AHC: USA becomes a nation of bodybuilders

How could the USA become a society where bodybuilding/a high level of physical strength is socially normalised/expected? Bonus points if performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) a regular part of the family bathroom cabinet.

A rough example would be a POD of WW2 where the US concerned about the level of physical fitness in recruits contracts early bodybuilders like Charles Atlas for a series of public fitness campaigns (something like "fit for victory") which massively increase bodybuilding's public visability and popularity. This spirit carries though into the post war world with a drive to make sure the next generation is ready for war by shifting PE away from team sports and to include a strength training element. Exposed to physical fitness from a young age more people carry it on into adulthood. Images of strong bodybuilders starts sweeping into popular culture ranging from superhero comics to movies and films, creating a feedback loop that ensures that bodybuilding is soon seen as american as apple pie. It is even promoted as an ideal counter to the counterculture movement. By the 1980's the hobby is so popular there is a slow legalisation of PEDs thoughtout the decade along with a new found openness about the subject.
 
I'd go with a POD of 1978, when Superman starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder was out, and Challenge of the Super Friends as the current animated adaptation.

There'd be an animated movie going around schools in 1979, with Frank Welker (a legend in voice acting, better known for being Fred Jones of Scooby-Doo) doing a health and fitness campaign; this would be a "for the money" thing for DC Comics, although social responsibility comes into play too, not that in that era they'd admit it as much openly.

A live-action short, with Margot Kidder in-character as Lois Lane, would air on a network (not sure which ITTL), and she'd be promoting fitness as being fun, in keeping with attitudes of the time. To quote the words of German pop group Benefit from the 2000s, "Sex Sells". As it were, Margot Kidder was a sort of pin-up type actress of the 1970s the same way Ava Gardner was in the 1950s.

Also, we'd see Batman doing a similar one too.

This would be just around the same time as Disco Demolition Night happened in July 1979 that there'd be public information campaigns.

Also, in the cop shows of the era, there'd be a hunky character who's often shown topless to provide female appeal, and that'd encourage male bodybuilding to be taken up as a hobby.
 
Seems to me that the most significant POD will be 1956. Specifically, the institution of the Presidential Fitness Test, which IOTL was instituted for exactly the reasons OP suggests. IOTL, the test required pull-ups, sit-ups, running, jumping, and a softball throw (specifically included to prepare for hurling grenades). ITTL, you'd want the test to be structured around things like benching more than one's own body weight, deadlifting, maybe a running-with-weights element (for long infantry marches). Spin it as "Scientific Health," perhaps.
 
Seems to me that the most significant POD will be 1956. Specifically, the institution of the Presidential Fitness Test, which IOTL was instituted for exactly the reasons OP suggests. IOTL, the test required pull-ups, sit-ups, running, jumping, and a softball throw (specifically included to prepare for hurling grenades). ITTL, you'd want the test to be structured around things like benching more than one's own body weight, deadlifting, maybe a running-with-weights element (for long infantry marches). Spin it as "Scientific Health," perhaps.
Interesting, I was not aware of the PFT and I could see it being expanded into a "Presidential Fitness Program" to not just test children's ability but also get them all up to a high standard and incorporated into the PE class system.
 
Not at all realistic. The bodybuilding life style isn't easy, and is more or less a full time job. There's a lot that could be done to make Americans healthier, but that's not one of them.
 
You might get bodybuilders to be a larger fringe group, and/or you might increase school bullying and discrimination against non-sportive, overweight etc. children in school with such policies. But I doubt that there is even the slightest chance of a general body-building culture to take roots in the 20th century US (one which would compare to the idealised notions people tend to have of classical Greece, for example...). Almost everything that stabilised and made consumer capitalist society so broadly appealing and successful stands against this: cheap and gratifying nutrition (high in fats and sugars), passive visual entertainment, motorised mass transportation, mechanisation of almost every strenuous labour. Military purposes are not sufficient to counterweight this. There are widespread ideals of fit and slender bodies, the media are full of them, but that doesn't seem to incentivise most people to actually work out and stay fit, let alone build up amounts of muscle power beyond that, whether for aesthetic or other purposes.
 
You need to start them young so add another line to the Pledge of Allegiance that is recited by school children in the USA saying " I promise to stay fit & health to defend these ideals" reinforced by repeating it before all school sports actives where the anthem isn't played.
 
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In some ways it is as good as it is going to get. Check out Stalone in First Blood. Not the advertising. Not the later movies. First Blood. He has the physique of a standard modern day leading actor.
There is a reason steroids are a billion dollar market. There is a reason men are increasingly suffering body image issues. Anyone who wants to be considered attractive heads to the gym and starts pumping iron.
 
Interesting, I was not aware of the PFT and I could see it being expanded into a "Presidential Fitness Program" to not just test children's ability but also get them all up to a high standard and incorporated into the PE class system.

Of course, the OTL PFT did not stop the obesity epidemic. A different fitness focus is one thing, but to give it enough teeth to survive the students’ graduation is another.

Maybe if the US passes single-payer healthcare, and then provides tax incentives or penalties for failure to meet certain fitness standards. Something like a much more draconian ‘fat tax’ or ‘waistline tax.’

On the minus side, this might butterfly Schwarzenegger’s acting career—if bodybuilding is already as mainstream as the big team sports, ‘Pumping Iron’ might not be as impactful as IOTL, so no Conan, no Terminator...
 
arnold was involved in the president's physical fitness test stuff back in the later 80's if I recall, but thats probably too late

as above POD would have to be in the 50's where there is some sort of permanent thought process to needing the population of high schoolers to have military levels of physical fitness readiness... the problem runs square into the parallel development of the atomic age which convinced many that that days of large scale ground war (despite Korea) where largely over, and by the time Vietnam came up getting public buy in to something like would be a non starter
 
Mass steroid doping of water supplies, otherwise most people aren't going to bother wasting a part time job lifting weights for a particular type of vanity. (it's also questionable how fit they will be, cardio, back and legs tend to be neglected).

For a good comparison look at the Hitler youth, lots of propaganda, lots of emphasis on physical activities to the huge detriment of academic education (macho muscleheads), strength grants and fat taxes and yet most of then were fit, not bodybuilders.
 
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What about the possibility of an ATL where bodybuilding took the place of jogging as the new fad of the 1970s "Me Generation"? As jogging has stuck around to the point where it's no longer considered a fad in OTL, perhaps ITTL bodybuilding fad could linger....

IIRC Bruce Jenner's Olympic performance in 1976 inspired the jogging fad. I don't know much about Olympic/sports history, but the POD could be an American winning gold in weightlifting and becoming famous for it....
 
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