2010 IFBB Arnold Classic Review

By John Hansen
Natural Mr. Olympia

The 2010 Arnold Classic was the 22nd edition of the biggest event in the world of bodybuilding and fitness. What began in 1989 as a one-day bodybuilding contest has evolved into a 4-day extravaganza featuring 44 different sports and 18,000 competitors. That's 3 times the number of athletes participating in the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

This IFBB Arnold Classic Bodybuilding competition was one of the best in the history of this great event. The top 4 professional bodybuilders in the world (minus the current Mr. Olympia, Jay Cutler) were onstage trying to win the coveted crown. Last year's champ, Kai Greene, was back to win the title again after his 4th place finish at the 2009 IFBB Mr. Olympia. Dexter Jackson was returning to the stage to try to win a 4th Arnold Classic after a very disappointing 3rd place in the Olympia last September.

The tension was ratcheted up even higher with Branch Warren riding a tremendous wave of momentum after surprising everyone by placing 2nd to Cutler at the Olympia. Phil Heath was extremely motivated to win his first big professional title after taking a devastating 5th place at last year's IFBB Mr. Olympia due to an unfortunate bout of food poisoning. Of course, only one man could win so this was going to be a battle for the ages! What follows is my review of all 13 competitors.

Bringing up the rear of the pack was big Sergey Shelestov from Russia. Although he has great legs and a big chest, he's lacking the overall structure to place high in a competition like this. Sergey's condition this year was substantially less than what he displayed placing 8th at the 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic. His abs were not as sharp and his back remains a major weak point. 

Although Johnnie Jackson won the title World's Strongest Bodybuilder at last year's Olympia Expo in a showdown with Ben White, his stage placings have been slipping for the last few years. He was 9th at the 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic and dropped three places at this year's competition. Johnnie has tremendous thickness in his pecs, traps and delts, but his lower body is way out of proportion with the top half. His quads need more sweep and size, and his calves look tiny in contrast to his upper body. He was in shape for this competition but needs to really bring the wheels up to move back up the ranks.

Tarek El Setouhi won the Arnold Amateur competition in 2008 and placed 5th at the IFBB Europa Super Show later that year. He's a big man and a welcome new face on the pro scene with strong points that include impressive leg development and thick, deep abs. However, Tarek's waist is so wide it detracts during front double biceps and abdominal poses. Like Sergey, Tarek also needs better back development to place higher in professional competitions. Lower lat thickness would help him on the back poses. 

Robert Piotrkowicz from Poland was another new face at this year's Arnold Classic. He took 2nd to Tarek El Setouhi at the 2008 Arnold Amateur and beat him out in the Pro event. Robert has a very thick and hard physique. The fact that his waist is also a little thick and his legs – although hard and developed – don't have that outer quad sweep, hurt his effort. Even with an outstanding back that was definitely hard as a rock, Robert's overall structure prevented him from placing higher.

Melvin Anthony had to be disappointed placing 9th after just winning the Phoenix Pro show 2 weeks earlier. His conditioning from that show was not evident at the Arnold, and some of the competitors he beat that night (Hidetada Yamagishi and Toney Freeman) placed ahead of him. Melvin performed a very entertaining posing routine at the evening show but lost the Best Posing award to Kai Greene. As symmetrical as Melvin's physique is, his chest looked surprisingly flat. He also appeared narrow in poses like the front double biceps and front lat spread. Usually, his rear double biceps pose is one of the best around.

Hidetada Yamagishi duplicated his 2009 IFBB Mr. Olympia placing at the Arnold Classic this year. Hidetada has a very thick and hard physique even though he's much smaller than most of the other Pros. Like everyone, he needs to come out in great condition to do well, and at the night show he looked softer than during the prejudging. This may have had something to do with different stage lights. His weakness is that he doesn't display the width some of his competitors have. 

Last year's Arnold Amateur winner, Roelly Winklaar from the Netherlands, was the most promising new bodybuilder at this year's Arnold Classic. At 5'8" and 247 pounds, Roelly is absolutely huge with outstanding thickness. His freaky big arms brought back memories of the great Sergio Oliva at the 1972 Mr. Olympia when he did the twisting rear double biceps pose. Roelly's triceps look like they're inserted into his elbow, and he sports some pretty huge quadriceps to go along with all that upper body thickness. He looked a little smooth over the abs and has a tendency to let his gut stick out, but from the front his quads were incredibly massive with deep separations and cross striations everywhere. Look for big things from this monster who's a real fan favorite. 

Ronny Rockel was back at the Arnold after placing 7th in last year's Mr. Olympia. For that show, he was in the best condition of his life. He's got a thick and symmetrical physique with some of the best legs on the pro circuit. In addition, Ronny's rocking thick, round muscle bellies in his chest and delts. When in shape, he's a serious threat during any contest. For the Arnold, Ronnie was not quite as sharp. His back is still a weak point compared to his exceptionally muscular front. Although he had coconut sized deltoids, his lats don't have enough width, so he got beat from the rear. If he can duplicate last year's Olympia condition at this year's contest, Ronnie Rockel will place very well.

Toney "The X Man" Freeman avenged his loss 2 weeks ago at the Phoenix Pro show by beating both Hidetada Yamagishi and Melvin Anthony at the 2010 IFBB Arnold Classic. With his X-Frame structure (wide shoulders, small waist and flaring quadriceps), Toney has the potential to win any Pro event when he's totally dialed in. Toney looked better than he did at last year's Mr. Olympia, although it seemed like he was much smoother for the evening show. The top four were expected to be Heath, Kai, Branch and Dexter, so Toney was right up there with them in the top five. 

Dexter Jackson probably had the most to lose by entering the 2010 Arnold Classic. The 3-time Arnold Classic champion, and 2008 IFBB Mr. Olympia, dropped down to 3rd at last year's Mr. Olympia. By choosing to compete again at the Arnold Classic, Dexter absolutely HAD to win to regain his championships status. If anyone should have been anxious to prove himself to the judges and audience, it was Dexter. Unfortunately, he dropped down to 4th place in a contest he'd won 3 times. To me, Dexter didn't look like he was all that hungry or desperate to win. He posed to upbeat music at the evening show and appeared very relaxed. His condition was off too, not nearly as sharp or shredded as he needed.

Branch Warren was the crowd favorite at the 2010 IFBB Arnold Classic. Hardcore bodybuilding fans love Branch because of his rugged physique and no-nonsense attitude. After his surprising 2nd place finish at last year's IFBB Mr. Olympia, Branch was on a roll with tons of momentum. Many predicted he'd win the Arnold.

Branch epitomizes the "freaky" physique. His frame is packed with some of the thickest, most dense muscle tissue ever seen on a bodybuilding stage, and his legs are regarded by some as the best the sport has ever seen. When he combines this mass with incredible muscularity and conditioning, he is one of the best Pro Bodybuilders anywhere. Branch's weakness is the symmetry and overall shape of his physique. He doesn't have wide shoulders or a small waist, but he offsets his lack of shape with lots and lots of thick, ripped muscle. 

At the 2010 Arnold Classic, Branch looked even bigger than he did at last year's Olympia. With the added muscle he also lost some of the conditioning and hardness that he displayed as runner-up to Jay Cutler. He looked to be a few pounds off his best condition, but won the Most Muscular award for the 4th time.

Phil Heath was in the best condition of his life at the 2010 Arnold Classic! Out for revenge after his poor placing at last year's Olympia, Phil was the hungriest bodybuilder on the stage. He knew he was in top shape and was ready to win. Looking to be at least 10 pounds heavier than at the Olympia last year, Phil was ripped to the bone with incredible separation everywhere. His already amazing arms and delts looked even bigger and freakier. His back has improved to the point where it was one of the widest and thickest on stage.
What sets Phil Heath apart from all the other bodybuilders is the amazing separation between all his muscle groups. This incredible genetic gift has made him stand out from his very first competition. As he's continued to add mass and thickness, his physique has progressed to one of the very best. His only weakness is a structural one: somewhat short clavicles which make him look narrow in poses like the front lat spread and front double biceps. Still, Phil has so much muscle, freaky conditioning and hardness that this weakness is not as much of a handicap as the blocky physique that Branch Warren displays. 

Phil was winning this contest after the prejudging, leading Kai Greene with a score of 7 to 10 (the lowest score is best). I thought he looked awesome at the evening show. Every pose he hit in his posing routine displayed his body to its maximum potential. It wasn't a fancy posing routine with handstands or break dancing but it did the job of showcasing what should have been the winner of the 2010 IFBB Arnold Classic. Most of the audience was in shock when Phil was announced in 2nd place. He must be wondering what he has to do to win a big title like the Arnold or the Olympia. If he improves his physique this much for the Mr. Olympia later this year, I feel sorry for his competition.

The winner of the Arnold Classic for the second year in a row was Kai Greene. Kai shocked the bodybuilding world last year when he defeated Victor Martinez in this event. It wasn't the decision that shocked everyone, but the amazing physique that Kai displayed. 

Kai has one of the most unique and innovative posing routines in the history of the sport. He doesn't just hit the standard poses like most bodybuilders. Instead, he stalks the stage, lunging and somersaulting his body in between hitting poses. Kai will do movements on stage that have never been done before. This year he actually used the stage design backdrop to balance himself while he amazed the crowd with a handstand that showed off his incredible back, legs and glutes. 

Physique wise, Kai has some freaky body parts that many believe don't really tie into a pleasing overall package. His lat development is very low and thick, creating one of the most unique backs ever seen on a bodybuilding stage. His leg development is also out of this world. Kai matches Branch Warren for the biggest and most striated legs in professional bodybuilding. His shredded glutes and hamstrings are also at another level. From the front, Kai doesn't look as impressive as from the rear. His torso is much shorter than his legs which throws off his symmetry. His arms are also a little out of proportion to the rest of his physique, particularly on the side poses (side chest and side triceps).

Kai's condition at the 2010 IFBB Arnold Classic was not on the same level as the year before. In 2009, Kai was crazy ripped and striated, and could have beaten almost anyone in that shape. This year, he was a little softer and didn't dominate the competition like he did a year ago. He was in 2nd place behind Phil Heath going into the evening show but won at night with a perfect score of 5 points while Phil and Branch tied for 2nd with 13 points each. I had Kai in 2nd or 3rd based on his conditioning. Maybe it was his incredible posing routine that swayed the judges.

All in all, the 2010 IFBB Arnold Classic was a fantastic show and the Mr. Olympia this year should be an awesome showdown too!
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