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LESSONS LEARNED: ARNOLD 2022 RECAP

Another Arnold Sports Festival has come and gone and this year’s event did not disappoint. Despite there being many withdrawals in men’s open bodybuilding, it ended up being a very interesting contest for men’s open, and every event was exciting in its own right. We want to talk a little bit about the surprises from men’s open, and lessons learned from the show.  OPEN BODYBUILDING First off, the new, two day format of the Arnold really made it interesting to see which competitors could improve their conditioning, and who slipped up, letting someone in the door to take a placing. Day 1 prejudging was a huge surprise, with the line-up favoring some of the more up-and-coming bodybuilders. The biggest comparison was the shockingly big, full and shredded Justin Rodriguez next to Brandon Curry. These sorts of comparisons pointed toward a placing as high as second place. However, at finals, he seemed to spill over and look smooth, which knocked him all the way down to fifth place. This was perhaps the biggest swing in placings in the show, allowing Dauda to come in just ahead of him. One of the relative disappointments of the show was the darkhorse Brett Wilkin, who was hyped up a lot in the bodybuilding community, but was easily out-muscled and out-conditioned by most of the lineup. However, this is only his second pro show and a sixth place finish is nothing to be disappointed about.  The only other big plot twist is between the most important placings — 1st and 2nd. In pre-judging, it appeared as if both Curry and Bonac were sort of a toss up. Curry is naturally gifted in terms of the symmetry and flow of his physique, but he was lacking detail and that became even more apparent in the Saturday evening show when he appeared to be even softer. On the other hand, the blocky and well muscled physique of Bonac is not as pleasing, but he checked off all of the boxes as far as muscularity, symmetry, and above all, a level of conditioning that was clearly superior to Curry. At the end of the day, Brandon ended up with a 6 point lead over Bonac, giving him the victory. Many bodybuilding fans are in an uproar, making this another controversial show.  LESSONS FROM COLUMBUS Social Media Hype Trains Not all hype is created equal. Hindsight is 20/20, but much of the bodybuilding world was wrong about how fast some of these up-and-comers have improved in the past 18 months. The biggest example of this was Brett Wilkin, who did show up with an amazing package, but the hype surrounding his progress almost made us forget how good veterans like Curry, Bonac, and Kuclo really are. All of those guys had long, 10 year come-ups. Although it’s fun to watch a freak like last year’s winner Nick Walker make unreal progress in only a few short years, it’s a very rare thing. This was a great reminder that nothing matters except for show day. Everything else is just talk.  Fullness Vs. True Mass Our Reigning Mr. Olympia is a mass monster, and therefore there is some added pressure to push the envelope in terms of size to live up to the judges preference of the day. But not everyone has the genetics to have that sort of mass. So, as a substitute, some of these competitors are clearly choosing to push the envelope when it comes to carb loading for show day. Now, the key to peaking is balancing conditioning and fullness, and pushing fullness to the max can easily to awry and turn you from a freak to a water balloon. As a result, conditioning seems to be slipping, even at these top level shows. The lesson here is that there is a difference between fullness and true mass, and there is no substitute for real contractile tissue.  Show Day However, you just never know how the judges are going to score on any given day. As mentioned, many bodybuilding fans are in an uproar about Bonac’s second place finish in light of his superior conditioning and well muscled physique, compared to Curry’s fading condition. But that’s just the nature of bodybuilding. It’s a unique sport that has a unique kind of excitement and the controversy sometimes makes it that much more fun. What’s your take on the show? If you were the head judge, what would you do?

Our 11th Hour Arnold Predictions

Let’s make this short and sweet. We have a short list of athletes at this contest but it is a very stacked line-up. Like in any show, it’s going to come down to nailing conditioning and fullness on show day — and in this case they have changed the format to a two day show. This is great for someone who comes in off on the first day, and a nightmare of someone who comes in crisp on the first day and has to hold that condition for 24 hours. But assuming everyone comes in at their best, we can see the physiques that are about to be judged and we can draw some pretty strong conclusions about the placings. So, without further ado, here’s what we think. Feel free to agree, disagree, tell us we’re full of shit or place bets amongst yourselves. Here we go for the top 5. WINNER Brandon Curry is almost a shoe-in for the first place slot. His recent pictures show an absolutely peeled and full physique with improved balance in the lower body. It’s hard to not be amazed at his recent pictures, but it’s not show day yet, and things can change with one miscalculation. Brandon has come a long way in his career and he continues to make improvements year after year, however his only chronic weakness is his hamstring development. This probably won’t hold him back come show day in light of the rest of his physique. We think it’s going to be Curry and then everyone else battling it out for the top 6. RUNNER UP Backed by coach Matt Jansen, the darkhorse of this show is the recently minted pro, Brett Wilkin. Brett turned pro in 2017, but didn’t compete until 2019 as a 212 athlete. Now, he has packed on an unreal amount of muscle in a short time and he looks like he may have surpassed some longer-standing vets of the sport. Brett’s upper body appears to be able to rival many well-established professionals, and his physique is balanced and he is already exhibiting that human cement look with plenty of fullness.  3RD PLACE We believe that sometimes a person has potential inside them that simply needs to be unlocked. Regan Grimes has recently teamed up with legendary bodybuilder and coach, Milos Sarcev and we can see a marked improvement in his physique. Now, Milos is known for his ability to manipulate a physique with expert use of carbs and insulin, as well as employing long bouts of extremely low carbs. With that being said, we can assume that the pictures that we’ve seen in the past few days are of a very depleted Grimes and he still looks bigger and rounder than any previous year he’s competed. If he holds his conditioning and fills out, we could very well see a physique that upsets most of the current predictions. We’re betting on that, and we’re going to put him in 3rd.  4TH PLACE Steve Kuclo is one of the veterans on the stage this weekend and he is one of the more massive men on stage. Based on his recent physique updates, he is looking very hard and grainy and although he doesn’t have the most flowing lines, he’s got the freak factor that should land him in the 4th place spot with a great combination of mass and conditioning.  5TH PLACE Another dark horse, Justin Rodriguez has been posting photos of him looking almost skinless in normal lighting conditions. The only knock we can give him is that he has genetically flat triceps, which may need some extra work in the future, but other than that nit-pick, he is otherwise virtually flawless, bringing a very balanced package. If any of these guys are off, Justin’s medical textbook level conditioning will pump him up some placings. 

What’s Going On With Flex Lewis?

A living legend has been slighted by the IFBB. Or has he? The world has long anticipated Flex Lewis’ return to the Olympia stage in his long-awaited shift to the open class. A number of years ago, in 2018, Flex was given a special invitation to compete with the open men bodybuilders, but was unfortunately set back by time off due to injuries, rehab, business ventures, and restrictions due to Covid did not help the matter. Now, he and his coach Neil Hill have officially announced his return to the stage. However, that announcement was met with a strong rebuttal by Chief Olympia Officer Dan Solomon. Solomon clearly stated that Flex is in fact qualified for the 212 division, but not for open.  He then went on to suggest that there haven’t been any special invitations issued yet. Does this mean that The Olympia is trying to create anticipation and uproar from the fans, or is he serious about Flex needing to compete in a qualifying show? If the latter is the case, Hill has made a statement saying that Flex is not prepared to prep for two shows this year, putting both parties in a bit of a jam.  Will The Olympia recant their statement or give a special invite to the open class and retract their statement, or stick to their guns and lose the opportunity for a huge draw for the Olympia from Flex’s return? We will need to wait and see as the months unfold here, but it appears that Flex is preparing in anticipation of showing up on competition day.  With that being said, Lewis has recently sustained an injury to his rib, which he talks about in a recent video. He has a history of injury, having received stem cell therapy just a year ago to rehab an injury. His latest injury is to his rib during a set of vertical leg press, causing his serious pain while training since.  Only time will tell what the future holds for Flex Lewis, but his time to have a strong showing on the world’s greatest bodybuilding stage is numbered. At 38 years old, this opportunity must open up to him within the next 24 months or the world may miss the privilege of seeing one of history’s greatest bodybuilders who happened to be in the 212 category go head-to-head with the open bodybuilders of our modern era of bodybuilding.

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