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Mr Olympia 2019. What’s happened to bodybuilding?

To be able to answer this question, you have to define what bodybuilding is. Here is my vision.
Bodybuilding, or building up the body to achieve a perfect body through muscle development. Creating an ideal version, a symmetric and balanced body that Michelangelo could make a statue of. Body fat percentage, conditioning and separation of the individual muscles in a muscle group as well as separation between different muscle groups, density and vascularity are aspects that are always in the service of supporting this ideal image. An ideal image where the overall impression is leading for the valuation that ultimately determines the verdict. The total image is assessed on muscle mass, symmetry, proportions and balance.

Important criteria are the “lines” and “contours”; an esthetic and flowing whole.
The three-dimensional ideal image of the bodybuilder where the three-dimensional form of the biceps flows harmoniously all the way to the three-dimensional form of the calves, like the streamlined form, from mirror to spoiler, of Italian racing cars. It’s not just the size and form of a muscle group but also the forms of the different muscles making up one muscle group that create the ideal image of the perfect body of a bodybuilder.

In reality the perfect image does not exist. Looked at critically, there is always something which deviates from the ideal image according to these criteria. Frank Zane, who won the Mr. Olympia title 3 times, is still a good example for a near perfect body according to the criteria of alignment of the three-dimensional forms of the different muscle groups which make up the whole image.

The desired form and shape of an athlete is achieved with training and diet. Genetic factors also play a role in determining the extent to which someone can achieve a perfect body.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva are good examples of bodybuilders with a genetic predisposition for muscle development. The frame, i.e. the bone structure, determines to an even greater extent the success of the bodybuilder.

The development of the sport

Like any other sport, bodybuilding has developed and evolved. After Frank Zane, many bodybuilders became champions using the same criteria; Bob Paris, Lee Labrada, Lee Haney, Samir Bannout, Flex Wheeler, Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray etc. And even giants like Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman presented important factors of success were completeness and proportions. You might liken them more to monster trucks than Italian racing cars but bodies where all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. These developments have led to different divisions or classes of body being created within the sport. For the “Italian racing cars” there’s the “Classic Physique” and for the more developed athletes there’s “Open Bodybuilding”. A perfect answer to the evolution of the sport.

Assessment in the different classes/divisions

Whether it’s Classic Physique or Open Bodybuilding the assessment is based on the same definitions as I described earlier. Open Bodybuilding does not mean that the participant with the best vascularity and most muscular arms wins the competition. All aspects which make up the whole image are considered. The visual results within the different classes/divisions, due to the differences in conditions for each class/division are, of course, very different. Competitors in the Classic Physique division want to present a body image like those from the “Golden Era”. Athletes in the Open Bodybuilding division are the result of the development of bodybuilding, as we know it today. It’s predominantly a platform that has been created to accommodate different goals.

Olympia 2019

I’ll give my perspective on the Classic Physique and the Open Building, both of which I have saw personally in the pre-judging and in the final.

Classic Physique

To choose a winner, you have to consider all the different aspects. This may sound contradictory to what I’ve just written, but it isn’t. My definition of bodybuilding describes the ideal image as a whole. That is the aim. At the level of the Olympia the assessments have to be highly critical, otherwise it would be impossible to choose a winner from of all the athletes at the top of the profession. On top of this the body types of the competitors differ in such a way that the distinctive parts of the whole image have to be decisive in choosing a winner. I don’t mean to play with words: at the end of the day it is the sum of all that counts. To be able to take all of this into consideration you have to be able to see that all these elements come together to make the right decision. It’s no different than the wine connoisseur who can tell the difference between two similar wines from the top of the range.

Enough theory!

How would you apply the theory to the last competition Chris Bumstead won? I hear a lot of conflicting opinions on this. Some people think it was 100% right that Chris won because he has the esthetic lines of a classical bodybuilder. Others think that Breon Ansley or George Peterson should have won because their back muscles were better developed. Both groups are correct, but what was decisive in awarding the winning title? It’s not just about the esthetics after all. That would mean that someone could be out of shape and win just because they have better lines. All the different aspects are considered for the final decision. If you compare Chris to the “Frank Zane” ideal image, he is not perfect, and Breon and George score on esthetics as well. I thought that Breon was a real strong contender in the final. For the individual posing routine, done to music chosen by the contestant, it’s not the posing that counts in this round but the definitions of bodybuilding that I laid out earlier. The bodybuilder has the opportunity in this round to showcase his body at its best. He can show his strong points at their best and hide the weaker points. All those who say that Breon doesn’t have the esthetic lines should watch his posing routine. Here he is able to show the esthetic lines to the full. 100% Classical! George too is a master in showing his classical lines during his own routine.

And still, Chris wins….

Do I agree with this decision? Yes. Would I have thought it wrong if Breon had won? No. These seemingly conflicting answers are based on the posing routine and the fact that Breon’s muscles on his back were in better condition and more developed. On top of this Chris falls short of the “Frank Zane” ideal. According to that ideal image Keone Pearson comes closest to the Olympia Classic Physique 2019. With some overall improvements, Keone would have been a strong contender for the title. His total amount of points was not quite enough for the title, but he definitely has the potential (genetic predisposition).

The result is the total of all the points from all aspects, and when you look at the total, Chris comes out on top and the result is one I can understand. It’s not as clear as a sprinter making it over the finish line first but it is a result that puts Classic Physique on the map the way it is intended. Chris is Classic all the way and with Breon and George in respectively 2nd and 3rd place and the other athletes, like Keone, Chen Kang, Alex Cambronero and Dani Younan following you could say that Olympia Classic Physique 2019 was the event of the weekend. Bodybuilding that many people appreciate. I say “mission accomplished!!”

Men’s Open Bodybuilding

Man oh man….my opinion on this may cause some commotion.
I’d like to begin by saying that William Bonac and Roelly Winklaar are great guys, as well as being brilliant athletes. Out of all the competitors, I know them the best personally. Of course I’d like to see someone like William win for the Netherlands, and although Roelly represents Curaçao these days, I wish him all the best as well. He hasn’t just won my heart but the whole world seems to be a fan of Roelly. When all is said and done, I have to give my honest opinion on the result of Mr. Olympia.

Weeks ago I predicted that Brandon Curry would become the Mr. Olympia 2019. This wasn’t just speculation, of course. I think, there were good reasons to predict this. The form of the different muscle groups and the muscle lines that qualifies a bodybuilder for this class are just as important as for any other class and Brandon’s muscle alignment made him the man who satisfied the criteria most fully.

This was also how the jury saw it and it was decisive in choosing Brandon as the winner. Out of the top 5 his result, added up from all aspects within the class, was the one with the most ideal or complete image. It’s not that I’m saying he had the best legs or deeper cuts but when all is said and done his total result was the best. Whether I see it that way or not, Brandon’s muscle lines were decisive for the jury.
To clarify my choice for Brandon, I’ll say something about William, who was second. William was better than Brandon in some disciplines. Density and separation were sublime. Out of all the participants, William was maybe in the best shape. Some people go as far as to compare just muscle group for muscle group. If you go down that road, then William will be high in your estimation…and yet, I wouldn’t give him first position. Up until now I have not emphasized genetic predisposition, the frame and bone structure, in my analysis of the result. I can’t get away from it though when clarifying my choice for Brandon by comparing him to William, who’s this genetic predisposition could be labelled one of his disadvantages…

Much as I love the man, we are talking about Mr. Olympia and I have to be critical, just like the wine connoisseur tasting exclusive wines.

William is a superior athlete so to explain why I wouldn’t have chosen him as a winner I have to strip away his muscles. His bone structure is not ideal. He has a big ribcage which sits low in the side chest pose, for example. His shoulders aren’t very broad giving less surface area for developing his chest muscles. This also has consequences for the front and back double biceps. His Gluteus maximus and medius (Glutes) are large from the back and from the side in relation to his other leg muscles, which gives him a less athletic look.
Does Brandon have the ideal lines? No, but compared to William, he was the dominant contender in this aspect. My analysis of William’s frame explains why.

My impression also was that William was a bit better in 2018 than in 2019 (both times I was sitting in the front row). His legs seemed a bit less full and the overall density was perhaps 2% better last year. Sure, I’m talking the same drivel as the connoisseur’s judgement of the two exclusive wines, with one having a fuller bouquet…., but that’s why I’m writing this blog - so you can understand how the judges arrive at their decision.

In my opinion, Hadi Chpppan could have been awarded 2nd place, although I can see why he got 3rd place too. Hadi is really well developed but doesn’t have the lines that Brandon has. He was in good form; dry and hard.  But was this the case for all of the muscle groups? Check out the double biceps from the back. There you can see a phenomenon common to this generation of pro bodybuilders in the Open Class: no separation between the individual shoulder muscles and no separation between shoulders and arm muscles. It’s details like these, that gained William more points, and 2nd place. Semi-relaxed in the line-up Hadi looks more blocky and therefore less well aligned, which, in this pose will have earned him less points.

And then my/our friend Roelly who has an insane package when it comes to muscle development, lines and frame! I was really impressed with his shape in 2018, which got him a 3rd place that year. This year it would seem that something went wrong in the last week. His body wasn’t loaded enough. In spite of a low fat percentage, the lack of density caused him to appear “softer” than he could have.  When something like this goes wrong it’s noticeable in the spots which are not so strong. In Roelly’s case this is his back; the lower- and mid-section. Personally, I don’t think we saw Roelly at his best on the podium yet. When he’s at his best he can be the winner.

I would also like to give a special mention to Dexter Jackson. What an achievement to look the way he does at 50 years of age. This was his 20th Mr. Olympia and BAM, in the final. Respect! I believe he was maybe a few percent off. When he comes in 100%, this man is still dangerous for the top 3.

Can I conclude with my analysis of the top 5 competitors that we had a fantastic Mr. Olympia? Well, there have been better and more exciting years but I’m optimistic about the future. As you will have concluded from my analysis these 5 all have room for improvement. I’m also very enthusiast about the newcomer Patrick Moore. He’s a man with stunning lines and separation. With a bit more volume he could be competing for the title next year.

Viva Las Vegas 2020!
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