By Strength Oldschool
In these modern times the ‘Mr Olympia’ contest is considered the KING of ALL bodybuilding contests. Who ever wins the Mr Olympia is simply known as the best bodybuilder on the planet. It’s a title that every single heavyweight competitive bodybuilder hopes to win. Before the Mr Olympia contest was created, bodybuilders back in the early days entered the ‘Mr America’ and ‘Mr Universe’ contests which were highly respected. If a bodybuilder won those contests you were considered the best. However in 1965, Joe Weider decided to create a contest that would bring together Mr America’s and Mr Universe winners to determine the greatest bodybuilder in the world. That contest became known as the Mr Olympia and to date, there have been only 13 winners.
When it comes to ‘How to Judge a Physique’, everyone is different. But you need to ask yourself what are you looking for when it comes to an Olympian Physique. In my opinion, I’m looking for mass with aesthetic appeal i.e. Broad Shoulders, V-Taper, Tiny Waist, Big Arms, Medium to larg-ish legs (not too big), Big Chest & Back and no glaring weaknesses. If a lifter has an extremely poor body part, i.e. their calves…they do NOT deserve to be awarded the title of Mr Olympia. Everything needs to be in proportion. I have included a list of all the winners below – have a read and see if you agree with my own thoughts. Please respond back with any comments you have. Thank you.
1. Larry Scott
Larry Scott won the contest twice (1965 & 1966). Tremendous physique. Arms and shoulders were out of this world and would even do damage still in todays contests. Larry was the first ever winner of the Mr Olympia contest. He unfortunately passed away a couple of years back but right up till his death, he continued to train and maintain a fantastic physique and still had incredible arms. He was genetically blessed with god given muscle insertions. His only real weakness was his clavicle length which he managed to overcome by developing one of the greatest shoulders in history. Superb at posing, he created many distinct artful poses. He carried mass with class as he developed and maintained an aesthetic physique.
2. Sergio ‘The Myth’ Oliva
He was known as the ‘Myth’ for good reasons – He was scary big with full, long muscle bellies all over. He had no weak points. It’s common for black bodybuilders to have poor calf development but Sergio’s calves were huge, taped at 20″!! Sergio Oliva won the Mr Olympia three times (1967, 1968 & 1969). It could be argued that he deserved to win a lot more times given his god given physique. Personally I think he could have easily won the contest another two times i.e. 1970 and possibly 1972 in my opinion. Maybe 1971 as well but not sure as Arnold looked massive in ’71. Sergio began as a weightlifter in Cuba but soon went AWOL to become a bodybuilder in Chicago. His proportions were out of this world with arms bigger than his head!! He oozed perfection and combined HUGE MASS with AESTHETICS. His forearms were bigger than most people’s legs! Larry Scott retired after winning the Mr Olympia in 1966 after seeing Sergio – Sergio was that good. He was incredibly wide, massive arms, huge chest and back, gigantic thighs but had the most tiny waist ever for a man of his proportions. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has stated that Sergio Oliva had the better physique. Sergio in my opinion will go down as the Top Two Greatest Bodybuilders Ever!
Check out these fantastic videos on the legend, Sergio Oliva...
Sergio also had to battle serious injuries throughout his life from a bad tricep tear to being shot! Check out this footage...
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold, even from a young age, was simply destined to become one of the greatest bodybuilders ever. He was blessed with the right genetics for bodybuilding, especially in the arms and chest department. Some people will argue that he was top heavy and had no legs or calves but in my opinion that’s bullshit!
Yes in his early days his calves were poor but he later changed that by training them harder. His calves improved so much so that some bodybuilders believed he got implants!! Utter nonsense. Arnold despite enjoying life to the full, was extremely driven and focused on one goal and that was to be the best bodybuilder ever. If he had weak areas, he worked hard on those areas to bring them up. He had the mindset to do that, which not many people can do. Arnold built a huge physique which at one point he weighed around 250 lbs but still had a relatively tight, small waist which you don’t see in bodybuilders today. Even though he carried a lot of mass, he still looked athletic and graceful on stage while posing. Aesthetics is everything when it comes to bodybuilding but for some reason, in today’s contests, mass seems to be prevailing over aesthetics which is a shame. Arnold won the Mr Olympia 7 times (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 & 1980) which in those days was unheard of. He also holds the record as being the youngest ever Mr Olympia winner. In my opinion, if Arnold hadn’t retired, he could have easily won right up to 1980 and beyond. That would equate to 10 Mr Olympia titles!! He had the genetics, all the full, long muscle insertions were there. He had huge arms which to this day, no one in my opinion has come close to. His chest was massive and also to this day, no one and I mean NO ONE has come close to pulling off a better side chest shot. Arnold is bodybuilding. He has done more for the sport than anyone else and in my opinion, Arnold along with Sergio Oliva are the Top Two Best Bodybuilders Ever!! Some days I consider Arnold to be the best ever, other days I think it’s Sergio. I always seem to change my mind because every now and again I’ll come across a rare photo online showing Sergio or Arnold posing and I’ll be blown away. Check out these fantastic videos on Arnold...
4. Franco Columbu
Franco Columbu was a powerbuilder. By that I mean he always trained heavy and was known for his strength.
He was much stronger than Arnold in the gym and pound for pound he was one of the strongest bodybuilders ever. He liked powerlifting and training for strength. It was Arnold that convinced Franco to try his hand at bodybuilding as that was where money was to be made. Franco became one of the best bodybuilders ever winning the Mr Olympia contest on two occasions (1976 & 1981). He was extremely muscular, more so than Arnold. But for a short guy, his muscle insertions were unfortunately just as short. He did build an incredible physique but poor arm genetics meant that he was never going to have arms like Arnold. A well known bodybuilder by the name of Danny Padilla also was short in height, probably was about the same height as Franco. However Danny’s physique was miss-leading. Standing on his own, you would never think of Danny being so short. This was due to his long, full muscle insertions. But Franco on the other hand didn’t have these magical muscle insertions. However, Franco built a hard, solid, strong, muscular physique which when in his prime, looked tremendous. His chest, abs, shoulders, especially his back were simply out of this world. His arms, even with his short muscle insertions, still looked fantastic as his biceps genetically peaked high. Again, Franco Columbu was an old school bodybuilder – he carried a lot of muscle but always looked aesthetically pleasing and will forever go down in bodybuilding history as one of the best ever.
5. Frank Zane
Frank Zane was incredible. He won the Mr Olympia contest three times (1977, 1978 & 1979). He completely oozed aesthetics. Compared to the likes of Arnold and Sergio who were mass monsters (In a good way), Frank competed at a much lighter bodyweight and to this day he holds the record for the lightest man to ever win the Mr Olympia contest. Frank was like Greek sculpture, carved out of stone. His vacuum pose remains one of the best ever. This is a pose that many current Mr Olympia competitors could probably not do due to the extreme mass they carry and drug intake. Shame really. Frank Zane really has inspired many thousands, if not millions of ordinary people to take up weight training / bodybuilding. He developed a body that many people can relate to, who believe they can aspire to achieve a similar physique. I would say very few people today (if any) aspire to achieve the physique of today’s current Mr Olympia competitors!
6. Chris Dickerson
Chris won the Mr Olympia in 1982 at the age of 43. To this day, he remains the oldest ever Mr Olympia winner. Chris Dickerson in my humble opinion, is not a bodybuilder who I think deserved to win a Mr Olympia title. That may upset some people but I’m entitled to my opinion. From an aesthetic point of view, Chris was incredible. He always had that V-Taper look and his legs were amazing especially his calves. Chris has said many times that he didn’t really need to do much for his calves as he was genetically blessed with big calves. Some people are lucky that way. He was always conditioned for competition, never looked bloated and was very muscular, especially in his prime. As I’ve said, his legs were one of the best back in the day but he clearly wasn’t blessed genetically in the chest and arm department. I always thought the shape of his chest looked like small sagging ‘breasts’ so to speak. And his arms were too small for his frame. His biceps did not impress me one bit and I feel his arms in particular let him down. Again, this is my opinion only, but I always felt a Mr Olympia contender must have great arms. If the arms are poor, they don’t deserve the title. Simple. Now I’m not saying that any competitor with great arms could be Mr Olympia, I believe that a Mr Olympia winner should not have any glaring weaknesses whatsoever. If a body part clearly stands out as a glaring weakness, then no, they should not be awarded the title of Mr Olympia. This is why Arnold and Sergio were so ahead of their time. They had no glaring weaknesses, if any, and every body part of theirs looked tremendous. Chris Dickerson had a superb lower body but unfortunately never had the upper body genetics to match. His back was tremendous no doubt but chest and arms were a major let down for him.
7. Samir Bannout
Samir Bannout won the Mr Olympia title in 1983. He was simply the complete package. No glaring weaknesses and exceptional strong points such as arms, chest, back and legs. I always liked Samir’s arms, probably one of the best after Arnold, Larry and Sergio. His conditioning was exceptional in ’83 and he oozed aesthetics. Aesthetics is something that old school bodybuilders had in abundance. They carried so much muscle but still looked athletic and appealed to the public. They looked like athletes. I remember the first time I came across Samir and it was watching the DVD, ‘Arnold – Total Rebuild’ which was based on the 1980 Mr Olympia with Arnold making a successful comeback to competition. Samir wasn’t as conditioned for the 1980 contest as he was for ’83. Overall, Samir Bannout developed an excellent physique which will go down in history as one of the best. His back development was exceptional and has always been a focal point for Samir.
8. Lee Haney
Truly the last Mr Olympia to carry so much mass with great aesthetic appeal. This is a man that was massive – wide shoulders, wide back, tiny waist with massive legs, everything in proportion. Lee Haney won the Mr Olympia eight times (1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 & 1991). That was a record eight wins but not just eight wins….8 consecutive wins!! Does this make Lee Haney the Best Ever Mr Olympia? Before Haney came along, Arnold held the record at six consecutive wins then retired undefeated (In Mr Olympia competition that is) to pursue Hollywood. Haney’s record however was equalled back in 2005 by a bodybuilder called Ronnie Coleman. Unfortunately Ronnie did not manage to break the record. Lee Haney competed at a massive 250 lbs bodyweight and developed one of the best physiques in history. He was known for his huge, wide, back development. He always competed in superb shape, shredded to the bone. My only flaw with Lee Haney was his arms. I always felt his arms were genetically poor from a purely aesthetic point of view. If you were comparing Arnold’s arms with Haney’s, Arnold wins hands down, EASILLY!! Haney’s arms were big and always looked great in photos when performing curls etc but when posing for a front double biceps shot, you could see the weakness lay in his arms. There was no good shock value when he flexed during a front double biceps pose, like you would see if Arnold flexed. Lee will forever remain one of the best bodybuilders to compete at the Mr Olympia. I do not see anyone beating Lee Haney / Ronnie Coleman’s 8 consecutive wins record for many years. I believe that record will continue to stand for years to come.
9. Dorian Yates
With the arrival of Dorian Yates came ‘MASS MONSTER’ status!! Yates won the Mr Olympia in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 & 1997 equalling Arnold’s winning streak. Dorian ended up retiring due to injuries but winning six consecutive Mr Olympia titles had propelled him into the history books. He was known as a hard trainer and believed in the training method of H.I.T. (High Intensity Training). In his first couple of Mr Olympia wins he was big but still remained tight with a relatively small waist. It was during the last few wins that Dorian packed on the MASS competing close to 260 lbs!! His waist though in my opinion looked big and bloated, not appealing to me at all. It seemed aesthetics were slowly going out the window during Dorian’s reign and that mass status was prevailing. Dorian was known for everything really – Chest, Forearms, Legs, Calves, Back etc, you name it. He was big and shredded all over during competition. He was known for his rock hard dryness like he was carved out of stone. He developed one of the best backs in bodybuilding history. But during this period of time (90’s) drugs were increased along with other Growth Hormone stuff. The drug regime of competitive bodybuilders during the 90’s plus must have been totally different compared with Arnold’s era. Physiques were changing and not for the better. I can appreciate the physique that Dorian brought to the Mr Olympia table, but his later years his waist was too big and aesthetics was going out the window. Like Lee Haney, I always felt Dorian’s arms were weak from a front double biceps point of view. There was no wow factor like Arnold’s. Sure Dorian had the mass but his biceps lacked any aesthetic appeal.
10. Ronnie Coleman
Ronnie Coleman won the Mr Olympia in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 & 2005. An incredible eight consecutive wins tying Lee Haney’s record. This record will not be broken in my opinion for a long time, especially when bodybuilders these days aren’t maturing to Mr Olympia level status until close to their 30’s if not older. To compare you have to think about how young Arnold was when he won his first Mr Olympia…23 years old!!! He almost won it at 22 but Sergio Oliva put a stop to that. So given today’s radical drug regime and the fact that bodybuilders who are competing in the Mr Olympia in this day and age are much older compared to how young Arnold was – how long can a successful bodybuilder stay on top for due to health reasons? Someone in the future may equal or better eight wins in years to come but I doubt they will break eight “consecutive” wins. That’s impressive. Ronnie Coleman grew into “MASS MONSTER” status. During his first couple of wins, especially his first Mr Olympia win, he looked like a ‘FREAK’ in the good sense. He had a crazy V-Taper, wide shoulders, massive arms, tiny waist. Simply oozed aesthetics. He was genetically blessed all over….exception being, his calves. Always have been poor. But his arms were crazy, his back, chest, thighs, shoulders were all superb. He probably developed the best back in history. His arms were mind blowing though, again, one of the best in history, if not thee best! But somewhere along the lines, Ronnie played the mass game and turned himself into a MASS MONSTER!! (I blame the judges). His waist grew as a result and he lost all notion of aesthetics. If you look at photos of Ronnie in his younger years before winning the Mr Olympia, he had an incredible physique. He was also one of the strongest bodybuilders ever as he had a passion for lifting ‘Heavy Ass Weights!’. It’s a shame to see the way Ronnie looks now. I think all the years of heavy lifting and drug taking has taken a massive toll on his body. You can see the damage done to his arms and more. But Ronnie will forever go down in history as one of the greatest bodybuilders ever… but is he the greatest?
11. Jay Cutler
Now we come to a bodybuilder whom I have never been a fan of….Physique wise. Jay Cutler won the Mr Olympia contest in 2006, 2007, 2009 & 2010. He holds the record for being the only Mr Olympia winner to have lost the title and then regain it back. In 2008, he lost to Dexter Jackson. Jay Cutler in my opinion has always displayed in his Mr Olympia wins, a boxy, wide-waist physique. He has played the size game and taken mass over aesthetics. His waist has always appeared wide to me and as a result he’s displayed no V-Taper. There is no body part of Jay’s which I think….Incredible. And that is crazy considering he has won the Mr Olympia four times!! I blame the judges as I do not feel he deserved any of those wins.
12. Dexter Jackson
Dexter Jackson won the Mr Olympia contest back in 2008. He is one of those competitors who maintains aesthetics over mass which is great to see but believe it or not I’m still not a fan of his physique although I do prefer it over the current bloated, Mass Monsters of today. Dexter recently came close to winning the 2015 Mr Olympia contest which was good to see. He is always consistent and shows up in great condition for contests. He has a very good physique but does lack calves. His calves are very poor. His front double biceps is good but for some reason, when I look at his front double biceps pose, his biceps look synthol based. They just seem strange to look at. Might just be me, who knows? Dexter Jackson though in this current day and age is keeping aesthetics alive and still is doing well in competitions and considering his age, 45 I believe (as of 16 Oct 2015) he is still in great shape and winning competitions and still could possibly win the Mr Olympia again.
13. Phil Heath
Current Mr Olympia champion Phil Heath won the 2015 Mr Olympia competition to rack his total up to five consecutive Mr Olympia wins (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015) and he looks good to possibly win again in 2016 if he remains injury free. Phil like Dexter Jackson, is keeping aesthetics alive. So far Phil Heath is avoiding the size game. He still is pretty big and carries huge, freaky arms but his waist is relatively small still and hopefully that continues. My only problem with today’s competitors is that even with the tight, smaller waists, guys like Phil Heath and even Dexter Jackson find it extremely difficult holding their stomachs in as evident from the 2015 Mr Olympia. If you don’t believe me check on Youtube and watch the individual posing round. The whole point of bodybuilding is to build a beautiful physique in proportion, not have stomachs hanging out!! It’s disgusting to look at. Anyway, getting back to Phil Heath, he has crazy genetics for arms. In my opinion, they look great when he’s training, lifting weights, but his arms don’t look good during a front double biceps pose. There just not aesthetically pleasing. They will go down in history as one of the freakish set of arms ever but not the best. His legs seems good, calves could be a little better, back and shoulders look good, my only pet hate is his chest. His arms seem to dwarf his chest. His chest actually reminds me of Chris Dickerson, it has that weird shape which isn’t aesthetically pleasing. Phil Heath even with five Mr Olympia wins, hasn’t really made an impact on me. Yes he has impressive arms but not much else really stands out in my opinion. But in all fairness, no Mr Olympia in this current day of age, impresses me. The heavy drugs usage, synthol, etc are ruining physiques. Bring back the days of Arnold, Reg Park, Sergio, Bill Pearl, yes drugs were around back then, but physiques were much, much better.
And the Best Mr Olympia Ever is….?
In my opinion, the Best Ever Mr Olympia belongs to either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sergio Oliva.
Old school physiques rule. Period. The biggest bodybuilder should win but only if they still have aesthetics. By aesthetics I mean, Wide Shoulders, Massive Arms, Big Chest and Back, Tiny Waist, Big Thighs and Calves, all in proportion with no glaring weaknesses.
Tell Me Your Thoughts?
I’d like to hear other peoples thoughts. Who do you think is the Best Mr Olympia Ever and why? Who didn’t deserve to win a Mr Olympia Title? And who should have won at least one Mr Olympia title?
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Here are some comments from people who have read my article above...
"Great article, I agree with your points about today’s bodybuilding. Who didn’t deserve to win a Mr O.? Franco Columbu in 1981 with poor legs and gyno. Who deserved to win one? Shawn Ray, had he won in 1994 bodybuilding might have gone in a more aesthetic direction and who is the greatest Mr O.? Sergio Oliva, to this day he has some of the greatest proportions ever seen. Small waist, huge arms, chest and shoulders and legs that fit perfectly with the rest of his physique." ~ The Horror Kid
"Arnold the Greatest bodybuilder ever. He could be 300 lbs ripped with today’s drugs.His chest and arms the best ever!" ~ Big Bob
"Arnold did more for the sport and was amazing but i feel Sergio was a more complete body, head to toe front to back, just a lousy poser and being black latino immigrant didnt help.Dare I say he was too freaky for those times? Yes they deserve the top two places, Haney was good but his arms and calves were not even in the same league as Arnold and Sergio. As for the mass monsters, early Coleman 98-99 was a sight to behold, 92-93 Yates impressive too. After that they went massville and lost their waists ,flow, lines and even detail. For some reason I don't like Cutler or Heath. Cutler was just big but very blocky and lacked detail, vascularity and got a huge gift back in 07, Phil’s narrow clavicle and weird chest rule him out, even though he is fairly complete otherwise." ~ Mark
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