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Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, and Gunter Schlierkamp Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written by Matt Canning Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, and Gunter Schlierkamp

Battle of the Bodybuilders - What's All the Hype About?

As some of you recall, last year there was quite the pre-contest hype going on in the battle for the Mr. Olympia. If you read a lot of the muscle magazines out there, you would have noted that the key players here were Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler and Gunter Schlierkamp. Now there were quite a few reasons why this hype was built up, and even though the 2003 Mr. Olympia contest has come and gone and we all saw Ronnie's incredible show of redemption, I would like to use this article to discuss the reasons for the hype and the players involved.

For several months leading up to the 2002 Mr. Olympia contest, Gunter Schlierkamp had been training with personal trainer extraordinare Charles Glass. In these few months, Glass brought Gunter's overall physique up to a level that it had never been at prior to this. He entered the 2003 Mr. Olympia contest at his peak - in terms of both physical conditioning and overall muscularity - 300 pounds of shredded mass - 23" arms, a 58" chest and his quads, a usual strong point were better than ever. All in all he was the most improved bodybuilder onstage and he remained a powerful force as the night continued - arguably he was the best bodybuilder at the night show.

Now let's remember Ronnie Coleman's condition - he was trying to duplicate the success that he saw at the 2001 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic contest, which many bodybuilding fans regarded as his best ever showing. He was 247 pounds in that contest and his back, a usual strong point - was as detailed and thick as it had ever been. He had combined muscularity and detail in a way that even topped his 1998 and 1999 performances which are also considered to be among his best. He also later went on to win the 2001 Mr. Olympia contest and is thus far the only bodybuilder to ever win both major contests in the same year. So what did he try to do for the 2002 showing at the Mr. O? Simple - he tried to reproduce the size and conditioning he presented at the 2001 ASC. But as so many professional bodybuilders have learned, bodybuilding and peaking for a contest is hardly an exact science, and simply replicating the body weight will not necessarily result in the same presentation on stage. This is exactly what happened to Ronnie Coleman. He weighed in at 244 pounds at the contest, but he was noticeably smaller - his traps, neck and arms were a lot more shallow than they had been at the 2001 ASC and they began to fade as the night wore on. Although his conditioning was basically on, he lacked the crisp detail that he presented at the 2001 ASC, so although the body weight alone would indicate that Ronnie Coleman was the same bodybuilder, anyone who was at the contest, or even saw the pictures, would have known otherwise. Ronnie's midsection was smaller than it had been in the previous two Mr. Olympia contests, but it didn't remind anybody of the bodybuilders of the golden era with their awesome vacuums. Still, a huge improvement, and a sign of what was to come in 2003. It was a harem scarem victory for Ronnie. All in all, he won the contest, whether it was close or not. He still had enough dense, mature muscle mass to win over the remainder of the competition. Some said that if Kevin Levrone had entered the contest with the same legs that he had in the early 1990s, he would have a Sandow - this may be the case, but Levrone's legs were smaller than they were at his best, and Ronnie outmuscled Levrone and the rest of the Olympia crop to take home a victory and a fifth Sandow.

What about Jay - he was a no show for this contest. Presumably because he had competed in a lot of contests in 2002 and needed to give his body a much deserved rest or risk physical burnout. Also, Jay is a businessman, and a smart one at that. By competing the other contests of the year (including a victory at the 2002 Arnold Classic), as well as guest posing and doing related work within the bodybuilding industry, he managed to pick up a better paycheck for himself, which is ultimately what a bodybuilder wants to do in the end since it is the job.

Now we compound the problem further - In the weeks to follow after the Mr. Olympia, Gunter had a chance to peak even further, and although Ronnie gained 20 pounds, he was not in the form he was for the 2002 Mr. Olympia by the time of the 2002 GNC Show of Strength - which meant victory for Gunter. Controversial victory? You will hear different things on this one; some people said that Ronnie losing was totally ridiculous and that he should have been first place - after all, no other Mr. Olympia in the history of bodybuilding had ever lost like this in years. Mr. Olympia winners are known to reign and that is exactly what they do until they choose to retire. Others said that Gunter easily won - not because he was on and not because Ronnie was off, but sort of as a combination of them both. Many believe that Gunter is not yet at Ronnie's level in competitive bodybuilding and that, although Gunter is an excellent bodybuilder, he just isn't quite where Ronnie is - at least not yet. But even the harshest of Gunter's critics can agree that when Gunter is on, he is an amazing competitive force with the best bodybuilders in the world - even the top of the lineup in the Mr. Olympia. Those same critics can also agree that when Ronnie is off a little bit, Gunter's peak form is superior. Then there are the many fans who believe Gunter is the better bodybuilder between both of them. Gunter has a lot of appeal - he is "Arnoldesque" in appearance - tall, handsome, foreign and with a great personality. Although this doesn't equate to winning bodybuilding competitions, the fact is, Gunter has an incredible physique as well. I've read so many times that he has not top caliber, but I would disagree. He may not have the level of muscle maturity or density of Ronnie Coleman, but there is no doubt he has excellent genetics and deserves to be among the best in the world.

So what happened next? Simple - all of the magazines turned this into the biggest hyped Mr. Olympia pre-contest coverage of all time. After all, the story "Ronnie wins again" would be growing old by now, and not what sells magazines. A three way challenge between three great bodybuilders might do it - and I'm pretty sure it did. Now, let's look at each of the three bodybuilders individually and check out their strengths and weaknesses (all stats from each competitor's heaviest contest weight):

Ronnie Coleman

Age: 40
Height: 5'11
Weight: 287

Photo © Ron Avidan of


Ronnie has a lot of quality muscle. Pound for pound, there probably has not been a stronger, thicker bodybuilder - and I mean NEVER. If such a bodybuilder does exist, they have to be away from competition and hiding because I sure haven't seen him. What a collection of muscle Ronnie is - specifically his back and his arms are outstanding. HUGE, conditioned and very balanced. You know something else? Despite what everyone says, Ronnie honestly came into the 2003 Mr. Olympia without the distended midsection that everyone talks about. People still said he did, but it was drastically improved. This is especially amazing since he was 40 pounds heavier than he was at the 2002 Mr. Olympia. He was incredible at this contest, and not just in terms of sheer mass. Truthfully, his waist wasn't too big either. He still had the most dominant X-frame on stage and looked great in most of the mandatories. What could be even more mind boggling than Ronnie at the 2003 Mr. Olympia? Maybe if he had his 2001 Arnold Classic crispness coupled with his 2003 Mr. Olympia mass, he would be incredible. But that would hardly be human - heck, he barely looked human at the 2003 Mr. Olympia. He dominated in that contest in ways that very few bodybuilders had before him. To improve on that would be frightening. He already redefined the word "freak".

Jay Cutler

Age: 30
Height: 5'9
Weight: 265

Photo © Ron Avidan of


I know a lot has been said regarding a comparison between Ronnie and Jay. Basically, people will say that Ronnie made Jay look small and that Jay is still not in Ronnie's league. Maybe this is true, but keep something in mind - Jay is 30 years old, and just this month Ronnie turned 40 - so my question would be, where was Ronnie 10 years ago? He definitely wasn't at Jay's current level, which would suggest to me that Jay has the drive and the genetics to push bodybuilding to new levels much the same way Ronnie has been doing lately. Sure, Jay is still a bit behind Ronnie right now in terms of development (if they both enter a competition at their best), but there is a lot of room in the future for Jay to progress. Jay has Ronnie beat in abs and some would also say quads and Hamstrings. Ronnie may possess superior size, but Jay's separation is quite incredible. His back lacks the detail of Ronnie and the size, but with time, if he can further improve that area, he will be able to push Ronnie harder than he ever has before.

Gunter Schlierkamp

Age: 34
Height: 6'1
Weight: 300

Photo © Ron Avidan of


Really, Gunter is a good height for a bodybuilder. He will make just about anybody look small by comparison. All in all, Gunter looks good. Great legs, good shoulders for a man of his size, great arms and awesome conditioning when he comes in at peak form. His back is a problem area like Jay's, but look at this relatively - his back is problematic when he goes head to head in comparisons with Ronnie Coleman. Honestly, his back is great - just not great enough to be number one. At least not yet. If Gunter can continue to make improvements at the rate that he did in 2002 working with Charles Glass, he can definitely continue to push both Ronnie and Jay very hard. The question would be - how realistic would it be to make those kinds of improvements over the long term? Is it possible that Gunter maxed out already? Gunter says no, so I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens. My hope is that he recaptures his 2002 Mr. Olympia form. In that form, he is a threat at any level of bodybuilding competition. Gunter does have a tendency to look blocky in his abs and thight shot, but otherwise looks great in the mandatories - maybe he doesn't have the back that Ronnie does, but he has a lot to be proud of, and has all the drive and determination to continue to bodybuild and compete at the highest level.

So, all in all, we have three awesome bodybuilders here. Each have their strong points and their areas which need to be improved upon. Each are top caliber bodybuilders today and will be in the future. But what about the three way challenge? Does it have any merit? Right now, I would say no. I have a few reasons for this thinking - primarily Ronnie shocked the world of bodybuilding with the freaky mass he presented at the 2003 Mr. Olympia. At 287 pounds, he made every man on stage (yes, even Jay) look small. He was a freak of freak - to the point where people who looked at the pictures online thought they had been photoshopped or otherwise manipulated electronically. Even seeing the same pictures in the magazines, people thought that the pictures were fake. But of course, they didn't really believe that. But they also didn't believe Ronnie looked that freaky. It was hard to believe one way or the other - but Ronnie did it. Going back to the basics, he redefined the word freak and put an end to this competition between himself, Jay and Gunter. But that's not the only reason why the hype should stop now - There are other bodybuilders that people should throw into this mix too. Dennis James is capable of amazing things and with continual improvements he will remain a threat, as will Dexter Jackson. Chris Cormier presented one of his best packages yet at the 2003 Arnold Classic, and we shouldn't count out Kevin Levrone - at least not yet. We all know Kevin is capable of great things when he wants it bad enough.

So to sum this all up - selling magazines is fine, but hopefully we can all sit back, analyze the facts and think critically in cases like this. Ronnie, Jay, and Gunter are all top rate bodybuilders, but comparing them is quite silly. There are other factors and other athletes to consider - so be wise before you buy into any hype. You might have somebody telling you "I told you so" by the end of the next contest!

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Take care,

Matt Canning

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