by Christian Duque
When 7x Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger says that Chris Bumstead embodies what bodybuilding should look like today it sent shockwaves throughout the sport of bodybuilding. This is because when Arnold speaks he speaks for entire generations. For example, those who lived in the golden era of bodybuilding look at what the sport’s become and they’re quite frankly disgusted. Where are the vacuum poses, where are the small waists, and why on Earth are elite level athletes using insulin and growth hormone to increase size? Whatever happened to eating more quality foods and training? Whatever happened to good ole fashioned patience? This is not a sport about overnight success. Guys used to spend 5-10 years in the amateur ranks trying to get better. Nowadays guys start spinning their wheels after twelve or sixteen months.
People just don’t want to work anymore. They expect drugs to do it all and as a result the looks are getting bigger and bigger. With that insane size come things that the purists of the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s are not fond of. Guys like Nick Walker leave guys like Arnold scratching their head. Let’s not forget that Arnold has been a vocal critic against this type of look for years. At the Olympia he’s more of a spectator but at his show his commentary stings so much more. Let’s not forget that when Walker won, The Oak more or less hit the road. It’s one thing to be a passive observer as the sport goes off the deep end but when it’s your show, is that the look you want to represent it?
The problem is Arnold’s not a judge so he can’t really affect who wins and who doesn’t, but his opinion counts for a lot. Not only has he won seven titles but he’s the most recognizable bodybuilder in the world. Wherever you go people know who Arnold is and they want his opinion. The older guys don’t want the current guys to look like carbon cutouts of what they were. I think that’s the biggest misconception. The purists of the sport aren’t looking to stop growth or impede evolution, but they want to ensure that the foundations stay in place. When you have guys whose muscles look to be more oil than tissue, that’s no longer the sport that was made famous by Joe Weider. And the old guys have tried to stay quiet as long as possible. The last thing they want to do is rain on today’s parade. They had their time on top and they enjoyed the spotlight, but there comes a point in time when they just can’t stay quiet.
Just some years ago we had guys from the 90’s who were dubbed as grumpy old men. And for what? Their objection was that the guys today weren’t nearly as dry as they were in the 90’s. They simply made the comparison, comparing the top guys from the 2000’s and 2010’s and pointing out that they couldn’t hold a candle to the guys of the late 80’s and 90’s. The commentary wasn’t based on mere talk, rather, they put photos side by side. They also put videos side by side. They didn’t use filters, either, and it was clear as day. It was apples and oranges. And it shouldn’t be that way. A great physique is a great physique. Whether it’s in 1977, 1997, or 2017. But the guys from yesteryear have been saying that the sport of bodybuilding has lost its way for a long time.
When Arnold looks at 4x Classic Physique Mr. Olympia Chris Bumstead and says that’s what bodybuilding should look like, it’s very telling. CBum doesn’t look like Arnold in the 70’s or 80’s. He doesn’t look like Frank Zane or Robby Robinson, either. He’s considerably bigger but he’s true to their definition of what the sport could look like. He has everything and although he’s bigger he’s got the look that would truly grow the sport if it were at the forefront. The fact is bodybuilding is the flagship division and it’s the one that gets the lion’s share of the attention and the love. Although CBum is at the Classic, it’s still Hadi Choopan which most people who discover fitness will see first. Arnold’s point is very well taken. What if CBum were the definition of what bodybuilding should be? What if we eliminated all the Nick Walker’s, all the Big Ramy’s, and all the guys with questionable body parts? What if this sport were once again about symmetry, balance, and shape? Wouldn’t that grow it like never before?
These are interesting questions that should be asked and it shouldn’t only be Arnold asking them. The fact is Men’s Physique and Classic should be the only two divisions for the men. MPD is perfect for what it is and Classic is exactly where the bodybuilding of the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s should be today. Lee Haney is about as big any top bodybuilder should have been allowed to get. And I stress allowed because at the end of the day a guy can bring whatever look he wants to the stage, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be in the money or winning. The judges are the ones who draw the line. They’re the ones who have the power but like everyone else, they have bosses. If they don’t judge according to what’s expected of them they’ll get sacked. It’s as simple as that. Everyone can be replaced.
So what about the fans? Surely they want the mass monsters, right? Well that depends on which fans you’re asking. There’s an undeniable minority that wants freaks, but they’re a small bunch. The thing with them is that they’re very loud and very active on message boards, groups, sub reddits and social media apps. They tend to make a lot of noise even if they don’t necessarily buy many contest tickets, supplements, or apparel. I’d say comfortably that the vast majority of bodybuilding fans are looking for what guys like CBum represent.
I’ll give you an example just so you know it’s not just me talking. When I covered the Natural Vitamins Epic Block Party in Ozone Park, NY, back in 2021, I saw six block long lines. The vast majority of people weren’t there for Nick Walker, they were there for Chris Bumstead!!
They wanted to see him, meet him, and talk to him. They were mesmerized by his physique and even though Nick Walker dwarfed him, they saw right through the size difference. That’s the power a great bodybuilder has. A great bodybuilder shouldn’t be a circus sideshow freak. A great bodybuilder is like a living piece of art and guys with great personalities like Bumstead just put the bow on top. If Classic Physique were what bodybuilding was all about and had Chris on top, it would spread like wildfire.
I don’t always agree with Arnold, but when it comes to Chris Bumstead being everything that bodybuilding should be in 2022 and moving forward, I couldn’t agree more. What say you?