Jusup (means Joseph) Wilkosz is the most successful German bodybulider of all time. At 6 feet and 240 pounds he was an imposing sight and soon earned the nickname ‘The German Hercules’.
Jusup’s life had also a tragic part. He had to experience all the highs and lows of life and sport. Jusup Wilkosz was born on November 8, 1948, in Heilbronn, Germany.
He was a postal inspector in Germany. At that time, he sought compensation for his activity and a friend persuaded him to visit a gym. Soon, he trained twice a week in the gym.
He started with weight lifting and was a national champion before he turned from clean and jerk to abs and thighs. However, he trained hard and switched to bodybuilding. He also changed his diet and made great progress. At that time, the 1.5 years older Arnold Schwarzenegger had already traveled to the US.
Jusup’s friend and gym owner urged him to now properly enter BB and participate in competitions. One day he met a girl named Ruth, who took him to his first competition in 1978.
In his first World Championships (1979) Jusup took 2nd place behind Mike Mentzer and in 1979 he finally became the first German Heavyweight World Champion. In the same year, he also met Arnold Schwarzenegger and made friends with him.
The following year, he won his pro debut at the World Pro Championships in preparation of which he trained with Arnold Schwarzenegger at World, Venice.
Excerpt from an interview about his greatest memories:
“One of the most beautiful memories for me was my time together with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Santa Monica, California. In the legendary studio Gold´s Gym at the beach of Venice Beach we complemented each other and in 1980 we were awarded as the most successful training duo. At that time I was 32 years old and at the zenith of my bodybuilding career. In the same year I became Mister Universum – also here as the first German – and Arnold won again the Mr. Olympia.”
Jusup’s Peak: Mr. Olympia 1984
1984 in New York. The German Hercules Jusup Wilkosz is called to the stage at the Mr. Olympia. Jusup’s trademarks: his beard and love for classical music like Richard Wagner. The hall filled up with 4,000 people. Classical music starts echoing through the huge hall.
Jusup’s muscle movements were based on the pitch of music. He tried flexing and moving to classical music. And of course, the crowd is fired up.
His breathtaking package of beautiful lines, great hardness, full muscles and perfect posing also left a huge impression on the referees.
Jusup Wilkosz finished third, a placement that has since been granted to only one other German bodybuilder with Dennis Wolf. Lee Haney won the first place in Mr. Olympia 1984.
Jusup quitted his secure and well-paid Job and fulfilled his dream of his own gym. Only his wife cared about the business- he did not want to be burdened with it. He was celebrated in the newspapers and this opened up many doors. He earned money and signed sponsor contracts. He was at the peak of his career.
But as the years passed his life was significantly worse in the late 80s. The number of visitors in the studio decreased. His wife was going to be worse too. She was less concerned with the studio and the shops. He struggled with life and thus he had troubles to keep lifting.
Jusup always found solace, advice and encouragement with his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger. He used to visit Arnold several times in the states! Jusup said Arnold is a true friend, great person with enormous ambition and willpower.
The relationship with his wife was getting worse and worse, they were living slowly apart, but Jusup did not quite understand that. He still loved his wife tremendously. The business downfall was followed by injuries that knocked Jusup back in his comeback attempt.
After the long break, the training became all the more difficult. His athletic failures meant that the industry stopped sponsoring him and this tragedy was followed by the diagnosis that his wife had cancer. His wife was getting worse and worse. And Jusup had never cared for the business. He had no idea about the contracts and outstanding invoices. His wife has not been able to take care of it because of her serious illness.
One day, when he went through the documents, he discovered that his gym did not even go by his name, it belonged to his supporter and wife’s ex-husband. His wife was dying, he was broke and everything collapsed on him. In October 89, his wife died. The gym no longer belonged to him, his apartment was eviscerated, his entire property seized. But, Jusup found a job in the Lufthansa training center as trainer for the on-board staff and other employees.
Jusup started training again, but was set back by a cruciate ligament tear, creditor letters came back. Arnold sent a check and invited him back to the States to take a break. After returning to Germany, he lost his job again. Everything collapsed on him and he wandered the streets for weeks.
He was admitted to a clinic. Drug treatment and therapy helped him with his delusions. After leaving the clinic, he moved into a small apartment near his sister. That’s how the years went by.
One day, he realized how much his life belonged to bodybuilding and found the willpower to wake up. Of course, his body is not able to compete on stages anymore. But he realized his mind is able to compete. He wrote a book about his life. It was published in 2007, entitled Was bleibt. Die Reise des Jusup W. (English “What remains: The Journey of Jusup W.”). Due to the book’s success, it was later published in English. Furthermore, he is spreading the philosophy of building the body and he is used to travelling through Germany giving workshops.
After two decades, Jusup and Arnold Schwarzenegger met again in Austria. Christian Meier (German bodybuilder) made this meeting possible! This was in January 26, 2019. On November 19, 2019 Mr. Wilkosz passed away. He is gone but not forgotten.
World Amateur Championships – IFBB, HeavyWeight, 2nd
German Championships, Overall Winner
German Championships, Tall, 1st
World Amateur Championships – IFBB, HeavyWeight, 1st
Universe – Pro – IFBB, Winner
World Pro Championships – IFBB, Winner
Canada Pro Cup – IFBB, 5th
Grand Prix Belgium – IFBB, 3rd
Grand Prix Wales – IFBB, 2nd
Olympia – IFBB, 6th
World Grand Prix – IFBB, 5th
Grand Prix Belgium – IFBB, 3rd
Grand Prix Sweden – IFBB, 6th
Olympia – IFBB, 10th
Grand Prix England – IFBB, 3rd
Grand Prix Sweden – IFBB, 3rd
Grand Prix Switzerland – IFBB, 4th
Olympia – IFBB, 6th
Canada Pro Cup – IFBB, 4th
Olympia – IFBB, 3rd
World Grand Prix – IFBB, 4th
Olympia – IFBB, 12th
German Magazine: Sport Revue