|BodybuildingPro.com Presents: the 2009 Mr. Olympia Weekend in Las Vegas!
2009 MR. OLYMPIA WEEKEND IN LAS VEGAS REVIEW BY MATT CANNING
Mr. Olympia contest review.
The 2009 Mr. Olympia contest was one of the most competitive lineups in the history of the event. That may sound like rhetoric said each year to sell tickets to the show, but this is one time where the quality of competitors manifested into reality making a very deep and high quality lineup. Before a contest unfolds, predictions are generally made based on previous showings of individual bodybuilders. In the case of the 2009 Mr. Olympia, the predictions for the top five were by no means easy to make since the quality of the top bodybuilders was so close that it would be difficult for one to clearly beat another - rather, the predictions were based made on one competitor having a slight edge over another.
I will go through the top 15 placings at the Mr. Olympia and my comments for each one and follow up with some more information on the show and a conclusion.
1st: Jay Cutler
What can I say? This was one of Jay's best showings ever and quite possibly quite literally the one. The pictures of Jay which circulated on the internet before the show revealed that his face looked leaner than ever. Such a quality in the face is very telling of the overall condition of a bodybuilder. This is especially true for Jay who is someone I find generally has a slightly puffy face, even during contest time. I knew this said something about Jay's conditioning, but the same pictures seemed to reveal that Jay was smaller than he had previously been. This led me to believe that he was smaller but very shredded - possibly in similar condition to his performance at the 2004 Arnold Classic where he was shredded yet small, at least by his standards.
As it turned out, the above predictions were wrong. Jay looked to be as big as he ever was or close to it. In 2001, he reportedly weighed 265 and I imagine he weighed the same in 2009 but was in even better condition. This seems almost ridiculous to say since he was said by some to be at his lifetime best in 2001, but he looked to be improved, whether by size or conditioning is hard to distinguish without analyzing and comparing photos and video footage in greate length, but he was improved. Without a doubt, the lighting and his colour and oil played a role, but it is safe to say Jay was at least as good as he has even been, and in my opinion, the very best he has ever been. This opinion is shared by many people. Although not everyone feels that way, it is by no means an unpopular stance.
Jay looked notably shredded from the side showing detail that I have rarely seen him show before. He had striated shoulders which were always massive but now more cut than I remember seeing them before and the loose skin in his lower back appeared to be less noticeable than it had been before. Jay is always huge, so conditioning is one thing which will distinguish one version of his physique from another. His glutes and hamstrings were cut and his trademark abs and thighs were
A question in my mind is whether or not Jay is being judged based on his current physique or judged based on a comparison to previous versions of his physique - i.e., his two lackluster showings in 2007 and 2008, one of which garnered him a Mr. Olympia victory and Sandow trophy which in my view was undeserved. There is the psychological consideration that Jay looked better than he has for a long time and that he also has a history of placing very highly which may make it easier to place him highly since it is essentially the norm. With all of this in mind, I still think Jay deserved this victory and was at his all-time best. Congratulations to Jay who with three Mr. Olympia victories has nothing left to prove. I am uncertain what Jay's future plans are but it would be wise in my opinion for him to retire on top based on his feelings at age 28 when he stated he retire young at a point where he had nothing left to prove. At this point, Jay is definitely there.
2nd: Branch Warren
Branch Warren looked fantastic and hit his conditioning bang on for this contest. I have seen him look close to this good and this shredded before at both the 2006 and 2008 Arnold Classic contests. With that said, I found it surprising that he placed second at the contest, based simply on historical judging precedent. Branch has never beaten Dexter Jackson or Phil Heath before and I found it surprising that the judges would place him in such a manner because the judging panel has a certain type of physique in mind that they award and based on patterns thus far, Branch's physique will be highly competitive and place very well, just not this well, as in second place in the most competitive bodybuilding contest in the world.
Branch was absolutely shredded for this contest. He was as hard as I have ever seen him or possibly even harder, although there have been some other contests where he looked incredible. In addition to his conditioning, he was massive, and also more or less the biggest I have ever seen him. Of course this combination of massive size with deep cuts and incredible hardness is exactly what bodybuilders want to bring to a contest and Branch certainly did. As with Jay, this was likely Branch's best showing ever, although there have been a show or two where I would say it it close.
Moving on to structure, Branch does have a few structural issues which have kept his placings down I think. The IFBB tends to reward physiques which embody a certain look based on certain rough guidelines. For example, for Branch to be ideal by the standards set out in the IFBB, he would need a smaller waist. He would also need larger upper arms and forearms. He was closer to that prototype of an ideal physique when he initially turned pro at age 26, where his only noteworthy flaw there in my opinion was that his forearms were smaller than they should be in relationship to his upper arms. This flaw is difficult to even consciously note since forearms are notice almost in an unconscious type of way. People may not specifically point out balanced forearms when they see them, but when they are lacking the lack of balance is noted even if not consciously so in observation.
Branch is without a question huge and shredded - that goes without saying and in this contest he definitely displayed such. A smaller waste and larger arms would help Branch in terms of having that particular look judges notice, but these issues are genetic in origin. Branch would also look better with larger shoulders in his back double biceps pose where his back appears to dwarf his shoulders somewhat - but his shoulders are by no means small. In fact, they are almost as big as his head! It's just that in certain poses, strong and freaky body parts [which Branch has plenty of] will draw attention to those which are not as strong. It is almost as if Branch's massive chest, back, and legs, make other things look smaller. Of course you can see what kind of predicament Branch is in to try to improve certain areas not so much as a result of them being weak, but as a result of them being dwarfed by even stronger areas.
With this said, all of the above talk about structure did not seem to matter - the IFBB judges clearly rewarded Branch for his massive size and thickness coupled with his incredible conditioning and hardness. Given his height and frame size, it is quite possible that Branch was the thickest man in the contest. You can't deny that based on those qualities, Branch deserved to be way up there in the placings. I only really found the decision to be surprising based on the history of bodybuilding judging which has seen incumbent champions very rarely losing their titles and never by a person who has consistently lost to that previous champion. For Branch to only once be closest to Dexter Jackson at the 2006 Mr. Olympia where Dexter won and Branch came second to now beat Dexter, is quite surprising if for that reason alone.
3rd: Dexter Jackson
Dexter Jackson is similar to Shawn Ray in the respect that he consistently shows up in shape and like Shawn, I can't recall a time where he ever did not show up in shape. Darrem Charles has a similar track record although he was smooth at the contest this time. Dexter was once again in shape and has slowly put on muscle mass over the course of 10 years. He did seem to make some noticeable progress around 2007 and 2008, but for the most part, his gains in muscle mass have been slow and steady with his conditioning always being spot on.
I've written reviews about different versions of Dexter's physique many times before and I don't have too much to pick at except for a few things which have always more or less been the same. One thing I can point out is that is lats are high and jutting from the front particularly in the front double biceps but also showing in the other front poses. His calves are a weak point which [like his conditioning] would appear to be mostly genetic in nature. Everything else is pretty strong and balanced. He has deep cuts everywhere on his physique. I think I have seen his shoulders more striated before in the most muscular pose although even if this is the case, he still had some of the most striated shoulders in the entire contest. Dexter is not the biggest competitor, but his conditioning is too hard to ignore and the fact that every body part is developed with nothing lacking and also on display well thanks to his superb conditioning will always put Dexter near the top of the pack. Dexter may have been lacking oil slightly in comparison to previous contests which may have prevented his physique from being displayed as well as it could have been. In this case, Jay's mass advantage coupled with his strong conditioning this time out allowed him to beat Dexter, but Dexter still showed up with a respectable physique and did very well, especially given that he is only weeks away from his 40th birthday.
Dexter was the defending champion and given the quality of competitors and the slow but certain improvement of other bodybuilders just now coming up the ranks, I will predict that Dexter will not win the Mr. Olympia contest again but could easily be a top 2-10 competitor until he is 50 if that is his goal. I see no signs thus far of Dexter slowing down, but on that same note, I see no sign of Dexter continuing to improve.
4th: Kai Greene
Kai Greene was one of the bodybuilders who people predicted had a good chance to win the show. The top five mentioned in this regard were Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath, Dennis Wolf, and Kai. Given that Kai won the Arnold Classic earlier in the year, he had definitely proven that he was one of the current best competitive bodybuilders around and a well deserving competitor in the Mr. Olympia and one who would no doubt do very well. I felt that it would be likely that he made the top five, and his fourth place finish is no surprise to me at all, although the order of the contestants thus far deviated slightly from the vast majority of predictions for the sole reason that Branch did so well.
Most critics of Kai including Charles Glass pointed out that he did not enter this contest as hard and as shredded as he entered the 2009 Arnold Classic. I felt that Kai was slightly smoother than I had previously seen him, although he was not lacking for size by any means and his extremeties in particular looked huge - his arms were huge and his biceps were peaked and his quads were thick and shredded and his hamstrings from the side were the best in the show in my opinion and close to the level that Tom Prince's were from the side back when he competed in the 2001 Night of Champions at 260 pounds. Despite being slightly smoother than he previously has been, Kai still had tremendous separation and striations in his thighs which were among the most shredded legs in the contest. He also had a fair amount of vascularity in his thighs - similar to how Ronnie had veins in his legs that you could see through his workout pants. His triceps were huge and striated and were even clearly pronounced in his side chest pose - a pose which has a tendency to make the triceps disappear into the whole of the arm. The side chest pose was also the pose which highlighted the sheer massiveness of his hamstrings which I discussed previously above.
Even at a time when Kai showed up "smooth", he was still massive and huge by any stretch. Of course when a competitive bodybuilder is smooth he is unlikely to come in smaller than usual, but not only did Kai display great size, he also had cross-striated thighs, ripped triceps, and ripped glutes. His back is huge and he can hold his own in back poses with any pro. The thickness of his back is staggering and I can honestly put Kai's name up there with Ronnie Coleman's and Dorian Yates' given how thick it is. In the rear lat spread in particular, the extent of his back training regiment is almost visible based on the incredible thickness of this area, not just in the upper and middle regions, but also in the lower back - an area that we see lacking on pros frequently, even those who compete at the top level - i.e., Dennis Wolf and formally Chris Cook to name but two.
Given that Kai showed up smoother than usual, his fourth place finish is not surprising. However, it begs the question of where Kai would have placed yet he brought the conditioning to the stage that let him with the 2009 Arnold. My guess is that he could have surpassed Dexter and from there it would be between Jay and Branch. Without a doubt, Kai has a strong future in bodybuilding. I predict good things for him and I do believe he will only go up in his future Olympia placings should that be what he desires to achieve.
5th: Phil Heath
Phil was one of the pros who was given a very high probability of winning the contest and virtually a 100% probability of making the top three, since people really felt it would be between himself and Dexter and another one of the top competitors [cited were Kai Greene, Jay Cutler, or Dennis Wolf]. Phil was said to have been 240 at this show which was 10 pounds heavier than he was last year. At only 29 years of age, Phil was the youngest in the top five and in tact in the entire contest. Phil was slightly smoother during prejudging than he was last year when he placed third. By the time of the finals, it looked like Phil sharpened up slightly although usually the contest results are already determined after prejudging is completed.
In Phil's side poses, I didn't feel that he looked much different than he had previously at contests where he appeared more shredded, most notably, the 2008 Mr. Olympia where he was 10 pounds lighter. During the front poses such as the front relaxed pose, front double biceps pose, and abs and thigh pose, I did note that his abs and upper body was washed out in comparison to previous more shredded versions of his physique. His back was still very hard and it was more difficult to notice the slighly smoother version of his physique in that area. I felt that his legs were also close to as good as I have ever seen them before, such as during the 2008 Mr. Olympia and 2008 Ironman where they were huge and shredded. In 2007, I felt that this was an area that Phil needed to work on, but at this point he definitely has enough muscle in his legs in my opinion. Not to mention, his calves are a fairly strong point, although not as strong as Jay's calves or Branch's calves, but not lagging my any means and suitable for the overall size of his upper legs. Even standing relaxed, Phil's legs are clearly thick and shredded, even at a time when he came in less conditioned than he previously had.
Phil, like Kai Greene, can come into a show "smooth" by his own standards which is still shredded in comparison to pretty well the entire contest lineup. With that said, I believe that if Phil had shown up as shredded as he previously had in 2008, he would have been able to be a viable threat to anyone in this contest, perhaps with the one exception being Jay Cutler, who has a noteworthy mass advantage over Phil at the same height. In my view, for the contest next year, I think Phil would be in amazing condition to come in at 235 with better conditioning. Although he should not focus simply on weight, since his appearance in the mirror will be the best indicator of his future results. If he does enter the competition at 235 at 5'9, he can definitely make the top three in even the deepest of fields.
6th: Victor Martinez
With the recent tragic death of Victor's sister, I thought it was impressive for him to even show up to the Mr. Olympia in decent conditioning - but it went beyond that, as Victor showed up improved from his other 2009 showing from the 2009 Arnold Classic. Victor had improved while Kai Greene regressed, yet Kai was still able to defeat Victor at this show. However, the differential was much closer than it had previously been and it is arguable that the top six could have been rearranged slightly with no major qualms about it.
I think that Victor has an excellent structure which has become slightly less aesthetic as he has put on mass - as Toney Freeman pointed in his interview by Layne Norton, you can only continue to build if you build up and since a bodybuilder at 5'9 [or any height for that matter] cannot get any taller, he can only continue to put on more size by putting it on in areas which are not desireable, i.e., the stomach. Victor has had issues with his stomach distention before which is not uncommon amongst pros and his waist has progressively gotten wider, but he carries his mass well on stage and as a general rule, is good at not making more of that issue than it has to be. His structure is still incredible despite his waist getting larger since he turned pro and he has muscle shape which is cartoonish in ways. He is a perpetual top pro and this contest was no exception.
Victor has a naturally wide structure and his ability to get shredded while being massive is up there. I think that his showing was remarkable given the family tragedy he had only recently experienced and I think that he can definitely maintain or improve his placing in the future. It is even possible that he wins the Mr. Olympia one day, but at the very least, he can do at least as well next year. Hopefully at that time he will not have any deeply emotional personal issues to distract him and he will be able to focus 100% on his training.
7th: Ronny Rockel
When I saw photos of Ronny Rockel before the show, I could tell this would be his best showing ever and I knew that he would have a chance at breaking the top 10. Since the competition was so deep, I felt that he would still be competing with at least 15 guys who had a good chance of making the top 10 and that he may be overlooked for other competitors. In this case, Ronny showed up in his best ever shape and it paid off.
Ronny has excellent lines and a great structure. His muscles are round and full and his balance between body parts is excellent. I mentioned that Dexter Jackson's lats are too high, but Ronny has lats which produce a greater V-taper and produce a better aesthetic in the front double biceps pose. At this contest, Ronny was in better condition than I have ever seen him in before and this was especially apparent in his most muscular pose which was comparable to Dexter's in the sense that his shoulders were deeply cut and striated. I think that his colour and oil were also perfect which displayed his physique beautifully. His glutes were shredded and he displayed great overall vascularity. Essentially he really nailed it this time out. I wonder what Ronny's weight was, because if he was under 202 I think he would have definitely won that contest.
8th: Toney Freeman
When I heard that Toney Freeman was around 20 pounds heavier than he was for 2008, I really wondered if he would end up outside the top 15 as a result. In 2007 he showed up smooth and he cost him in terms of ranking as he placed outside the top 10. In 2008 he showed up shredded and placed a well deserved fifth place.
Upon reviewing the pictures, I have to say that Toney definitely looked better than he did in 2007 and this was reflected in his placing. However, I would still say that he looked better in 2008 where he was not as big but even more shredded. I will state one thing though: when most professional bodybuilders show up 20 pounds heavier it is quite honestly a case of 15 of that 20 pounds being bad weight with only a five pound gain in actual lean mass. In the case of Toney, I would say it was the opposite, where 75% of the additional weight suited him very well with only 25% of it being enough to smooth him out and keep him out of the top six. If he comes in next year five pounds lighter or so, I think he can do very well and move up a few places. Also, Toney competed three times this year. If Toney only focusses on the Mr. Olympia for 2010 I can see him regain his place in the top five. However, given that this contest was so competitive and is very likely a reflection of how competitive the contest will be next year, it will be difficult for him to move much beyond that unless some other competitors come in off. To beat three of: Jay Cutler, Branch Warren, Dexter Jackson, Kai Greene, Phil Heath, Victor Martinez, and Dennis Wolf, would be a very impressive feat, even if they are off. Toney is definitely a top 5-10 competitor and I think that this trend can continue for a while yet.
With this all said, Toney is currently 43 years old and will be turning 44 before the next Mr. Olympia. I think he can still compete and do very well but I really don't know what Toney's plans are. It is quite possible he can be strongly competitive until age 50 if that is what he wants, as he showed really no signs at all this year of slowing down.
9th: Hidetada Yamagishi
I am happy to see that Hidetada was able to compete in the United States again after having some legal troubles previously. He showed up this year looking to be what is likely his best ever showing, and this was particularly apparent in his conditioning. He was hard and shredded and displayed good overall conditioning. It's funny how with Jay Cutler, Kai Greene, and Phil Heath, they were more shredded in their legs than they were in their upper bodies, because with Hidetada it was the opposite - he was more shredded in the upper body and not as much so in the legs. The same held when he turned around, as he was more shredded in the back than he was in his hamstrings. Overall this was a very respectable finish for Hidetada whose conditioning propelled him into the top 10. It is difficult to say if he can ever move up to the top six, but he has clearly proven that he can finish top 10 in a deep lineup so I think he will likely have more good showings in his future as he continues to improve.
10th: Moe Elmoussawi
Moe had a physique very similar to Hidetada's and I imagine they were very close in points as well. They have very similar strengths and weaknesses and I could have seen their placings being switched pretty easily since they shared so much in common. I think that Moe has a thicker back and that is definitely something the judges value greatly, although I think it can be argued that Hidetada was slightly sharper and this is likely the consideration that the judges used to place him above Moe at this contest. Like Hide, Moe has proven that he is a top 10 competitor and in fact, he did so in 2008 by placing ninth. The overall quality of competitors today is very high, but now that Moe is definitely one of the top 10 bodybuilders in the world, like Hide, we will see how he does in the future.
11th - Silvio Samuel Saviour
Silvio is not one of the larger competitors in any Mr. Olympia lineup, but he does have an advantage in conditioning which he needs to display in order to break the top 10. As it was this year, he was washed out all over and had definitely timed his peak incorrectly by a few days. His relative lack of conditioning was uniform just as his conditioning had been uniform previously. For example, he didn't seem to maintain his condition in one area while he lost it in another. Instead, he more or less lost it all over. Silvio, like Kai Greene and Phil Heath as well as some others, is always shredded, even when he is smooth or otherwise off by his own personal standards. So with that in mind, Silvio was shredded. It's just that he was not as shredded as he had been before and his relative lack of size compared to the top 10 does not allow him to be among them unless his conditioning is at a higher level. If Silvio brings his best conditioning back to the stage next year, I fully think he can crack the top 10 as he did in 2007 and 2008. His best previous placing was 7th in both of those years and I fully think he can claim that position again, or possibly move up slightly depending on the condition of the rest of the competitors.
11th - Melvin Anthony
Melvin Anthony tied Silvio, although I would have placed him ahead in terms of both conditioning and size/structure. I prefer Melvin's structure and that is one area in which I find he is very gifted - he has a small waist and a broad v-taper. His lats are low and flare out in the front double biceps and front lat spread. In combination with his lats, his small waist really make it a great pose for him. This year, Melvin was shredded, but not as much as he had been in the past, most notably in 2006-2008. I felt that in certain areas his conditioning was very strong, but in others it was not as strong. For example, in the side chest pose, I felt that his delts were hard and conditioned, yet in the rear double biceps pose, they looked a little softer. The vascularity in his arms was apparent and his abs were deep. He had a little loose skin under his glutes, but on the whole his conditioning was very good and to be honest, I'm not so sure why he placed this low. I would have had him ahead of Silvio and definitely up there with Hide and Moe, possibly surpassing them. In his interview with Layne Norton, Markus Ruhl stated that there are 15 bodybuilders legitimately competing for the top 10 which is a statement I agreed with as well as others who also did. As a result of this deep competition, Melvin found himself out of the top 10. It was frankly bound to be that some placings at this show would be slightly more difficult or more controversial than others. In my opinion, I felt Melvin was top 10 quality, but to repeat, this was a very high quality lineup.
13th - Gustavo Badell
Gustavo was another bodybuilder like Melvin who was fighting for a top 10 spot with 14 other men. As a result, he placed 13th in a very challenging lineup to be top 10. I felt that his conditioning was very good and like some other bodybuilders even if Gustavo is off slightly he is still shredded. His conditioning at the 2005 Mr. Olympia contest was his best ever and he did not replicate that here. I believe I have seen his legs bigger but overall this showing was good. If he was in better condition he would have been in the top 10, but once again, we are talking about a lineup where 15 people could have been the top 10 if they were at their best ever. Overall being 13th place in the world in 2009 amongst so many excellent bodybuilders is an oustanding achievement. Gustavo is 37 years old and in my opinion still has some time left to show up at his previous best and possibly even improve on that.
14th - Dennis James
Dennis James recently turned 40 [in May] and recently won both the 2009 Tampa Bay and Europa pro bodybuilding contests. However, at this contest Dennis came in smoother than he did at the other shows and was relegated to fourteenth place. Dennis came into the contest with his usual strengths, of course massive size being one of them. However, being as smooth as he was his abs were almost totally washed out. His lats are also high which hurt him in the front double biceps most of all. Given his lack of conditioning for this show, I think 14th was a reasonable placing for him and he was lucky to get that. Had he showed up as he had previously in the year, I think he could have easily been in the top 10.
15th - Markus Ruhl
I was happy to see Markus Ruhl place in the top 15 at this contest. It was a very difficult lineup and I know that Markus was disappointed with his finish in 2007 where he did not place in the top 15. Markus has never really been as shredded as the most shredded competitors in the IFBB pro ranks but he has still brought respectable conditioning to the stage and combined with his massive size, this combination has been enough for him to achieve a top 10 position at the Mr. Olympia on four separate occasions and even place fifth in 2004. Markus has some problem with his chest which I think has improved recently but is still noticeable. It looks like a tear in the middle of his chest but I am unsure what exactly it is. One very strong point for Markus in terms of size is his back which is incredibly wide and huge despite not being as thick and shredded as the backs of some other competitors. Overall I was happy with Markus placing in the top 10 an I am curious what his future plans are in the bodybuilding world.
Overall, I felt that this Mr. Olympia contest was a very competitive one and fairly well judged overall. I think that as competitive as it was, there was more than one pro not at his best - Kai Greene, Phil Heath, Toney Freeman, and others. Had all of the competitors showed up in their best ever form, I think we would have quite possibly had the most competitive Mr. Olympia ever, especially so because of the closeness of the top six in such a hypothetical circumstance. Dennis Wolf was predicted to win this show by many people and was the people's choice for winner in both 2007 and 2008. This year he came in around 20 pounds heavier than he did in 2008, but unlike Toney Freeman, it did not work out for him and he placed out of the top 15. I believe the take home message from this contest as shown by the placings of Jay Cutler, Branch Warren, Ronny Rockel, and others, is that coming in with top conditioning beats out coming in slightly bigger but smoother. Virtually all of the bodybuilders who did not place as well as they normally do made the mistake of coming in too heavy. It would seem that taking the risk of coming in too flat due to trying to be as shredded as possible is smarter than taking the risk of coming in too smooth due to trying to come in as big as possible. In any event, this was an extremely competitive lineup and one of the best ever in my opinion and if all of the pros correct the errors they made this year, it may even be a better contest then! I look forward to next year's show.
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