which amateurs are willing to pay for. Not even to build muscle but to learn how to confidently pose on stage when the day comes. People who are passionate about bodybuilding and have got money to spend will gladly pay a decent amount to get one of the best coaches out there.

Unethical practices

If you have been in the bodybuilding world for a while, you have definitely heard of the unethical practices which are sometimes taking place. Bodybuilding is a tough sport which is also closely associated with drug abuse. It has been revealed that a lot of bodybuilders will get into the “ole ole” industry to finance their living, whether it is posing for gay magazines or becoming an escort. There could be a direct correlation with the fact that steroids can change your hormonal behaviours just like when aromatisation happens.

What about natural bodybuilders?

How much money do natural bodybuilders make?

Let’s be honest, apart from Mr. Olympia in enhanced categories, there is almost no money in bodybuilding. The PNBA (Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association) Elite is the best known organisation in the natural world for their prizes.

Here is what to expect:

Open Bodybuilding: 1st $5,000 2nd $2,000 3rd $1,000
Open Physique: 1st $5,000 2nd $2,000 3rd $1,000
Open Classic Physique: 1st $1,500 2nd $800 3rd $300
Open Women’s Bodybuilding: 1st $1,500 2nd $800 3rd $300

That’s only if you place in the top 3. Good luck after cutting hard for 5 months!

Should you get into bodybuilding to make money?

Not really. Bodybuilding, whether natural or enhanced, is a very expensive hobby. You usually have to eat a lot of food, buy quality ingredients, and travel. You also have to pay for your membership at the gym and for those who will go for the enhanced categories, you have to pay for your “supplements” which will be very expensive.

You should get into bodybuilding because you are passionate about it, not for the money.

arnold and franco hugging

What’s interesting is that you could make it a side business to coaching or having your own supplement brand. This way, you could “live” on your passion and have an activity very closely related to bodybuilding which pays your bills.

Nick’s strength and power in one of his videos says that if you basically can build a good body for yourself, you can make money because you are then able to advertise yourself or make something out of it.

Winning in bodybuilding is not always fair 

This is a big issue. You might have a great physique and based on the popular opinions look like you are going to win everything. Unfortunately, bodybuilding is also about having a name in the industry and being confident. If people know you, it’s going to be easier to work your way up. Judges are somewhat influenced in the choices they make. You might have great potential but it does not guarantee your success. That’s one more obstacle you will have to face!

Bodybuilding could be so much better!

Looking at the fitness industry, there is so much potential to grow the sport and make it better. Why, with an industry worth $100 billion, do we not see professional bodybuilders getting paid the same as sportsmen in other federations? Bodybuilding is one of the hardest sports in the world and yet athletes are not being treated fairly…

My take:

Don’t hold yourself back from pursuing a bodybuilding career if you want to. You could try to grow your image and have another activity on the side while trying to get your career started on stage. Maybe one day it will pay off. Building relationships can be very important so it’s never a waste of time.

Is there hope in bodybuilding for more money?

If there was a new system, it would be possible for athletes to make more money in bodybuilding. Looking at the fitness industry’s growth, this is something which should be possible and increase the prizes bodybuilders make. Although this would come with a lot of new rules as to how you judge the bodybuilders on stage.