by Christian Duque
Bodybuilding has changed a great deal since the reign of Dorian & Ronnie. Cutler served as bridge, along with Dexter, to the modern day Heath era. Today the sport is once again focused on aesthetics, especially with the introduction of classic men’s physique. Huge, super-heavyweight types will always be popular, always get the accolades from the masses, but they’re not getting the wins they used to on the scorecards.
We see this reality at the Mr. Olympia, as well as at the Arnold Classic. Take 2017 for example, Dallas McCarver was totally dialed-in, larger than ever, but for as impressive as his size was, it was no match for the aesthetics and polish of Cedric McMillan. Very few had issues with the decision in Columbus this year & for the first time in history, Arnold got up from his seat, to personally applaud the winner of the contest. It’s been said that size will always have a have a place at the Olympia; however, that place may or may not include a Sandow. In fact, size may be the single biggest factor hindering the largest bodybuilder in the world from breaking into the Top 3 and being seriously considered to win the biggest title in bodybuilding.
There have been instances when crazy size gets the win. One of the best examples would be Ronnie Coleman’s 2003 physique. To date, that’s the single freakiest, most massive look to win a Sandow in the history of the sport. The caveat there, however, is that Coleman was competing in his fifth Mr. Olympia as the defending champion. It would have been a very different situation to have tried to win his first title with that game plan. The risk would’ve been HUGE!
In addition to the where the sport has evolved and what look seems to be the most marketable, it should also be noted that the reigning champion tends to influence the type of physique that’s the norm in the sport. Therefore, if a competitor wanted the best chances at beating Phil Heath, they’d be smart to be within his range. They’d want to be a better Phil Heath, than Phil Heath. As Bob Cicherillo often says, bodybuilding is a sport of ‘apples and oranges.’ The playing field at the Mr. Olympia could best be described as a table of apples, oranges, and a watermelon. No one looks like Big Ramy, no one is planning on competing on stage at 300+lbs, and no one is looking to push the envelope like he is. Strategically speaking, sticking out like Ramy does, even with the undeniable quality muscle he brings, would probably not bode well for Top 3 (or greater) honors. It’s shoo-in for the Top 6, but it has its limitations, and comes with great risks. To date, Big Ramy has never been among the 3 top guys in the world. This year may be his year – or – it may also be his undoing. Whereas most guys are focusing on getting dialed in with 7.5 weeks to go, he’s looking to get dialed in while still growing (per his own words on IG). You can’t grow, while trying to get ripped & streamlined; I don’t care how great the supplements are or how great the anabolic chicken in Kuwait may be – it’s just not plausible and definitely not a smart move heading into the biggest show in the sport.
4x Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler made a very strong point on a recent interview with Dan Solomon’s Digital Muscle Media. The champ stated, in no uncertain terms, that any competitor stepping on stage at 300lbs couldn’t be dialed in. Big Ramy has the size, but his recent photos, while very impressive, don’t show deep cuts. Supporters of the Egyptian Phenom would be quick to point out that we’re 7.5 weeks out, but that argument is faulty. Guys like Rhoden, Bonac, and most especially Brandon Curry, are already showing tremendous development with conditioning to boot. Size without conditioning will not win Ramy a Sandow. I’d also like to point out that the Olympia has the best lights, the best trained & equipped photographers at the best vantage point, with the judges placed at the perfect proximity to effectively scrutinize each and every physique – individually and per group. This would not be the competition to come in soft, & size, no matter how freaky, wouldn’t be much of a mitigating circumstance.
Given all of these details, it becomes abundantly clear that aesthetics will not be comprised. If the sport of bodybuilding is to ever regain its former momentum, it simply cannot deviate from its current course. In fact, to see famed bodybuilders like Flex Wheeler and Darrem Charles compete in Classic Physique over bodybuilding, speaks volumes. The new division has also earned the allegiance of younger, impressive bodybuilders like Santi Aragon, Mark Sindayen, & others. Classic could easily become an bigger draw if weight cut-offs were even slightly increased. Classic & MPD’s huge success, as well as that of the ever-burgeoning 212, create undeniable pressure on Open Bodybuilding to stay close. People want to see hard muscle, striated glutes, ripped hams, tiny waists, and throwback posing. This is a big reason there’s such a great response to Regan Grimes hitting vacuum shots and Sergio Oliva Jr. nailing signature poses not seen since the days his father dominated the sport.
I’m under the impression that a lot of fans (and even media outlets) act hastily in glossing over income-generating and marketing aspects to who the next Mr. Olympia is. Even a guy like Phil Heath, simply does not appeal to the mainstream. Phil is far too big to ever be taken seriously by the mainstream media. The ideal look for a Mr. Olympia is that of Shawn Rhoden. What’s needed is a physique that looks somewhat beyond attainable, but within at least the realm of possibility . When Kai Greene tours India, you have to wonder how many of the spectators actually believe that by taking his powders, eating clean, and training hard, they’ll ever look like The Predator. If I were Kai, I wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face. Rhoden, on the other hand, has a pleasing, aesthetic physique, with classic lines, and the type of natural flow to his muscle that makes him incredibly sought after. Someone with Rhoden’s physique could do commercials, break into non-Bodybuilding related movies, and actually promote the sport to a whole new audience.
What could Ramy do? He’s a very nice guy, comes off as very genuine, and has improved his English wonderfully, but who’d relate to him? He’s like the Arab version of Markus Ruhl. Who’s ever going to believe that the physique of a guy who guest poses at 340 and competes at single-digit bodyfat percentages at 300lbs, could ever be attainable. Everyone knows that bodybuilders up the supps, but in this guy’s case, he looks like he’s taking the whole store. The judges have a responsibility to pick a competitor that will help grow the sport – at least that’s a moral aspect I hope is present, even if subconsciously. Also, as previously stated, the Mr. Olympia sets the tone for what type of physique will win shows – not just at the big dance, but across the boards, from the O to the smallest of small pro shows. If Ramy won, we’d suddenly be inundated with mass monsters. We might even see a return of what Luimarco calls the bubble guts. Ramy doesn’t have a bubble gut, but Ramy also has access to the absolute best protein powders and aminos, over there in Kuwait. He’s also coached and monitored by the very best money can hire. I could see A LOT of guys gunning for that 300lb look, abusing of a lot supplements, only to ruin themselves for good.
On the flipside, having a non-American Mr. Olympia could spell a huge financial win as well. Kuwait, Dubai, and other Arab, Asian, and Oceanic destinations are quickly becoming hotspots for bodybuilding and fitness. If Ramy won, it would be the first time in 20yrs that the Sandow was housed abroad. We’ve already seen a steady migration of top athletes headed to Oxygen Gym, enjoying their very unique, tried & true 24/7 approach to building muscle and getting into contest shape. Brandon Curry not only won two key shows this year as a result of these training methodologies, but if he keeps going at the pace he has been, I believe he’s a shoo-in for the Top 5. And you know what they say… Once you’re in the Top 5, what separates each guy could be very minor. Then again, there are limitations (Ramy’s size being one of them).
I’d love to see Ramy come into the Mr. Olympia at 280lbs. At a solid 280, he’d still outsize Heath by a good 20-30lbs (which is INSANE), but he’d have a better chance of coming in with deep cuts & separation. Conditioning has become a far bigger concern than size. For as much as the 90’s are touted as the decade of extreme conditioning, size still had a far more significant stage value. The 2000’s were also a size-friendly decade; however, times have changed.
At the local and regional NPC level, men’s physique and classic physique have edged out bodybuilding. At the national NPC level, many bodybuilders vying for an IFBB Pro Card want to hedge their bets and crossover to classic. At the IFBB level, some promoters have even opted to only offering MPD & Classic for the men. That says a lot. If bodybuilding is to survive, if it’s to experience a renaissance, it’s not going to be with a 300lb+ guy as its champion and ambassador to the world. It’s also not going to happen if they reward a bigger, but softer look, to guys that come in ripped to shreds, vascular, balanced & symmetrical.
At 280, Ramy can win the show. At 300, not only won’t he win, but he’ll place lower than last year, possibly even outside of the Top 5.